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Media, Architecture, and Computing (ca. 1970)
Around the year 1970, “technocratic” themes such as planning theory, semiotics, mathematics, cybernetics, and designs based on algorithms and set theory became widespread aspects of architecture. A juxtaposition of the “Stuttgart School” and the “Architecture Machine Group” will reveal the fundamental differences between the reception of cybernetics in Germany and the United States. Whereas in Germany the discussion centered on scientific aesthetics, a computer-based critique of art, and the promises of quantification and objectivity, in the United States the focus was on participatory utopias, a process-oriented design practice, and the hope of increasing creativity by using the computer as a medium. A comparative examination of this moment in history will illuminate both the emergence of media theory as well as its failure to take hold – and thus it will also bring to light an overlooked prehistory of the so-called digital humanities.
Claus Pias is Professor for the Theory and History of Media at Leuphana Universität Lüneburg where he also directs the Centre for Digital Cultures, the Digital Cultures Research Lab, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Media Cultures of Computer Simulation. He earned his PhD from Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in 2000 which resulted in his book Computer Spiel Welten, published in 2002 (Computer Game Worlds, Chicago University Press, 2017). Pias has held teaching positions in Bochum, Essen, and Vienna and was a member of the Young Academy of the Berlin-Brandenburgian Academy of Science and of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina. His research focuses on media theory as well as the history and epistemology of simulation and cybernetics; his authored and edited publications include Was waren Medien? (Diaphanes, 2010) and Cybernetics: The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953 (University of Chicago Press, 2015).
Image: Negroponte, Nicholas. Soft Architecture Machines. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1975.
Department of French and Italian, Humanities Center, Department of Communication, Program in Modern Thought and Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, Department of Art & Art History, Stanford Department of Theater & Performance Studies
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