Urban Immune System Research

Urban Immune System Research

A key force in current innovation is the movement towards the ‘smart-city’ through a combination of people, mobile devices, and communication infrastructure, which allows for the geo-spatial location of data.

In Andrew Hessel’s terms, we are an “Internet of living things”, or as Archigram put it, “People are walking architecture” . In this way we construct the data city organism.

Since the proliferation of the Walkman circa 1979 we have rejected our biological limitations and augmented ourselves with peripheral technologies and devices, that mediate our relationship to, and navigation through place. This relentless upgrading could be seen as momentum towards transhumanism, where the augmented body replaces natural selection as an evolutionary process.

These devices provide us with a way to perform tasks that are beyond the capabilities of the natural human, we have in a way become superhuman.

How do these devices and interfacing with the city in this way?

What if we could design devices that perform some form of symbiosis between the city creature and the humans and other entities that live in urban centres? Trying to find some way to exist or travel between the data layer of the city and physical space.

To address this gap in current innovation practices around the smart city, developing parallel research into what future devices would enable us as humans to have a more meaningful relationship to the data we produce and occupy.

Currently technological devices provide us with a window to experience this virtual environment but they rarely embed that experience of the virtual into the physical environment. This can create a disconnect between our experience of the physical and the virtual.

Questions we want to address

How might we design more human technology? Can we design technologies that perform symbiosis between the human and environment?

In order to understand the city as a data organism, our first step is to develop prototypes that address aspects of our spatial, experiential and social relationships with it:

What does it mean to experience located data in the same way that you would with real architectural space? How would we build, manipulate and demolish it?

What if you could sense the social characteristics of a city as you would temperature, or air quality?

We are currently developing two sensing devices that seek to address some of the issues in these questions.