Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sliding Assumptions

Photo: Aroid

My colleagues and I have been giving a lot of presentations this semester. New developments in our visual languages meant to manifest complex data comparisons in an easily digestible format is required on a weekly basis, as is the compilation, generation, and interpretation of that data. Often presentation happens via projection from a laptop, usually of digitally created graphics. Lately however we have been drawing with Sharpies and grease pencils on 11 x 17 pieces of printer paper.

The result of this has been a large pixelated array of doodles on our studio wall that is eventually a step back to either a more polished projected presentation or some kind of book. It's been a little tough, the digital has infected us enormously. So much so, in fact, that those pieces of paper are repeatedly referred to by many of us as "slides".

It is hilarious to refer to a piece of paper as a slide. This word transformation comes from PowerPoint (aka PDF in our case) via the ubiquitous mid-century slide projector, which is a technological extension of the earlier magic lantern that Wikipedia pegs to the 17th century. So an outmoded technology of sliding a physical transparency in front of a light source gives us terminology that fits gracefully into the newest digital tools that become so habituated as to stand in now even for the ancient technology of paper.

It's worth noting these linguistic transformations as we chart the field of architecture into new territory. The most exciting digital technology will still be pegged to less complex precursors. This becomes very important to remember when using things like CAD drawings and energy modeling software to propose architectural systems which produce and run on non-concentrated energy most beautifully typified by Nature. One goal of our work this semester is to consider how high technology can concentrate passive energy flows to sustain our cultural speed without polluting the ecosystem. Assumptions are important. So when paper becomes a slide we know we're forging ahead with gusto.

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