Monday, September 12th, 2011

STAR Constellations

STAR Constellations: Sensors for a Tangible Ambient Research



STAR constellations has emerged from an interest in materials. Projecting toward the not-so-distant year 2048, this project situates itself in a future in which the design of space can be approached through the design of material specifications. Through the design of a new material building block, STAR constellations seeks to create communication channels that cross physical, spatial, and cognitive boundaries, generating a multitude of ways to store and access information, and producing spaces that are alive and capable of adapting to environmental change.

The RPI Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies acts as the prototypical site and program for the project. The collaborative nature of the Biotechnology Center serves as a testing grounds for a material intervention the seeks to foster communication between disciplines, bridge language barriers between different libraries of content, and reassess how ‘waste’ within a research environment can become a vital resource.

The realization of this material intervention takes the form of STARs. While STARs forward an object oriented research by allowing data to be filtered and manipulated through researchers’ hands-on interaction, their true power is in their communication properties. Connected and contributing to a vast archive of biotechnology research, STARs absorb and cross-reference many different information structures to allow unlike data types to speak to each other. Opening conversations between these data types allows unforeseen relationships to emerge and act as a catalyst for future discoveries.

While working together to collect information and data mine resources effectively requires the STARs to have refined internal communication abilities, equally important is their ability to communicate with researchers in the Biotechnology Center. To address this issue, STARs rely on formation, alternately assembling temporary furniture for scientists to use, ornaments for scientists view, and tools for scientists to manipulate. To test the broad range of potentials of such a material, the STAR bodies were designed and tested in three scenarios.



Download Final Boards



The scenarios explored through the STAR constellations are three of many possible futures that could emerge from a material intervention that incorporates near human intelligence. For this reason the specific configurations of each scenario fades in importance in comparison to the questions they ask about the role of the designer in spaces formed by living and intelligent materials.

My early research into emerging material technologies as well as the process of self-assembly revealed that the current vision of the potential of material engineering on the nanoscale positions the designer to have infinitely higher degrees of accuracy over the resulting space. Testing the STAR constellations against possible scenarios has led me to believe that designers are facing a very different but much more powerful range of potential than what has been, up until this point, imagined. To some, STARs degrade the role of the designer because the type of innate intelligence I am proposing to be built into materials actually requires designers to willingly forfeit control over specific formalisms and geometries. However, as the scenarios illustrate, the highest level of performance in the research spaces emerges from the internal logics of the STARs rather than from their controlled use by the scientists strictly as a tangible interface.

Engineering materials on the nanoscale shifts the design process away from aesthetic concerns by distributing our own human intelligence through a material matrix. The design of the STAR demonstrates that loosening our grip on specific spatial configurations allows issues of performance, social connectivity, and sustainability to be the primary concerns. The communication properties and native behaviors that are most critical in the Biotechnology Center are designed into the fabric of the STAR. The result is a highly adaptive and flexible research environment that intentionally shifts the way researchers work in and occupy space in order to meet the performance criteria designed into their genetic structure. The STARs predict a future in which materials rival the intelligence of the people who designed them.

Sunday, March 20th, 2011


An object oriented research process addresses the issues of working with digitized data, namely formatting information in such a way that significant linkages and cause / effect relationships between content sets may be observed easily by researchers. This effectively sets up two functional levels:

-a generic object with a universal interface
-objects may connect with machines (imaging, analysis, etc.); tools (pen, knife, microscope); furniture (table, chair); people?
-objects collect and store information, learning procedures and patterns over time
-objects interface with other objects, sharing harvested information, self arranging into significant patters
-think of each object as a suction cup on the arm of an octopus

-object size is of proportion of human hand — easy to manipulate
-objects require a field/environment that allows them to combine. humans require an interface to interpret the meaning of object combinations
-an info surface powers self combination of objects and provides researchers with a platform to experiment with combination / proximity / intensity / density of objects
-think of the surface as the body nervous system of the octopus

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Scenario Building

Question: What will be the most productive work environment/work flow for biotechnology research in the year 2048?

Outline: some forces at play

1. increased interest in biotechnology
– global climate change (finally taken seriously)
– outrun health/economic issues with increased life expectancy
– resource availability with growing population
– closing gap between digital and tangible– looking to self modification in near future

2. governmental pressure
– solve various crises while limiting energy use
– pressure for sustainability
– drive for recyclability / reusability (population growth)

3. technology
– digitization process in full force–
– look for a way of working that has observable causes/effects/reactions/results

4. global
– permeability of digital knowledge fosters a collective global community– decreasing the barriers between physical boundaries
– increased interest in global scientific collaboration, especially in areas relating to global climate and energy consumption

The year 2048 will see the maturity of several emerging crises: global climate change will finally be taken seriously, natural resources will be strained under crippling population growth, questions of ethics and quality of life will be more abundant than ever as nations try to balance budgets with the health and economic issues with supporting a population with increasing life expectancy. With these matters nearing a perilous tipping point, developments in biotechnology offer a beacon of hope for governments across the globe.

While there is an increased governmental interest in biotechnology research as a potential medium to address these global concerns, there is also an immense amount of pressure for research facilities to act as model institutions of sustainability, recyclability, and reusability. Though the prevalence of digitized data effectively dissolves physical barriers between researchers, fosters collective knowledge, and makes the goal of minimal resource waste realistic, researchers mourn the lose of tangibility, dexterity, and intuitive fluidity in their work flow.

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Redundancy in Nature

Redundancy: those extra components of a system that are not strictly necessary for the immediate functioning of the system

Introducing redundancy in archives produces agile systems that can both function at speeds suitable for active daily use, and accelerate to accommodate fluctuations in the future. Thus archives generate a form of education that exists between time and place while redundancy reconnects education to the physicality of the natural world.

Redundancy was explored as it exists in ecological/biological systems, organization culture, and communication. The concepts of these systems were then explored in two case studies: octopus anatomy and the interdisciplinary research of the RPI Biotech building.

Download PDFs here.

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