Architecture that builds values

 The Economist 1843 Magazine ‘s  article, ” Versailles in the Valley”, frames quite well the current trend of digital corporations – like Facebook, Google and Apple – in building headquarters which represent the brand values. Versailles was the palace that Louis XIV built to centralise his power through parties and events that entertained Parisian aristocracy; the Versailles in the Valley symbolises a similar status. Facebook, Google and Apple campuses are palaces, which make tangible the politics of the brand. Whether sustainability, sharability, “open source”, etc brand palaces look after the physicality of the images that makes them real (it’s a kind of skeuomorphism). If in the past values were represented by statues carrying specific symbols (snake, flames, mirrors), nowadays building are asked such role. The way the building is experienced from a human perspective, materials and human interactions are factors that represent the company. They are not random; they come from society. However there is nothing new in this methodology; building monuments had been a political strategy that leaders from the past knew very well; if in the V century BCE Pericles gave shape to democracy by building Athens, Mussolini designed Fascisms through Rome urban planning, which extended to the whole Italian peninsula. Apple, Facebook and Google campuses (the word campus is already controversial in this specific context) are media that gather users’ imagination. They are tangible outcomes that shape digital intangible interactions. As drivers of people’s imagination, they enable transferability of something universal (as values are) to something specific to the company. Will community be understood as Facebook? There is also another effect; values can buy people’s trust if the message reaches the audience. If one of those values, which I believe in, becomes the company’s one I trust the company as we share the same values. As consequence I trust what the company does, without questions, which is a risk for my criticism and ability to make choices.

I guess the challenge we need is to keep universal words as universal, and avoid any specific identification that might lead to an even more constrained world of thinking and find our own solution, credo and ability to articulate our thought independently. We need to handle our trust carefully. We design our lives through our choices. Our actions and decisions make a huge difference in society; being responsible of those is our own priority.


The Ownership of Physical Space

A year ago I started to look at the value of physical space in relation to digital realities and people’s understanding of “space”.

The question I asked myself is: “Does Walter Benjamin’s flaneur make still sense in the hybrid space?”

The kind of hybrid reality that apps like Detour are shaping helps me in the formulation of an answer. Indeed Detour, app created by Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason, de-tours people in urban space via audio stories that portray buildings in the past. Buildings tells stories about their past, about the people that lived there and, occasionally, they show evidences of it.

Imagine to wonder around urban space, in the same manner Situationists invited citizens, and listen to what the city might tell you about its past. However, will stops be “controlled”? Will hybrid cookies detect detours? Will physical space take us to specific routes?

Will physical space become a physical Groupon?

By means of tangible interfaces – like wearable sor “smart” objects” – the physical and material space behave as if digital.

Recently The Economist published an article reporting the Indian protest against Facebook

The ownership of the hybrid portrays a new colonial stage that doesn’t look strictly at territorial sovereignty, but at the ownership of people’s cognitive processes. The Westphalian treaties that defined our contemporary age move to an ontological territory, which ubiquitously transforms physical space in our understanding of material space.

Space is nonetheless physical, but this kind of physical ontological space is the one we embody. It is the kind of space that makes us entities belonging to a physical world. It is the space that shapes our identity; it is the space that political treaties conceptualise with national borders and with the Romantic concept of nation. It is the space that joined entire communities of people together to fight world wars. It is not “physical” per se, but it is physical in the way we understand it.

2.0 geography is one of the most relevant sciences right now. The understanding of the concept of territory is the topic to look at. It is the kind of space that global corporations like Facebook created via communities of people. It is the space that we dwell everyday, it is the space where we make friends, we meet people, we find new jobs.

It is our nation.


Hybrid Realities

Facebook’s Oculus purchase clarifies an already solid trend for the experts:

2.0 is no longer a matter of interaction by means of displayers,

2.0 is the language of the hybrid real, a composite Real where virtual and physical meet.

Despite skepticism for the kind of interaction a black box on top of our nose will provide,

I would rather argue: which is the new real that these forms of AG will provide us,

what is the form of 2.0 space?