I write about architecture, design, information, technology and culture. Sometimes, this means the history of interactivity in architecture, sometimes it’s translations from German to English of art critics in the 1920s, sometimes it’s book chapters on my research on mobile phone use (such as in urban India). At the core, regardless of the decade or application, I write and research the same things: systems, technologies, and how they’re applied to our worlds.
My book The Verb of Architecture: A History of Architects and Digital Designers in a Computational Age will be published by MIT Press in 2017. It probes the mostly-unexplored history of the relationship between cybernetics, artificial intelligence, architecture, and design, often funded by Department of Defense interests, and examines how these collaborations set the groundwork for today’s digital media landscape. These intersections gave rise to a variety of contemporary computational practices, including virtual reality, military simulators, object-oriented programming languages, information architecture, and ubiquitous computing. The book also draws on a longer history of information and communication systems at the scale of buildings and cities, such as the impact of post, telegraph and pneumatic tube services in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Verb of Architecture is an expansion and reorganization of my dissertation at Princeton University, “Architectures of Information: Christopher Alexander, Cedric Price, and Nicholas Negroponte & the MIT Architecture Machine Group,” defended in 2014.
I’ve been a writer and editor since 1990. I have written scores of articles and columns about music, technology, culture and design for newspapers, magazines and web sites including The Onion (AV Club), Wired News, Netscape, I.D., The Fray, College Music Journal, Business 2.0 and the former “What is Burning Man” text for the Burning Man website. I was also a contributing editor for interactions, published by the ACM.
- “Architecture Machines and the Internet of Things, or: The Costs of Convergence” in New Geographies 7, 2015.
- “Microworld and Mesoscale,” in interactions, July–August 2015.
- “We Were Bricoleurs: An Interview with Nicholas Negroponte.” In A Second Modernism: MIT and Architecture in the PostWar, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014.
- “From Computer-Aided Design to the Foundations of Interactivity.” In Architecture School: 300 Years of Educating Architects in North America, edited by Joan Ockman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.
- “Interfaces to the Subterranean” in Cabinet—on the pneumatic post in Paris. I am so excited about this article! Summer 2011.
- “Architecture Needs to Interact” in Domus, written with Fred Scharmen. June 2011.
- “Urban Software: The Long View,” published in the catalog for HABITAR: Bending the Urban Frame, an exhibition at laboral, Gijón, Spain, 2010.
- A brief piece on Cedric Price’s Generator, published in Crit, the journal of the AIAS (American Institute of Architecture Students), Spring 2010.
- “Problems before Patterns: A Different Look at Christopher Alexander and Pattern Languages,” interactions, March/April 2009.
- Translated excerpt from German of Eine Stunde Architektur (One Hour Architecture) by Adolf Behne, afterword by Spyros Papapetros. pidgin 6, Princeton University School of Architecture, winter 2009.
- “Beyond the Personal and Private: Modes of Mobile Phone Sharing in India,” Molly Steenson and Jonathan Donner. In The Reconstruction of Space and Time: Mobile Communication Practices (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction), 2008.
- “Express Yourself” and ”Stay Together”: The Middle‐Class Indian Family,” Jonathan Donner, Nimmi Rangaswamy Molly Wright Steenson and Carolyn Wei, Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), 2008.
- “Retrofitting Suburbia,” Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century,” (New York: Harry N. Abrams), 2006.
- “Designing for Social Networks,” Spark! Design and Locality, University of Art and Design Helsinki, (Helsinki: University of Art and Design), 2004.
- Co-editor: The Elements of User Experience: User- Centered Design for the Web, by Jesse James Garrett (Indianapolis: New Riders), 2003.
- “Structure and Strategy: The Joy of Being Frugal” in 72 dpi, edited by Robert Klanten, Hendrik Hellige, Michael Mischler, Vicky Tiegelkamp, and Jan Rikus Hillman (Cologne: Gestalten Verlag), 2000.