- Artificial intelligence and architecture: the introduction of the computer to the field of architecture (with Christopher Alexander and his interest in AI and cybernetics as a case study), 1960-75. I wrote a tidy version of this paper in May 2009. Then, I blew the whole thing up into a much bigger framework about how the computer affected architectural practice. I’ve written scores of pages that didn’t get included: the draft at one point was 50 pages long (what I handed in was 36 pages). After 11 different drafts, I whittled it down to a couple of key ideas. I convinced myself that it was okay–I would be writing a dissertation on the topic and I could reuse what I wrote and then deleted.
- Paris & communication networks: The Hôtel des Postes in Paris, 1884 and the Parisian pneumatic tube network, 1866-1900 (something many people know I’m interested in, thanks to last year’s eTech Ignite talk). These two papers are parts of the same topic: urban-level communication in France in the late 19th century. When I first wrote the paper about Julien Guadet’s central post office in Paris in 2008, my central argument was that it functioned like a big computer atop a tangible network. That argument proved thin, so when I rewrote the paper, I instead focused on what made it a modern building and what made Guadet a modern architect — namely, the way that it served as a physical mechanism to organize and control bureaucratic processes. The pneumatic post paper, too, looked at how technology had shifted the relationship of space and time to the human body, goods, and the communication of information. I had originally thought I’d do a dissertation on 19th century communication networks but was talked out of it by the entire PhD committee. (I was blue about that, but now it’s fine: they were right.) The majority of my research for these projects involved French language engineering publications.
- Levittown, PA and its mass-produced landscape (1950s). Levittown, the famous, mass produced suburb, also mass-produced its gardens. Most bizarrely, Levitt patriarch Abraham Levitt wrote a column on gardening for the Levittown newspaper. Why? The way to maintain the value of the investment the Levitts had made in the suburb was not through the house but through the value of the landscape. The homeowners (most of whom had been apartment-dwellers and were completely unfamiliar with houses and gardening) needed to be taught to tend their gardens.
- Apparatuses in architecture: a close reading of two 1920s works by Adolf Behne, a German architecture and art critic. For this paper, I analyzed the way that Behne used the word “apparatus” (Gerät) and the notion of defensiveness — as objects develop their own disposition. In many ways, I think Behne presaged the holistic approach to design that software finds so popular (and architecture, well, doesn’t). My research was all in German; the most painful part was reading poorly photocopied Frakturschrift (old-fashioned German writing).
- Contingent communication: how communication jumps from network modes, using Pakistan’s 2007 state of emergency as a case study. I looked at cable television, satellite uplinks, and FM radio. (People who are holding crisis camps for Haiti might want to consider non-Internet media as a way of establishing communication networks — especially radio.) The idea for this paper came from a question Usman Haque asked me during my eTech presentation on India and mobile phone sharing, although what I wrote had nothing to do with it.
When I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I gave a talk at Giant Ant and at Yahoo! Research Berkeley. I presented about my research on urban mobile phone sharing, conducted while at Microsoft Research India in Bangalore.
I’d had many discussions with Steve Portigal about his Bangalore experience in comparison to mine: his was rather negative; mine was overwhelmingly positive. He came to see my talk at Giant Ant and presented his notes on my talk on Core77. Thank you Steve!
As far as my research goes, it will be published in two papers. The first is with Jonathan Donner, Nimmi Rangaswamy and Carolyn Wei: we wrote about the mobile phone and middle class Indian domesticity. I’m the primary author of the second piece, with Jonathan as the secondary. It’s more specifically on mobile phone sharing and its relationship with space in urban India. If things go as planned, both should be published in early 2007.
Next week and the week after, I’m going to be talking about the work I did at Microsoft Research India: an ethnographic study in Bangalore, India on mobile phone sharing and how it plays out in domestic and urban space. I’d love to see you there.
In New York, I’ll be speaking on Wednesday, September 27th at 7:15 p.m. at nycWireless. The details:
568 Broadway at Prince St, NE corner
New York, NY 10012
(lobby sign-in required)
In San Francisco, I’ll be speaking on October 3 at noon at Giant Ant Studio. RSVP is required: please email me or leave a comment if you’re interested in attending. Email is molly [at] girlwonder [dot] com. I’ll pass on further information at that point.
Let me know if you’re coming. I’d love to see you.