“The first objective has been to establish whether the physical world can have a structure similar to the digital world. In effect, if a network is made up of nodes, connections, an environment and protocols that relate its content, in the case of the physical world, the world can be understood as a superposing of natural environments, the networks that crisscross it and functional nodes.”


It’s hard to imagine a time when, like the Arctic before the race for exploration began, or North America before its first colonization, the outlook for civilization was a blank slate. Rather than exploring through the marshlands of wilderness, our modern-day explorations ask for us to navigate through a landscape of mass-information and structural overload. In this new hybrid “post-natural” landscape, our role is no longer mapping the unknown, but rather disentangling an understanding of the “natural” from an increasingly structured and standardized world. Does the “natural” exist in glitches between our designed systems? Is the equivalent of past explorations of vast expanses now a sort of “view code” transparency of process within existing development? How might we capitalize on our current systematic instability and reconsider the possibility for integrating “natural” human understandings within what looks to be an increasingly structured world?

Although we may feel like giving up in what feels like a dead end endeavor, cross-disciplinary research is promising (among many include architect Christopher Alexander’s calls to apply his work with a generative pattern language to computer programming). We may now be able to achieve great momentum extending micro and macro scales, potentially fulfilling the prophesies which, until now, have only been written about in literary masterpieces speculating adaptable urban designs by the likes of Thomas More, H.G. Wells, Italo Calvino, and more recently, China Miéville. Borrowing from a method of reverse engineering, This, That, and the Other explores a “big design” methodology which imagines the micro rebuilding of macro systems, and the possibility of a “rational-based” algorithmic system as the next step in our logic-based information age.

Inspired by my manifesto, I contemplated the difficulties of discovering a manifesto given the

constraints of “fixed” systems for expression (from the syntax of a conditional programming language

to the common phrases which form our narratives). I continued to write poems in code, collecting

more experiences which fit between me and my environment, between logic and my own rationale.

Throughout this exercise, I borrowed from my own limited understanding of the conditional

programming language of “If’s” and “Then’s, sneaking in snippets of storytelling within

the comments beneath the coded syntax. How can we achieve the kind of intuitive

exploration practiced by Gertrude Stein if we don’t speak the language? Code is

different than writing – inherently a logical process less kind to the facilitation of intuitive

exploration, instead asking for translation into logical processes. This translation

simplifies complex “information” of the human experience. To use it, I would need to

adapt myself into it, rather than the other way around. This inspired more experiments,

exploring how to affect codes if I don’t speak the language.

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I wanted to execute my urban observations, not wanting them not to disappear into thin air because of

an inability to translate beyond a vector illustration. I tried both encoding and decoding my

experiences: using my iPhone to encode films of me attempting to communicate with

neighboring windows by turning on and off my phone; and decoding through exercises in

“experience mapping” where I would map them out and label things with x’s and y’s.

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What happens to the “information” which fits outside of our systems collection

capabilities? Do they continue as unseen, undocumented and resisting reflection and

adaptation? The simple answer is that most of these experiences usually stay as just

that – fleeting moments of joy, experienced as we retell them in our conversations, but

rarely do they have a place where they can be logged or searched, or reintegrated into

the system. Sometimes, someone creates a space for them to live, such as the internet

craze of sites to catalogue funny happenings, or “memes”, or the color-based search site

False Arms. How can a designed format facilitate cross-relational understandings? Are

there parallels to these kind of havens for the undocumented on a city scale?

Despite the perceived “crash” of cities such as Detroit and Pittsburgh, these cities seem

to be experiencing exponential growth in new industries such as sustainable architecture

and urban farming. It seems as though it is precisely the failing of their previously

established systems which has attracted those who might share Thoreau’s desire to

explore the sublime in a lack of development. After ten years of living in Pittsburgh, I

noticed this first-hand, seeing an influx of alternative communities who felt frustrated

with the increasing success of their previous homes in Portland and who had migrated

east after hearing word of the “potential” in Pittsburgh.

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