2015-16_4 Tipping Points

This studio focuses on a topic and a methodology.

The topic is broad: what major forces – environmental, technological, social – will have such an impact on our world that they create (or compel us to create) massively scaled changes in the way we live. While issues of this scope – i.e., rising water levels, algorithmically directed flow of crowds and traffic, the new patterns of autonomous vehicles – are mostly well beyond the scale at which any single designer can have a comprehensive impact, it is essential that we learn to ‘zoom out’ and attempt to understand and anticipate how the interconnectedness of things today can often mean that, indeed, relatively small or local interventions can at times result in large impact.

The methodology is also broad: how can simulation be used in design. Simulations are typically associated with science and engineering: models that mimic the physics of the real world to enable the testing of scientific or technological ideas. Representation, on the other hand, has long been the realm of the designer: illustrating the world for the purposes of communication or as a form of instrumentalized image making for developing texts, media, objects, and places to be produced. In recent years, however, software capable of accurately simulating the real world has become increasingly ubiquitous – not just in contexts of science and engineering, but on the daily weather, GPS apps, cinematic visual effects, and computer games. How can the dynamic realism and indeteriminacy of simulation enable new approaches and new perspectives to both speculative and practical design?

Faculty: Tim Durfee