m m m c ( a t ) u m i c h ( d o t ) e d u official faculty profile
Hello, world . . . Please let this one small scrollable page serve as my sole online media presence. I never fell for Facebook in the first place. Twitter really might have been more appropriate for a professor circa 2012, but now is not then. Instead of late, it is Instagram that consumes so much gaze of my ever-so-visually-astute colleagues; we have our best people on that !
For over twenty years I have worked at the intersection of architecture, interaction design, and science-technology-society studies. Yet for nearly twice as long, I have worked on the relations of artifact, tool, and medium. Not just a proliferation of tools, the media arts afford reflectivity, expression, appropriation, communities of practice, critical discourse, and process discovery. In architecture, where Taubman College has long been a leader in digital fabrication, this is not just about novelties of form.
Hardly a week goes by without someone asking me what to make of "the smart city"! To survive so much boosterism and solutionism, I have choosen to drill down into one of the more positive, substantive, fast-changing aspects: the microgrid meme. In 2016–17 I spent a year, a sabbatical visit, and countless interviews researching this topic, and have since written a culturally oriented book on that. Although that might seem odd, since smart clean local micro energy is hardly my field, and is moreover a field that way too many amateurs want a piece of, it does make sense from the perspective known as science-technology-society studies, That has long been an aspect of my writings on interactions with urban infrastructures. There must be some reason why questions about the smart city come my way. Here's my two cents (PDF Abstract). (MIT Press, Spring 2020)
Information environmentalism, whatever that is to become, remains no more than oppressive than noise ordinances or signage policies, but it is a lot more complicated, and of course quite controverial. Not all attention is of the kind one must pay. Instead an effortless flow of fascination, often fascination with surroundings, needs to be upheld against relentless entertainment, diminished interpersonal presence, and other such side effects of distraction engineering. And well, if you write a book about it, at least this one, you may never eat lunch in tech town again... This book got great initial exposure, generally good reviews, then crickets. . . Today it's easier just to go read Tim Wu, who unlike me has the cred to utter such heresies. Yet, this one is still a writer's read. I still stand by this work.
preface | table of contents (PDF) | reviews
Ahhh, the aughts, especially those sunrise years from 2002 to 2008 when digital futures moved beyond the desktop, out into the sites and situations of everyday life, so much of it improvised, civic, and partipatory. Early on they called it "locative media" or "urban computing." Soon a lot of it became a normal part of everyday life. But then you know what happened in the 2010s, with every moment watched over by giant corporations. Alas not until 11/9 (2016) did enough people recognize what had changed, and well, ever since then, the techlash is on. Brrrrr. Even so, Digital Ground still gets airtime, now in historic perspective, as a foundation for interaction design in context of architecture and the city. preface | table of contents (PDF) | reviews
Today when appreciation of craft has become widespread and perhaps even normative in the media arts, it may be difficult to grasp what an unconventional and even unwelcome position this was in the design computing research community, twenty five years ago. Better books on the topic now exist (from Matthew Crawford and Richard Sennett, to name two), but this one has held up as an opening move.
preface | table of contents (PDF) | reviews
No powerpoint poisoning here! Real speakers are not just "presenters." Long ago and far away (mostly in the years just before YouTube and mostly in Europe) I did quite a bit of speaking, over fifty talks in all, many of them keynotes. My 2013 book Ambient Commons put a stop to that, however, as it was thought to be against technology. Yet today the humanity of "becoming digital" or "postdigital" has become a much more widely acceptable topic, one in need of many more kinds of conversations. I would be glad to participate.
You may be a professor if. . . you spend half your time reviewing the work of other professors: conference papers, book manuscripts, and above all, promotion and tenure cases. Lately I have had a little too much practice at the latter, however, and so I may need to decline some requests. ...(I still love book manuscripts, nevertheless.)
Keeping it human amid saturation in media has become an everyday concern for just about anyone-- and the core of a good education. This is going to take something quite different from infinite clickable choice. It may not be something to send or share. It probably involves daily practice at something. Consider what it means to need no entertainment! Knowing things yourself takes the courage to step away from social media, political identities, and the economics of perpetual connectivity. You are going to miss almost everything anyway. The question is what you DO notice. For that, there is nothing like education!