Algorithmic Vision: Architecture and Media Ecology

master dissertation 2020 - 2021

This master dissertation explores architectures relationship with the media ecology resulting from digitalisation of visual culture. Increased computational power, the proliferation of networked technologies and the proliferation of screens and cameras in our environments are deeply affecting how we see and understand our world. These technologies are not passive means of capturing our world; algorithmic vision is programmed to construct connections between images through scanning, filtering, segmentation, tags and metadata, resulting in an omnipresent media ecology.

The media ecology these technologies give rise to, are not just representing but actually producing the environment in which we operate, in example our world is increasingly experienced and produced through digital media. This dissertation explores how architecture, a discipline whose practice relies heavily on the visual senses, responds to these novel ways of seeing and the visual languages and cultures they produce. The project looks into the potential of new ways of understanding and practicing architecture through the novel media for mapping and visualising our world afforded by digital technologies.


The dissertation project by Weronika Gadja develops the notion of citography that reflects the impact of media ecology and algorithmic vision on our understanding of cities. Through this notion, architecture is defined as performative, mediated reality, where public space and public sphere intersect. Contemporary media ecology and algorithmic vision allow active participation of society to respond and interact with the collective vision of the city. Citography aims to uncover the shared perspective produced through the plethora of cameras and algorithms, by using tools like data scraping, spatial and time-based modeling, data visualization, rendering and animation. The result is not a final and static image of the city, but an ever changing, fluctuating, appearing, and disappearing, dynamic and interactive image based on the plethora of user generated data. It is placed in the lineage the notions of mediation of the city, form static framing photography, over the dynamic montage of cinematography, to the deliberate staging of acts in scenography. In citography citizens become co-creators, simultaneous actors and public, performers and audience. Rather than proposing a singular vision of the city it promotes a multitude, a plurality of visions, and allows for conflict and protest, as demonstrated in the case of the “protest citography” developed in this thesis.


... -(LESS)(NESS) by Mattias Bruyneel questions the habitual singular definitions architects use for the concepts of place, scale, space and time. It explores how these concepts are experienced differently in digital environments, and how the digital influences the physical in an endless feedback loop. As a result, the boundaries between the physical and the digital are becoming more and more fluid, as is our understanding of our environment. Mattias uses … - (less)(ness) as a suffix between parentheses as an addition to the concepts that he has used and misused during his education to talk about architecture. The suffix means that the concepts we are talking about are lacking of the state or condition that they are known for. By putting them between parentheses I state that they are an addition to traditional understanding of those concepts instead of replacing them. The resulting notions should be seen as an extension to how we experience our environment. Equally real as the traditional notion of this concepts.


Clout Design by Catherine Caglan questions the role of architectural drawing in the compressed environment of our contemporary hyper mediated culture, building on two previous projects Compressed city and Conversions. Architecture is influenced and affected by the wave of aesthetics and its visual representation in the media ecology. The notion of aesthetics becomes as important as the spatial experience. Digital cultures redefine how we design, experience and discuss architecture, through image sharing platforms such as flickr, Instagram, pinterest… At the same time we see digital culture affecting our physical surroundings, architecture is more and more designed to be consumed though media ecologies. Digital information and feedback has become an aspect that increasingly influences design choices. Architecture that is influenced by digital culture also influences the digital culture. There is a constant feedback loop between the two. Influence plays an important role in our design process, whether we are conscious of it or not. If everything ends up in the digital culture. What will happen if we design specifically for this culture? Designing for clout, influencing the culture while being influenced by it.


Migrating Landscapes by Tanya Magnion, reflects on the potential of data visualization and blockchain technology to give agency to landscapes., it investigates how landscapes operate with the continuum between material and mediated, between nature and culture, and proposes a more mutually beneficial relationship between technosphere and biosphere. This project speculates on landscapes gaining agency through a decentralised autonomous organisation, that can interact on behalf of the landscape with human agencies - individuals, governments, legal entities, financial systems… Once established the functioning of the DAO is run on the blockchain and can operate without human interference as regulated through smart contracts. Governance of the DAO is regulated through tokens, which fractionalise stewardship, but cannot act against the interest of the landscape as encoded by the DAO. This speculative scenario questions what role architecture could play when engaged by a DAO that represents the interests of specific landscapes. How do architects design for this nonhuman agency? How would this affect how architects engage with non-human agencies, what strategies could architect develop to engage landscapes beyond the habitual ways of looking at them as resources to be excavated, sites to be developed? What novel languages, tools and protocols would architects need to develop in order to take up this role? The scope of these profound questions is too extensive to tackle within the scope of this thesis, they are the drivers for developing a speculative design project that raises more questions than it answers.