Compression: Excursions on Media Ecology

RC19 b-pro Urban Design MArch


As we live our lives increasingly mediated through digital interfaces, compression becomes a ubiquitous part of our technology saturated environments. Compression is defined in data science as the reduction of file size or bandwidth needed to store or transfer information. This reduction allows for the densification of data, images, video, social media…

Information is spilling from the mediated spaces of digital technology into lived spaces, rewiring the territories we inhabit. As such, compression can be broader understood as having societal, political, economic, experiential, aesthetic and spatial dimensions. Vertically compression is interconnecting or delaminating several layers or stacks of the Technosphere, horizontally compression is ubiquitous but unevenly distributed in hotspots, contested territories, in-between zones and shifting borders.

We will approach compression as a means of grasping the contemporary moment, explore what these dimensions mean for design disciplines engaging the complexities of contemporary surroundings.

Media Ecologies

The topic of compression is framed within a larger interest in present media ecologies, more specifically how media, technology, and communication affect environments. Originally devised by Marshal Mc Luhan in the sixties, who understood media as extensions of human capacities and argued that media, more than their content, impact how societies and cultures develop.

Sixty years and several digital revolutions later, our surroundings have become saturated with digital technologies and the discourse on media ecology has emancipated from its human-centred origins, to include more-than-human agencies. Through recent developments in fields of media theory, media archaeology and media geology, media technologies can be described as material formations, in addition to technological and cultural constructions. In this extended understanding, media ecologies operate on timeframes ranging from the instant to deep time, and span across scales from the microscopic to the planetary.

New Eyes / Algorithmic Vision

We have been developing a research trajectory ‘new eyes & algorithmic vision’, which explores how architecture and urban design, disciplines relying heavily on the visual senses, respond to novel ways of seeing, mapping and visualising our world. The media ecologies and visual cultures these technologies give rise to, are not merely representing but actually shaping the environments in which we operate. Our world is increasingly experienced and produced through digital media. The research develops strategies for architectural and urban design practices to actively engage the complexities of our current surroundings through narrative, time-based and computational media.


The research cluster will explore what navigating media ecologies and compression as a lens means for design practices engaging with the complexities of our contemporary environments. We will do this through: Theoretical reflection, drawing from media theory, urban design and architectural theory. Building a collective body of references through hoarding examples, mapping and data visualisation. Interfacing with media ecologies through computational techniques such as data scraping, web-crawling, image processing and computer vision. Developing speculative design propositions, concretising different dimensions of compression. Using narrative time-based & computational media and learning from media arts as means of unfolding stories and excursions on media ecologies.