Molly Steenson

TummelVision 53: Molly Steenson on pneumatic tubes, the links between architecture and social software, and creating meaning without shipping code


Episode Notes

This week’s guest is Molly Steenson, a digital strategist, design researcher, architectural historian and Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University.

Molly joins Deb Schultz and Kevin Marks to discuss the implications of IBM’s Watson winning jeopardy, the hidden links between architecture and interface design, and whether “shipping code” is the only measure for creating value.

A few links we discussed in this episode:

Molly’s work in her own words

“I’m writing about interactivity and its origins in architecture — human-computer interaction in architecture and urbanism. Right now, I’m focusing on Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab. He was trained as an architect and then founded the Architecture Machine Group at MIT in 1968 (which later became the Media Lab in the 1980s). He tried to apply big ideas of artificial intelligence to architecture and urban planning. Think of Watson winning on Jeopardy — now imagine a Watson that could design cities and buildings in a close relationship with a person. That’s what Negroponte had in mind in the 60s and 70s. Obviously, the technology simply wasn’t advanced enough to do it — but the thinking was provocative and really interesting.

The interesting thing to me is that figures like Negroponte, Christopher Alexander (who wrote A Pattern Language) and Richard Saul Wurman (who coined the term “information architecture and founded the TED conference) are all architects by training who had a major impact on our digital worlds. Alexander’s idea about patterns were important for object-oriented programming languages, not to mention for game and interface design. Wurman is one of the godfathers of contemporary information architecture. I wonder why these architects didn’t fit well into the field of architecture but mesh so well with the ways we design today for interactivity.

Outside of my academic work, I’m also interested in mobility, mobile phones and future-casting research. I’ve spent a summer in India researching how people share mobile phones — and as we look at sustainable ways of using objects, sharing gets to be important. I’m working on an amazing project with the Institute for the Future that I can’t talk about… I’ve looked at how friendship is changing in China and England thanks to social networking sites.”

Powered by WordPress | Design based on Deadline Theme and refined by Sarah Dopp