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. Resisting the virtual life has not been going so
well lately. Zoom, Midjourney, and Unreal consume
the gaze of my ever-so-visually-astute colleagues: we have our best
people on that!
Like a fern or a horseshoe crab, I am an
evolutionary holdover from a
distant era. Back before smartphones and AI, there were many more
advantages for people who knew things themselves, whose work (and
little else) resided on their own computers, and for whom most of
the day involved very few messages.
For many years, I sought to bridge between architecture and interaction design.
For even longer, as early as the 1980s, I was exploring prospects of
digital craft. The
media arts must not be just a proliferation of tools. Done right, the media arts can afford reflectivity,
expression, appropriation, critical discourse, and communities of practice.
In recent work, Active City Reading provides a prehistory for a better augmented reality.
Instead of controlling more of what you see, the technology should enable you to see more kinds of things, in context, and to see across seams, textures, and multiple media.
there has to be more to life than being led about by your devices.
This work probes activity theory, multi-literacies, and the legibile layers of place.
Whereas back at the millenium scholars spoke of "city as text," this is more about "text in the city,"
maybe even large language models in the city, all engaged through the practice of walking.photo: vvvita via freepik
Information environmentalism could bring more responsibility over
what plays best where. It could be no more oppressive than noise
ordinances or signage policies, and it certainly isn't culture war on
free speech. This sensibility recognizes how
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, you
may never eat lunch in tech town again... This book got great
initial exposure, but then sank from its weight. . . Today it's
easier just to go read other writers who have better cred to utter
such heresies. Yet I still stand by this work, and it is important
to what I am researching lately. preface
table of contents
Back when digital futures moved beyond the desktop, out into the
sites and situations of good city life, so much of it seemed improvised,
civic, and participatory. Designers called it "locative media" or
"urban computing." Soon a lot of it
became a normal part of everyday life. But then the web darkened in
the 2010s, with every moment
watched over by giant corporations. Then in the pandemic, any talk
of techlash melted away. If the future is virtual, the future is
very grim. Even so, Digital Ground still gets airtime, now
in historic perspective, as a foundation for interaction design in
context of architecture and the city.
table of contents (PDF)
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.
table of contents
Socially embodied, lateral, unpredictable, and no mere delivery of
resident education will survive!
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!