Digital Media: Ambiance in Non-places

How do we define the “ambiance” of a place? What causes specific environments to evoke different feelings? Are there consistent elements that define these ambiances, and is it possible to measure their qualities and characteristics?

This class will explore these questions by observing, quantifying, and measuring different aspects of site-specific environments. It will attempt to create new ways of describing psychological attributes of places that go beyond what was traditionally measurable. Students will define different quantifiable strategies of capturing the unseen elements that define the feel of these different spaces.

This year, the class discussions will particularly focus around understanding qualities of “non-places”. In social sciences, “non-places” are a type of generic public spaces or institutions that do not confer a feeling of place. Many of these are transitory places, where humans pass through anonymously and do not identify with in any intimate sense, such as airports, train stations, and malls. Non-places offer a unique opportunity for interventions, as they are often seen as dehumanizing places. Students will create interactive tools, wearables, and site-specific installations that respond and intervene at these non-places. 

The course will expose students to digital and physical fabrication methods, and new technologies such as software, electronics, smart materials, and programming. An equally important part of the course is questioning how and why certain spaces make us feel a certain way, what role our senses play in perceiving physical environments, and how we can use technology through installations to interpret these questions in a poetic way. Class discussions will look at current and historical examples and theories of psycho-geographical effects that can be tested, revealed, or measured with new technologies. The class will learn the various ways of measuring and understanding these qualities through spatial sensing, mapping, creating, and prototyping.

Class workshops will cover the following digital and physical fabrication tools and skills based on project needs: Arduino (including input, output, making motions, and using devices to connect to the web), basic electronics, Ohm’s Law, potentiometers, capacitor charging, using a multimeter, Shopbot, scanning, 3D printing, 3D toolpaths, using an oscilloscope, solder, making simple boards, sending data to a computer for processing and display, and wireless devices.