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Brenda Laurel - Designed Animism

Opening of Designed Animism:

My interest in the relationship between pervasive computing and animism has been brewing for some time – an anthropological bent and an engagement with poetics are old friends. I followed Mark Weiser’s work on ubiquitous computing at Xerox PARC and witnessed other early developments in the domain at Interval Research. During my time as chair of the graduate Media Design Program at Art Center, I was drawn to thinking about ambient and pervasive computing from new perspectives within the world of art and design. When I also joined Sun Labs in 2005, I got to see the development of the SunSPOTs up close and personal. Of course, it didn’t hurt to be married to one of the principal researchers on the Sun SPOT team, who continued his work with sensor networks at the NASA Ames Research Center. I’m now heading up a new transdisciplinary grad design program at California College of the Arts, where pervasive computing and sensor networks will play a significant role in many of our studios as well as in collaboration with other institutions. I see pervasive computing as an extremely important phase shift in our capabilities, opening up huge new vistas of possibility for design, discovery, experience and human agency.

What does pervasive computing have to do with animism? Essentially, it can become a tool in manifesting what I call designed animism. The goal is fundamentally experiential, but the conequences are profound: designed animism forms the basis of a poetics for a new world.


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