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VI.3 May/June 1999
Page: 44
Digital Citation

Information in space

Dick Rijken

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In this article, we will discuss some of the issues that were raised during the master class. I will present a number of possible connections between "information" and "space" and discuss the role of experience in the interaction between the two phenomena. In addition, I will outline different issues in the collaboration of media designers and architects. In this article the phrase "media design" refers to many design disciplines, ranging from journalism and graphic design to software development and interaction design, and "architecture" refers to a similar range of disciplines, from architecture to urban design and landscape design.

back to top  Media and Architecture?

bullet.gif What's the Problem?

In Western culture, we are in transition from an industrial to an information society. This transition is not just a matter of technology—it is also (and, in the end, mainly) a social and a cultural event. Design is where technology meets culture. The disciplines of both architecture and media design are constantly rethinking and transforming themselves. The impact of information and communication technologies on our culture is a shared concern.

Where are you when you are involved in a conversation using a mobile phone on a train? Processes of communication are no longer connected to fixed places and moments. They alter our sense of "where we are" and "who we are." How will the new forms of electronic communication affect spatial relationships in design, architecture, and urbanism? Conversely, how do the media's messages depend on architectural space? And most of all, what does this mean for the individual, the group, the organization, as producers or users of information or space? Can architecture answer questions that emerge in media design, and vice versa? Can the dialogue between these disciplines inspire a truly integrative approach? Do we need a new design discipline? Can we design buildings that tell stories, or media that create spaces?

Mixing architects and media designers is mixing two cultures. There is inspiration and learning, but also misunderstanding and debate. Much of this must be quite familiar to most practitioners in interaction design and related fields. But before we discuss possible interactions between media design and architecture as disciplines, let's first look at a number of possible relationships between their central phenomena—how can we connect information and space?

back to top  Information and Space: Architecture in Media

bullet.gif Information As Space: Metaphors from the Real World

First of all, spatial metaphors can be used in the presentation of information. The World Wide Web is swarming with virtual "rooms" and "buildings." This is supposed to be easier for users, because they immediately see how they're supposed to navigate: "Aha! A door! That must be the exit." "Aha! A cabinet! What could be in there?" And so on. The result is often not a pretty sight. In practice, this gives us boring and ugly Web sites that are easy to understand but hard to use. The screen is flat, and the user is looking at it. The mouse runs along a 2D surface, and the user is required to use that 2D plane in order to get from here to there in 3D. Before you know it, the 3D spaces are full of 2D surfaces (in order to present text or other information that looks best in 2D) and we're back at square one again. I think that an architect would have designed these spaces completely differently. And why do I have to go through an entrance when I already know exactly which room I want to reach? Can you imagine a browser that does not allow users to work with bookmarks?

Figure. User has chosen the 'culture' view on VPRO information. The site presents teasers for different content items.

bullet.gif Space In Information: Virtual Realities

Then there is virtual reality, visualizations of objects and spaces that consist of information. Here, the spatial experience itself is a central objective. Typically, a user settles thoroughly into a space, preferably through a stereoscopic projection. He or she looks like Robocop, but the experience can be worth it. Also, more computer games increasingly take place in 3D worlds. The spaces aren't interfaces to the fun—they are the fun. Wipeout 2097 (Sony Playstation, PC), for example, is a futuristic racing game in which the player whirls across various racetracks in so-called "anti-gravity" vehicles at staggering speeds, in competition with a number of other vehicles. Doom or Quake, renowned massacre games, also take place in 3D virtual environments. In these types of games the quality of the spatial design is a crucial factor in the experience. A central element of virtual reality is the (literal) position of the user. Am I looking at spaces from the outside, or am I inside them, part of them? This distinction is more than simply technical, and it doesn't necessarily have to be limited to entertainment. Anyone who has ever played 3D games knows the stunning difference between a first-person and a third-person perspective—are you inside the active object or floating in space behind it? In these kinds of applications, a deep understanding of space in relation to dynamics and movement is an indispensable design quality. Can architects help game designers to design 3D environments? To what degree do these kinds of new worlds play a role in the development of spatial design in architecture?

bullet.gif Spatial Information: 3D Visualizations

The spatial experience can be a powerful context for visualization purposes. There is fervent experimentation with 3D visualizations of complex databases, where the user is located inside of them. I've seen applications where the users can proceed through a sea of stock market quotes with virtual reality sets on their heads, which is really much different from looking at graphics or animations. What's remarkable is that the better examples are of a fairly abstract nature; there's no attempt made whatsoever to imitate familiar objects or spaces. I think it would be interesting to involve architects in the design of these kinds of visualizations. Many examples of this approach can be found in Michael Benedikt's book Cyberspace: First Steps [4].

bullet.gif Information Space: Complex Information Environments.

Complex information systems are often referred to as "information environments." It is a less literal metaphor to make sense of constellations of various information and communication components. The average PC (connected to a network) is an information environment—a collection of programs and files of which the user, as an acting and navigating subject, forms a part. But we can also view television and newspapers as information spaces. Many information systems have a structure that is experienced as an environment, with differences between "here" and "there" and different connections between the "spaces," but, significantly, without needing to make use of 3D visualizations.

I think architecture can feed the discourse on these kinds of information spaces. The user creates an "experience" while acting within an information environment. There is no single route or purpose; instead there is a potentially endless set of paths or actions. It reminds me of how a building or a town doesn't force a single specific route or function, but offers a number of connected spaces and possibilities. However, design decisions do ultimately determine the possible experiences. The space then works as a process facilitator. Experience is the dynamic end result of design in media as well as architecture.

I envision experience as being broader than simply entertainment. For me, experience also has to do with understanding the stress that reigns in a production department the day before a deadline. Or with the reassurance of a consumer who, one minute after buying something on the Internet, receives an e-mail message with a clear description of the transaction and its financial consequences. Or with first-time visitors that find their way in a complex city by using media for guidance. The alienation that overtakes you in such a city is an experience. Understanding this is helpful in designing all kinds of media. And this applies, it seems to me, to a lot of architecture as well. I will discuss this further in the "Environments for Experiences" section later.

back to top  Space and Information: Media in Architecture

bullet.gif Space As Information: The Building as a Medium

Spaces and buildings themselves can be carriers of meaning. Buildings have always been representations of ideas, from the cross-shaped layout of cathedrals to buildings that refer to corporate logos. If in an information society, the meaning of things becomes more important than the things themselves, then what happens with buildings? We're already seeing that people are looking on a grand scale for new paradigms for the formation of meaning. Recent research in the Netherlands shows that the church isn't doing well, but that there is a growing interest in spirituality. Feng shui, an ancient Chinese body of knowledge that addresses the relationship between spatial layout and flows of vital energy, is growing in popularity in the western world. The reason for that may be that it offers a very specific framework for thinking about meaning in relation to space.

bullet.gif Information Against Space: The Global Village

As the penultimate relationship between space and information, we have information against space: the global village. Media level out cultures and ideas that used to be bound to specific places. We all watch CNN and drink Coca Cola, and the Gulf War took place primarily in the media. Is an urbanite urban because she lives in the city or because she has an urban worldview? Geographical location is becoming an ever smaller factor in determining a person's world of ideas. Virtual communities are often interest-based rather than geography-based. Many people have many social contacts but don't know their neighbors. What does this actually mean for the designing of districts in villages or cities?

bullet.gif Information Into Space: Interactive Spaces

Information technology can be used to dynamically modify the appearance and behavior of spaces and objects: the physical environment becomes an interactive system. In architecture, everything which has to do with the physical aspects of buildings is summed up in the term "tectonics." Research in display screen technology offers amazing vistas: flat and flexible display screens with image resolutions that are finer than the human eye can see and without any limit to their physical size (unlike TVs or current LCDs). Imagine what this can do for architecture: walls full of dynamic displays. Currently, background pictures on computer screens are referred to as "wallpaper"; soon our wallpaper itself will be a computer screen. Conversely, where do we find photographic wallpaper nowadays? Will dynamic content make the big difference?

Figure. User has chosen the 'science and technology' view on VPRO information. The site presents teasers for different content items.

Also, many aspects of the physical environment (such as climate, lighting, sound) are becoming computer-controlled. This raises the control issue: how do you influence tectonic characteristics and behaviors of the physical environment? When does a room heat up, and how fast? How do I instruct my house? This ranges from occasional configuration (with the thermostat as a simple example) to direct interaction (real-time control of certain parameters). If a building has a very smart climate control system, can that have an effect on the size of its windows? A building's tectonic properties can be subject to constant change. And we're not just talking about the physical design. Is the way my house talks to me over the phone part of its tectonics? Here as well, the dynamic aspect of these new technologies seems to be the most interesting. I wonder what will happen when "behavior" becomes a standard part of the tectonic repertoire...

I would put my money on portable (or "hangable") displays, physically separated from but in communication with (portable) input devices such as pointers, pens, or microphones for speech input. If there is one thing we can predict, it is that these presentation and control technologies will develop further and further. Therefore, it may not always be a good idea to integrate them with physical structures in very rigid ways. You don't want to build your current TV into the wall if you know there will be projectors or hangable flat screens in a couple of years. What does this mean for architecture?

Figure. (Left) User has chosen the 'kids' view on VPRO information. The site presents teasers for different content items. (Right) 'Lifesavers' is a VPRO project where designers are invited to create short interactive experiences. This image shows an overview of the different lifesavers to date.

All this seems to call for generic rather than specific physical structures. Architects will have to deal with generic infrastructures for media rather than with specific designs. What goes through the wires of a computer is not an architectural decision, but the wires themselves need space, just like other infrastructural systems. Media and information technology consultants can talk with clients about expected media use and with architects about media and information infrastructures that support the expected media usage. And I do hope that these teams will come up with radically new concepts of what buildings are. Once these are not just present in physical space only, but also extend themselves into different kinds of information environments, it is not clear where their boundaries are. My house is no longer present only in my street in my town, but also in my laptop and in my watch.

bullet.gif Information About Space: Maps and Territories

Another straightforward connection is of course information about space. The map that indexes the territory. Geographical information systems and geographical positioning systems illustrate developments that take the idea of the map much further than we could have imagined in the days where a simple cross on a piece of parchment indicated the location of a treasure. The map itself is becoming an information environment, with multiple layers and views.

Media and information technology also have an important role in facilitating the way that complex building projects are realized: communicating with the involved parties, editing the content for a complex project and carefully offering it to the relevant people, facilitating discussions with stake-holders, visualizing and simulating future situations, and so on. A greater amount of interactivity with the development process will change the way these projects are carried out.

Three dimensional models used by architects in their design process also illustrate new ways of providing information about spatial designs. These days, many buildings exist in virtual space before they're built. And, increasingly, these models are used for evaluation purposes before the real development starts. The application of these kinds of techniques is starting to show an effect on the way building projects are executed. Through the use of 3D and dynamic visualizations, it is now possible to involve different stakeholders fairly accessibly. If a city wants to know what citizens think of a new urban design in the making, they can post a model on a Web site and invite people to comment. Also, models are increasingly used for simulation purposes in order to learn about possible future effects of architectural designs. In Helsinki, SimCity is used in the process of designing new parts of the city.

bullet.gif Space Through Information: Know Where You're Going

Information (technology) transforms the way we deal with our physical environment. Developments like Just-in-Time production (impossible without the widespread application of information technology) will radically transform the transportation, storage, and presentation of goods. What we are seeing right now is a general trend of chain reversal: products are not made and then sold, but they are sold first, and then made. This results not only in microdistribution infrastructures with, indeed, little need for large storage spaces, but also in different retail concepts. Selling a product is becoming an information-based activity, where the options you have initially exist in information rather than in matter. There may be one or two example products in a store, but they are rarely sold as is. Once you have decided what you want and agreed to purchase it, a packet of information is sent to a factory and the product gets made and shipped. Oddly enough, this means that you can't walk into a store and take the product home, but you do have much greater influence on the actual end result. What does this mean for the design of retail stores and shopping mails? At this moment, expectations are that this will result in opposite trends: day-to-day products like groceries will find their way to customers through electronic shopping lists and delivery services (there wasn't a lot of fun in grabbing a bottle of milk from a shelf in the first place), and luxury items will be presented in information and entertainment-rich environments (virtual as well as physical). Theme parks are becoming shopping malls and shopping malls are becoming theme parks.

Information-rich transportation infrastructures will have a strong impact on mobility in urban environments. Numerous examples exist of how information technology directly modifies the way physical space is used. There are fully automated parking garages that can physically shuffle cars around, thus creating room for more cars than usual. Electronic signs all over Amsterdam indicate the amounts of free spaces in the different parking garages. In-car navigation systems provide feedback that drivers use to decide which route to take. If we know exactly who needs to go from where to where, we can use fewer buses and trains. The Dutch Railway Company is currently experimenting with a new approach to their information infrastructure that is based on real-time coordination rather than on planning. There are experiments with computer-controlled dynamic displays at train or bus stations so that less physical space is needed for platforms. Experiments are under way in the Netherlands that aim at regulating traffic flow through communication between a vehicle and the road: the road takes care of itself by controlling speed and distance between vehicles. Or how about "electronic shackles" that are used to imprison inmates inside their own homes? The shackles cannot be taken off. As soon as the inmate leaves the house, it signals the event to headquarters. They can run, but they cannot hide. In a more mundane setting, mobile phone users can find their way through physical space by means of guidance in their ears from friends. All this does sound like the end of space as we know it.

Actually, I think the most interesting issue may not be the fact that information can create space at all (a simple traffic light already does this, essentially), but that current and future media can do so dynamically and ephemerally. A while ago I witnessed some kind of convoy through the heart of Amsterdam: a couple of fancy limousines accompanied by police on motorcycles. Four motorcycles would block an intersection to provide smooth crossing for the limousines, while four others were already on their way to the next intersection. The limousines moved uninterruptedly through the heart of Amsterdam at some 60 km/h. The normal flow of traffic was interrupted for only 2 minutes or so. This is similar to flight traffic control at airports, and the elegance is in its temporary character. Now there was obvious information involved (cops on motorbikes signaling drivers to stop as physical information sources), but it made me wonder whether these kinds of ephemeral effects can be achieved through very localized media (in time as well as in space) such as mobile phones or location-sensitive personal displays. Is there such a thing as ephemeral architecture where spaces with certain qualities exist only for an hour or so? Who will design these kinds of spaces (or should we call them services)?

bullet.gif Information In Space: Places That Tell Stories

How can we involve a user's physical location in the offering of information? Situated media: place as a filter or a trigger for information. Different spaces have different qualities. The living room is a large social space; the workroom is a small, individual space; a pocket in my leather jacket is a very small, very personal space. Many interactive experiences are very individual, but the living room is a preeminently social space. What does that mean for the whole idea of interactive television? Will it ever work? Why did CD-i flop, while CD-ROM is still a growth market? Most PCs are in work rooms, in offices, in extremely individual proximity to the user, whose face is at most a meter away from the monitor. Think of kids who hunch in front of the TV to play a computer game. Can they see it better this way, or are they creating their own personal space? Think about city tours, or museums where tourists can consult specific information about a specific object only when they're standing in its immediate area. The information is assembled in such a way that you actually have to stand in front of the object to understand it. Or consider a Cinema database, which might adapt its advice to the cinema you're standing in front of.

Where do we come in contact with information? What information is meaningful where, and when? In my car I listen to the radio, in my living room I watch TV, in my work room I have my PC, I have a pager in my pocket, in the train it's the newspaper or a book, and so on. There are many implicit connections between different media and different spaces that are often rooted in old technology or infrastructure. There's no cable connection on the train, and TVs have only recently become small enough to carry with you. The size of a newspaper or magazine in part determines its place of use. Driving a car is an activity that doesn't tolerate any visual media as extra stimuli. And so on. Space and timing are now more or less given (at night it's the TV in the living room, all day long in the car it's the radio, etc.), but when appliances are able to wirelessly receive and transmit information, then we can pry apart all of these certainties. Lightweight computers like laptops or palmtops will be able to deliver multimedia. What does that mean for the information in the devices? And what does that mean for the building I'm standing in front of? What kinds of stories does it tell me? And does it tell the same stories to the person next to me?

Figure. A screenshot from VPRO's online audio website, a collaboration between VPRO's 'digitaal' and radio departments. This screenshot shows the band Underworld with different playable tracks (real audio), news, and links to Underworld websites. At the bottom of the screen there are buttons for other genres.

back to top  Environments for Experiences

People's minds find themselves in wildly complex media environments. Their bodies navigate through physical spaces that are thoroughly transformed by information and media technologies. But minds live in bodies...

What do people interact with? In the world of interaction design everyone always talks about the functionality and aesthetics of components (an individual word processor, a spreadsheet, a single Web site), while our actions mostly take place in information environments with many components that may or may not work well together. Interaction design is about designing media and about designing tools, but if you put enough of those together, you get more than a bunch of stories and some functionality. You get environments that include their users as active players. Thinking in terms of messages or functions just isn't enough. Asking what an intranet is for is like asking what is a city for. Interaction design as a discipline needs to develop new conceptual frameworks. Thinking about characteristics of environments differs from thinking about functions of tools. How can the cultural component of an intranet be designed? How can it be evaluated? How do urban planners think about the qualities or cultures of cities?

This takes us back to the idea of experience. Only this time, it's not just the information itself that is experienced. Its connection to the physical environment creates a much bigger stage for action. One group in the master class (coached by information designer Bert Mulder and architect Lars Spuybroek) came up with the idea of the "event space." Event spaces are made of information as well as matter and structure users' activities. Some events are more likely to happen more than others. A fence with a sign that says "Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted" is a very simple event space. The fence itself is a physical obstacle; the sign offers information that addresses the mind. The event space as a whole makes you stop and think twice...

Thinking from the perspective of situations and experience is the reason why many interaction designers are so charmed by architect Christopher Alexander (specifically The Timeless Way of Building [2] and A Pattern Language [3]). After his flirtation with formal specifications in Notes on the Synthesis of Form [1], Alexander has turned 180 degrees and now tries in A Pattern Language to provide a structure to many issues in architecture without impairing direct experience or otherwise formulating rigid laws. What's interesting is that in all his "patterns," he also explicitly involves the context of use in his design advice: all design is situated. His methods for analyzing human activities in relation to architecture (ranging from urban design to architecture to interior design) is in my opinion an example of the kind of thinking that's needed in interaction design. In the past, I've experimented with applying Alexander's ideas to the phenomenology of interactivity in an educational setting [7] and found the approach useful in making students sensitive to experiential aspects of interaction design.

Many architects, however, don't like the idea of situatedness. They have learned that over time, buildings have to accommodate new functions again and again (so why bother?), but this is much less a problem for media designers. A Web site can be modified instantaneously, there will be another newspaper tomorrow, and a new edition of a magazine next week. Specifically, the new media are characterized by evolution, rather than by design. I get the impression that the evolution of buildings is becoming a notion that architects are just starting to take into account in their work [5]. Some buildings enable multiple ways of using them more than others, but modification at a later stage is a different issue. How long is a building expected to last? What may happen to it over time? How can fast-evolving information environments resonate with "slow" structures like buildings?

back to top  Infrastructures for Experiences

As we have seen, buildings as well as Web sites structure people's actions. Both can therefore be seen as infrastructures. Both create event spaces. But they are also implements, cultural products. And there's more than just the structure of users' actions; architecture is also becoming an infrastructure for the media themselves. Here again, situatedness can be a problem. It is a difficult concept in relation to something as general as infrastructure. We want infrastructures to be generic, not specific. We can compare the Internet to standards and protocols in the building industry, and Web sites to buildings. I think the key to why media designers do want to work in a context-dependent way, and architects would rather not, lies in speed. We can update Web sites instantaneously, for target groups that are becoming increasingly small. That makes it possible as well as necessary for us to work in an ever more context-dependent way. What kind of information can a TV company offer on a small hand-held computer for a user that is in a train from Amsterdam to Paris? And when? Where and when is information about films most relevant? In the living room? On the street in front of the cinema? In the video store? Information environments and physical environments together create event spaces for active users. Users' minds as well as their bodies will be integral parts of rich environments. Location-specific media will flourish. Where you are determines what you get...

Media designers and consultants will work with architects, urban planners, policymakers, and other professionals and design information structures and infrastructures and interfaces that allow for new ways of using and creating space. These teams will come up with new concepts about spatial identity. What is a city? Is it a physical environment? An infrastructure for experience? An information environment? A way of thinking? A culture? Can I live in Amsterdam and feel at home there, even if I spend most of my days and nights in Paris? Can I live the Amsterdam experience without being there?

back to top  Collaboration?

I hope that I've illustrated that it's getting more and more difficult for media designers to make information systems without considering the spatial contexts in which the information will be used. They will need to work with architects and urban planners. But what does it take to get cultures to work together?

Figure. A screenshot of a lifesaver by Rogerio Lira, a Brazilian media designer working in the Netherlands. His lifesaver is called 'Faraway Place'. All the images are little animations.

bullet.gif Tools and Methods

On a superficial level, media designers and architects use similar tools when they work. They sketch on paper. They use computers to produce images, drawings, diagrams, and the like. As standards emerge for document types, the ease with which designers from different fields can exchange documents will surely facilitate collaboration.

Another point in the collaboration between architecture and media is methodology. Media designers often work cyclically: phases of research, analysis, design, and evaluation can be cycled in rapid succession and the product emerges over time. Sometimes it's not clear when a design is finished because we can always keep on tinkering with it. Clearly, most buildings are not made this way. As mentioned in the "Information About Space" section, developments such as 3D modeling and simulation will give architects more room to actually play with designs, but the real thing does not exist until it exists in real space. What does this mean for collaboration?

bullet.gif Language

And then there is language. We may use the same words and yet mean completely different things by them. What is "space"? What is "infrastructure"? What is a "system"? What is a "user"? What is "meaning"? I think it would be quite interesting to investigate a bit more deeply the patterns of thinking used in our fields. How do we represent or describe experiences? It seems that neither architects nor media designers have an established vocabulary or a set of notations for this. Should architects start using storyboards, should media designers start using spatial layout drawings? Can we develop a shared vocabulary for event spaces or experience environments that architects and media designers can work with?

Figure. VPRO's 24hr Cinema Service is an online movie database, connected to a database with information about TV programs in the Netherlands. Based on personal ratings of movies, users can get weekly email messages that inform them about movies on television that they might like. This screenshot shows basic information about The Shining and also shows a list of 'related films'. That list is solely based on user ratings: "if you like The Shining, you may also like Dead Calm, or The Mission, or Twin Peaks, etc."

But there's not just a vocabulary problem. I get the impression that media designers generally operate within a less intellectualistic discourse than architects. This may have historical reasons, but it may also be related to methodological concerns discussed in the previous paragraph: architects simply have longer periods of time available to reflect on their designs before they are final, whereas media designers think while doing. If they don't succeed in achieving an objective the first time, changes can be made in the next broadcast, issue, or version. This also allows a kind of reflection within the actions themselves, and verbal reflection becomes less important.

bullet.gif Mentality

I have saved the best for last: values. Do the two disciplines have similar sets of values? Where do these come from? What is quality? Are there differences in mentalities? I've heard architects accusing media designers of being obsessed with the individual. Or media designers accusing architects of having no respect for users at all. Such profound differences in mentality, reflecting diametrically opposed sets of values, pretty much kill every attempt at collaboration. No differences are so hard to reconcile as those that come from the heart. If professionals do not have similar values, then that's it. No integrated conceptual framework, no elaborate methodology or common set of tools necessary will make a difference whatsoever.

Sometimes, but definitely not always, these different attitudes toward users can be traced back to the difference between the artist and the designer, the conflict between autonomy and servitude. And then it's a matter of identity more than anything else: what do you want to be, an independent artist or a designer bound by numerous constraints? At the moment there's an active discussion within art education about the fate of the so called "autonomous artist." The entire concept of autonomy presupposes nonservitude; in an information society that pushes important concepts like "context" and "relationship," this is a difficult starting position. But it's such an enticing ambition for eager egos... We also see this within the media world itself: "I make what I want to make" versus "give the public what they want." There's a difference between "give the public what they want" and "let's take users into account," but in many cases it needs to be explained.

It still strikes me, however, that this particular clash does occur frequently when architects and media designers get together. If the world of buildings and spaces is so neat and orderly that it becomes dull, your best intervention may be to introduce chaos. If the world of information and ideas is so chaotic that it drives even the smartest among us crazy, your best intervention may be to introduce order and harmony. Good ideas like these may settle into cultures as implicit values and collaboration will definitely suffer. Try and find out what makes a potential partner tick before you start!

There's more to it than meets the eye through weird goggles that make you look like Robocop... In the end, all of this is about collaboration, about communication, about two disciplines trying to make sense of one another. The questions outnumber the answers, but I hope that they are useful and inspiring.

Figure. Screenshot from a section in the VPRO website about the Media and Architecture book by Bart Lootsma and Dick Rijken. Graphic design by Oscar Smeulders.


Ad de Bont (graphic designer/interaction designer), Bruno Felix (project manager), Daniel Ockeloen (systems designer/software architect), Dick Rijken (consultant), Eefje Grob (web editor), Femke Wolting (Cinema Service consultant), Gertjan Kuiper (web editor), Leonieke Daalder (web editor), Marcel Maatkamp (systems designer/software architect), Mieke Gerritzen (graphic designer), Petra Schrevelius (producer), Reinier Bruijne (web coordinator/editor), Rico Jansen (systems designer/software architect), Robin Verdegaal (graphic designer/interaction designer).

back to top  References

1. Alexander, C. Notes on the Synthesis of Form. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1964.

2. Alexander, C. The Timeless Way of Building. Oxford University Press, New York, 1979.

3. Alexander, C. A Pattern Language. Oxford University Press, New York, 1977.

4. Benedikt, M. (ed.). Cyberspace: First Steps. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1992.

5. Brand, S. How Buildings Learn; What Happens After They're Built. Viking Books, 1994.

6. Lootsma, B. and Rijken, D. Media and Architecture. VPRO and the Berlage Institute, Amsterdam, 1998.

7. Rijken, D. (ed.) et al. "Interaction Design at the Utrecht School of the Arts." SIGCHI Bulletin 26, 3 (July 1994): 70–79.

back to top  Author

Dick Rijken
TBWA Company Group (Amsterdam, The Netherlands),
VPRO (Hilversum, The Netherlands),
Sandberg Institute (Amsterdam, The Netherlands),

back to top  Footnotes

This article is a condensation of parts of the book "Media and Architecture" by Bart Lootsma (an architecture critic) and Dick Rijken (a media consultant), published by VPRO (a media company) and the Berlage Institute Amsterdam (a postgraduate laboratory of architecture). The book is a critical dialogue between Dick and Bart about media and architecture.

back to top  Figures

UF1Figure. User has chosen the 'culture' view on VPRO information. The site presents teasers for different content items.

UF2Figure. User has chosen the 'science and technology' view on VPRO information. The site presents teasers for different content items.

UF3Figure. (Left) User has chosen the 'kids' view on VPRO information. The site presents teasers for different content items. (Right) 'Lifesavers' is a VPRO project where designers are invited to create short interactive experiences. This image shows an overview of the different lifesavers to date.

UF4Figure. A screenshot from VPRO's online audio website, a collaboration between VPRO's 'digitaal' and radio departments. This screenshot shows the band Underworld with different playable tracks (real audio), news, and links to Underworld websites. At the bottom of the screen there are buttons for other genres.

UF5Figure. A screenshot of a lifesaver by Rogerio Lira, a Brazilian media designer working in the Netherlands. His lifesaver is called 'Faraway Place'. All the images are little animations.

UF6Figure. (Right) VPRO's 24hr Cinema Service is an online movie database, connected to a database with information about TV programs in the Netherlands. Based on personal ratings of movies, users can get weekly email messages that inform them about movies on television that they might like. This screenshot shows basic information about The Shining and also shows a list of 'related films'. That list is solely based on user ratings: "if you like The Shining, you may also like Dead Calm, or The Mission, or Twin Peaks, etc."

UF7Figure. Screenshot from a section in the VPRO website about the Media and Architecture book by Bart Lootsma and Dick Rijken. Graphic design by Oscar Smeulders.

back to top  Sidebar: About the Author

Dick Rijken graduated as a psychologist, with computer science and electronic music as secondary subjects. He was involved in setting up an expertise center for artificial intelligence at the Utrecht School of the Arts, lecturing on various subjects such as knowledge acquisition, knowledge representation, and music technology. After that, he was head of the Interaction Design Department at the Faculty for Art, Media and Technology. His main role was to set up a 4-year curriculum in interaction design. In 1995, he worked for the Netherlands Design Institute, where he developed a collaborative workspace for workshop participants of the third Doors of Perception conference.

Currently, Mr. Rijken is strategy director at the TBWA Company Group (a group of companies in marketing and communications) and consultant at VPRO Digitaal, the new media department of VPRO (a broadcasting organization). He is also a permanent staff member at the Sandberg lnstitute's postgraduate course in design (the Sandberg Institute is connected to the Gerrit Rietveld Academy). His interests focus on how new media and information infrastructures can be used to facilitate dialogical relationships between organizations and their environments.

About VPRO

The VPRO is a broadcasting organization located in Hilversum, The Netherlands that produces television and radio programs, as well as a weekly TV guide. It is becoming apparent that, alongside these more or less traditional media, new developments in information technology are beginning to play an increasingly important role in the media industry as a whole. In 1994, the VPRO founded a department for research and development in the field of digital media, aptly named VPRO Digitaal. VPRO Digitaal investigates the impact of digital technology on society and its consequences on a broadcasting organization. The department does so by developing (experimental) communication products and services, thereby feeding the organization with food for thought about its future.

About the Berlage Institute Amsterdam

The Berlage Institute Amsterdam is a postgraduate laboratory of architecture. It functions as a forum where contemporary urban issues can be discussed and where dialogue can take place between architects and interested people from different disciplines. At the center of the research interest are architecture, urban planning, and landscape architecture as well as other tangential but influential disciplines. The interdisciplinary attitude within research has been adopted on the grounds that architecture can not be seen as an independent discipline, but as simply one element in an increasingly complex society.

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ACM 1072-5220/99/0500

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 1999 ACM, Inc.

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