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Studio Wikitecture - Be2camp
 

Studio Wikitecture - Be2camp

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  • My name is Ryan Schultz, and I'm here to talk about a project my colleague, Jon Brouchoud, and I have been working on that explores ways to apply an open source paradigm to the practice of architecture and urban planning. We call it Wikitecture. I'll first breeze through how this more open, and decentralized method of production is being applied to other industries. In the second half, i'll go through some of the Wikitecture experiments we conducted, as well as cover a few bullet-points in how we think this process could improve the overall practice of architecture.
  • But first, here’s 20 seconds of history to help understand how we reached this point. Obviously, there are a countless number of factors that played into how we have organized ourselves, socially, throughout history. But, advances in communication technology, however have always been one of the most important factors. Although this overly simplifies it, this slide illustrates how the invention of writing, one of the first information technology, allowed for societies to organize themselves into larger and larger groups...such as kingdoms and nations for example. Continuing on, the invention of the printing press allowed for the formation of democracies and finally, the invention of technologies such as the telegraph and telephone provided the backbone for the formation of corporations.
  • As you can see here, technologies, prior to the 21st century, were really good at disseminating information, but it was information that traveled largely in one direction. Through the technologies of the digital age, however, we are starting to see the inklings of a promising new and decentralized way of organizing. … a way of organizing, that has provided the foundation for projects like Wikipedia and open source software. What excites me, however, is that only recently, we are seeing this bottom-up approach go to work creating physical goods as well.
  • Companies like Quirky, Local Motors, 99designs, Crowdspirit have been successfully using an ‘open source’ method of designing and producing physical goods.... anything from product design to automobiles. The general idea behind all these websites, is that the product is being designed, reviewed, commented and voted up and ultimately refined by a disperse group of individuals throughout the world. The core idea here is that through the ‘wisdom of crowds’ paradigm, the best ideas and their product specs will rise to the top. Actually, we could spend all day talking about all the different companies applying open source principles to their business models, but i just want to make the point that there are a plenty of examples out there that, on some level, have demonstrated the potentials of a more decentralized approach of producing some-thing.
  • So the big question?! Is there anything within this more open way of producing goods, that architects and the building industry at large, can learn to make their industry more innovative and productive? Especially when the building industry is viewed as one of the world's least productive. In short, i think there is some lessons to be learned here, in fact, if you look at some of the defining characteristics of cities and buildings they actually share a number of the same core characteristics that make projects like open software and Wikipedia so 'susceptible' to a decentralized approach to production.
  • For example, the streets, buildings, parks, etc. that make up our cities, when viewed from a broad scale, are essentially a network infrastructure or an operating system, so to speak, on which we run our lives.
  • Secondly, just a Linux operating system, the built environment is an amazingly complicated animal. No single architect or firm even could possibly understand enough of it to make it work properly - it is just too big, and too complex. In this sense it might be even more complicated than an operating system, considering so many varied types of expertise are necessary to pull off design and building even the smallest structure.
  • and Thirdly, architectural production drawings are becoming increasingly digital, like open source code or HTML text, CAD drawing and 3d models can be re-mixed and re-appropriated for uses not originally anticipated.
  • And finally, especially in the later stages of development, the production and execution of buildings, like the distributed production of consumer electronics, can be broken down into smaller and smaller modules. The practice of architecture today, in a sense, is like playing with an immense catalog of standardized products and processes. That is, of course, if you want to stay on any type of reasonable budget.
  • Although I'm sure there's more, I just wanted to demonstrate, here, that architecture and urban planning possess many of the same elements required to design and produce something in a more open and decentralized fashion. There were enough similarities, that about 3 years ago now, Jon and I thought it worthwhile to try and conduct a number of grassroots experiments to tease out just what an open source approach to architecture might really look like.
  • In any of these open source projects mentioned above, the hallmark of there success is contingent on enabling and encouraging diversity of opinion. So for these wikitecture experiments, to insure that we had the largest and most diverse group of people participating, we had to find a technology that provided the lowest possible barrier for people to use. Simply picking high-end professional programs like AutoCad and 3D Studio Max, would only precluded a large number of potential contributors, which in the end would insure a relatively narrow and calibrated result.
  • For us, Second Life provided a technology that was not only free, but was relatively easy to use and universally accessible. We felt by having a simple and limited tool-set, less people would be intimated by the process and would be more apt to participate in the project.
  • So with our poor man's BIM, so to speak, we set out on our 1st couple Wikitecture experiments. The first couple experiments, were very simple and quite crude, and although we don't have enough time today to cover them in detail, they were nonetheless successful enough for use to think we could perhaps get a little more serious for our 3rd experiment.
  • So for the interest of time, i'll jump to the 3rd experiment. For this experiment, we teamed up with a couple of savvy programmers and started to develop a Second Life plug-in that would help the group collaborate more efficiently. After a number of months in development, the ‘Wiki-Tree’ was born - which, in essence, is a 3d-Wiki, in that it works very much like a conventional Wiki, but instead of tracking the submission of text documents in a linear fashion, the 'Wiki-Tree' tracks versions of 3-dimensional digital models and saves them within a collective 3-dimensional 'mind map'. As i mentioned, the wiki-tree is essensially a 3d-wiki. When a contributor uploads a design iteration to the ‘Tree’, it creates a new ‘leaf’ in the so called ‘canopy’. In addition to every leaf that strings from the canopy inworld, a corresponding profile page is created on an external website. Here contributors can vote, comment and upload snapshots to describe their evolving designs ideas. In addition to just storing the designs, the canopy visually conveys how the different designs evolved from one another. For example, the animated texture 'shooting' between two ‘leaves’ indicates the direction the designs were derived from one another; that is, it shows how one design was born from another. Viewing the canopy holistically then, someone can assess the 'evolutionary' history of the design at quick glance. So in carrying this tree metaphor to its logical conclusion, the spherical leaves derive their color from their popularity. Design iterations, voted positive in the eyes of the community, turned green, those in red, however, were not doing so well. And you guessed it, they actual prune themselves from the tree when gone unnoticed. To review the various designs, members simply click the individual 'leaves' and the design contained within, materializes itself out on the virtual parcel. I hate to go back to a powerpoint after emerging ourselves in a real time virtual world, but let's go back to the slides so i can take you through our 3rd and 4th experiement, and cover a little of what we learned...
  • So in order to demonstrate the 'Wiki-Tree's' potential for building design consensus within a distributed group of people, for our third Wikitecture experiment we entered an international architecture competition hosted by the Open Architecture Network. The challenge was to design a cost effective medical clinic in a remote area of western Nepal. As we designed the project one hallmark of this process that seemed to be an advantage over more traditionally closed projects, is that because you have such a diverse range of contributors, with such a diverse range of perspectives, the design of the project can evolve into unforsee directions - directions that would not have even been entertained had the architect sequestrated themselves in design isolation.
  • For example, we had one particular contributor who spent a couple months teaching in and around Nepal, and shared with the group certain cultural building traditions that the group would have mostly likely missed otherwise. In particular, the cultural tradition of avoiding alignment doors on the same axis in order to ward off evil spirits, as well as, building stairs with an odd number of risers.
  • For our 4th project, we continued to push forward and were fortune enough to have the University of Alabama hire the group for their 4th Wikitecture project: to collaboratively design a small classroom project for their virtual campus in Second Life.
  • The hallmark of this project was the platform's abiility to lower the barrier for partciaption. Not only could the client provide feedback and participate in the process, more importantly, the end-users of the space were empowered to provide their feedback as well. Since the platform allowed the professors and students alike to to immerse themselves in their various design ideas and visualize more thoroughly the concepts offered by the community, they were much better at providing the crucial feedback to keep the community on target for developing a more refined project.
  • In addition, another key component of the wiki-tree platform, was the external website. It allowed those individuals not facile enough with using SL's interface, another avenue to participate in the design process. Although not an entirely immerse experience, the website offered snapshots of the evolving designs and the ability to vote and provide feedback. In this sense, if one was comfortable enough navigating around a typical website, they could have still easily participated in the project. In addition, since these Wikitecture projects are always open and always on, so to speak, it allows the client to continuously review and keep tabs on the evolving design. Since the process is visible at all times, if the design was veering off track or incorrect assumptions were being made by the community, the owner, or owner's rep could easily step in and remedy the situation.
  • And finally one last aspect of these projects we'd like to show you, is something called the community assessment system. A major hurdle, we've run into with these projects, and a hurdle that is shared with any other type of open project, is whether an open, distributed project like this can be monetized? Can all the various contributors of these types of projects actually get compensated fairly for the amount of work they have contributed to the resultant design - a system that is fair, but is also resistant to gaming? Especially when the individual contributions vary so widely in both size and quality... especially when size and quality are so subjective at time...and hard to parse out.
  • Although our answer to this question is overly simplified and can be gamed on some level, we feel it provides a small foundation on which to improve future assessment systems. For our 2nd experiment, we created a peer-rating system that simply asked everyone involved to rank the percentage they feel their other fellow contributors contributed to the final design. The general idea being, that when everyone's assessment of each other is averaged out, however subjective it may be, a pretty fair judgment is made to how much ownership or compensation should be dolled out to each contributor. Although still not perfect, we are continually modifying and refining the system to include a number of attack resistant measures to prevent gaming and collusion among group members. So in Summary, obviously none of this is perfect, although we have learned a lot so far, and the technology and methodology is improving over time, we still have a lot to learn. But I find it very exciting to think that - even in this early state, its fairly evident that this is already working to a certain extent.
  • The question then, is to what extent could this process by applied to the current profession? Could a more open process like this actually be harnessed to improve the quality of architecture and the built environment? Like any new approach, brought on by the advent of a new technology, rarely does the answer lie on at any one extreme. More than likely, as we tease this process out, we'll find the answer somewhere in the middle of a open approach on one end and a totally closed one on the other. What i find exciting, taking this idea to the extreme, is how city planning might change in the future, if the average citizen is able to occupy a mirror rendition of their city and is given access to a platform on which to voice their opinion on various proposed projects? How many controversial projects might actually get approved, if there was some channel like this for the community to voice their concerns and see them taken seriously and incorporated back into the project.
  • So, with that, i'd like to say thank you for listening.

Studio Wikitecture - Be2camp Studio Wikitecture - Be2camp Presentation Transcript

  • My name is Ryan Schultz, and I'm here to talk about a project my colleague, Jon Brouchoud, and I have been working on that explores ways to apply an open source paradigm to the practice of architecture and urban planning. We call it Wikitecture. I'll first breeze through how this more open, and decentralized method of production is being applied to other industries. In the second half, i'll go through some of the Wikitecture experiments we conducted, as well as cover a few bullet-points in how we think this process could improve the overall practice of architecture.
  • But first, here’s 20 seconds of history to help understand how we reached this point. Obviously, there are a countless number of factors that played into how we have organized ourselves, socially, throughout history. But, advances in communication technology, however have always been one of the most important factors. Although this overly simplifies it, this slide illustrates how the invention of writing, one of the first information technology, allowed for societies to organize themselves into larger and larger groups...such as kingdoms and nations for example. Continuing on, the invention of the printing press allowed for the formation of democracies and finally, the invention of technologies such as the telegraph and telephone provided the backbone for the formation of corporations.
  • As you can see here, technologies, prior to the 21st century, were really good at disseminating information, but it was information that traveled largely in one direction. Through the technologies of the digital age, however, we are starting to see the inklings of a promising new and decentralized way of organizing. … a way of organizing, that has provided the foundation for projects like Wikipedia and open source software. What excites me, however, is that only recently, we are seeing this bottom-up approach go to work creating physical goods as well.
  • Companies like Quirky, Local Motors, 99designs, Crowdspirit have been successfully using an ‘open source’ method of designing and producing physical goods.... anything from product design to automobiles. The general idea behind all these websites, is that the product is being designed, reviewed, commented and voted up and ultimately refined by a disperse group of individuals throughout the world. The core idea here is that through the ‘wisdom of crowds’ paradigm, the best ideas and their product specs will rise to the top. Actually, we could spend all day talking about all the different companies applying open source principles to their business models, but i just want to make the point that there are a plenty of examples out there that, on some level, have demonstrated the potentials of a more decentralized approach of producing some-thing.
  • So the big question?! Is there anything within this more open way of producing goods, that architects and the building industry at large, can learn to make their industry more innovative and productive? Especially when the building industry is viewed as one of the world's least productive. In short, i think there is some lessons to be learned here, in fact, if you look at some of the defining characteristics of cities and buildings they actually share a number of the same core characteristics that make projects like open software and Wikipedia so 'susceptible' to a decentralized approach to production.
  • For example, the streets, buildings, parks, etc. that make up our cities, when viewed from a broad scale, are essentially a network infrastructure or an operating system, so to speak, on which we run our lives. an operating system...
  • Secondly, just a Linux operating system, the built environment is an amazingly complicated animal. No single architect or firm even could possibly understand enough of it to make it work properly - it is just too big, and too complex. In this sense it might be even more complicated than an operating system, considering so many varied types of expertise are necessary to pull off design and building even the smallest structure. beyond complex...
  • and Thirdly, architectural production drawings are becoming increasingly digital, like open source code or HTML text, CAD drawing and 3d models can be re-mixed and re-appropriated for uses not originally anticipated. easily remixed...
  • And finally, especially in the later stages of development, the production and execution of buildings, like the distributed production of consumer electronics, can be broken down into smaller and smaller modules. The practice of architecture today, in a sense, is like playing with an immense catalog of standardized products and processes. That is, of course, if you want to stay on any type of reasonable budget. broken down into modules...
  • Although I'm sure there's more, I just wanted to demonstrate, here, that architecture and urban planning possess many of the same elements required to design and produce something in a more open and decentralized fashion. There were enough similarities, that about 3 years ago now, Jon and I thought it worthwhile to try and conduct a number of grassroots experiments to tease out just what an open source approach to architecture might really look like.
  • In any of these open source projects mentioned above, the hallmark of there success is contingent on enabling and encouraging diversity of opinion. So for these wikitecture experiments, to insure that we had the largest and most diverse group of people participating, we had to find a technology that provided the lowest possible barrier for people to use. Simply picking high-end professional programs like AutoCad and 3D Studio Max, would only precluded a large number of potential contributors, which in the end would insure a relatively narrow and calibrated result.
  • For us, Second Life provided a technology that was not only free, but was relatively easy to use and universally accessible. We felt by having a simple and limited tool-set, less people would be intimated by the process and would be more apt to participate in the project.
  • So with our poor man's BIM, so to speak, we set out on our 1st couple Wikitecture experiments. The first couple experiments, were very simple and quite crude, and although we don't have enough time today to cover them in detail, they were nonetheless successful enough for use to think we could perhaps get a little more serious for our 3rd experiment. Wikitecture 2.0...
  • So for the interest of time, i'll jump to the 3rd experiment. For this experiment, we teamed up with a couple of savvy programmers and started to develop a Second Life plug-in that would help the group collaborate more efficiently. After a number of months in development, the ‘Wiki-Tree’ was born - which, in essence, is a 3d-Wiki, in that it works very much like a conventional Wiki, but instead of tracking the submission of text documents in a linear fashion, the 'Wiki-Tree' tracks versions of 3-dimensional digital models and saves them within a collective 3-dimensional 'mind map'. As i mentioned, the wiki-tree is essensially a 3d-wiki. When a contributor uploads a design iteration to the ‘Tree’, it creates a new ‘leaf’ in the so called ‘canopy’. In addition to every leaf that strings from the canopy inworld, a corresponding profile page is created on an external website. Here contributors can vote, comment and upload snapshots to describe their evolving designs ideas. In addition to just storing the designs, the canopy visually conveys how the different designs evolved from one another. For example, the animated texture 'shooting' between two ‘leaves’ indicates the direction the designs were derived from one another; that is, it shows how one design was born from another. Viewing the canopy holistically then, someone can assess the 'evolutionary' history of the design at quick glance. So in carrying this tree metaphor to its logical conclusion, the spherical leaves derive their color from their popularity. Design iterations, voted positive in the eyes of the community, turned green, those in red, however, were not doing so well. And you guessed it, they actual prune themselves from the tree when gone unnoticed. To review the various designs, members simply click the individual 'leaves' and the design contained within, materializes itself out on the virtual parcel. I hate to go back to a powerpoint after emerging ourselves in a real time virtual world, but let's go back to the slides so i can take you through our 3rd and 4th experiement, and cover a little of what we learned...
  • So in order to demonstrate the 'Wiki-Tree's' potential for building design consensus within a distributed group of people, for our third Wikitecture experiment we entered an international architecture competition hosted by the Open Architecture Network. The challenge was to design a cost effective medical clinic in a remote area of western Nepal. As we designed the project one hallmark of this process that seemed to be an advantage over more traditionally closed projects, is that because you have such a diverse range of contributors, with such a diverse range of perspectives, the design of the project can evolve into unforsee directions - directions that would not have even been entertained had the architect sequestrated themselves in design isolation. Wikitecture 3.0...
  • For example, we had one particular contributor who spent a couple months teaching in and around Nepal, and shared with the group certain cultural building traditions that the group would have mostly likely missed otherwise. In particular, the cultural tradition of avoiding alignment doors on the same axis in order to ward off evil spirits, as well as, building stairs with an odd number of risers. Wikitecture 3.0...
  • For our 4th project, we continued to push forward and were fortune enough to have the University of Alabama hire the group for their 4th Wikitecture project: to collaboratively design a small classroom project for their virtual campus in Second Life. Wikitecture 4.0...
  • The hallmark of this project was the platform's abiility to lower the barrier for partciaption. Not only could the client provide feedback and participate in the process, more importantly, the end-users of the space were empowered to provide their feedback as well. Since the platform allowed the professors and students alike to to immerse themselves in their various design ideas and visualize more thoroughly the concepts offered by the community, they were much better at providing the crucial feedback to keep the community on target for developing a more refined project. Wikitecture 4.0...
  • In addition, another key component of the wiki-tree platform, was the external website. It allowed those individuals not facile enough with using SL's interface, another avenue to participate in the design process. Although not an entirely immerse experience, the website offered snapshots of the evolving designs and the ability to vote and provide feedback. In this sense, if one was comfortable enough navigating around a typical website, they could have still easily participated in the project. In addition, since these Wikitecture projects are always open and always on, so to speak, it allows the client to continuously review and keep tabs on the evolving design. Since the process is visible at all times, if the design was veering off track or incorrect assumptions were being made by the community, the owner, or owner's rep could easily step in and remedy the situation.
  • And finally one last aspect of these projects we'd like to show you, is something called the community assessment system. A major hurdle, we've run into with these projects, and a hurdle that is shared with any other type of open project, is whether an open, distributed project like this can be monetized? Can all the various contributors of these types of projects actually get compensated fairly for the amount of work they have contributed to the resultant design - a system that is fair, but is also resistant to gaming? Especially when the individual contributions vary so widely in both size and quality... especially when size and quality are so subjective at time...and hard to parse out.
  • Although our answer to this question is overly simplified and can be gamed on some level, we feel it provides a small foundation on which to improve future assessment systems. For our 2nd experiment, we created a peer-rating system that simply asked everyone involved to rank the percentage they feel their other fellow contributors contributed to the final design. The general idea being, that when everyone's assessment of each other is averaged out, however subjective it may be, a pretty fair judgment is made to how much ownership or compensation should be dolled out to each contributor. Although still not perfect, we are continually modifying and refining the system to include a number of attack resistant measures to prevent gaming and collusion among group members. So in Summary, obviously none of this is perfect, although we have learned a lot so far, and the technology and methodology is improving over time, we still have a lot to learn. But I find it very exciting to think that - even in this early state, its fairly evident that this is already working to a certain extent.
  • The question then, is to what extent could this process by applied to the current profession? Could a more open process like this actually be harnessed to improve the quality of architecture and the built environment? Like any new approach, brought on by the advent of a new technology, rarely does the answer lie on at any one extreme. More than likely, as we tease this process out, we'll find the answer somewhere in the middle of a open approach on one end and a totally closed one on the other. What i find exciting, taking this idea to the extreme, is how city planning might change in the future, if the average citizen is able to occupy a mirror rendition of their city and is given access to a platform on which to voice their opinion on various proposed projects? How many controversial projects might actually get approved, if there was some channel like this for the community to voice their concerns and see them taken seriously and incorporated back into the project.
  • So, with that, i'd like to say thank you for listening.