Today, growing concerns (whether real or imagined) with climate change, energy scarcity, security threats, and economic instability have turned the focus of urban planners, investors, and governments towards a new paradigm of high technology development obsessed with “smart” infrastructures and big data. Orit Halpern will situate this contemporary situation by offering a speculative genealogy of the rise of the "responsive" environment and the “progressive quantification and monetization” of everyday life through an exploration of the work of early pioneers in computer aided design, architecture, cybernetics and neural nets working with the Architecture Machine Group at MIT. Arguably, this history offers a mirror through which to interrogate the assemblage of human sciences, machine learning, design and urban and global politics that continues to inform our fundamental faith that increased penetration of computational media into life is both desirable and necessary for human survival.
Orit Halpern is an Associate Professor and Strategic Hire in Interactive Design and Theory in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montréal. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice.
Her most recent book Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (2015) is a genealogy of interactivity and our contemporary obsessions with “big” data and data visualization. She has also published and created works for a variety of venues including The Journal of Visual Culture, Public Culture, Configurations, C-theory, and ZKM in Karlsruhe. She has an MPH. from Columbia University School of Public Health, and completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University in the History of Science. She has also held fellowships from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, the Graham Foundation, Digital Culture Research Lab at Leuphana University, the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, and the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt.