synthetic ecologies

S Y N T H E T I C   E C O L O G I E S

Seminar, Spring 2013
Bradley Cantrell, Associate Professor, Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture (at the time)

course description:
Current technologies have blurred the boundary between biology and technology or analog and digital, creating a synthetic ecology governed by responsive systems and nuanced management regimes. This synthetic ecology ushers in a new paradigm, rich with potential as we imagine new relationships between culture, settlement, infrastructure, and evolving biological systems. The interstices of these new relationships become the medium in which the course will examine new potentials for sensing, monitoring, automation, and robotics.

LA 4101: Synthetic Ecologies is an advanced digital technologies elective focusing on the tenuous relationship between digital and biological systems. This examination of synthetic ecologies will ask students to research technologies and the systems they create as well as develop working prototypes. The seminar will ask students to engage a series of readings by Kwinter, Guattari, Haque, Beasley, Khan, and others that will build a framework for a theoretical examination of ecology and responsive technologies.

The seminar will consist of a series of lectures, discussions, and work sessions. There will be some overlap with lectures and assignments with Allen Sayegh’s Responsive Environments course that will be taught concurrently at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Students will be asked to explore the following software/hardware: After Effects, Rhinocerous, Grasshopper, Firefly, Processing, Arduino, and various sensors, servos, etc.

The seminar will introduce the basics of the Arduino microcontroller and Firefly plugin. Workshops taught by Frank Melendez in the School of Architecture will be available to students who are not familiar with Grasshopper.

The course will focus on three (3) projects

  1. Sensing Analysis, examine the sensing involved in an everyday task. 
  2. Device Research, research a responsive system (aerial drone, smartphone, etc) and create a series of diagrams dissecting its sensing technologies and/or relationships.
  3. Speculative proposal of a synthetic ecology (illustrations, prototypes, and/or animations)