How, and for what purpose, are cities and populations tracked, virtualized, and simulated by computational infrastructures in realtime? The semester's second Preston Thomas Memorial Symposium — "Real Time," organized by Assistant Professor of Architecture Farzin Lotfi-Jam with coordination by Design Teaching Fellow Ekin Erar — will take up this critical question and more on April 13 in Milstein Auditorium at Cornell's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP), examining applications across and beyond military, entertainment, and urban contexts.
"You could say that realtime is the dream vision of technocratic management — a state of total omniscience, where what is known and how it is known is flattened onto the glistening surface of the computer screen," says Lotfi-Jam, whose research is rooted in evolving realtime urbanism. "The realtime paradigm is equally a response to consumer demands for convenience and speed as much as it is a reaction to government and corporate appetites for rich and frequent renderings of information. But realtime is not just about deploying speed to minimize costs and increase margins. It is also about designing for an emerging market of experiences. New human-to-machine interfaces allow more intuitive interactions with spatial information and digital processes — from the scale of the smart city to the optimized home."
While this offers immense potential, Lotfi-Jam also raises concerns around the convergence of military and entertainment tools, as well as the fact that marginalized communities and migratory populations are often targets of realtime surveillance and containment. On his research, Lotfi-Jam notes, "I wanted to know what it meant that my profession, its design tools, and its metrics for productivity are shaped by this realtime military logic."
Three Panels, Three Big Questions
An international roster of panelists will address major questions in this discursive space.