vendredi 26 juin 2015

Anticonventional Objects.

Hugh Dubberly, Conventional products, 2013.

Bruce Sterling, Anti-conventional products, 2013.

Prof. Bourbaki, Anti-conventional objects, 2015.

vendredi 19 juin 2015

TEN Square.

Prof. Bourbaki, Semiotic TEN Square, 2015 (derived from Callon et al., 1992 & Greimas, 1976)

vendredi 12 juin 2015

Economic Regulation.

Prof. Bourbaki, TEN diagram, 2015 (derived from Callon et al., 1992)
The state – the machinery and power of the state – is the potential resource or threat to every industry in the society. With its political power to prohibit or compel, to take or give money, the state can and does selectively help or hurt a vast number of industries. That political juggernaut, the petroleum industry, is an immense consumer of political benefits, and simultaneously the underwriters of marine insurance have their more modest repast. The central tasks of the theory of economic regulation are to explain who will receive the benefits or burdens of regulation, what form regulation will take, and the effects of regulation upon the allocation of resources. 

Regulation may be actively sought by an industry, or it may be thrust upon it. A central thesis of this paper is that, as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit. There are regulations whose net effects upon the regulated industry are undeniably onerous ; a simple example is the differentially heavy taxation of the industry’s product (whiskey, playing cards). These onerous regulations, however, are exceptional and can be explained by the same theory that explains beneficial (we may call it « acquired ») regulation. 

Two main alternative views of the regulation of industry are widely held. The first is that regulation is instituted primarily for the protection and benefit of the public at large or some large subclass of the public. In this view, the regulations which injure the public – as when the oil import quotas increase teh cost of petroleum products to America by $5 billion or more a year – are costs of some social goal (here, national defense) or, orcassionaly, perversions of the regulatory philosophy. The second view is essentially that the prolitical process defies rational explanation : « politics’ is an imponderable, a constantly and unpredictably shifting mixture of forces of the most diverse nature, comprehending acts of great moral virtue (the emancipation of slaves) and the most vulgar venality (the congressman feathering his own nest). 

Why does not the powerful industry which obtained this expensive program instead choose direct cash subsidies from the public treasury ? The « protection of the public » theory of regulation must say that the choice of import quotas is dictated by the concern of the federal government for an adequate domestic supply of petroleum in the event of war – a remark calculated to elicit uproarious laughter of the Petroleum Club. Such laughter aside, if national defense were the goal of the quotas, a tariff would be a more economical instrument of policy : it would retain the profits of exclusion for the treasury. The non-rationalist view would explain the policy by the inability of consumers to measure the cost to them of the import quotas, and hence their willingness to pay $5 billion in higher prices rather than $2,5 billion in cash that would be equally attractive to the industry. Our profit-maximizing theory says that the explanation lies in a different direction : the present members of the refining industries would have to share a cash subsidy with all new entrants into the refining industry. Only when the elasticity of supply of an industry is small will the industry prefer a cash subsidy over entry or output. 

This question, why does an industry sollicit the coercive powers of the state rather than its cash, is offered only to illustrate the approach of the present paper. We assume that political systems are rationally devised and rationally employed, which is to say that they are appropriate instruments for the fulfillment of desires of members of the society. This is not to say that the state will serve any person’s concept of the public interest : indeed the problem of regulation is the problem of discovering when and why an industry (or other group of like-minded people) is able to use the state for its purposes, or is singled out by the state to be used for alien purposes. 


The idealistic view of public regulation is deeply imbedded in professional economic thought. So many economists, for example, have denounced the ICC for its pro-railroad policies that this has become a cliché of the literature. This criticism seems to me exactly as appropriate as a criticism of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company for selling groceries, or as a criticism of a politician for currying popular support. The fundamental vice of such criticism is that it misdirects attention : it suggests that the way to get an ICC which is not subervient to the carriers is to preach to the commissioners or to the people who appoint the commissioners. The only way to get a different commission would be to change the political support for the Commission, and reward commissioners on a basis unrelated to their services to the carriers. Until the basic logic if political life is developed, reformers will be ill-equipped to use the state for their reforms, and victims of the pervasive use of the state’s support of special groups will be helpless to protect themselves. Economists should quickly establish the license to practice on the rational theory of political behavior. 

George J. Stigler, The Theory of Economic Regulation in Bell Journal of Economics, vol.2, iss.1, 1971, p.3-4 & 17-18. 

Merci à S.H.

vendredi 5 juin 2015

Overflows & Politics.

Prof. Bourbaki, Cycle of Framing & Overflowing, 2015 (derived from Nooteboom, 1999)
The key question is, of course, 'Where do such combinations lead?' As I have already noted, if overflows are first considered a problem, they eventually appear as an extraordinary resource for reflexivity, awareness and invention. Management often suspends thinking because of its primary reliance on given procedures and routines (Cyert and March, 1963); the emergence of overflows stops automatic answers and opens the way for criticism, reassessment and innovation.

The lessons learned are ambivalent. On the one hand, the collection of chapters stresses the surprising creativity attached to overflow management. Overflows are largely unexpected events. Largely, but not completely. See what happens in consumer markets: the unexpected flow of goods experienced on the demand side (Brembeck; Ekström; Czubaj) is fully controlled on the organizational side. Management is about producing, and products and services are produced to overflow markets. In the marketing economy, overflows are neither side effects nor the unwitting results of excessive framing; they are voluntary productions. For a long time, historians of consumption have shown the extent to which the production of marketing overflows paralleled the industrial revolution (McKendrick et al., 1982). Significantly, the Protestants, who as we all know were ascetically saving at work, were also frenetically consuming at home, at least by proxy (Mukerji, 1983; Campbell, 1987). To a certain extent, this volume celebrates creativity, in describing overflow producers as contemporary versions of Michel Serres' (1982) parasite. In several situations, managing overflows is a parasitic activity, in Serres' positive sense of the term: an activity aimed at giving value to that which others discard.

To use another metaphor, overflow managers can thus be presented as modern alchemists who succeed if not in turning lead into gold, at least in turning noise into positive sound (Willim), waste into biogas (Corvellec), and space emptiness into full human exchange (Raviola). Management is often acknowledge as a matter of framing, channeling, organizing a given entity. Here, we discover that management is also a matter of invention or transmutation. At least when facing overflows, management hybridizes with engineering, and powerfully contributes to human creativity.

But on the other hand, the production of overflows goes with an overflow of new problems and questions. For Czubaj, who meets Naomi Klein's (2000) former conclusions, the consumerist overflow of goods is produced as a pure sham. We think that we face infinite choices, but each item is merely an illusory variation of a same product. If Czubaj is correct, one could say that the Western capitalist economy ironically reinvents the old Soviet supply of unique generic products in a more perverse way, as the uniqueness of each good is now hidden behind the overflowing shams of diversity. If not illusory, creative overflows are at least ambiguous, upstream as well as downstream. Waste can well be converted into biogas, for instance, but this apparently positive production cannot exist without more questionable overflows of waste upstream (Corvellec) and green gas emission downstream. Even when neither illusory nor ambiguous, overflows run badly. In Raviola's Hundred Offices case, however astute may be the decision to pair artists with empty business space, this creative scheme proves difficult to implement, even in the most favorable cases, because of the difficulty of playing the 'connection vessels' game with 'non-homogeneous' liquids. And even when implemented, overflow management is often bypassed by the emergence of new types of overflows: the 'overplanning' of Tapiola's garden city is submersed by the prosaic forces of noise disturbances and car traffic flood (Pantzar). Last but not least, several overflow management schemes must face more discrete 'leaks' - problems or promises - when music escapes the dikes of property management systems, for instance (Wenzer). This issue introduces a fascinating distinction between two notions that are often confused. An overflow goes above a dike; a leak goes beneath or through it. An overflow often comes from the outside; leaks come from the inside. If less spectacular, are not leaks more frequent than and as transformative as overflows? In this respect, it would probably be worthwhile to avoid any leak from this project, to stick with the flow of research it opened, and to complement the study of overflow with the study of leak management. 

Franck Cochoy, Afterword: overflows as boundary events between organizations and markets in Barbara Czarniawska & Orvar Löfgren (eds.), Coping with Excess, How Organizations, Communities and Individuals Manage Overflows, Edward Elgar, 2013, p.276-278.

vendredi 29 mai 2015

Qualculating overflows.

Prof. Bourbaki, Cycle of framing & overflowing, 2015 (derived from Callon, 2002)
However big they may be, data never fully cover the world they refer to. Reality will always overflow (or escape) the web of references that are supposed to account for it (Latour, 1999a). Here we reach a second taboo of scientific overflow management. As we already saw with Fellman and Popp, the first taboo is the impossibility of embracing everything. The second taboo is the symmetric counterpart of the first: if analysts are unable to welcome all data and are yet obliged to pretend that they do (first taboo), the data they have are often not enough to support the results fully, yet they must present them as such. Historians cannot bu present their work in terms of official science, as a body of knowledge stemming from rigorous methods and objective data, for instance. Yet they know perfectly well that it is possible to reach that objective only by implementing an amazing practice of literary creation. Historians' accounts largely consist of filling the overflowing gaps of missing data with words, linking the available facts with appropriate guesses, writing a coherent and continuous story from erratic and discrete traces, discovering the flow of past events through narrative and creative inventions (second taboo). In other words and as far as overflow management is concerned, the scientific and the literary, the real and the imaginary, the calculative and the qualitative go hand in hand. One cannot account for the flood of things without appropriate 'qualculation' procedures: procedures which combine numbers and words, or replace statistical figures with rhetorical ones when the former are missing (Cochoy, 2008). Several contributions to this book brilliantly illustrate the pervasiveness of this scheme: the talent of smart accountants is not limited to computing skills, but extends to and rests upon a virtuous ability to embed numbers with proper notions and stories of mergers, tariff reserves and budget expenditures (Czarniawska, Donatella and Solli); even the traders of financial markets that everyone acknowledges as the wizards of pure economic calculation are also frenetic storytellers. As Tarim demonstrates, markets professionals do not calculate; they 'formulate' the economy. Formulation is really the right word (Callon, 2013); it brings together the formulas (the famous Black and Scholes equation performed on derivative markets; MacKenzie and Millo, 2003), the forms (in which numbers are recorded) and the narrative 'formulations', without which the formulas could have no performative effects. Last but not least, the urban planners of Tapiola frame and reinvent city overflows at the same time, showing us how the cold analytics of modern technocracy can be combined with poetic dreams of pure Utopia (Pantzar).

Franck Cochoy, Afterword: overflows as boundary events between organizations and markets in Barbara Czarniawska & Orvar Löfgren (eds.), Coping with Excess, How Organizations, Communities and Individuals Manage Overflows, Edward Elgar, 2013, p.275-276.

vendredi 22 mai 2015

Public Works.

Janet Abbate, Arpanet in 1971, 1999.

Public works historians Stanley K. Schultz and Clay McShane offer a useful departure point and baseline overview of public works projects and administration in America: "Twentieth-century economic and political administration emphasized several characteristics, including centralized permanent bureaucracy staffed by skilled experts, and a commitment to long-range, comprehensive planning". To this we might add that projects sponsored by such administrations were highly technical, specialized by discipline, economically driven, and discretely bounded. Yet this description is incomplete. In truth, the development of public works projects in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was much more diversified and finely grained. Public works evolved from publicly initiated social reforms to multidimensional mega-projects to dispersed, networked initiatives that took on new technical as well as organizational challenges such as research and development, fundraising, and mitigation. Contemporary public works initiatives are caught up in a web of social, logistical, economic and environmental forces with local and global import. 



A radical departure from public works projects directed by a centralized, hierarchical authority, the ARPANET - the predecessor of the current internet - established a new, networked model for project development. In doing so, it manifested a broader series of mid-to-late-twentieth-century trends in global economic and political arenas toward decentralization and privatization. For instance, the developers of the ARPANET took on new roles and were responsible for project organization and management, research and development, design and engineering, and implementation and maintenance. Project management itself was dispersed and diversified; the ARPANET was created by an evolving coalition of networked entities - some govermental (such as ARPA / Advanced Physical Laboratory), others academic/institutional (such as MIT, UCLE, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Dartmouth), and still others private/corporate (Bolt Beranek and Newman, Honeywell, and IBM). Hierarchical, single-entity organizations had given way to dispersed matrices of public, private, corporate, institutional, and academic entities; multiple voices, both "official" and traditionally underrepresented, were heard and integrated. Even the individuals at work on the network moved from one organization to another, reflecting in organizational structure and personal mobility the new methodologies and mechanics of project development and information exchange.


Recent and historic advances in public works projects, urbanism, housing, and even ecology point to a new set of professional practices characterized by an emphasis on operational and performance-driven aspects of landscape process and urbanisation, and with a focus on logistics and mechanisms. Importantly, though, this interest in the mechanics and mechanisms of project development necessarily extend beyond physical issues to include project conceptualization, funding, implementation, and oversight of maintenance practices. It includes birth processes and the administrative mechanisms of project conception and development, strategies that catalyse growth and succession, and adaptive approaches to long-term implementation and maintenance regimes. Moving forward, at least four trends, as follows. 

1. Blurring of Distinctions Between Traditional Fields of Practice 

No longer do traditional separations between disciplines hold. The new public works are marked by the integration of functional, social-cultural, ecological, economic, and political agendas. Limited resources demand that interventions satisfy multiple goals, bringing about hybridized solutions, with coordinated urbanistic, infrastructural, ecological, architectural, landscape, economic, artistic, and political agendas. Architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, ecology, art, social programs, environmental remediation, and more are embedded one within the other, resulting in new project typologies irreducible to traditional, singular designations. 

2. Appropriation of Infrastructural Strategies and Ecological Tactics for New Civic Programs 

While conceived as rational, absolute, and utilitarian, infrastructure has the capacity to be appropriated and transformed toward social, cultural, ecological, and artistic ends. Architectural accretions, layerings of program and use, existing infrastructures made useful – herein lies the basis for a new civic realm, once created by appendage and insertion. Conversely, architecture and landscape can appropriate the utility and serviceability of infrastructure. One could imagine landscape/architectural/urbanistic projects conceived as functional infrastructures, ecological machines that process and perform, public spaces that literally “work”. One might also imagine the creation of fertile testing grounds that structure or initiate an unfolding of hydrological, ecological, social-cultural and urbanistic processes and adaptations – earthen infrastructures available for appropriation and transformation and whose form is valued for its performative rather than sculptural characteristics. 

3. Activation of Multiple, Overlapping Networks and Dynamic Coalitions of Constituencies 

Martin Melosi, Stephen Graham, Sanford Kwinter, and other have recognized the decentralised or splintered characteristics of contemporary service provision and decision-making. Local municipalities are coping with limited resources that must fulfil an expanding set of public needs and constituencies; they are also subject to political and administrative changes that often reshuffle economic priorities. Fortunately, funding and organizational resources are not solely available to centralize municipalities; often community groups, arts organizations, research centres, and others have access to as many funding sources, and therefore wield as much power over the definition and playing out of public projects. They also often have political influence. Thus, public works practices must redefine and expand potential constituencies, stakeholders, and clients in the course of the project. Critical is the early establishment of broad networks of potential stakeholders, different coalitions of which can be activated for various stages of project implementation. In such a dynamic matrix of temporary partnerships, strategic coalitions emerge and fade – or at least suspend work – as projects evolve and adapt over local circumstances. 

4. Catalytic and Responsive Operations 

The key lay in the capacity for installations and operations to catalyse transformations via social, economic, ecological, or hydrologic processes. Understanding that long-term implementation may depend on short-term initiatives to change public perceptions and to generate political will, public works practices set out preliminary smaller-scale events and installations that require few resources. Yet implementation scenarios must also be responsive, such that they accommodate potential changes and diverge from step-by-step implementation formula. Thus implementation strategies are represented more akin to networks and matrices that allow for both defined and undefined inputs and open-ended futures. Projects with duration of ten or twenty years or more must acknowledge the significant potential impact of changing markets and political agendas, in particular, and any number of forces, in general, that are simply beyond the control of the consultant or clients at the time of project initiation. Landscape urbanism – as a set of ideas and frameworks – lays new ground for design and urbanistic practices: performance-based, research-oriented, logistics-focused, networked. Here, the design practitioner is re-cast as urbanistic system-builder, whose interests now encompass the research, framing, design, and implementation of expansive new public works and civic infrastructures. The four trends outlined above, and the interests and initiatives put forward in this volume, collectively offer a provisional yet optimistic framework for practices in landscape urbanism. These emergent conditions are poised to transform design practices and the roles of those working in the public realm. 

Chris Reed, Public Works Practice in The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006, p.273-275 & 281-283. 

Merci à M.J.

vendredi 15 mai 2015

The Drosscape.

AUC, Grand Paris Stimulé, 2009.

Landscape architects in academia give little attention to urbanisation, often dwelling instead on the traditional areas of landscape history – site engineering, construction detailing, and project-based design studio education. But beyond and behind these topics is a reality so huge we tend not to see it at all – what I call the drosscape, or the inevitable “waste landscapes” within urbanised regions that eternally elude the overly controlled parameters, the scripted programming elements that designers are charged with creating and accommodating in their projects. Adaptively reusing this waste landscape figures to be one of the twenty-first century’s great infrastructural design challenges. This essay chronicles this condition and suggests that those with an understanding of both landscape and urbanisation will be best positioned to act on these sites in the future. 


The waste landscape emerges out of two primary processes: first, from rapid horizontal urbanisation (urban “sprawl”), and second, from the leaving behind of land and detritus after economic and production regimes have ended. From its deindustrializing inner core to its sprawling periphery to the transitional landscape in between, the city is the manifestation of industrial processes that naturally produce waste. Designers often paint a black-and-white picture of complex industrial processes. A common term, “post-industrial”, has been used by landscape architects, architects, and planners to describe everything from polluted industrial landscapes to former factory buildings usually found in declining sections of cities. The term itself creates more problems than solutions because it narrowly isolates and objectifies the landscape as the byproduct of very specific processes no longer operating upon a given site (residual pollution aside). This outlook reifies the site as essentially static and defines it in terms of the past rather than as part of ongoing industrial processes that form other parts of the city (such as manufacturing agglomerations on the periphery). I suggest that it would be strategically helpful for understanding the potential of these sites if designers avoid the term “post-industrial” and its value system when discussing them. 

Drosscape is created by the deindustrialisation of older city areas (the city core) and the rapid urbanisation of newer city areas (the periphery), which are both catalysed by the drastic decrease in transportation costs (for both goods and people) over the past century. It is an organic phenomenon heedless of the academic and human boundaries that separate environmental from architectural/planning/design issues, urban from suburban issues, and nostalgic definitions of community from actual organisations of people, workplaces, and social structures. I argue that planned and unplanned horizontal conditions around vertical urban centres are intrinsically neither bad nor good, but instead natural results of industrial growth, results that require new conceptualization and considered attention, and that these must be in hand before potential solutions to any problem discovered can be effectively addressed or devised.

Alan Berger, Drosscape in The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006, p.199-201. 

Merci à M.J.

vendredi 8 mai 2015

Nested Scales.

Henri Lefebvre, Diagram of Nested Scales, 1974.
The discipline of landscape urbanism has emerged primarily from within landscape architecture, widening its focus on processes to include those that are cultural and historical as well as natural and ecological. In relation to urban design, which as a discipline has emerged from architecture and planning, part of landscape urbanism’s strength lies in this acknowledgment of temporality. It also has the potential to engage architecture in a way that urban design and landscape architecture do not, by challenging architectural conventions of closure and control, which implicitly disavow knowledge of various incommensurable dimensions of urban reality. In this context, architecture is construed not as an object but as a device that can transform an urban landscape yet at the same time is not in complete control of the relationships between its constitutive elements.


This text will focus primarily on one term, that of space, which exemplifies, in the opposition object/space, architecture’s tendency to disacknowledge that which is around it. The French philosopher Henri Lefebvre challenged the unproblematic conception of space in his well-known 1974 book, The Production of Space, arguing that such production is concealed by two mutually reinforcing illusions. He defines one illusion as that of transparency – the idea that the world can be seen as it really is. This illusion, which allows the workings of power that produce space to remain invisible, goes “hand in hand with a view of space as innocent”. He defines the other as the realistic illusion – the idea that something by seeming natural requires no explanation. This illusion, which is based on the opposition of culture/nature, allows landscape to be used to make undesirable histories.


At one point in his analysis of space, Lefebvre presents a diagram of nested scales, which he developed through the examination of a Japanese spatial order. This diagram supports a formulation of the city as a space of differences through two complementary strategies, which together produce dynamic relationships. Its first innovation is to introduce a transitional scale (M), which functions as a mediator between private (P) and global (G). Its second innovation is that each of these scales is integrated within the other two. The diagram provides a basis for a design approach that can support a dynamic and multidimensional differentiation of space. Its overlay of terms recognizes that all scales are internally differentiated, and that while hierarchies of scale exist, they are not fixed or singular. Acknowledging that unity is neither an a priori nor a necessarily attainable condition of identity helps to frame it in terms of processes of becoming, with the capacity to include multiple and perhaps contradictory traits. 

Linda Pollak, Constructed Ground: Questions of Scale in The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006, p.127-130.

Merci à M.J.

vendredi 1 mai 2015

Interconnected Metropolis.

Michael Najjar, Dow Jones 80_09, 2008-2010.

In a classical sense it is virtually impossible to romance the city as a collective work of art. Rather, the contemporary, globally interconnected metropolis is a rapacious, denatured tangle of infrastructure problems and planning issues increasingly subject to base motivations. And yet, even if we are to instrumentally evolve the city in accord with its environmental limitations and social crises, it would remain merely mechanistic, without art. 

To conflate art and instrumentality, two terms generally thought so distant as to not relate, I am purposefully returning to landscape architecture’s idealism and definition of a holistic enterprise, something that is at best both art and science. Aware that there is much in art and science that landscape architecture will never be, and that landscape architecture seems relatively ineffectual in reshaping the world, this positioning of the discipline seems nonetheless theoretically correct and worthy of aspiration. 

Landscape architecture’s relative impotence in leading any reshaping of the world to date cannot just be blamed on the evil genius of capitalism and the traditional hegemony of engineering and architecture. Landscape architecture’s scope and influence, whilst in all likelihood increasing, is still weakened by its own inability to conceptually and practically synthesize landscape planning and landscape design, terms which stereotypically signify science and art, respectively. In common parlance, planning concerns infrastructure (both mechanical systems and land-use designation) which, while essential to everything else the city comprises, bears a low semantic load in and of itself. On the other hand, design is perceived and practiced as the rarefied production of highly wrought objects or specific sites that bear a high semantic load. For its focus on intentional meaning, design sacrifices the scale and instrumentality of its agency, whereas that which planning gains in scale and efficacy it inversely loses in artful intent. Although this is not always the case, and perhaps too diagrammatic, this axiom of landscape architecture’s bilateral crisis is the crux of the problem. This is hardly a new observation, and therefore this essay (with its tangential subtext of associated montages) doesn’t claim to identify new problems exactly – rather, it explores some new ways of getting at the old. 

These new ways can be gathered under the rubric of landscape urbanism. Although still a fuzzy cluster of rhetorical positioning and largely unsubstantiated by work on the ground, landscape urbanism warrants serious discussion because it alone seems theoretically prepared and practically capable of collapsing the divide between planning and design. This also entails a compression of divisions between architecture and landscape, between fields and objects, between instrumentality and art. Significantly, landscape urbanism is emerging as a cross disciplinary sensibility, not to say a movement which positions landscape as the datum from which to critically negotiate the denatured field conditions of the contemporary metropolis. 


What is meant by landscape cannot be considered unless one works through what can be meant by ecology, and it is perhaps there that we find a new conceptual imaging of landscape, one which landscape urbanist sensibilities apprehend as a hybridization of natural and cultural systems on a globally interconnected scale. Such an apprehension, it will be argued, necessarily interweaves the untenable polarizations of design and planning stereotypes. 

The science of ecology and its popular manifestation as environmentalism has practical and philosophical implications for landscape architecture and society at large. The conceptual shift brought about by ecology (and more generally, the physics and biology of the twentieth century) is that the world is one of interconnection and co-dependency between organisms and environments, between objects and fields. Although translating into a victimized “nature” in the popular imagination, ecology is increasingly synonymous with new and more sophisticated models of universal (dis)order such as chaos and complexity theory, kaleidoscopes through which both romantics and scientists find previously unrecognizable order unfolding over time in spite of entropy. Ecology is profoundly important not only because be progressing science from the measurement of mechanical objects to the mapping of non-linear systems it moves science closer to life, but also because it places cultural systems within the epic narrative of evolution. In this sense ecology is not only a meta-science measuring that which was previously beyond measurement, but also a discourse which implicitly leads to questions of meaning and value, questions of art. 

Much recent thinking on ecology and urbanism is inspired by the creative potential of contemporary scientific metaphors. Terms such as diversification, flows, complexity, instability, indeterminacy, and self-organisation become influential design generators, shaping the way we consider and construct places. Writing on ecology in 1996, James Corner says “similarities between ecology and creative transmutation are indicative of an alternative kind of landscape architecture, one in which calcified conventions of how people live and relate to land, nature, and place are challenged and the multivariate wonders of life are once again released through invention”. He urges landscape architecture to develop a creative relationship with ecology in order to exploit a “potential that might inform more meaningful and imaginative cultural practices than the merely ameliorative, compensatory, aesthetic, or commodity oriented”. Pertinently, he identifies the problem that creativity in landscape architecture has all too frequently been reduced to dimensions of environmental problem solving and aesthetic appearance”. The association of ecology with creativity, and in turn creativity with degrees of instrumentality is long overdue. 

Among other things, the conditions of ecological crisis make that which was invisible radically apparent, and with this vision we see our true nature and transcend our preoccupations with urban morphology and the simplistic traditional aesthetic of objecthood. But this vision is not easy; for example, take a simple object like a house, unpack its constituent parts, and then trace them both back and forward in time – that is, from their sources to their entropic end(lessness). The result, insofar as it is even thinkable, is a complex four-dimensional mapping, and even then it is one which barely represents the true complexity of the materialisations and tangential processes involved. 

If not to “save the world” and simplistically fit culture into nature, landscape architecture is right to ally itself with ecology. Landscape architecture – insofar as it is implicitly concerned with materials and processes subject to obvious change – seems well placed to give form to an ecological aesthetic. Landscape architecture is not frozen music. The axiom of ecology, and something now confirmed by the butterfly effect of chaos theory, is that all things are interconnected. Therefore every act, every design, is significant. Add to this the fact that every surface of the earth is not a given, but rather a landscape manipulated by human agency, then clearly landscape architecture can only blame itself if it does not become more powerful. 

Landscape architecture’s potential power is vested in the grand narrative of reconciling modernity to place; but the contemporary city is no longer bounded, and therefore landscape architecture must track it to the ends of the earth. Landscape urbanism is therefore not just about high-density urban areas and civic spaces, it is about the entire landscape off which the contemporary global metropolis feeds and into which it has ravenously sent its rhizomatic roots, a growth framed in the aerial photo or the satellite image. In the frame of the aerial image, landscape architecture finds its grand narrative of reconciling modernity to place. 

But aerial images are contradictory (Faustian) representations because, while they hold out the prospect of directing that which is below, they are also images that invite hubris. Aerial images lay everything bare, and yet by their reduction of things to a marvellous pattern they smooth out the complexity and contradiction of being in a body; they conceal the real socio-political and ecological relations of the working landscape. 


Emerging from a Koolhaasian sensibility, a new generation of designers are moving away from the dialectics and the romantics of design as a tension between form and function, idea and reality. Whilst to an extent ever-present, such romantic dialectics now seem cumbersome and inappropriate to getting on in a culture of too much data. There, the design process becomes a question of computation, not semiotics, a question of negotiating statistical limits, not hermeneutic intrigues. Such work is being gathered under the rubric of “datascapes”, which Bart Lootsma explains as simply “visual representations of all the measurable forces that may influence the work of the architect or even steer or regulate it”. Such work is part of the oeuvre of landscape urbanists. 

Not unlike landscape architecture’s recourse to site analysis to justify its outcomes, datascapes are thought to have great persuasive, commercial, and bureaucratic force because the subjectivities of the designer can be embedded in seemingly objective data. Whereas more romantic conceptions of the design process see the autonomous designer pained by the collision between ideal form and world, the datascapist does the inverse and begins with the outer limits of a project. They accept that a project is always already a site of negotiation. Deferring a preconceived design outcome, datascaping actively embraces restrictions and regulations. For example, Lootsma tells us that some of the most important threads running through West 8’s landscape design work are “such apparently uninteresting thing such as traffic laws and the civil code – things often seen as annoying obstacles by designers who put their own creativity first”. Lootsma goes on to claim that for a designer, setting aside subjectivity and following the bureaucratic rules of a given place needn’t mean neo-functionalism nor constitute mindless robotics (although there is always that risk), but rather, that the designer “commits a genuinely public act in which everyone can participate and perhaps even subvert”. Exactly how this is so, or where it has been tested and proven, remains unclear. 

Richard Weller, An Art of Instrumentality: Thinking through Landscape Urbanism in The Landscape Urbanism Reader, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006, p.71-75 & 80-81.

Merci à M.J.

vendredi 24 avril 2015

Semblable & Different.

Hans Otte, Buch der Klänge XI, 1979-1982. 

Les différents processus de mutation d'un son en un autre son ou d'un ensemble de sons en un autre ensemble constituent la base même de mon écriture musicale, l'idée première, le gène de toute composition.

Le matériau découle du devenir sonore, de la macrostructure et non l'inverse. Autrement dit, il n'y a pas de matériau de base (cellule mélodique, complexe de sons, durées, etc.), dont la grande forme constituerait une sorte de développement a posteriori. C'est le processus qui est premier, c'est lui qui gère la mutation des figures sonores et qui amène à en créer sans cesse de nouvelles. Je suis même étonné de découvrir à quel point les sons engendrés par ces processus dépassent, et de loin, ceux que l'on pourrait imaginer a priori, abstraitement et hors du temps.

Dans ma musique, le son n'est jamais considéré pour lui-même mais toujours passé au crible de son histoire: où va-t-il? d'où vient-il? Telle est la question que je me pose à chaque instant de la partition que j'écris.

À la limite, on pourrait dire que le matériau n'existe plus en tant que quantité autonome mais qu'il est sublimé en un pur devenir sonore sans cesse en mutation. Insaissisable dans l'instant, il ne se laisse discerner et appréhender que dans la durée.

Mais cette affirmation m'amène à en rectifier le contenu, car c'est bien en fonction de leurs qualités acoustiques propres que les différents types de sons sont intégrés au processus et qu'ils déterminent une certaine durée. Il existe donc, en fait, un réseau de relations continuelles, un incessant va-et-vient de la pensée entre le matériau et le processus comme entre le micro et le macrocosme.

Déterminer de quelle figure sonore il part et vers quelle autre figure il s'achemine, tel me semble être le choix essentiel du compositeur aujourd'hui. Reste le temps, le temps de cette mutation, qui est la forme même de son délire.


Il m'est désormais impossible de considérer les sons comme des objets définis et permutables entre eux. Ils m'apparaissent plutôt comme des faisceaux de forces orientées dans le temps. Ces forces - c'est à dessein que j'emploie ce mot et non le mot forme - sont infiniment mobiles et fluctuantes; elles vivent comme des cellules, avec une naissance et une mort, et surtout tendent à une transformation continuelle de leur énergie. Le son immobile, le son figé n'existe pas, pas plus que ne sont immobiles les strates rocheuses des montagnes.

Par définition, disons que le son est transitoire. Un instant isolé ne se définit pas, non plus d'ailleurs qu'une suite d'instants isolés minutieusement décrits et placés de bout en bout.

Ce qui nous approcherait d'une meilleure définition du son, serait la connaissance de l'énergie qui la traverse de part en part, et du tissu de corrélations qui gère tous ses paramètres.

On peut rêver une écologie du son, comme science nouvelle mise à disposition des musiciens...

Déjà, la pratique du studio électronique nous a fait apprécier les composantes du son, non comme des données isolées, ainsi que l'a si bien fait remarquer la musique sérielle en définissant et en isolant soigneusement les paramètres, mais comme un réseau complexe d'interactions et de réactions multiples entre ces paramètres. Chacun sait, par exemple, que deux sons ayant des fréquences très proches provoquent des battements. Si ces battements sont très rapides, ils altèrent le timbre, s'ils sont plus lents, ils engendrent des événements périodiques que nous percevons comme des rythmes. On sait aussi que l'intensité est déterminante pour la perception de la hauteur, que l'appréciation du timbre est, pour une large part, fonction de la durée etc. On pourrait ainsi allonger infiniment la liste des ces interférences qu'engendrent nos capacités perceptives et leurs limites.

D'autre part, il n'est pas inutile de rappeler que les paramètres ne sont qu'une grille de lecture, une simplification, une sorte d'axiome qui nous permet d'aborder le problème du son. Ils n'ont cependant aucune existence réelle pour l'écoute car nous percevons le son globalement, totalement et non analytiquement.


Il reste que nos sens, dans leurs limites, ont besoin de repères pour apprécier un quelconque mouvement. Il ne s'agit ni d'une cellule sonore ni d'un matériau de base à développer mais d'une sorte de balise infiniment simple que chacun doit pouvoir percevoir et mémoriser. Nous en retiendrons deux:

- la périodicité rythmique;
- le spectre d'harmoniques (autre forme de périodicité).


Notre perception est relative; elle compare sans cesse l'objet qu'elle vient d'appréhender à un autre perçu auparavent ou encore virtuel, localisé dans notre mémoire. La différence ou l'absence de différence qualifie toute perception.

Nous ordonnons ainsi le perçu non en fonction d'une norme unique mais en l'insérant dans un réseau de relations pour en dégager la qualité intrinsèque.
En d'autres termes, un son n'existe qu'en raison de son individualité et cette individualité ne se révèle que dans un contexte qui l'éclaire et lui donne sens.

Je considère comme essentiel, pour le compositeur, d'agir non plus sur le seul matériau mais sur le vide, sur la distance qui sépare un son d'un autre son. Aborder le semblable et le différent comme base même de la composition musicale permet en effet d'éviter deux écueils: la hiérarchie et l'égalitarisme.

Gérard Grisey, Devenir du Son in Écrits ou l'Invention de la Musique Spectrale, Éditions MF, 2008, p.27-30.

Merci à F.M.

vendredi 17 avril 2015

Practice & Context.

Prof. Bourbaki, Inventing frames & diffusing overflows, 2015.
A logic of learning

One type of learning is 'learning by doing' in the sense familiar to economists as a downward shift of an average cost curve as a function of cumulative uninterrupted production (Yelle, 1979). There is also learning in the sense of (radical) innovation; Schumpeterian 'creative destruction' and 'novel combinations'. The challenge is to explain the latter type of innovation and learning. That is subject to uncertainty rather than risk. And the point of uncertainty is that it yields the problem of induction or, more precisely, the problem of 'abduction', as Peirce (1957) called it. Quite apart from justifying a novelty once it is achieved, in the 'context of justification', how do you go about the development of novelty, in the 'context of discovery'? How do you go from ('abduce from') and existing working modus operandi to a new one that in the future will turn out to be better but which now is not known? Of all the new things you could think of doing, how do you choose the correct one, or even one that is viable, and how do you know whether you know all the options (Holland et al., 1989)? The problem of uncertainty is precisely that you do not. This connects with and important issue in Austrian economics: how is it that an entrepreneur can be right s/he venture into new areas? In Herbert Simon's terms: if uncertainty precludes the 'substantive' rationality of choosing the best from available options, we need a 'procedural' rationality or heuristic, in the form of some modus operandi that is likely to succeed.

Of course, one possibility for a process of adjustment is random trial and error. This would make economic evolution as blind as biological evolution. And, indeed, the lack of rational evaluation by especially small firms injects an element of randomness that contributes to variety. But although rationality is bounded and entrepreneurship entails an element of gambling, people do think, make inferences and limit risk, and they are not always wrong. So how, as a firm, could one go about 'abduction', and maximize chances of survival? Usually, the answer in theories of abduction is to proceed via 'adjacent possibilities': to project an existing practice into a context that is sufficiently similar to have a chance of success, and allows for some prediction of likely results, while it is sufficiently different to yield novel experience and indications for further change with a chance of success. That principle is extended below into a few basic principles of a 'logic of development': principles that maximize the chance of survival in an economic selection environment. 

The first requirement for survival is ongoing production during adaptation: without it we starve even on the road to success. The second requirement is adaptation to novel opportunities and threats. How to do both? How to reconcile continuity and change? How to combine exploitation with exploration? How to go from utilization of existing resources to the development of new ones? The core principle here is that one should not surrender an existing way of doing things before both the motive and the opportunity for a replacement are evident. Before the need arises such a move would be wasteful, and before the opportunity arises it would be impossible. Thus a certain amount of conservatism is rational, but it can easily become excessive and block innovation. There is a trade-off between the need to adapt and the costs involved in terms of uncertainty of whether novelty will be successful, and uncertainty about the organizational repercussions (March, 1991). To make the step to novel practice, one must be prepared to 'unlearn' (Hedberg, 1981): no longer taking established procedures for granted. Thus a necessary (but not always sufficient) condition for innovation generally is that there is perceived need, mostly from external pressure, a threat to continued existence or a shortfall of performance below aspiration levels, as has been the dominant in the literature on organizational learning (see the survey by Cohen and Sproull, 1996).

The following heuristic principles of development and learning are now derived. The first principle of abduction is that one needs generalisation of a successful practice to novel but 'adjacent' contexts, where it is likely to succeed (so that it satisfies the requirements of ongoing production), while it is also likely to run into its limitations, so that we may discover the boundaries of its validity (so that it contributes to the requirement of exploration). Next, as the practice runs into its limitations, it should be adapted to the local context to solve them. This is the principle of differentiation. Again, attempts to adapt contribute to ongoing production as a condition for survival as well as adaptation. Typically, such adaptations are inspired by comparisons with similar, 'adjacent' practices, which in the given context are in some respects more successful, and elements from these more successful practices are imported into the local context at hand. This exchange of elements from different parallel practices, in a given context, is the principle of reciprocation. In language, reciprocation is the operation of metaphor or analogy. As the practice becomes more and more differentiated across contexts, efficiency losses appear owing to lack of standardization, economies of scale foregone, complexity of ad hoc add-ons. Novel elements inserted from outside often do not fit well in the structure of current practice, and for the full utilization of their potential require a more fundamental restructuring of practices in a novel practice. This is the principle of novel combinations or accommodation. This is where the previous preparatory steps lead to novelty. But then, at first, the novelty is indeterminate. Knowledge is partly or wholly tacit: to the extent that novelty works, it cannot yet be fully explained. Much experimentation is needed to find its best form(s), for the novelty to 'come into its own', and to become standardized in a 'dominant design' (Abernathy and Utterback, 1978). This is the principle of consolidation. After that has been achieved, one can move into the next cycle of development, starting with generalization. What feeds exploration while maintaining exploitation is an alternation of variety of practice and variety of context. The resulting cycle of learning is illustrated in Figure 1. The claim is that this procedure is the best answer to the problem of how to maintain continuity (exploitation) while preparing for change (exploration).

The hypothesis now is that these principles of abduction, being conducive to survival, constitute a fundamental 'logic' or heuristic of development which is applicable, with appropriate elaborations and enrichments, at all levels of learning/development/adaptation, and at the level of individual people, organizations, industries and national economies. Thus it should, among other things, serve to specify the relation between equilibrating (Walrasian, Austrian) entrepreneurship and dis-equilibrating Schumpeterian entrepreneurship. Furthermore, this 'logic' should also help to indicate how in processes of development the different levels of people, firms, industries and national or regional economic systems tie into each other. Of course, the hypothesis has to be argued more in detail and then tested extensively. The hypothesis has been inspired by the work of the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget (1970, 1974; Flavell, 1967) on individual cognition. 

Note that, while in a procedural sense the heuristic is optimal, it need not yield a unique or optimal outcome. It allows for path-dependence and suboptimal outcomes, and the path taken depends on context and coincidence. Different economies can develop different structures. 'Logic' is put between quotation marks because it is a heuristic rather than a logic in the sense of indicating a sequence of stages that is logically or epistemologically necessary. It is a heuristic in the sense that it is generally the best answer to the problem of abduction; the best way of exploring while maintaining exploitation. However, stages will overlap: there is generalization during consolidation, differentiation during generalization, exploration of novel combinations during reciprocation. Stages may occasionally even be skipped, and innovation can occur less systematically, more randomly and spontaneously (Cook and Yanow, 1993), when an obvious opportunity presents itself without much exploration. But as a general rule one needs to accumulate failures to build up the need for change, as well as hints at what directions to look in: indications of what changes could be made with some chance of success.

Bart Nooteboom, Innovation, Learning and Industrial Organization, Camb. J. Econ. 23, 1999, pp.131-133.

vendredi 10 avril 2015

Exploration & Exploitation.

Procrastimotion, Ringworld, 2012.

A central concern of studies of adaptive processes is the relation between the exploration of new possibilities and the exploitation of old certainties (Schumpeter, 1934; Holland, 1975; Kuran, 1988). Exploration includes things captured by terms such as search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, play, flexibility, discovery, innovation. Exploitation includes such things as refinement, choice, production, efficiency, selection, implementation, execution. Adaptive systems that engage in exploration to the exclusion of exploitation are likely to find that they suffer the costs of experimentation without gaining many of its benefits. They exhibit too many underdeveloped new ideas and too little distinctive competence. Conversely, systems that engage in exploitation to the exclusion of exploration are likely to find themselves trapped in suboptimal equilibria. As a result, maintaining an appropriate balance between exploration and exploitation is a primary factor in system survival and prosperity.

James G. March, Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning, Organ. Sci. 2, 1991, p.71.

vendredi 3 avril 2015

Fog of War.

Non attributed, UH-1, s.d.
#1: Empathize with your enemy
#2: Rationality will not save us
#3: There's something beyond one's self
#4: Maximize efficiency
#5: Proportionality should be a guideline in war
#6: Get the data
#7: Belief and seeing are both often wrong
#8: Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
#9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
#10: Never say never
#11: You can't change human nature

Robert S. McNamara, Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, 2003.