The Urban Improvise

The ‘the urban improvise’ initiative looks at the rich culture of improvisation as a framework for understanding and developing interactive environments and artifacts in today’s networked cities.

The increasing pervasiveness of embedded and mobile connected digital components in urban environments has transformed what used to be a static, passive backdrop into spaces and objects that have a more fluid behavior. These objects and environments are capable of sensing, computing, and acting in real-time; they can change their behavior in relation to their own system state, histories of past actions and interactions, the behavior of humans and machines within their reach, environmental parameters, etc. Environments with these characteristics have the potential to become truly interactive spaces changing their behavior in response to and in anticipation of unforeseen events. Activity is sensed, form is interpreted in the making. Actions are modulated, behavior adapted in response to the situation, in feedback loops, and in a continuous give and take. It is a behavior that resembles that of an improvisational performance. And improvisation is a good way to frame the possibilities for interaction in and with today’s hybrid cities. This initiative looks at improvisation not as doing something in a makeshift manner but rather as a process characterized by a simultaneity of conception and execution. Iterative and recursive operations that lead to the emergence of dynamic structures. A process that embraces complexity and overcomes binary opposites, in which order and disorder, security and risk, repetition and novelty, information and noise form a mutually constitutive relationship.

Cybernetics: state of the art, Technical University Berlin, June 11, 2016.
Conference on Distributed, Ambient and Pervasive Interactions, Toronto, July 20, 2016

Image credit: Peeter van Bredael, Commedia dell’arte Scene in an Italian Landscape, 17th/18th century.