Architecture, Building and Planning - Research Publications

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    Forms of Sentience and Future Places
    Brock, D ; Roudavski, S (Urban Assemblage: The City as Architecture, Media, AI and Big Data, event by Architecture, Media, Politics, Society (APMS), University of Hertfordshire, Intellect Press and Parade. 28-30 June 2021, 2021)
    Visions of future cities differ greatly. Techno-optimists imagine greater comfort, better health, and longer lives. By contrast environmentalists foresee extinctions and the twilight of consumer civilisations. Whatever the outcome, the technological acceleration will continue to affect the lives of city dwellers, human and nonhuman. This situation calls for further research into capabilities for just resilience in the context of inclusive, more-than-human communities. The approach of this project is to review this challenge through the lens of sentience. Sentience is a contested concept that integrates ecological and technical concerns. Thus, its exploration can challenge existing anthropocentric frameworks and propose novel research directions. Existing discourse on sentience in humanities, engineering, and biological sciences is extensive but disjointed. This disunity results in the exclusion and disregard of sentient agents, existing and emerging. This is particularly apparent in the damaging anthropocentric bias of current design and engineering. In response, this project considers the roles sentience in future cities. It hypothesises that an understanding of sentience as a more-than-human, relational, and distributed phenomenon can promote interspecies justice. To test this hypothesis, we begin with an outline of biological sentience in humans, animals, and other lifeforms. We then compare biological sentience with forms technological sentience in robots and intelligent devices. The last steps of our analysis explore how these forms of sentience can combine in the context of smart cities and discuss implications for human and nonhuman stakeholders. Using project examples, we compare existing conditions, within emerging trends, and long-term forecasts. The outcomes of this review emphasise the importance of ecocentric foundation for further research into nonhuman lives and interspecies communities. Further study of interspecies communities is important as a source of learning about nonhuman subjectivity, cognition, sentience, intelligence, and knowledge that will be crucially important as contributions to the necessary design of future cities.
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    Sentience and Place: Towards More-than-Human Cultures
    Brock, D ; Roudavski, S ; Ross, C ; Salter, C (Printemps Numérique/ISEA, 2020)
    Expectations for the future can differ greatly. Some await a technical utopia that will support harmonious and easy lives. Others predict a global ecosystem collapse that will threaten the future of humans as species. Both camps make appeals to sentience in support of their stories. Addressing this discordance, this paper combines narratives in ecology and technology to ask what roles sentience might play in future places. In response, it hypothesizes that an understanding of sentience as an inclusive, relational and distributed phenomenon can promote more-than-human cultures and contribute to the wellbeing of heterogenous stakeholders on the Earth and beyond. To test this hypothesis, the paper outlines biological understandings of sentience (as applied especially to humans, animals and other lifeforms), contrasts them with the interpretations of sentience in artificial entities (including robots and smart buildings), gives an example of attempts at sentience in architectural design and discusses how sentience relates to place. The paper’s conclusion rejects the dualism of technophilic and biophilic positions. As an alternative, the paper outlines sentience as a foundation for richly local more-than-human cultures that have intrinsic value and can help in the search for preferable futures.