Beyond Buildings: Developing an Ingardenian Systems-Theoretical Aesthetics of Future Biomimetic, Interactive Architectural Entities

Beyond Buildings: Developing an Ingardenian Systems-Theoretical Aesthetics of Future Biomimetic, Interactive Architectural Entities

The European Society for Aesthetics Conference 2019 • University of Warsaw, Warsaw • June 13, 2019

ABSTRACT: For millennia, the buildings created by human architects largely displayed traits of solidity, immobility, passivity, limited interactivity, and reliance on fairly simple geometrical shapes to constitute their core structure. As a result, the field of architectural aesthetics could take for granted the fact that a “building” was such a motionless, non-interactive shell; the philosophical frameworks developed to analyze buildings thus had very little in common with those used to analyze, say, living organisms or moral agents.

This paper begins by showing how such historical assumptions are now being undermined through the development of technologies that enable the creation of types of buildings that would previously have been impossible. For example:

• Augmented reality technologies increasingly allow buildings to create perceived and experienced structures that differ wildly from the buildings’ actual physical components.
• Developments in ambient intelligence and social robotics allow a building to create intimately interactive spaces that interpret their occupants’ moods and unspoken thoughts and respond through physical changes, speech, and other social behaviors.
• AI-guided parametric design (championed by figures like Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher) is enabling the creation of highly complex, asymmetrical, curvilinear, resilient, biomimetic architectural forms that no human mind could design.

The building of the dawning future is more than just a “building”: it is a biomimetic, interactive architectural entity that is richly “biomimetic” not simply because of its curvilinear surface but because of its dynamism, agency, and role as an intelligent, autonomous social actor. Depending on its AI, such a building may even constitute a “person” capable of meaningful social relationships. In the language of Herbrechter’s critical posthumanism, such buildings are posthuman agents that create new types of posthumanized architectural spaces.

The emergence of such architectural entities requires the development of new conceptual frameworks for investigating them from the perspective of philosophical aesthetics. One popular paradigm employed to analyze parametrically designed architecture is that of Deleuze’s fold, which Deleuze illustrated in Le Pli: Leibnitz et le Baroque (1988) through his allegory of the “Baroque house.” The Deleuzian fold is active, curvilinear, and mediating; it thus possesses some properties common to biomimetic, parametrically designed buildings. However, we argue that Deleuze’s Baroque house allegory fails to capture the agency, dynamism, mutability, and interactivity of the emerging architectural entities described here; the need thus remains for new frameworks to describe them. We propose one such approach that draws on elements of Ingarden’s later thought that have been largely overlooked within the field of aesthetics.

The Polish philosopher Roman Ingarden (1893-1970) is known in the field of architectural aesthetics primarily for the “classical” phenomenological frameworks that he developed in the 1920s and 1930s, which analyze the stratification of the architectural object (i.e., the “building”) as a work of art, the ontological status of the building as a purely intentional object, and the role of concretization in aesthetic experience. Today – after a century of developments in aesthetics – the ontological suppositions of those frameworks are seen as increasingly antiquated, and it is often presumed that Ingarden has little to offer for the analysis of posthumanized architectural entities.

In this paper, however, it is argued that the opposite is true, as the conventional view of Ingarden overlooks innovative strains of thought (a sort of “Ingarden 2.0”) that arose in his later years, as he explored ongoing scientific and technological advances. For example, we show how Ingarden foresaw future VR technologies, analyzed what today would be called “computational aesthetics,” and made one of his last (unfinished) projects the reworking of his earlier writings to account for new discoveries in neuroscience. Moreover, his work in systems theory proved so influential that he is considered a pioneering figure of Polish cybernetics.

Ingarden died before applying his mature systems theory (and especially, his model of the “relatively isolated system”) to aesthetics; as a result, it has been largely ignored by later aestheticians. However, we argue that it is not only possible to formulate a “systems-theoretical aesthetics” grounded in Ingarden’s systems theory, but that it offers a valuable tool for analyzing emerging biomimetic, interactive architectural entities.

Developing an Ingardenian systems-theoretical architectural aesthetics. As the foundation for its proposed systems-theoretical aesthetics, this paper analyzes Ingarden’s concept of the “relatively isolated system” by tracing its development over decades and providing translations of some passages previously available only in Polish. Sources analyzed include:

• Ingarden’s account of the membranes that partially isolate bodily organs from one another other, which is presented in O poznawaniu dzieła literackiego (1937).
• Ingarden’s model of a living organism as an enduring core surrounded by outer layers that arise and are destroyed throughout one’s life, as presented in Spór o istnienie świata, vol. 1 (1941).
• Ingarden’s model of the “partially isolated system” and the role played by semipermeable boundaries that regulate an object’s engagement with its environment, as described in a plan (1945-46) for Spór o istnienie świata, vol. 3. This concept was influenced by Ingarden’s reading of Bertalanffy’s Theoretische Biologie.
• Ingarden’s concept of the “relatively closed system,” found in preliminary notes (1950-54) for Spór o istnienie świata, vol. 3.
• Ingarden’s mature concept of the “relatively isolated system,” presented in Über die Verantwortung: Ihre ontischen Fundamente (1970).

Drawing on the multifaceted concept of space found in Christian Norberg-Schulz’s Heideggerian architectural phenomenology, we demonstrate how a systems-theoretical aesthetics grounded in Ingarden’s concept of the relatively isolated system identifies the emerging biomimetic, interactive architectural entity as a system that creates, encompasses, animates, and regulates a nexus of overlapping three-dimensional, experiential, informational, technological, social, and ecological spaces. Such an approach categorizes, compares, and evaluates architectural entities according to the nature of their semipermeable membranes and their openings.

In a manner consonant with contemporary environmental aesthetics, this approach locates a building’s aesthetic properties in the “porousness” of its external and internal physical, informational, and social boundaries – which include not only structures like walls, windows, and stairwells but also the topologies of Wi-Fi networks; information security mechanisms; air circulation patterns; elements that regulate colonization of the space by plant or animal species; social networks; enforced social conventions; and the relationships between a building’s human occupants and the artificial agents that enliven it. The definition and exploration of this approach represents this paper’s central achievement.

The paper concludes by discussing strengths and weaknesses of this proposed approach. It is argued that it can prove useful for analyzing the design and aesthetic experience of buildings transformed through the incorporation of artificial agency and biomimetic dynamics.

It is hoped that this paper can contribute to aesthetic discourse in several ways. First, it shows how diverse technologies are combining to create biomimetic, interactive, posthumanized architectural entities that differ qualitatively from buildings of earlier ages. Second, it formulates an Ingardenian systems-theoretical aesthetics whose foundations in emergentist theoretical biology render it at least as suitable for describing such entities as paradigms like the Deleuzian fold. Finally, the text presents a historical-textual analysis of aspects of Ingarden’s thought that are little known within philosophical aesthetics, thereby shedding new light on a leading 20th-century aesthetician.

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Who Will Be the Members of Society 5.0? Towards an Anthropology of Technologically Posthumanized Future Societies

Toward Society 5.0: The Dynamics of Posthumanization

Social Sciences 8, no. 5 (2019)

ABSTRACT: The Japanese Government’s “Society 5.0” initiative aims to create a cyber-physical society in which (among other things) citizens’ daily lives will be enhanced through increasingly close collaboration with artificially intelligent systems. However, an apparent paradox lies at the heart of efforts to create a more “human-centered” society in which human beings will live alongside a proliferating array of increasingly autonomous social robots and embodied AI. This study seeks to investigate the presumed human-centeredness of Society 5.0 by comparing its makeup with that of earlier societies. By distinguishing “technological” and “non-technological” processes of posthumanization and applying a phenomenological anthropological model, the study demonstrates: (1) how the diverse types of human and non-human members expected to participate in Society 5.0 differ qualitatively from one another; (2) how the dynamics that will shape the membership of Society 5.0 can be conceptualized; and (3) how the anticipated membership of Society 5.0 differs from that of Societies 1.0 through 4.0. The study describes six categories of prospective human and non-human members of Society 5.0 and shows that all six have analogues in earlier societies – which suggests that social scientific analysis of past societies may shed unexpected light on the nature of Society 5.0.

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Istoty inaczej-ludzkie, quasi-ludzkie i nie-ludzkie jako członkowie przyszłych społeczeństw: Analiza dynamiki posthumanizacji technologicznej

Świat sposthumanizowany

the International Conference on Humans in a Technological World: The Anthropology of Technics • Jagiellonian University, Kraków • May 10, 2019

ABSTRACT: Procesy „posthumanizacji” mogą być rozumiane jako dynamika, za pomocą której społeczeństwo ludzkie włącza do siebie poza „naturalnymi” biologicznymi istotami ludzkimi innych członków, którzy przyczyniają się do struktury, działalności albo znaczenia tego społeczeństwa.
Dzisiaj posthumanizacja identyfikowana jest głównie z włączeniem w ludzkie społeczeństwo zaawansowanej sztucznej inteligencji i robotów społecznych, które ludzie zapraszają do swoich domów i miejsc pracy jako asystentów, współpracowników i towarzyszy. Rozmaite projekty badawcze stwierdzają sposoby, w jakie takie łączenie nie-ludzkiej sprawczości do ludzkiego społeczeństwa stwarza nowe wymiary społecznej rzeczywistości. W niniejszej prezentacji natomiast twierdzimy, że chociaż taka „posthumanizacja technologiczna” faktycznie jest fenomenem dość nowym, może być ona porównana z procesami „posthumanizacji nietechnologicznej,” które od dawna poszerzały społeczeństwa ludzkie o wiele typów nie-ludzkiej sprawczości. Na przykład, wszystkie społeczeństwa, w których ludzie zamieszkiwali i pracowali z zwierzętami domowymi; wierzyli w aniołów, demony albo potwory; albo starali się rozmawiać z zmarłymi krewnymi mogą być rozumiane jako społeczeństwa (nietechnologicznie) posthumanizowane. Starożytne formy posthumanizacji nietechnologicznej i rozwijające się formy posthumanizacji technologicznej będą zidentyfikowane, zanalizowane, i porównane przy zastosowaniu podejścia fenomenologicznego. Prezentacja pokaże, jak społeczeństwa posthumanizowane zarówno technologicznie jak i nietechnologicznie włączają różnych członków, których można klasyfikować jako „naturalne” biologiczne istoty ludzkie, sztucznie rozszerzone istoty ludzkie lub meta-ludzkie, epi-ludzkie, para-ludzkie, albo nie-ludzkie istoty.

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An Ingardenian ‘Systems Phenomenology’ as the Basis for Posthumanized Architectural Practice / Ingardenowska ‘fenomenologia systemowa’ jako podstawa posthumanizowanej praktyki architektury

An Ingardenian architectural systems phenomenology

Urbanity and Architecture Files / Teka Komisji Urbanistyki i Architektury XLVI (2018)

ABSTRACT: Here Ingarden’s concept of the “relatively isolated system” is used to develop a phenomenology of architecture that emphasizes the way in which a structure’s boundary and openings define an “inside” and “outside” and regulate passage between them. This approach is compared with Norberg-Schulz’s. The Ingardenian approach’s strengths include its compatibility with biomimetic form-finding and its insights for future architectural practice that is expected to become increasingly “posthumanized.”

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A Phenomenological Framework of Architectural Paradigms for the User-Centered Design of Virtual Environments

Virtual Architectural Paradigms

Multimodal Technologies and Interaction 2, no. 4 (2018)

ABSTRACT: In some circumstances, immersion in virtual environments with the aid of virtual reality (VR) equipment can create feelings of anxiety in users and be experienced as something “frightening”, “oppressive”, “alienating”, “dehumanizing”, or “dystopian”. Sometimes (e.g., in exposure therapy or VR gaming), a virtual environment is intended to have such psychological impacts on users; however, such effects can also arise unintentionally due to the environment’s poor architectural design. Designers of virtual environments may employ user-centered design (UCD) to incrementally improve a design and generate a user experience more closely resembling the type desired; however, UCD can yield suboptimal results if an initial design relied on an inappropriate architectural approach. This study developed a framework that can facilitate the purposeful selection of the most appropriate architectural approach by drawing on Norberg-Schulz’s established phenomenological account of real-world architectural modes. By considering the unique possibilities for structuring and experiencing space within virtual environments and reinterpreting Norberg-Schulz’s schemas in the context of virtual environment design, a novel framework was formulated that explicates six fundamental “architectural paradigms” available to designers of virtual environments. It was shown that the application of this framework could easily be incorporated as an additional step within the UCD process.

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A Phenomenological Analysis of the Posthumanized Future Workplace

Impacts of Technological Posthumanization on Future Workplace Architecture

Kwartalnik Nauk o Przedsiębiorstwie 48 (2018), pp. 31-39; MNiSW 2016 List B: 12 points

ABSTRACT: Increasingly, organizations are becoming “technologically posthumanized” through the integration of social robots, AI, virtual reality, and ubiquitous computing into the workplace. Here a phenomenological approach is used to anticipate architectural transformations of the workplace resulting from posthumanization’s challenge to traditional anthropocentric paradigms of the workplace as a space that exists at “human” scale, possesses a trifold boundary, and serves as a spatiotemporal filter.

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Ingarden’s Concept of the Relatively Isolated System and the Aesthetics of Biomimetic Virtual Forms

An Ingardenian systems aesthetics of architecture

Roman Ingarden and His Times: An International Phenomenological Conference 2018 • Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Kraków • October 27, 2018

ABSTRACT: As virtual reality technology becomes more sophisticated, there is growing recognition of the importance of Ingarden’s thought for the aesthetic analysis of architecture in virtual worlds. For example, his distinction between the ‘building’ that is constituted as an intentional object and its physical ontic foundation provides a useful tool for understanding virtual buildings, whose unique character results largely from their novel ontic basis. Moreover, it has been noted that Ingarden’s envisioning of future technologies for the ‘illusory embodiment’ of buildings in “O dziele architektury” §2 foresaw immersive VR technologies that are only now becoming feasible.

Here, however, we argue that a different aspect of Ingarden’s thought – the concept of the relatively isolated system – may hold even more promise as a tool for analyzing innovations in virtual architecture. We trace Ingarden’s development of this concept over three decades, from his description of the ‘organism’ as a hierarchical structural functional system (1937) to his model of the human being as a stable core with changing outer layers (ca. 1941), his analysis of Bertalanffy’s ‘open system’ model (1943), his notion of the ‘partially isolated system’ (1945-46), his description of the ‘relatively closed system’ (1950-54), and the mature concept of the ‘relatively isolated system’ developed in Über die Verantwortung: Ihre ontischen Fundamente (1968-70).

We then investigate the concept’s significance for virtual architecture. A growing trend is the use of computer-aided ‘form-finding’ techniques in which the shape of a building’s exterior ‘skin’ is not intentionally planned by a human architect but emerges organically through posthumanized processes of evolutionary computation; the resulting forms often display ‘Deleuzian’ curvilinear shapes resembling the bodies of biological organisms. In “O dziele architektury,” Ingarden had noted that in practice, human architecture never displays the organic irregularity and curvilinearity seen in living trees or in the ‘cities’ built by insects, because (1) functional considerations render such forms suboptimal for human inhabitation, and (2) human architects have been historically conditioned to believe that every building they design is ‘supposed to’ harmoniously concretize regular geometric shapes. However, Ingarden’s reasoning can be interpreted as anticipating precisely those radically irregular organic structures that are now becoming possible, as innovative AI technologies allow the task of form-finding to be separated from the anthropic intentional processes of a human architect and entrusted to non-human agents.

Moreover, such biomimetic design can be carried even further in virtual environments, whose looser constraints allow the construction (and aesthetic experiencing) of buildings whose forms would be impractical to fabricate in the ‘real’ world; such virtual surfaces can serve as sites of sensation and response that mediate between interior and exterior domains, reflecting the form and function of a living organism’s skin. We argue that Ingarden’s concept of the relatively isolated system provides a powerful framework for analyzing such virtual structures, thanks to its grounding in theoretical biology and its rich analysis of the outer ‘membrane’ that selectively shelters an entity’s inner workings from external causality. Such architectural applications represent another way in which Ingarden’s thought continues to bear new and unexpected fruit.

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Cognition of the Virtual: An Ingardenian Systems-Phenomenological Account of the Perception and Understanding of Virtual Objects

An Ingardenian Model of the Human Being as a Relatively Isolated System

The 5th Avant Workshop, on “Inspirations: 20th-century Philosophy and Contemporary Studies on Cognition” • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw • October 12, 2018

ABSTRACT: As immersive, interactive virtual reality (VR) technologies grow increasingly sophisticated, contemporary philosophers like Rabanus have attempted to formulate phenomenological analyses of the experiences they offer. We would argue, though, that one of the richest phenomenological approaches for interpreting the virtual objects perceived and understood through the use of VR systems was pioneered in the 20th century by Roman Ingarden, who in “O dziele architektury” hypothesized the future development of what would now be described as “VR systems” and explored our potential cognition of virtual objects.

An Ingardenian approach can incorporate: (1) Ingarden’s analysis of the stratification of artistic products, which distinguishes different types of cognitive access afforded to the physical fundament and intentional artistic, aesthetic, and cultural objects associated with a virtual object, and (2) Ingarden’s account (grounded in systems theory) of the human being as an emergent whole comprising a physical body, sensory-emotional “soul,” and intentional «I». This framework enables us to: (1) distinguish cognition of virtual objects from that of “real” objects, dreams, hallucinations, and the fictional worlds experienced when reading novels, and (2) explain the cognitive shift that occurs when someone immersed in a virtual environment comes to “forget” that the objects encountered there are “only” virtual.

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A Phenomenological “Aesthetics of Isolation” as Environmental Aesthetics for an Era of Ubiquitous Art

The Polish Journal of Aesthetics 49 (2018), pp. 11-25; MNiSW 2016 List B: 12 points

ABSTRACT: Here the concept of the human being as a “relatively isolated system” developed in Ingarden’s later phenomenology is adapted into an “aesthetics of isolation” that complements conventional environmental aesthetics. Such an aesthetics of isolation is especially relevant, given the growing “aesthetic overload” brought about by ubiquitous computing and new forms of art and aesthetic experience such as those involving virtual reality, interactive online performance art, and artificial creativity.

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A Phenomenological Analysis of the Virtual World as Aesthetic Object: Echo, Deepening, or Dissolution of the Lifeworld?

A Phenomenological Analysis of the Virtual World

17th Annual Conference of the Polish Phenomenological Association: History, Body, and Life-World – On Patočka and Beyond • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw • December 15, 2017

ABSTRACT: In this work we build on the ontological and aesthetic frameworks formulated by Roman Ingarden to develop a phenomenological analysis of the virtual world as aesthetic object. First, ‘virtual reality technology’ is distinguished from ‘virtual environments’ and ‘virtual worlds.’ The types of immersive, interactive virtual worlds accessed through contemporary VR technologies are further distinguished from the types of ‘virtual worlds’ accessed, e.g., by reading a novel or watching a film. Essential and optional elements of virtual worlds are identified, with special attention given to the (software-enforced) ‘laws of nature’ governing the structure and dynamics of elements in a world, the pseudo-natural origins of apparently ‘natural’ elements like wild animals and geographic formations, and the unique positions of the world’s designer(s) and human visitor(s). The potential ‘incompleteness’ of virtual architectural structures and inability to determine whether one’s social interactions are with human or artificial agents is analyzed in light of Ingarden’s interpretation of Husserl’s phenomenological model of intentionality and the perception of objects. It is shown that a virtual building, e.g., does not display all the features of a real-world building but instead possesses some characteristics found in real-world paintings.

Drawing on Ingarden’s framework, the (physical) ontic basis of a virtual world is distinguished from the (purely intentional) virtual world as a work of art that is grasped through perception and the related aesthetic and cultural objects that may be constituted by a visitor who undergoes the right sort of conscious experience. The stratification of a virtual world as a work of art is also investigated. Building on Ingarden’s critique of Husserl’s concept of the ‘lifeworld’ as the natural world that is simultaneously (a) stripped of modern scientific theory and (b) the world that we live in and manipulate, it is suggested that VR-facilitated virtual worlds (like other highly technologized forms of art) undermine the factual possibility for such a lifeworld to exist. In response, though, Patočka’s notion (influenced by Ingarden) of fictional literary worlds as ‘echoes’ of the lifeworld is noted; we thus close by raising the question of whether certain virtual worlds might potentially be employed to help restore the possibility of (perhaps temporarily) establishing a Husserlian lifeworld.

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Światło ucieleśnione i zaciemniający parametryzm: Analiza fenomenologiczno-estetyczna praktyki architektonicznej w ‘świecie elektronicznym’

Ogólnopolska konferencja naukowa ‘Wszechświat Disneya’ • Instytut Filologii Polskiej Wydziału Filologicznego Uniwersytetu Pedagogicznego and the Facta Ficta Research Centre, Kraków • December 9, 2017

ABSTRACT: W niniejszej prezentacji przedstawione jest zastosowanie podejścia fenomenologicznego w celu przestudiowania dwóch zagadnień podnoszonych przez praktyki architektoniczne obrazowane w filmach Tron (1982) i Tron: Legacy (2010). Po pierwsze, rozważamy użycie światła ucieleśnionego jako składnika budowlanego w obrazowanym w tych filmach ‘świecie elektronicznym’ (lub ‘drugim wszeczświecie’). Ludzki programista i programy komputerowe przedstawieni jako główni architekci świata elektronicznego stosują światło ucieleśnione jako kluczowy element fizyczny budynków, mostów, dróg, pojazdów, ubrań i innych przedmiotów, albo stwarzając, albo nakreślając namacalne kształty wśród ciemności poza tym niezróżnicowanej. Światło wykorzystowane jest n.p. do stworzenia platform, na których mogą stać postacie, oraz pionowych murów, które stoją na przeszkodzie innym fizycznym przedmiotom ‘zderzającym się’ z nimi. Porównujemy ten fenomen z historycznym w świecie rzeczywistym użyciem światła jako elementu architektonicznego o roli ozdobnej, przedstawiającej, dydaktycznej i funkcjonalnej oraz, w szczególności, z użyciem oświetlenia, aby symulować istnienie dużych fizycznych konstrukcji architektonicznych, które w rzeczywistości nie istnieją. Architektoniczne zastosowanie światła ucieleśnionego inspiruje pytania estetyczne i ontologiczne, które można badać przy pomocy podejścia fenomenologicznego.

Po drugie, badamy sposób, w jaki architektura w świecie elektronicznym omawianych filmów przedstawiona jest jako coś współprojektowanego przez istoty ludzkie i sztucznie inteligentne programy komputerowe przeznaczone do tej roli. W omawianych filmach, ludzki programista wybrał ogólne jakości estetyczne, które mają się przejawiać w architekturze świata elektronicznego i powierzył programom AI rolę przełożenia tych celów na konkretne konstrukcje architektoniczne, automatyzując w ten sposób proces budowania świata spełniającego dane parametry estetyczne. Tron: Legacy prezentuje szczegółowe debaty między ludzkim a AI współarchitektem dotyczące zalet wyboru jakości estetycznych takich, jak swoboda, otwartość, piękno, porządek, doskonalność, skuteczność funkcjonalna, regularność, przewidywalność i chaotyczność, jako cele i parametry dla architektury systemu. Film argumentuje za tym, że dla wspieranego przez AI architektonicznego projektowania parametrycznego wybór jakości estetycznych, które same w sobie wydają się pożądane, może jednakże powodować powstanie struktur z nieprzewidzianymi i bardzo niepożądanymi właściwościami. Wspierany przez sztuczną inteligencję proces architektoniczny, do którego już robił aluzję Tron i który wyraźniej poznany został w Tron: Legacy, może być więc interpretowany (chociaż niezamierzenie) przepowiednia i krytyka współczesnych technik projektowania generatywnego i parametrycznego oraz szczególnego ruchu Parametryzmu.

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