Critiques & Debates
a sampling of recent critiques—written & spoken—as well as a few other things available elsewhere online
"Research Ransoms: On expelling undue influence." Leah Meisterlin in conversation with Samantha Parsons from UnKoch My Campus in ARPA Journal, Issue 5 Conflicts of Interest (May 2018)
"In May 2017, I had the pleasure of speaking with Samantha Parsons from UnKoch My Campus, a non-profit organization with a particularly tricky mission: organizing, empowering, and arming members of university communities with the information, tools, and support they need to uncover and untie their classrooms and research from partisan and agenda-setting private funding. I knew very little about their work and the challenges they face before conducting this interview. What I learned—as my reactions below might suggest—is troubling and complicated. American colleges and universities rely heavily on private donations, and the need for funding is only escalating.1 Thus, academic giving remains an admirable and important form of philanthropy, benefitting both students and myriad advances in research. What Ms. Parsons described, however, is not the business of giving as usual."
"Forensic Methodology" A symposium with speakers Orit Halpern, Andrés Jaque, Hod Lipson and Michael Sorkin. Organized by Esteban de Backer, David Isaac Hecht, Alejandro Stein and Che-Wei Yeh. Moderated by Janette Kim, Diana Martinez, Leah Meisterlin and Susanne Schindler. in ARPA Journal, n.3. (July 2015).
"In business design research circles at the moment, the question of how to engineer serendipity has gained currency: whether to apply algorithmic or programming thinking toward the environments in which human beings are asked to collaborate and innovate. Whether we are successful at innovation in those fields comes down to the degree of pluralism within the environment—pluralism among actors, agents, intellectual diversity or diversity of their capabilities."
"...you can design an algorithm (if we can use an indirect operational definition of an algorithm in architecture and research, for a moment) with all the rigor and intention in the world, but when you put it out into the world and into a complex environment like a financial market, we cannot always foresee what will emerge as a final product or output. I think this accounts for the sameness or the not-so-innovative results you are seeing. It's not exactly what you would expect, given all the design and research energy happening within the universities, but what is produced in practice.
"The second point addresses the necessity of diversity to produce emergent, innovative outcomes. You have to reach a critical threshold of pluralistic inputs-ones that don't just look different but actually function differently."
"Challenging the City & Its Data," [video link] a talk on pedagogical approaches to data visualization and pluralism in cities. Presenting Datascapes & The Informal City at Reading the City: Multilingualism, Multiculturalism, and Urban Landscapes, a symposium convened by the Columbia University Language Research Center. (May 2015)
"The syllabus describes that spatial data visualization has become a favorite activity within architecture, both as a tool for analysis and as a medium for representation. And while these two uses—analysis and representation—are intimately linked in all disciplines, they are often almost synonymous in architecture. Spatial analysis and the understanding of spatial relationships—social relations within the city, organizational mechanisms and patterns, interaction between users and environments, descriptions of communities—all of these are understood via the drawing, the map, the diagram, the plan. Thus, the ways in which we draw the city, including the data we declare representative and how we choose to represent it, has profound effects on what we know of the city."
"Antipublic Urbanism: Las Vegas and the Downtown Project" in The Avery Review. no 3 (November 2014).
"...what follows is not a review of the architectural projects now freckling downtown Las Vegas nor of the plans for additional density, housing, retail, or even technology-related start-up activity. Instead, I’ll meander and machete a way through the project as an enacted proposal and prototype for a general form of urbanism in search of the kind of city-making now active along Hsieh’s Fremont and its immediate environs. It’s a haphazard and necessarily belligerent path. There can be no clarity, elegance, or subtlety in mapping a funhouse—tracing processes that are more “Vegas” than “downtown,” more signifier than substance, more affect than effect, more wizard than Oz. Along the way, I’ll infer an urban-planning approach about which I cannot be sure by its own strategic design. Hacking through crafted public statements and a short catalog of awestruck dispatches from the desert, I arrive at indictments, more nervous than before. This breed of urbanism is an anti-public version of social space requiring only the semblance of city-ness for its sustaining. The image of the Downtown Project, as it is and as it seems, is the logical end of privatized planning ad absurdum drawn as a diagram of hubris over a fading erasure of civic responsibility."
"The City is Not A Lab" in ARPA Journal. no 1 (May 2014)
"The classification of applied urban research as anti- and non-experimental is an operational premise with nontrivial consequences for urbanism in practice and, more importantly, for the ethics of such work. In short, to act upon urban environments with a mode of practice defined by the logic of experimentation amounts to experimenting on human subjects without their consent, thus without the authority to do so, and without appropriate measures of accountability for the impacts levied upon those populations."