3D VW remediation – square peg in a round hole?

As part of my research on remediation and especially the Place concept I will be visiting Professor of Architecture, Yehuda Kalay of UCB. I’ve been invited to participate in a course wrap-up where his students will display how they have designed, implemented and tested their ideas in regard to building a museum in SL.  In preparation for this event I’ve just finished reading a fascinating article by Professor Kalay (2006) on “The impact of information technology on design methods, products and practices”, where Kalay describes two different ways of appropriating new tools in architecture, namely the “square peg in a round hole” and the “horseless carriage” paradigms.

The first is that of forcing a square peg into a round hole implying that the use of the new tool is misdirected, or at least poorly fits the processes that have traditionally been part of architectural design. (…) The ‘square peg in a round hole’ paradigm describes tool making as a problem of adapting a new technology to current practices. As a new technology is introduced into practice, a dysfunctional relationship can develop between the tools and a task, either because the task is poorly understood or because the process of displacing a traditional technology is largely one of the substitution of habitual tools with new ones that have the wrong affordances. Such inappropriate use of the technology results in a poorer practice. (Kalay. 2006:377)

The second paradigm describes a state of transformation, where the new technology is viewed through the lens of the practice in obsolete and ‘backward’ terms, much like the automobile that was viewed as a horseless carriage in the early days of the 20th century. It implies a lack of appreciation for the emerging potentials of technology to change the task to which it is applied. (…) The ‘horseless carriage’ paradigm views technology as a means to alter the perception of a practice about itself, as it is transformed by a new technology. In using the term a ‘horseless carriage’ at the turn of the 20th century, the task of transportation has been described through the lens of a previous technology, not realizing that the practice of travel had dramatically changed. (Kalay. 2006: 377-378)

Even though Professor Kalay and colleagues* use these “paradigms” to describe the use of new tools/media in architecture in particular, I do believe that they resonate with a more general use in many other research fields. As a researcher on educational use of new media I do see parallels to both practice I’ve experienced and especially to Bolter & Grusin’s ideas of different ways of remediation, so this is for sure something I’ll return to …


Uh, and BIG thx to Terry Beaubois for introducing me to Professor Kalay :-)

*) Chastain, T, Kalay, Y E and Peri, C (2002) Square peg in a round hole or horseless carriage? Reflections on the use of computing in architecture Automation in Construction Vol 11 No 2 pp 237e248

2 responses to “3D VW remediation – square peg in a round hole?”

  1. Robin Heyden says :

    Great post, Mariis. I just attended the Immersive Ed conference in Boston and, the highlight of the conference for me, was a session given by, Jeff Schnapp, the Director of Stanford University’s Humanities Lab. He talked about the future of museum design and the way that virtual worlds could impact museums. You have probably already heard of him (particularly since you’re in the Bay Area now!), but if not, definitely check him out. http://www.stanford.edu/~schnapp/ Great stuff.

  2. Mariis says :

    Thx, Robin … I’ll get back to this in another post when Kalay opens their in-world remediation of The Smithsonian to the public in the near future – great stuff his students created! Yes, I actually attended an event with Schnapp and Bennetsen from Stanford in January (see link) and I’ll be going to Stanford a couple of times this month to learn more about their Sirikata project – very interesting :-)


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