GSD Talks: Harvard Design Magazine #43: Shelf Life

GSD Talks: Harvard Design Magazine #43: Shelf Life


Thank you all so
much for coming. My name’s Jennifer Sigler. I am the editor of
Harvard Design Magazine. I work in close collaboration
with Meghan Sandberg who’s here today in the back,
and Leah Whitman-Salkin, the deputy editor, who
can’t be here today. She’s in Albania. I want to thank you
all so much for coming. I want to thank the Loeb
Library for hosting us today, and I want to thank this
great team of people who have helped with the logistics. I think these
noontime events tend to be a little bit more intimate
and conducive to conversation and low key, so I hope
this can be just informal and a moment to reflect
on the magazine shelf life and have a conversation. I, especially, want to thank all
of these great contributors who really made the
issue what it is. And I think we’re really
excited to have six of them here today to speak with us
and share their input, and they are Shannon
Mattern, Antonio Furgiuele, Susan Snyder, Rania Ghosn, Mark
Mulligan, and Andrew Holder. And we really wanted to, kind
of, organize this in a very– to basically pack it in
in the spirit of storage. Because this is– we
really try in every issue to present like a breadth
of angles and points of view on a topic, and we didn’t
want to narrow this down to two or three contributors. So this is going to be very
compact PechaKucha style. It’s 20 slides each
for 20 seconds each. Can you all hear me OK? And then we’re going to follow
it with a Q&A and a discussion. So I want to start
by just giving you a little bit of
background on the theme. As a young boy,
Walter Benjamin liked to play with balls
of socks piled up in the wardrobe of
his family’s home. He wrote, nothing
surpassed the pleasure of thrusting my
hand as deeply as possible into the socks interior
in search of the little present the sock hidden within itself. His fingers would then
tease out the sock until the pocket in which it
had lain was no longer there. He’d repeat the ritual
obsessively enthralled by the simultaneity of
disappearance and reveal. It taught me that
form and content, veil and what is veiled are the same. This issue of Harvard
Design Magazine follows Benjamin
into the wardrobe and into the depths
of those socks to investigate and unpack
the contents, containers, and systems of storage
that organize our world. Storage at first glance
is a rather dry topic. It’s straight straightforward,
rational, pragmatic. It’s the kind of topic
that appeals to architects, because it deals with
containment and organization, with compartments
and boundaries, with defining spaces in
which to preserve and access objects and information. But we can think
about containers without thinking about
this stuff they contain. About the value and
purpose of the artifacts buried in our closets or moving
through our supply chains. Why are we storing them? For whom and for how long? And that’s where things
get messy and interesting. That’s where we could
say you have the life– you find the life in shelf life. Storage is about
identity and inheritance. It’s about relationships
and our emotions. It’s about what we
want to remember, and how we want
to be remembered. This is a contribution by
the artist and author, Maira Kalman, about how she
embodies and stores her memories and her life story. So storage is not
only about space. It’s mostly about time,
and how the passing of time changes the value and meaning
of objects and information. It’s about putting things
away for some future use or until they’re
accidentally discovered. It’s about preservation,
decay, and disposability. Sometimes shelf life
lasts for centuries, and storage is inert. Objects pile up to the point
of being irretrievable. Martin Roth, the former director
of the V&A Museum in London, speaks about the need to bring
these objects out of hiding, and to find ways through
curation for them to talk to one another. Andrew Holder also
talks about piling up, about unlimited edition,
and he coins the term more to define the Rococo. Analogous, he says, to surveying
a hoarders living room. More is here. More is on the way. But sometimes, as
Claire Lister explains, storage is about flow,
and shelf life is brief. Today, these dynamic storage
systems drive our economy and consume our planet in
a snaking conveyor belt of production and consumption. In this era of online
commerce, we’re all hooked on so-called
brown paper packages tied up with string. This is an Amazon distribution
center, by the way. And the logistics
of their journeys have become a
fluid part of life. Vast portions of the landscape
reclaimed by spaces of storage and the goods that
move through them. Once upon a time, closet’s
didn’t count as program. They were carved into ever
thickening [INAUDIBLE] or tucked into residual
pockets in the plan. But now, Alex O’Brien
argues, storage has swallowed up both
our domestic space and our landscape. He calls it gray space. Amid a huge industry
of self-help books to aid in de-cluttering,
last ditch attempts to remedy the effects of
our culture of consumption, we remain attached
to the artifact. Our overstuffed closets act as
placeholders or reassurance. Does this surplus of
stuff mask a bigger void? Do our doodads and
whatnots and thingamajigs overcompensate for economic
and ecological bankruptcy? Is storage about greed or need? Storage perhaps is everything
we can live without, but insist on living with. Megan Panzano imagines
an alternative to self-storage looking to
the cabinet of curiosities as inspiration. She imagines a form
of inhabited storage, home is archive, where
systems of objects merge with
architectural elements. We might compare this
approach to Kersten Geers’ vision of architecture
without content. Everything is
important, he says. Every part of the world
is to be taken seriously. We inhabit one giant interior. But storage isn’t
just about everything. It’s also about economy,
about anticipations, survival, preparation, and
the safeguarding of energy and supplies for
some imagined future purpose. For a long winter disaster, an
unexpected visitor, a drought. Storage is planning. We also have to store
substances that we’ll never want to access. Sometimes shelf life
has to be permanent. The film Containment by Rob
Moss and Peter Galison deals with storing and marking nuclear
waste for the next 10,000 years. The question is, how do we
prevent this from being open? In Hoarders of
Magnitude, Kiel Moe explains that storage is
not just about adding. It’s also about subtracting. In the super organism of life,
any accumulation or storage of gases, heat, water,
or clay is matched with its corollary dissipation. In this context,
storage is provisional, and it’s calibration is design. So we stock up on supplies,
and we sock away our cash, and we claim to
reduce and to recycle, but the stuff we
dispose of also needs to be stored as Rania
Ghosn will discuss. So where do we put it? Our planet is now a
saturated receptacle. This warehouse is full,
and we’re all inside it. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So that was a little intro to
the diversity of the issue. I now want to introduce
Shannon Mattern who’s going to talk about
shelving, especially. Shannon’s associate
professor of media studies at the New School. She teaches and
writes about archives, library and other media
spaces, media infrastructures, and spatial epistemologies. Thank you, Shannon. OK, so I’m probably
going to overcompensate by talking really fast, and
then I’ll calibrate myself. So, OK, thinking is
architecturally informed, and media furniture can
serve as a scaffolding through which thought is
activated and made manifest. By looking at the surfaces and
scaffoldings on an in which media are made,
stored, and organized, we can better understand
the material means by which we come to know,
and how the built world participates in that knowing. OK, the world is–
the built world is certainly one
element in what Foucault calls the spatialization
of knowledge. Since the 17th century, as
various domains of knowledge became sciences, scholars have
created spatial frameworks, observational fields,
classification tables to organize information. But they’ve also systematized
the means by which space at various scales media
through accessed information. The space of a library building,
a bookshelf, a material document, an entry in a library
catalog, even the taxonomy and the databases behind
a classification system are all spatial frameworks
mediating access to knowledge and shaping its
conceptual frameworks. Before there were
codices or bounded books, there were scrolls, which
were commonly kept in jars or in hat-like boxes known as
[NON-ENGLISH] or [NON-ENGLISH]. The containers commonly held
together the multiple scrolls stored on end. They contained–
they constituted a single comprehensive work,
thus each composite work had its own portable box. Ancient Romans with more
extensive collections opted for the [NON-ENGLISH],
[NON-ENGLISH], or [NON-ENGLISH]. All variations on
pigeon hole shelving. Here the multiple scrolls
constituting a single work would occupy the same cubby,
and tags identifying the scrolls contents were attached
to their [NON-ENGLISH], the canes around
which they were wound. Some Roman libraries were
designed with wall niches into which replaced wooden
cabinets or armaria. It secured the scrolls behind
closed doors, and later through the Middle Ages,
held manuscript codices. These modes of storage each
framed the unit of knowledge distinctively, portable or
possessively or collective and controlled. Here we see eighth century
Jewish scribe, Ezra, before an armarium
holding nine codices. The codex is still a
precious and expensive object given the tremendous
labor involved in its creation,
which, of course, Ezra himself can attest to. So book storage furniture had to
continue serving as a protect– or serving a protective role
through the Middle Ages. With the rise of monastery
in university libraries, however, books display
were displayed more openly for patrons use, and as a
statement of the institution’s cultural capital. If the material still
needed to be kept secure, few storage strategies
are as blatantly symbolic or so stereotypically medieval
as that of the chained library. Eventually as Books became more plentiful
the chains came off, the armaria metamorphosed into
the book press, the mobility of the book afforded the
user a sense of control over its use, a more comfortable
engagement with it thanks also in part to the arrival
of smaller print formats, and thus, perhaps, greater
intellectual liberty. The 16th through 19th
centuries brought us many libraries of myriad
shelving configurations. Wooden cases lining the interior
walls, wooden cases forming bays, metal bookshelves
removed from the reading room, all of which embodied
the patrons relationship to the book and to knowledge. After a century celebrating
open access shelves and subject departments, we now find more
and more research libraries overwhelmed by growing
collection, prioritizing people over media, and
opting for off-site storage. Where materials are often
sorted not in accordance with any human intelligible
logic, but by size, and retrieved by robots. The machine logic
rules in our modern day temples of efficiency. Amazon’s robot piloted
fulfillment centers where a book on microbiology
might sit next to a book by Marie Condo, or where Orwell,
currently Amazon’s number one, might but hair gel, just simply
because they’re frequently purchased together. But in this
ontological impurity, the Amazon rack is much
like our domestic shelves where codices and contraptions,
gewgaws, and gadgets coexist. George Nelson’s
storage wall was meant to help post-war families
organize all their stuff and to hide all
the unsightly media machines, and the
suspicious eyes and ears then invading their homes. Nelson was merely
following in the footsteps of [INAUDIBLE] who
in the 1910s sought to develop storage solutions
and standardize the shapes and sizes of the
media they stored, so that the modern interior
would serve as a system for arranging
information in space. The filing system was the room. And after Nelson came Dieter
Rams who in 1960 introduced his 606 universal
shelving system, which with its openness
and exorbitant cost seemed to compel the careful
curation of books slick machines, dishes, and ornaments. While its cargo seems
to float off the ground and away from the wall, the
606 makes a subtle spectacle of its sublime engineering. Not so with Ikea’s
iconic Billy, which arrived nearly two
decades later just in time to house video game
cartridges, VHS tapes, and CDs. Lundgren’s veneered
particleboard shelves invite maximal exploitation. We meet a baby Billy in its
unassembled vulnerability, which suggests the shelf
is amenable to hacks and modifications. Still we find
ourselves appropriating our kludging together
structures to function as storage and works paces to
accommodate the evolving shapes and sizes of our
immediate devices. Meanwhile furniture
designers are rushing to create
fittings that accommodate our new digital
lifestyles and ergonomics, often generating hyper-specific
task-oriented objects. Among our great
contemporary aesthetic challenges is cord management. Our homes are tethered
both infrastructurally and aesthetically
to data centers. All those utilitarian
racks and the cable conduit stretching across the center’s
walls, floors and ceilings are where all of our wireless
domestic technologies had conveniently stuffed
their snarled cables. As has happened before with
Bush’s memex and Nelson’s wall, and even before that with
the cabinet of curiosities and the encyclopedia, we’ve also
collapsed various distributed media systems and disparate
spatalized knowledges that is and to flat screens, which
we furnish and decorate, translating these workflows
in information architecture’s into a new realm
of interior design. Now our store knowledge
is shelved here in clouds and caves. And our portals to
these facilities or not through desktops
and armoire doors, but through new
furnishings, listening gadgets that serve as voice
activated valet’s, and library pages. Sports scores, laundry
detergent, and audio books are summoned at our command. The shelves apotheosis is
the internet of things. The end. Thank you so much, Shannon. I think that’s a
perfect transition to Antonio Furgiuele,
who’s piece for the magazine
was called The Five Points of Cloud Architecture. Antonio is associate
professor of architecture at Wentworth Institute of
Technology here in Boston. His research focuses on
the history and theories of information, and his
recent research investigates the system that composed– the systems, excuse me,
that compose data centers, facilitate cloud computing,
and propel important changes in the information age. Welcome, Antonio. Thank you. All right. Thank you to Jan and the HDM
team for putting this all on. OK, so on the heels of the
recent US financial collapse, clouds became a
public technology. The latest phase of
creative destruction propelled the emergence
sharing economy. A transition of computing as
a utility service has already catalyzed economies,
fueled disciplinary changes in a flurry of new technologies. This for many came
as no surprise. Every generation defines
their own technological cloud and is defined by it. While these nebulous
cloud still exist, their formation can be tied
to epistemic shifts, new world order, endless forms
of architecture. From the industrial plague
cloud of the 19th century industrialism to
the nuclear cloud to the age of cyber
networks and the first predicted cloud
weather prediction to perhaps one that is more
gaseous, seemingly invisible cloud that is already
embedded into our everyday. That of cloud computing. Each of these clouds
has its own technics, a way that it
performs as a system. The way it affects bodies, and
it produces discursive ones. The rendering of computing as
a real time service utility is built upon the processes
of virtualization. A consolidation and distancing
of our digital files and applications to
remote data centers, which are fueled
by intense energy resources and stringent
operating standards. The data center,
now are most used building type, the central
factory of information of the information
age is often designed to carry no civic presence. Hidden from view,
they are designed to be concealed or camouflaged
within their environments. They’re the architectural
black box par excellence. Data centers
continually to multiply tethered to a network of
others, a typological pattern has emerged that
highlight the shifting ways we produce, store, consume,
and exchange information. This emergent typology
provides a window into the shifting politics
in the information age through the technical
means of data storage. So urban data retrofit, a
reworking of existing telecom buildings, date bunkers,
hardened facilities to safeguard our
weaponized data, data hotels, collocation
sites, server farms, postindustrial land, close to
inexpensable and stable energy sources. Data containers, a streamlined
relationship with production and double global
distribution of servers. Sovereign data, free
from the frictions of governmental control
and legislation. Data valence, which deserves its
own presentation at this point. Data stock exchange
to accommodate algorithmic trading. Cold storage to deal
with our data hoarding. As a service utility,
cloud computing links us to five
essential characteristics. These are the five points
of cloud architecture. On demand service, a modulation
of time that the user controls. Rapid plasticity, a
flexible construct of scale for data file
management and storage and applications. Broad network access
and resource pooling, the connectivity and mobility
through aggregation of shared infrastructure and resources. And measured service,
the standardization of data protocols and
management of risk through security
system redundancy. So all data centers have
these building systems that transform them into
a science of design. So increasingly
imperceptible to humans, the five points become the
premier logic of our systems, our environmental technologies,
and the means by which we interact with one another. The five points
constantly interface with daily life to the
flurry of technologies to allow for large
scale system integration and subscribe necessarily
to cloud protocols. So as putting this
together I was reminded that most my
students, kind of, ask if I’m, kind of,
like on-demand, and I have to remind
them at this point that on-demand
refers to technology, not how we interact. So these five points
are central to how we engage our stored
data, shared resources, and on-demand entertainment. So our life in the cloud,
as Steve Jobs described, has become increasingly gaseous. Embedded into everyday
life, cloud technologies have become part and parcel of
most of our daily exchanges. Instrumental part
of the environment in which we now operate. With its large scale
successes and meteoric rise has now fueled
large scaled risk. While our clouds have allowed
computing to be a utility, it also has rendered
its toxicity. Daily occurrences now remind
us of the power and peril of large scale networks
of data storage. As of late, we have
now been forced to think about it regularly
rendering visibility to the fragility and dangers
of our nebulous clouds. From the internet of things,
the objects around us can be controlled by others. And the constant
threat of others access to stored data
exchanges and render them as a weapon for populations. Users are transformed
by these five points into the cloud most valuable
natural resource– resources plural. Users are constantly transformed
into data in real time, transmitted through
broadband networks, pulled into a resource,
elastically aggregated into various configurations,
and algorithmically measured. We are importantly an infinite
resource from the vantage point of these clouds. The best representation
of these five points is often a tribute
to the quote, which is that we no longer
find ourselves dealing with mass individual paid. Individuals have become
dividuals, masses, samples, data banks, or just banks. Our newly formed
clouds will continue to loom large, remain into
the foreseeable future, and continue exert pressure
on to anyone and anything that designs environments. A series of strategies
for practice will necessarily
need to be developed for a critical relationship
with the architecture’s of the cloud. Thank you. Thank you very much, Antonio. Amazing how much information
can get into 20 seconds. I now want to welcome
Mark Mulligan, professor at the Harvard GSD. His piece is called
hiding in plain view, and he looks at
the Japanese kura, which is basically
a shed, a storehouse in the Japanese landscape. And he’s going to tell you
more about how that relates to contemporary architecture. Mark is associate professor
in practice here at the GSD. In addition to his
design practice, he teaches and writes about
contemporary Japanese, urbanism, architecture,
construction, and preservation. Push the button. OK, did that work? No, I have to tap the– Push that one. –that one. OK, great. Thanks everybody. Thanks for coming. When Jen invited me to
contribute to this issue, I was actually two
weeks in Japan, and it seemed like
a really nice idea you had to think about
how the Japanese approach the topic of storage. This is actually not
my parents’ garage, but it might as well be. Because this is sort of how I
grew up thinking about storage. Lots of clutter, and
it didn’t matter. These are things you needed. So the idea of maybe lampooning
a little bit, Marie Kondo, I read– I got through about one
chapter of this book before I started rolling my eyes
and thinking this is not really very Japanese, actually,
the magic art of tidying up. It doesn’t really involve– the Japanese household
keeping traditions do not really include
heart-to-heart talks with piles of clothes
or spiritual communion with inanimate objects in the
same way that she imagines. Although, I can
imagine how therapeutic this could be for some people. The artfulness of the
Japanese domestic interior is really not about getting rid
of stuff, but just keeping it– whatever is not needed at
the moment out of sight. So the rooms of a pre-modern
Japanese wooden house are minimally furnished. Hidden storage spaces are
embedded in walls, ceilings, under floors, just
about everywhere to help preserve the
illusion of a life unencumbered by attachment
to material possessions, while ensuring that
inhabitants have everything they need in an emergency,
and that guests, of course importantly, lack
nothing by way of hospitality. In accommodating mountains of
belongings that a family might amass over generations,
there’s nothing that can compare with
the effectiveness of the mighty Japanese, kura. The term kura
describes a broad range of freestanding
store houses that might belong to a family,
a business, a farm, a collective enterprise,
a temple, or a shrine. They’re not
habitable structures. There singular
purpose is to protect and long term store material
goods away from thieves, pests, fires, and other disasters. These are a couple of examples,
a temple or a Shinto shrine. The kura shrine over there
all have these traditions of kura as visible elements
of the architectural compound. They are distinguished by their
high architectural quality, relative lack of windows,
texture, and so on. They’re ubiquitous
throughout Japanese cities and countryside, and
yet the building type remains relatively little talked
about, and little, its role in supporting Japanese
minimalist aesthetics of the interior relatively
unknown to the outside world. So it’s, in my words,
hidden in plain view. The word kura is
etymologically related to concepts of
darkness or hiding. So using the word kura,
you’re going into deep history and relating not an
architectural type, but actually an activity
and a condition of space. The Chinese characters,
actually, that are given here, three
different ones related– anyone who wants to talk
to me about etymology, I’ll talk to you later. This is challenging. So three contemporary examples
in Japanese architecture to talk about how the
kura has been reimagined. The first of these is
the sea folk museum by Hiroshi Naito, 1992. It’s dedicated to the
history and culture of Japan’s coastal
fishing villages, consists of a campus
of five buildings. All of them gable-roofed. Two are wooden structures. The other three are pre-cast
concrete structures. The most significant
holding is a collection of more than 80
wooden boats that need a very precise,
kind of, climate control, and these are house
as you can– they’re houses as you can see there. The building’s outward
appearance very closely recalls, although it is
not a historical kura, it recalls that typology. Very significant, the
windowless features and the white
fireproof construction. A tightly choreographed
series of transitional spaces through the landscape
will bring you to the spatial climax,
which is this cavernous boat hall, a cool humid space
with dimly perceived ceiling trusses recalling the
shaping and rhythm of a wooden ribbed ship hull. So a, kind of,
graphically, sensorally, and psychologically all these
dimensions of architecture are present in a contemporary
interpretation of kura. Kengo Kuma, I think, takes even
a more, not a mimetic reproach, but actually an
adaptive reuse approach. One of the few high
profile Japanese architects who is actually very
actively involved in historic preservation
and adaptive reuse. The stone plaza is one of
his famous early works, 2001. He was asked to
incorporate three– the ones shaded in pink– three existing stone
kura into a new compound, a campus of buildings for a
stone quarry and showroom. The program later came to
include an art gallery, a tea room, and so on, and an
addition to spaces for selling the stone made there. And you can see that
there was some combination of adaptive reuse,
a restructuring, or a seismic upgrade of
that stone building together with new techniques for using
stone in imaginative new ways, such as stone louvers. So the old masonry
construction inspired, maybe, a new interpretation
in this case. Kuma has gone on and
use the kura typology and the adaptive reuse, for
example in Tokyo udon or noodle restaurant in the
Nezu neighborhood. So it’s sort of like relying
like, kind of, Hayao Miyazaki relies on the, sort
of, old typologies to bring on kinds of emotions or
sentimental nostalgia somehow. Toyo Ito was the
hardest fit here, and I’m going to admit it
doesn’t feel very kura like. Many people know the
media cosmos just opened a couple of years
ago in the city of Gifu. It’s a, kind of,
direct descendant of the Sendai Media
Tech, smaller in scale and much more open– a, kind of, open library. Very much against the, kind
of, enclosure of the kura. That’s the more famous
upper floor plan. In my visit, I found,
well there was really, kind of, a cross-section
of all Gifu society, elderly and children and
people studying looking for jobs, a very open place. Finally, an hour in I
discovered right in the middle of the first floor
plan something called the [NON-ENGLISH] kura. You didn’t have a
door to get there. There was no way to find it. These are the, kind
of, closed stacks, although they’re actually
accessible to the public. You just have to know where the
door is from the second floor to descend into the ground
floor and discover yourself at the heart of this building. And I thought it was really
interesting in a sense that for him these prized
non-circulating books, they’re in full view, but
you can’t really access them. So in a way he didn’t need the– I’m looking for my term here– he didn’t need the
opaque bounding walls, the dark interior
space, or structural autonomy to define kura, only the denial
of easy access to treasures. I’m going to leave
you with that thought. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Mark. Next, we have Susan Snyder. Susan’s an architect
and co-director of the Critical Conservation
in masters and design studies program at the GSD. Her research looks at the forces
of consumption on urban form. Susan has an
obsession with Costco that she’s can’t wait
to tell us all about. I’m only concerned
that once she starts, we might not be
able to stop her. Go for it, Susan. Just push that on. OK, great. The sci-fi fantasy in William
Gibson’s novel, Virtual Light, describes container city
where people shop directly from containers
still on cargo ships. At Costco, this isn’t
far from reality. Here people shop
from pallets of goods stacked on steel racks shelving
commonly called the steel. The steel has a formidable
presence in Costco stores. This shelving, a rigid rack
for storing pallets patented in 1972 is possible
because of the combination of the pallet that
holds stacks of goods and the forklift truck. Together they enable multiple
boxes to be moved at one time. By using the hydraulic
lift, storage can now be vertical and not
spread out horizontally. The steel, as it
is known at Costco is properly called
pallet rack shelving. Pallet rack shelving
is an industry that addresses the interface
of shelving, material handling, and logistics. The fire hazards
of vertical storage changes the steel from shelving
to a regulated structure. In some communities,
building codes require that the steel have
integral sprinkler systems. In other cases, building
permits are required. The steel becomes part
architecture, part fixture. In The Wheels Of
Commerce, Braudel describes how the
warehouse caused the shift from periodic
markets to the store. By guaranteeing
supply regularity, warehouses made stores possible. With warehouses, stores could
be stocked as needed independent of the market schedule. The irony is that warehouse
shopping, such as Costco, eliminates the old
form of retail store. Retail stores have a front
stage, the shopping experience, and a backstage or numerous
times intensive steps prepare the goods for steel. Every time the goods
are touched cost– represents a cost. Retail storage is definitely
the backstage world. This is static storage never
to be seen by the customer. Costco attacks the backstage. In 1962, using a
now dated metaphor, Peter Drucker called this
back stage the economy’s last dark continent. He defined logistics and
physical distribution as the final
frontier of business. Costco proves that
the elimination of every unnecessary
action is the key to conquering the supply chain. The concept of warehouse
clubs shopping– this is where I get
to my favorite stuff– paying for a membership
fee to stop shop in bulk was started by
Sal Price in 1964, and later became Price Club. In 1983, Jim Sinegal,
who worked with Price as a college
student at Fed-Mart, was a co-founder of Costco. Today there are three major
warehouse clubs Costco, Sam Clubs, and BJs. Instead of static storage,
Costco is about flow. The logistics
choreography starts with vendors who deliver pallets
to a cross docked Costco depot where goods move from inbound
to outbound delivery eliminating storage, eliminating shelving
to stores to a forklift and onto the steel all
in roughly 24 hours. Costco’s business plan
extends the supply chain to the sales floor. Shrinkwrapped inventory above,
accessible merchandise below. The first time a
customer touches– the first time a
good is touched is when the customer picks it up. The first time a Costco employee
touches it as a check out. The steel makes all
of this possible. The core of Costco’s
model is the elimination of every possible step in
the distribution system. Low markups on goods cover
overhead and entice customers, while an annual membership
fee from 81 million customers forms the profit on net
sales of $113 billion. The steel embodies reverse
logistics and sustainability as well. Pallets are rendered
by– rented by vendors and returned to the Costco
depot along with bales of cardboard packaging. The business model supports
an ethical company. Culture that pays
for its employees a living wage, about
40,000 on average a year, with health benefits,
vacation, and a 401K. In the Costco model, the
warehouse has become the store. The shopper meets
the supply chain in encounters with the steel. This eerily resembles
container city described by William
Gibson in Virtual Light. Container City has come
to pass in part at Costco. In Gibson’s container
city you pay a fee to enter that is
credited to the merchandise. Shopping is done
directly from containers on ships, no distribution
network, no depos, no warehouses, no shelving,
no stores, not even buildings. Just a parking lot at the port. But Costco may now
be a step behind. Internet shopping eliminates
physical shopping trips. Warehouses have become
fulfillment centers where all the activity is backstage. For Amazon’s Prime services,
there is, like Costco, a membership fee. The shopping experience
can now take place anywhere with an internet connection. Nonetheless, new
business models have not eliminated physical
destinations. We no longer shop by class
revealing a hierarchy to our spatial patterns. Today, we cross shop. It’s a hybrid activity. We shop in multiple places
according to needs and desires, but most importantly
we shop by convenience. Amazon’s promise to
eliminate truck delivery is, kind of, timid
when you consider their recently obtained patent
for airborne fulfillment centers. A giant flying warehouse
stocked with products that deploys drones for delivery. Here the warehouse becomes
part of the delivery system. You don’t go to the warehouse
to shop, it comes to you. I guess I skipped one. OK. Drucker’s final frontier
of the supply chain continues to affect the
foreign location, and character of our shopping destinations. Today’s interface with the
steel will perhaps give way to an interface with a drone. These changes in turn
create new spatial patterns that transform urban life
and democratize access to goods minus one. [APPLAUSE] Thank you so much, Susan. Next we have Rania Ghosn,
who’s piece is called trash at the center of the world. So basically she’s
going to talk about what we do with the remains
of our shopping trips. Rania is– Rania’s office
is called a Design Earth, and her practice engages
with the geographies of technological
systems to address aesthetic and political concerns
for architecture and urbanism. She teaches now at MIT. Welcome, Rania. Hello, everyone. So the piece is a
single panoramic image called Georama of
Trash, which proposes to explore the materiality
and spatiality of things at the moment that is often
referred to as their after life. So how do we design for
the spaces of the after lives of things at the scale
of the city, the region, and the planet? And these are the sort of
questions that we address, El Hadi Jazairy and
myself in Design Earth. Thinking about the relationships
between design and geography as ways to open up aesthetic
and ethical concerns for architecture and urbanism. The piece that I’ll
be presenting today is a spin off of a book that
we published called Geographies of Trash, which thinks of the
mandate for clean urbanism. Which has for long rested on
the dissociation of the city from the environmental
costs of urbanization. Relegating dirty after
life products, or what we broadly term as externalities
to outside the city in a way that they remain beyond public
and disciplinary scrutiny. However, environmentalist
brought to our attention that there’s no outside in
which the unwanted consequences of our actions can
disappear from view. So the imperative
for urbanism may be is to argue for an ethics
of the distribution of matter and bring into– externalities
into public consciousness. The question that the
book proposes to deal with is if the
externalization of trash has placed it beyond
the agency of design, can we reclaim the forms,
technologies, economies, and logistics of
waste as asserted as matter in-place p rather
than the infamous matter, out of place? So the book and the methodology
adopts approach in a few steps. The first one is to chart these
relations of trash in space. In this case, in Michigan
across different scales, from the block to the township,
the territorial grid, state, and continental flows, and
through that conceptualize issues that are associated with
the burial, the mass burning, the abandonment, the recycling,
or the exile of trash. Second, we speculate on
five alternative strategies and imaginaries. These projects propose to shift
debates in the environment away from positive
solutions that treat garbage as a factually upon
entity and to reclaim it as matter and space. And third, the set of five
projects are brought together or will bring them
together into an assembly, an assembly of
things and assembly of people around the issue. So that to bring
it into, kind of, a public and disciplinary
consciousness. So this was the installation
of 6 by 6 by 6 feet cube that collected the five objects
to propose an object in space. That was the first attempt
to bring things together. The book was the second one. So the installation
adopts this world view on externalities that,
in Bruno Latour’s word, adds to it the
whole scenography, much like you would
do by shifting your attention from the
stage to the whole machinery of a theater. So the book was one
assembly, the installation was a second assembly,
and then what I’m proposing to share with
you today is the third. But let me give
you a quick sense of what these five things are. They’re all situated
in and around Detroit. The first one is cap, and
it formalizes the metrics of landfilling
away from, kind of, informal informist landfill into
a geographic monument of trash cells, kind of,
sitting majestically at the end of mount
road corridor. And rather than evicting
the object of the landfill from city development, cap gives
visible and monumental form to the landfill reclaiming
the infrastructure of waste as an object of civic pride. The second project in the
series is called collect. So collect localizes
the surplus value of recycling out of the
monopoly of vertically integrated corporations,
which is typically the case. We pay them twice. Once for collecting
the fee, and then they make money out
of selling it again. So this removes it
out of their monopoly and into the scale
of the neighborhood. Collect utilizes
this economic value of recycling to mobilize
social capital and social space in a shrinking city
all while working to overcome some boundaries
as scavenger and consumer that have a strong ethical
resonance in the way we relate to things. The third project is
contain, and it’s things through the technologies
of waste management as forms of building
construction at the scale of the block. So no longer hauling
trash over long distances between a point of origin and
a point of final destination, but trying to think of the
matter realities of things in a way that bypasses a
traditional dotted line of saying this is the end. The fourth project,
preserve, curates ecologies by engineering the operations
and life of an act of landfill. So rather than asking
architects to come and think of them once they’re closed
and no longer an action, it’s a site of
political ecology that removes the [INAUDIBLE]
synthetic membrane that have lined these
parts of the earth and places liability
in the process of industrial and
chemical operators upstream before the
toxicity of the waste arrives at the final
point of the landfill. So it’s an active statement
on unpolitical ecology through that act of removal. And the final project in
the series is called form, and it’s one that thinks of
the near future in which most of these landfills that are
accumulated in the areas densest and urban surroundings
would have reached their holding capacities
with what is called the air capacity of a landfill. So form proposes to resurvey
a continuous corridor of waste management
system that incorporates geographic features and
programs within that. So the piece is presented
in the context of the Lisbon Triennale, appropriately
entitled The World In Our Eyes in which we’ve proposed the
second assembly of these five project. The form of a large
scale drawing that draws on the history of the
panorama, this 19th century drawing and building type. And it appropriates the
object of the panorama, in this case, not to show wars
and distant lands for tourists, but actually to bring
to the forefront an object that we don’t
often want to deal with, which is the after
life of things. And this is what we place
at the center of the theater of the word rendering
visible the distribution of geographic externalities,
and maybe in that way contributing to the ethical
conversation on things and their after life. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you so much, Rania. I want to introduce
Andrew Holder now. I’m struck by how
Rania is dealing with the sense of
capacity and limitations, and the fact that there’s
in a sense no space left. And Andrew Holder in his piece
on the Rococo, Note On More, really deals with, I think,
the potential for infinite– or a kind of infinite filling or
adding that’s never saturated. I’d like to, well, let you
take it from there, Andrew. Thank you very much. Andrew is a professor
here at the GSD, and his practice is called
Los Angeles Design Group. Thank you so much. I’m a little nervous
to push this button, but I guess like
all others I must. So, OK, down arrow
key is the one. We’ll find out. There we go. If in other epochs
the genius of storage has been to edit the
field of things and view by sequestering most of the
world’s material production away for discussion
some other time, the Rococo is storage
exactly coincident with the space of occupation. You’re already in the archive. What to call this
state of affairs. The contemporary lexicon
is full of possibilities. Following Rem Koolhaas, it
might be termed junk space, because the Rococo replaces
hierarchy with accumulation, composition with addition. Or perhaps it is total noise,
David Foster Wallace’s name for a volume of info and spin
and rhetoric and context, or maybe information overload
or everything all at once. All of these are so
negative and so final. In each there is a reliance
on the shock value of quantity as though bigness alone
will astound and horrify. They all have the
flavor of the last word as though a child declaring the
universe is this big forever puts a pin in the issue
of quantity and growth. A better name is more. More is a noun instead
of a determiner. It is analogous to surveying
a hoarders living room. More is here. More is on the way. More is positive,
open, and extensible. More is impervious
to an assessment of its relative
goodness or badness. More is a fact of the
physical environment. Like all facts of the
physical environment, it can be subjected to acts
of architecture and design provided we have a
sketch of its qualities, and a theory of its operations. Because of the nature
of more, the form of jottings rather than
an essay with its claim to a linear consecutive argument
seemed more appropriate. And I have to credit
that to Susan Sontag. Number one, to start
very generally more is made of things, unitary,
nameable chunks that can be physically
accumulated and arranged. Clouds, babies, paintings,
columns, blankets, urns, there is a habitus to mores things. We have hunches about
how to relate to them, and how they might
relate to each other. Two, things in more tend to be
hermetic, sealed up, podified. The outsides of things
bear little relation to their insides, which
are mostly inscrutable. The clouds with
two heads that you saw just a moment ago wound
around the Osterhofen pulpit is structurally improbable. Strongly suggestive of
a hidden mechanism that makes it stand up, this
is strictly conjecture. Everything in more is
different from its neighbors to a depth of about
one-quarter inch. Faults that disturb the
surface a little deeper show it’s all the same. A marble column is
plaster mixed with pigment laid over some ad hoc armature. A wood altar is a
plaster pigment– plaster mixed with pigment
over some ad hoc armature. Moore’s material in authenticity
can give things a pre-natural uniformity of– uniformity of effect. This is commonly a
lugubrious, droopy pall as though everything
is made of cheese. Incidentally Rococo plaster
is an almost perfect analog of contemporary
digital material, which accounts for the
Velveeta quality of both. Eight, these appearances
are connected to the arrangement of
labor that produce more, and the taste that consume it. It is no coincidence
that differences of look have a precise numerical depth. Its a calculated
amount of difference. Nine, in this production
of things for more, skill is linked to genre. Highly skilled
practitioners make horror, while the inept
make light comedy. The ability to convert
one genre into another is the mark of the virtuosi. 10, consequently both
good and bad things are excellent additions to more. It’s a matter of
distinction on the palate of the connoisseur instead of
a problem of absolute goodness or badness. Good things and bad
things, but also blank things, minimalist things,
rational things, pure things. Rainbow appreciation
is the default mode of critical reception. Rainbows of flavor of
difference of sameness. 15, more is fertile ground
for heroic infrastructural operations tunneling through,
levitating, demolishing, stacking, nesting,
Perhaps this is not surprising given the sight-like
nature of its large scale organizations, and
the tendency of things in more to relinquish
their individual importance and become atoms of
larger structures. 21, Koolhaas says that in junk
space, there is no datum level. You always inhabit a sandwich. But this is not quite
the way it works in more. Light and air flow around
all sides of things in more. The effect is of an
arrested suspension, not a crush between layers. It is very nearly a
state of matter, aerosol. 22, space in mores aerosol
occurs in little niches and crevices between things. Rooms are not so
much made by design as they are afforded in
the residuum leftover after everything
else has been added. 23, space merely
afforded in the residuum sounds negligent and
anti-human, but this is not at all the case. More is just busy. More is balancing
multiple agendas. More is preparing
for a new edition. More is also paying attention
to you specifically. Mores things and
figures are, in fact, looking directly
at you in ways that tend to involve you as a
conspirator or recipient of a whispered aside. 24, if there is
disconcertion about the value of the individual
human being and more, it is because of a
sure fit of invitation. The gaze of a smiling
chair baby head that says come be
a thing with us when enunciated too many times
and with too much enthusiasm becomes the pronouncement, you
are already a thing with us. 25, more is totally public. The space left
over for occupation is all on the outside. No matter how one
maneuvers around objects there is no getting
inside a hollow volume, which leaves only
the circulation between the public
facades of things. There is no expectation or
even possibility of privacy. 26, and as a codicil of the
above, total publicity entails an acute awareness of
the position of one’s self with respect to others. Modifications to the
physical arrangement of more may be easy, but they are
constrained by the knowledge that any change in the
disposition of one thing will have repercussions
for counterpart’s inhabiting the niches
and crevices opposite. 27, this sense of
space is totally contingent on the behavior
of its inhabitants, probably means that more like
camp is related to theater. It is impossible
to move or shift around the arrangement
of things and more without in scare quotes
moving or shifting around the
arrangement of things. 28, unlike camp, though,
there is no exit for more. No getting out of it. What is it called, anyway,
when public performance is a brute fact of
occupying an architecture? Collectivism. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] Thank you so much, Andrew,
and everyone for all of that. I’ve got a lot of
things on my mind that would be
interesting to discuss. If people have time, I
think, it would be great if the people in the front
row could, kind of, turn their chairs around, and
people could come a little bit closer in. And hopefully, we can
have a few minutes of informal conversation
about some of this. Thank you. Is Dave Zielnicki here? Oh, there you are. Hi. OK, so I want to just
informally introduce Dave who’s also a contributor,
but couldn’t make it earlier. And I think that he
can help, kind of, fill in some of the links here. Dave wrote the piece about
the Amazon warehouse. I showed one image of that
in the beginning– sorry, Amazon distribution
centers, the whole system. Yeah. Sorry, I’m a little– heads a little full now. So I think that maybe you can
help make some connections to Susan’s piece about Costco
and some of the other things we’ve discussed. I want to– there’s
so much here. And somehow even after
working on this for six months or so, it’s interesting how just
in this hour a lot of things have begun to kind of
fit together for me even after thinking I knew
about this content so well. One of the things I
was thinking about just during your presentation, and
you actually made a reference to Koolhaas’ junk space. One project that we didn’t
take up in the issue, but I think overlaps a little
bit with what Shannon wrote about was, of course, Koolhaas’
French library in 1990- 91, which was never built but
was conceived and described as a solid block of information
where it was really– hello, can you hear me– a block of storage from which
public space was excavated. Shall we stop? Do we need the mike actually? Or I mean– It’s recording. Oh, I’m sorry. OK. So it was a block of an
information solid from which public space was
excavated, and it’s for me an interesting
almost diagram, I think, for the problem of storage right
now or the question of storage, because is this working. I turned it down. OK. Because I sensed that– I showed one image that was
from Alex O’Brien’s piece where we talked about–
he talks about storage as being originally
[INAUDIBLE] and really something that was, kind
of, tucked into the leftover crevices. And I feel like
from all of this, what’s coming out is that we’re
actually becoming swallowed up in storage, and that
whether we’re talking about domestic space
or whether we’re talking about urban space,
the fact that it’s everywhere. And I think that
that’s something that’s being wrestled within
in all of these pieces that in some sense we might
have to begin to start thinking about how do we excavate? How do we carve
out, whether it’s public space or program in
any form other than storage anywhere? And I mean, for instance, I
think that your piece putting trash at the center
of the world is almost like saying let’s describe
a library as storage, and what can we find within that
mass or within that continuum? So this is not so much a
question to a specific person, but I guess I’m just
putting this out there, and I’m curious whether
anyone wants to pick up on it. I mean, I think Shannon’s
done a lot with libraries. Maybe you’ve thought about
that project specifically. But– Yeah, that’s been something
that particularly a lot of academic libraries have
done in the past few years, recognizing that
the collection– or at least that the argument
is that the collection is taking over the building leaving
too little room for students. This is also, kind
of, a justification for why we still need libraries
on college campuses, which some college administrations
don’t really think are necessary anymore, because
it’s all on the internet so to speak, or presumably. So the growth in
off-site storage– of which you have like a
very famous example here at Harvard, the repository– is in part justified by
clearing out the infrequently requested items
in the collection, so that you can make more
space for people and furniture that accommodates people’s
interactions with media in different formats
and collaboration. That’s a big thing as well. So, yeah, that’s
one of the, kind of, directions of movement, I guess. If library design has a trend,
I guess that’s one of them. That moving off the
end infrequently requested physical materials
so that you can make more space for people, because they
had been crowded out by the growing collections. Which is interesting. I’m going to just to
take up on that point. That I thought about for a while
in terms of the last 20 years since 1995, the kind
of growing appetite for like digital hoarding. Like, we just
collect everything, because we can at this point. And what it does to a, kind
of, larger mindset about collections, right,
that there’s– I think, there’s much to be
said about the rise of hoarding shows. All of this kind of phenomenon
in last 20 years of, kind of, digital hoarding, and what
it does to a general ethos about collections in general. That, like, let’s
keep it because we can has become a certain, kind
of, mantra that has, I think, seeped into the air. So there’s much
more general types of hoarding, I would
say that allow, that allow different types
of programs to be challenged and redefined. So I would also
just like to suggest that Koolhaas gamed
his projects, so that he had certain advantages. So that it would not
only be a, kind of, continuous body of information,
but that it would be a block, I think, is quite significant. And a block from which
legible, symbolic space could be excavated. And it seems like maybe
one of the problems that, sort of, shared among
all of the panelists is that if there is, sort
of, no escape from the block, then the, kind of, conventional
solid void formulation, perhaps, no longer holds. And you’re left
with this problem of what is the, sort of,
like, symbolic content of public space? And is that even a, kind of,
thinkable proposition to, kind of, carve out something
that is legible as a space to move around in
for the public. The void, I mean void being
the, kind of, dominant knowledge that it is in the 20th century,
that the void becomes a media space. You have a void, so
that you can actually use it to capture more stuff. Right, so you can make
recordings like this. You have voids, so
you can actually then have other forms of
mediation within that void. Two points that–
is the still on? Pallet rack shelving is about
flow in which the shelving is just an temporal situation
in which goods are stored, and they’re constantly
flowing giving it this idea that we’re
taking it somewhere else, and then what do we do? It’s there for a very
short period of time. But I’m struck by this whole
conversation about how much this is just like
critical conservation, and at an urban scale,
whenever we keep everything, we make something static. It stops being about flow. It stops being about
dynamic conditions. And hoarding, which is a
psychological condition, we equate to
preservationists who hoard buildings, who hoard
cities, which in fact becomes exclusionary and a form
of social injustice, because then there is no
room for public space. There is no room for the
other whose story isn’t told by what is being hoarded. So this storage as a shelf
exercise or as a container can really be ramped up to
the civic and urban scale and looking at the
programs and the mechanisms by which we maintain our
cities storing buildings, storing histories. I think, I mean,
what I was, kind of, struck by in the presentation
also is a sense of the value that we attribute
to these things. And I think Andrew put
it nicely with the more it is not necessarily,
kind of, a critique or negative attribute of
stuff, if we stop and think about it as such. I think what it asks
us to do is to question the assumptions upon which
now we’re ordering things, in which we’ve ascribed either
negative value to things that we want to put out there,
because they either clutter for the vision, out of view,
or because we’ve used them up to a point where we’re no
longer necessarily accessible. So we, kind of,
no longer consider the spaces where– or the things
themselves in the same way that we would look
at them differently. And I think the
question might be, can we think of an aesthetics? And this is what the Rococo
does amongst other thing is that it thinks of– it thinks of a let’s
call it probably a style or an aesthetic or a
way of embodying value to things which are not
necessarily addressed as such. So I think when we’re thinking
about the question of trash in our world, as
long as it’s thought of as purely this undesire,
kind of, repulsive entity, which needs– someone else needs to
deal with and hopefully for a very long time, then
the attitude will not change. The attitude would
start to change if you’re willing to
take it on and start to deal with it somehow. And maybe then aesthetics might
be one way in which you open up that kind of space for the
public, in which we start to think of these
gestures be they symbolic or not in a way that allows you
to occupy that space of things. So the willingness to occupy
that space somehow for me is part of a– is part of an attitude where
it’s no longer just the I do not want to deal with. It’s something that
you take on as a, kind of, a broader design
and aesthetic question. I’ve got– this panels made me
think of two separate comments, but Antonio is making me worry
that I’m a digital hoarder. I hadn’t thought of
it already, but I just got the message this morning,
my hard drive is full. And that’s because I saved every
draft, Jen, of this article, as well as every photo
I’ve ever taken in my life. And it’s like it’s
all there, and it’s going to give me, I
think, something to keep you awake at night tonight. The other is actually just on
Rania’s point about aesthetics, and it seems to me like for
me from my point of view as an architect to bring this
back to architecture when one of the challenges in writing
and researching and thinking about the article
on the kura was to describe what’s better
about a kura than just my suburban garage? It’s all full of crap. I mean it’s just the same stuff. When I looked, I don’t
have any photographs of interiors of people’s kura. They don’t– and I
can’t find them online. Nobody photographs and
things about the space of inhabitation in
a kura unless you’ve renovated into a fabulous
noodle restaurant or a museum. So I don’t think it’s really
about the interior of the kura, but what I think is unique
is that it is symbolic– it’s a piece of architecture. It’s not a shed. The kura represents
something that was important
enough for somebody that they would make a
symmetrical fortress-like structure with attention
to detail, with attention to texture, citing, the way
that sunlight falls on it, the way it fits in a
garden or urban landscape. And those sorts of things
it’s– and the kura isn’t about the things that are inside. It’s the fact that
there’s stuff inside, but then it’s, sort
of, like the wrapper. It’s like yet another
caricature of Japanese culture, and I’m going to
apologize for this later. But it’s not about the present,
it’s about the wrapping. It’s not about the
gift, it’s that you took the care to wrap it
in such a beautiful way. And yet it’s
ubiquitous, and I mean, in the way it’s been
unnoticed like you said, hiding in plain sight. And just as I think
we haven’t really looked at the self-storage
phenomena and the fact that it’s everywhere,
the kura is in a different way in
a different texture everywhere as well. And one of the
things that, I think, fascinates me about
that example is that the filling corresponds to
an emptying or the minimalist. Let’s say that you can have
these empty spaces, because you also have these
filled spaces, which is a little bit of a,
kind of, organic breathing in breathing out that
Kiel Moe writes about. And at the same time, I
feel like the reality now is that we’re only filling. We’re filling here and
we’re feeling there and we’re feeling
everywhere else, and where are we
actually emptying? And– And nobody can afford
to build a kura today. I mean these are
historic structures, and nobody does it today. We do have self-storage. It’s just more economical. There’s a wonderful
book if anybody’s interested called
the Tokyo Style. And you think it’s going to
be full of these wonderful interiors minimalist,
but it’s actually apartments of young
people full of junk, because there’s
nowhere to put it. And it’s really the opposite
of Japanese minimalism. And I don’t know. It’s something
that encouraged me when I was a young person
living in Tokyo that I was not a unique hoarder. That actually everybody
lived like this in these tiny apartments. Anyway. I do have one– I mean, also a way that I’d like
to involve Dave and his work on Amazon, because I had to
mention that I was recently– I recently went to a Costco in
Florida, which is not usually in my daily, like, radius,
and as I was driving there with the people I
was with, I noticed that there were a
lot of these big box stores in the neighborhood
that had started to close. So Sports Authority,
empty parking lot. There were basically
all these vacant boxes. And one of the questions
I’m asking myself now is, I mean, first of all the
Costco is still like a humanly inhabited shopping space. I think Dave has been
doing a lot of research into Amazon places where
the role of the human being is becoming smaller and smaller. When we talk about the void
or the emptying or just this continuum of storage
space, what’s going to happen? Are the cost– is the Costco
just a transitional form? Is that going to disappear? And if so, what about all
these landscapes of big boxes that occupy a huge
portion of our world? Yeah, I mean, I think
a lot of what was– yeah, I think a lot of
what was interesting to me, or what I was trying to itch
of that was investigation of, like, how you can actually
inhabit those spaces and get– really uncover it and
unearth in an attempt to find these potential
interfaces when we talk about the lack of void
or the equity of the salad. So where really in the
details in the architecture of these spaces can that happen? Hopefully, try and tickle
out some potentials of that. Supply chains and technology. Technology changes
supply chains. So Main Street doesn’t exist
anymore as it once was. It’s now a boutique
shopping place. These things will change. Big boxes will come to pass. I mean, the Amazon
fulfillment centers now are replacing the idea
of going to get your goods. It comes to you. And I think we can
expect that to change. And it’s really silly to think
it would be static in fact, and we can hold onto it. That gets into
nostalgia, and all sorts of other issues, which is,
kind of, a form of hoarding in its own way. Definitely, and I think
what’s interesting is that it is being
displaced now at a pace where we’re having trouble
keeping up with it. And already we talk about
the fulfillment center, but then, of course, it’s
like the fulfillment center in the sky. We’re constantly
exhaling in that way a little bit further,
a little bit heavier. And, I guess, I have one
point to , kind of, add. I mean, it’s interesting
that within data centers they, basically, strive towards
a 100% technological certainty. So that means like
getting rid of humans. Like, if you can allow
machines to do everything, that’s the best, because
you can allow for certainty. And so there’s all of
these ways to track bodies as you move through
it, and it’s a way to, kind of, ensure
technological certainty and mitigate risk, right. And so there’s many systems. And the question too is
scaling up these systems that you can rely on certain
actions to go through, and so this is a, kind of,
extreme version of, kind of, thinking about
that box on that shelf is because the server represents
a point of threat where a lots of information is
going through it and stored. And so you really– you don’t
let anyone have access to that. And if you do you converted that
body that goes onto the server floor into a vast
field of information, so you know that person
is already on the floor. So then you’re storing
that person who is looking at the store data. And so you have these systems to
allow for systems security that are paramount at this
point when moving at these scales of storage. Do you want to ask for
questions from the audience, or? Does anyone have any
burning questions, or anything you want
to contribute or share? Or thoughts, yeah? Or thoughts. Problems. Hoarding issues to– I just– hoarders
self help group. I just wanted to bring
up the question– thank you for your
talks, by the way– the question of
abundance and surfeit and this kind of
dread around both like wanting to accumulate
stuff, but also then what do you do
with all the stuff. And it reminds you of when
they were building the stacks in Widener Library, and
then once, eventually, the HD, the Harvard
Depository was created to ship books back and forth. I was just curious about that. Like, if the sense
of dread we have now about libraries
and about what to do with this abundance
of information or data, if you want to think
of it digitally. I don’t– I mean is it something
that we just fear that– will it ever come to fruition,
or is it a realistic fear? The fear of excess or? Yeah, the fear of abundance
of surfeit of almost drowning in the stuff– how much information we have. Well, you have a historian
here who’s written about that. The fact that we’ve always
had too much to know. The fact that we’ve
always suffered from information
overload, data deluge is just come in
different material forms in different parts
throughout history. It’s like that millennial– multi millennial history
of being concerned about being overwhelmed
by the amount of stuff that we’re dealing with. I think another– going
back to the connection point you were making
about data hoarding, it’s also a big concern
for the archival world, because it’s the interface. It’s the wrapping in the form of
the interface and the metadata. It’s all this human labor. This is where the humans
still play a very vital role and for attaching all
the necessary metadata to make the stuff in the
vast hoard and the cloud accessible to anybody and
intelligible to anyone. And then also there’s a
concern about security as well that they’re carving
voids out of our data stores to eliminate
incriminating information. Anything that could
cause a data trail. That could be used in
detrimental services somehow. I didn’t put that
very well, but I think you know what
I’m trying to say. So there is a point off– Like you’d never clean
the data, in other words. Yeah, and also destroying
data as libraries are often claiming to do, particularly
in sanctuary cities. Wanting to destroy
the data trails so as to not allow the
federal government to request information about
any particular patrons, for instance. So there is a clearing
out, because a recognition of the potential negative
afterlives of data to go along with the
afterlives theme we’ve been talking about here also. I keep thinking of an ad
for Manhattan Mini Storage. You’ve probably seen it. It says something like
you can’t trust the cloud, rent a storage unit. And I still feel
that there is that– we’re all living with that,
even after your presentation, even more so. What is this cloud, and
how long is it saving this information for whom? And who is actually
at a certain point going to have the language
or the intelligence or the insight by
which to access it? And I mean this is
something that, I think, was really dealt with
in a different way by the containment film by Peter
Galison and Rob Moss, which has to do with nuclear waste. And the fact that this is
very dangerous, and this has– this actually has to be stored
or contained for 10,000 years, and yet whatever beings might
need to be warned not to open it may not use the same– have the same vocabulary or
understanding of whatever markers we may leave. And that’s what they were
exploring in their piece. So it’s actually
like who is this for? How long is it being saved? And in what form? And who’s going to know
how to interpret it? That’s what, kind of, boggles
my mind in this whole thing, the time aspect. Yeah. I just had a question about– there’s been a lot of discussion
about how technology’s changing these big box topologies,
and as an increasing reliance on machines starts to sweep
away these types of buildings, I’m interested in what might
be fixed points, things that humans will insist
on keeping control of? I’m just thinking specifically
about supermarkets. I was reading recently
that 2/3 of people say they will always want
to buy their own produce. So as much as Amazon Fresh
might start to take part of that over, there are certain
rituals of shopping that people will always insist
on doing themselves and. The human interaction
will never disappear. It will take different forms. We can see Main Street is over,
but we still have Main Streets. They just sell different things. People, again, it’s
all about convenience. But people have
needs and desires where they want to go
out and be with people. They want to touch things. They want to see things. Or they want
something instantly, and they want an Amazon
drone to deliver it. It’s much more of
a hybrid thing now. It’s not a question of
one thing disappearing, and we’re coming down to
just the next thing that’s on the horizon. These things morph and
change, and if they’re no longer valuable,
they disappear. And you just have to accept
that things are not forever, and destinations
are not forever. But definitely technology
is changing this, and I think Amazon is one
of the big engines of this. Yeah. And I mean, we– Jen, you asked about
the human component in a fulfillment
center, for example, where it’s already completely
digitized in the way you spoke of with– on
the data center floor. Every person or human is a
known entity with exact timing and being told what to
do by a computer already. So whether that’s
a robot or humans, already, I think, a moot point. And I do want to maybe respond
to your point was is it really that our, kind of,
appetite for collecting and producing more
and more information there comes at a real cost. So the explosion of data
centers, for example, in the last 10 years that behind
it is incredibly intense energy initiatives that
actually have to support our kind of information age. And so as we’re collecting
more and more and more, it comes at a cost which
is environmental right. And it goes back to Kiel Moe’s– that it’s really pushing the
energy sector really hard right now to actually develop
different forms of energy, and this is a major driver
towards different energy initiatives. Is there a, kind
of, data appetite? Because they really do have
to find at this point scales of efficiency that makes sense. And so it’s really driving
energy technologies. Right, you see Google and
others are actually, kind of, major players within energy. So our extreme interest in the
storage of collecting things is actually pushing a series
of other technologies. And, again, it’s just a question
of when we go back to Kiel about where that
offset really is. Because there
definitely is an offset. So does anyone else
have something else they want to add or ask or yeah? I was really fascinated by
the idea that there was, I think, it was the fourth
thing that Rania brought up, and there was no– there was actually a system
where there was no zero point. That there was, kind of– that there would be
something coming in, but there would
also be something– there was no ending point. And I think the
two places where I see that is like in the
Native American giveaway. And I notice,
like, in my moving, one thing that I felt was
when I visit people, I always look around to see what
they need that I have, so that I can give it away. The other thing is we’re
self-realized yogis who don’t need to accumulate any more. That there actually is
a state where, I mean, I don’t think I’m ever
going to achieve it. But even when you don’t
collect physical things, and yoga talks about
this that there is always attachment to mental
or to things like that. And those were the two
places where I think attachment and the indigenous– what I recently
went to a lecture at Radcliffe on
Hawaiian, Polynesian, sort of, coastal culture. That is actually global. They sailed a canoe from Hawaii
to Samoa to the Cook Islands to Australia. It, actually– around
the Cape of Good Hope to Brazil, Cuba,
Washington DC, New York. They visited the Wampanoa
and felt very comfortable. And then they went to Alaska. Bill put on more layers
and went to Alaska. But I feel in reading about
this that as a culture, it’s part of their cultural
heritage not to accumulate. Whereas it’s a part of
my particular culture to accumulate. I do think– I mean it– I like that you brought it
back to the way the emotional and the issue of attachment. Because I mean for
me there- I think, that’s what’s so fascinating
about this whole issue is that in a way it
is very personal. And for me that the piece
by Maira Kalman, The Insert, is kind of the
soul of the issue. And, I think, that she deals– she chooses a few
very personal objects that she’s chose to–
she’s basically curated, and she’s really drawn
very deliberate memories that are associated with those. So she’s, kind of, demonstrating
how each one of those triggers something that
she might forget otherwise. Because I think even when we
talk about the cloud, I mean, let’s talk about our
brains and our memories and our– that capacity. And I think that, I don’t know. I mean, I think
we could probably go on for a very
long time about that. And if we think about it
too much, we might go crazy. But I think that the fact
that maybe our drive to hoard and our drive to
store and our need to, whether it’s cloud
hoarding or whether it’s what Brian Evenson writes
about, the Mormon records hidden in this mountain
in Salt Lake City. Which is supposedly, by the way,
the biggest record of like– biggest collection of
geological records that exist– and that if we lose the
cloud, if we lose our brains, if we lose everything else,
that will still be there. Even if no one even quite
knows how to interpret it. And I think that’s what’s, kind
of, mind boggling about it all. I mean they’re someone
up in net cyberspace, but they’re somewhere
up in the [INAUDIBLE] of the Akashic records,
or supposedly there’s a record of everything that
has ever existed somewhere that, I guess, if we turn off
our brains, we have access to. Thank you very much. Thank you very much everyone
for getting here and preparing this in such a disciplined way. Thank you all for coming.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *