Mar 13th 2020

How do you make data something you sense? Data that transforms not just what you know and can see but how you perceive? Join Adrienne Brown, Farzin Lotfi-Jam and V. Mitch McEwen for a conversation about W.E.B. Du Bois’ experiments in data, speculation, building, and math. The focus of this event will be his 1908 speculative short story, “The Princess Steel” where Du Bois envisions an instrument called the Megascope designed to bring the transformative scale of the “great near” into view. What might Du Bois’ work and archive have to tell us about his efforts not just as an activist or writer, but as a data scientist, a designer, and a phenomenologist? What might happen if we follow the blueprints he left behind in his writing to build his speculative apparatus?

This SIDEBAR continues the collaborative work initiated by Brown, Lotfi-Jam, and McEwen during a recent augmented reality workshop prototyping technology from “The Princess Steel.” Using the freely available Unity engine, participants used video game graphics and web cameras as the base platform to prototype DuBois’ Megascope.

The event is free and open to the public. Food and drink will be served from 6:00-6:30.

Adrienne Brown is Associate Professor in the Department of English, Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at University of Chicago. She specializes in American and African American cultural production in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on the history of perception as shaped by the built environment. With Valerie Smith, she co-edited Race and Real Estate, an interdisciplinary collection rethinking narratives of property and citizenship. Her book, The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race recovers the skyscraper’s drastic effects not only on the shape of the city but the racial sensorium of its residents.

V. Mitch McEwen is Assistant Professor of Architecture at Princeton University. She is the co-founder of A(n) Office, an architecture collaborative of studios in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn. McEwen’s design work has been awarded grants from the Graham Foundation, Knight Foundation, and New York State Council on the Arts. A(n) Office projects have been commissioned by the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and the Istanbul Design Biennial. Her projects in Detroit have produced a series of operations on houses previously owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority. These include a combined residence and flower incubator for an engineer at 3M, a strategy for 100 houses selected by the City of Detroit to densify the neighborhood of Fitzgerald, and an award-winning repurposing of a balloon-frame house titled House Opera.

Farzin Lotfi-Jam is director of Farzin Farzin, a multidisciplinary design studio working across architecture, urbanism, computation and media. He is faculty in The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union and at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and is currently an M+ / Design Trust Research Fellow. His practice investigates the history of computational paradigms within the field of architecture and experiments in their contemporary application. His work has been collected by the Centre Pompidou and his recent research has been supported by the Veski organization, the Graham Foundation, Akademie Schloss Solitude, and The Shed where he was an inaugural Open Call Artist. He has been exhibited at Storefront for Art and Architecture, MAXXI, the Oslo Architecture Triennale, the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and elsewhere. His co-authored book Modern Management Methods: Architecture, Historical Value, and the Electromagnetic Image was recently published by Columbia University press.

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