Rise of the Dual Platform Citizens
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The thesis research topic came from a simple question: what is the role of the architect in the future? As I watched the world become enchanted with making everything become “online,” I wondered what all this meant for architecture, a design practice that has not yet embraced the digital realm as an architectural “place.” As digital identities became more sophisticated, the emergence of digital platform citizens began. A public digital entity or occupants of “place,” the architectural practice can no longer ignore such a population that plays a key role in shaping today’s cultural, economical and social trends. Therefore, the architectural understanding of public realm must expand to include digital identities of its occupants, and the data each generate. This expansion would form a dual platform understanding in architecture - designing environments that engage and encompass both the digital and the physical realms. The call for dual platform understanding in architecture stems from a single phenomenon: the emergence of digital platform citizens. It is because of this that my thesis research begins with understanding what it means to be a citizen of the digital realm - forming a typology of citizens within the digital realm, their individual behaviours, responsibilities, and statuses are explored. In addition to understanding the individual, the nature of the population as a collective is compared to the traditional definition of what it means to be a public realm. If digital platform citizens are to be considered as part of the public realm, how can the architectural practice accommodate and process them as occupants? I propose that each cloud of related data the digital platform citizen generates be identified as a layer (personal preferences, movement patterns, purchase behavior, etc.). As groupings of these layers thicken, they form the “digitalscape,” a digital contextual understanding of space. The creation of digitalscapes in architecture offer powerful design tools for understanding context. But, how are the digital citizens and the data they generate harnessed and integrated into a physical environment? To answer this question, the digestive cycles of data and the transfer of data between physical and the digital realms are examined through case studies of contemporary architectural designs that integrate such techniques. Each case study identifies different methods of including digital platform citizens in environmental design. These case studies form the current state of understanding architecture as a dual platform design practice. But how can the idea be pushed further? What new benefits does dual platform understanding bring to the discourse of architectural design? I believe dual platform understanding in design is more than just a style or fad, as it is the responsibility of the architect to be aware of the occupant and context in their design. If the definition of occupant and context is to evolve to encompass both digital and physical realms, so must the architectural practice embrace this evolution. My thesis research is a call for action, for future architects to understand design as a dual platform practice. Contemporary architects must be sensitive to both the digital and the physical citizens that occupy their design, to fully harness and utilize what the digital realm offers for environmental design.