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Calculative Utopias is a history and ethnography of “smart” territories and ubiquitous computing. Tracing a history of imaginary and built projects including the design of brains and financial markets in cybernetics, as well as the human and social sciences; the Architecture Machine Group's vision for computer-aided design at MIT; and contemporary "greenfield" smart cities in locations like Songdo, South Korea, the project interrogates the relationship between calculation, utopia, technology, imaginaries, and urban form in the post–World War II period. Here, the book develops a historical and anthropological account of the transformation of space into algorithmic territory. The project responds to critical questions for our present such as: What do machine architectures look like? What does it mean to design spaces for and by computational machines? What types of futures are being envisioned in these spaces? How do they relate to other histories of urban form, measurement, economy, and administration of populations? These questions correspond to the future of human habitation and to our contemporary obsessions with ubiquitous computing, smart planets, and algorithmically driven design.
Orit Halpern is an assistant professor in history at The New School of Social Research and Eugene Lang College, and an affiliate in the Design Studies Graduate Program at Parsons, The New School for Design. Her research centers on histories of digital media, cybernetics, cognition and neuroscience, architecture, planning, and design. Her book Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke University Press, 2015) is a genealogy of big data and interactivity. Halpern's published works and multimedia projects have appeared in numerous venues including the Journal of Visual Culture, Public Culture, Configurations, BioSocieties, and at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. She has also published essays in numerous exhibition catalogs.
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