For the masters program Architecture and Urban Design I compiled a guest lecture series about new, mostly digital technologies and how to deal with them as Architects and Urban Planners.

I was very happy to welcome all the speakers I had hoped for.

  • Lara Schrijver, PhD, architectural historian at the University of Antwerp
  • Wietse Hage, Philosopher and host of the podcast De Appels en Perenshow
  • Marthijn Pool, partner of the avant-garde architecture firm Space and Matter
  • Michiel de Lange, PhD, founder of The Mobile City and assistent professor New Media Studies Utrecht
  • Jan Misker, program manager of V2 Lab for unstable media

Each of the speakers was selected to bring their own vision and experience into the topic, and every presentation ended in a lively discussion between students and lecturer. Jan Misker even live-demoed some new Artificial Intelligence tools used for people recognition and to generate content.

Below an excerpt from my introductory lecture. The lecture was not about how or why to create a Facebook or Instagram company page, nor was it about doom scenarios where the robots take over. It was about understanding the mechanisms behind certain developments and what to look for when new technology arrives. This was done by talking about a selection of “theories” on the digital domain:

  • Long Tail (2004, Chris Anderson)
  • Filter Bubble (2011, Eli Parisar)
  • Open Source
  • Aggregation Theory (2015 Ben Thompson)
Example of how deep the filter bubble can go – even journalists and the media were in so deep they couldn’t possible predict the outcome of the presidential election. So that creates kind of a sad scenario – if we want to get out of our own filter bubble switching media isn’t good enough.
Slides with graphics from Ben Thompson explaining aggregation theory
Example of Spotify and Apple Music as aggregators and how they can use their aggregation platform to push their own content.
Applied to the built environment we can see the first big steps of online aggregation happening. The online market for real estate agents is big and disruptive. Online platforms such as Zillo in the US and Funda in The Netherlands have such a market share that you almost cannot work without them. This gives them the advantage to push their own advertisements (their own content). This is comparable to how Netflix has operated. It first started with third party content. When it got enough users and money it started to create its own shows, rendering Netflix as an independent creator and distributor, basically setting the rules. When Zillow decides to become realtor itself (and further down the chain developer and architect) it can render all independent realtors bankrupt, since they are at the mercy of the platform.
Diagram showing the highs and lows of the big tech companies and events occurring around it.