Urban Media Lab: Strangers takes as its subject matter a figure that has been central to the modern urban condition since the emergence of mass media: the stranger. Real and imagined, the modern metropolis is defined by the presence and circulation of strangers. As spaces of encounter, relation, and interactivity that are shaped by a range of old and new media practices, cities have historically been both celebrated and reviled for their stranger relations, and strangers have functioned as complex sites for the negotiation of rights, property, and citizenship.

Through the figure of the stranger, students will investigate the roles that information and communication technologies play in shaping urban narratives of identity and belonging. How and why are strangers variously represented as benefits or threats to the city’s existing socio-spatial orders? How have such representations impacted the design and development of architectural and urban form? What are the impacts of personal communications devices and social softwares on our interactions with strangers in the networked city? In the context of these questions and others, students will be introduced to a range of art and design experiments, and to key texts in cultural and social theory, urban studies, and architectural history to explore critical issues and topics from surveillance to privatization to open source. This seminar is project-focused, and students will be encouraged to use New York City as a laboratory for expanded research and intervention.

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