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Issue 6.1

Digital Technology and Architecture: Towards a Symmetrical Approach

Should we take technology as an external factor impacting design literally from the outside? For the past 50 years, science and technology studies (STS) have insisted on the inseparability of technology and the social. This has fostered a better understanding of how technology and society are “coproduced” to use Sheila Jasanoff’s concept.1 But despite the academic success of this approach, there is still a tendency to consider technological development as an external factor in domains like architecture and urban design. This is not only detrimental to the understanding of the true nature of the relationships of technology and architecture, hampering a proper grasp of episodes like the various attempts made to industrialize building construction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.2 It also limits our understanding of the agency of architecture, of what it truly achieves at a scale broader than buildings. In other words, the relationship between technology and design still appears asymmetrical. This article challenges such asymmetry by arguing one should envisage technology and design as partners in broad social and cultural changes.

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