Emerging technologies and processes have so thoroughly infused the fabric of our cities that to even think about ‘urban design’ now requires a fresh understanding of how these new processes work, and in what ways they might be challenging our shared cultural, economic and political fabric. At Strelka Institute, we reflect on this new paradigm and catch up to ‘The New Normal’, the new context set in motion by the age of global computation, data analytics and algorithmic governance, by updating our contemporary urban toolkit.
The New Normal is a three-year initiative of the Strelka Institute with each programme cycle running for 6 months with a group of 30 Russian and international researchers joining the think-tank in Moscow.
The Programme employs tools and approaches from a wide variety of disciplines and is aimed at young international and Russian specialists from a variety of professional backgrounds (architecture, urbanism, film & cinema, interaction design, software design, humanities & social sciences, game design, economics, and more) with a strong interest in working on urban-related projects who would bring their own unique perspective, vision and expertise to the initiative.
During the intensive program, students work in small teams to research and develop original speculative interventions and platforms. Urban design projects include spatial plans, but the Strelka program also emphasizes strategy, cinema and software.
About Strelka Institute
The New Normal is an experimental postgraduate programme of the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design - an educational institution in Moscow, Russia, founded in 2009. The Institute promotes positive changes and creates new ideas and values through its educational activities. Strelka provides new learning opportunities, while the City remains at the centre of the Institute`s research.
Strelka Institute encompasses:
- A 5-months tuition-free postgraduate programme The New Normal;
- A public summer programme with a series of free thematic lectures, discussions, workshops and film screenings;
- Advanced Urban Design joint master`s programme with the Higher School of Urbanism HSE;
- A blended learning programme for professional architects & urbanists;
- The Strelka Press publishing;
- Strelka Mag digital media project;
- Vector online school for urban entrepreneurs;
Benjamin H. Bratton joined Strelka Institute as the Programme Director for “The New Normal” programme in 2016. As one of the most important global design theorists, he brings an extraordinarily interdisciplinary scope to our research.
He is Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design at the University of California, San Diego. He recently founded the school`s new Speculative Design undergraduate major. He is also a Professor of Digital Design at The European Graduate School and Visiting Faculty at SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture).
He has recently published two books of design theory, strategy and fiction. In The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (MIT Press, 2016) Bratton outlines a new theory for the age of global computation and algorithmic governance.
He proposes that different genres of planetary scale computation-smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation- can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental megastructure that is both a computational infrastructure and a new governing architecture.
The book plots an expansive interdisciplinary design brief for The Stack-to-Come. Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution (e-flux/ Sternberg Press, 2015) is a collection of short fictions on architecture, utopias and dystopias.
His current research project, “Theory and Design in the Age of Machine Intelligence” is on the unexpected and uncomfortable design challenges posed by A.I in various guises: from machine vision to synthetic cognition and sensation, and the macroeconomics of robotics to everyday geodesign.
The New Normal
The New Normal takes the concept of contemporary urbanism and explores it relative to the impact of emerging technologies on new types of interdisciplinary design practices. Cities are built up of many different types of systems, and need to be considered from the point of view of different positions and disciplines. As such, the programme aims to establish a new urban design voice and profile.
Something has shifted, it seems. We are making new worlds faster than we can keep track of them, and the pace is unlikely to slow. Have our technologies advanced beyond our ability to conceptualize their implications? If so, such gaps can be perilous.
In response, one impulse is to pull the emergency brake and to try put all the genies back in the bottle. This is ill-advised (and hopeless). Better instead to invest in emergence, in contingency: to map The New Normal for what it is, and to shape it toward what it should be.
The New Normal curriculum is composed of various successive modules, workshops and field trips teaching interpretive, analytic and/or technical skills, eventually culminating into the final projects development phase and their public presentation / broadcasting. Modules are designed in a cumulative process and have specific functions at key times during the programme; snowballing from start to finish, each sets the stage for the module that follows while building on the overall research focus and conceptual agenda of the programme.
The programme is broadly divided in 2 parts, and chronologically structured in 4 phases:
1: Speculative Design Сharrettes (4 weeks)
2: Research-based and Technical Workshops (7 weeks)
3: Design Push (7 weeks)
4: Next Steps (1-2 weeks)
Field-trips and study visits are an integral part of The New Normal curriculum. Each year, researchers take part in a local field-trip within Russia and in an international field-trip, both selected according to their relevance to the specific research themes explored in the programme.
Themes and modules
The programme is curated around a series of conceptually interrelated themes and modules. Rather than structuring the programme chronologically, these overlap and formally and informally guide the overall research of the group throughout the 5 months. For the most part, modules are led by a member of our core faculty or by selected key experts.
The New Normal
Speculative Sensing and Cinema
AI at Urban Scale
Inverse Uncanny Valleys
Human Exclusion Zones (HEZ)
Faculty and experts
Over the course of the initiative The New Normal programme had the honour to welcome contributions from multiple faculty and experts from around the world at different years of the programme, including:
Natalie Afonina, engineer
Blaise Agüera y Arcas, designer and software architect
Kim Albrecht, knowledge designer and aesthetic researcher
Tamara Alvarez Fernandez, anthropologist
Merve Bedir, architect
Evgeniya Belyakova, activist
Christine Bjerke, architect
Thomas Björk, learning facilitator
Zach Blas, artist and programmer
Anna Bokov, architect and urban designer
Alfie Bown, political philosopher
Anna Bronovitskaya, architectural historian
Sheldon Brown, artist
Deborah Cowen, political geographer
Teddy Cruz, architect
Angelina Davydova, environmental journalist
Valentin Dyakonov, art historian
Aleksandr Evsin, big data analyst
Valia Fetisov, artist and programmer
Pascal Gagneux, biologist
Konstantin Glazkov, sociologist
John Graham, systems engineer
Anna Greenspan, media theorist
Yury Grigoryan, architect
Adam Harvey, artist and technologist
Jason Hilgefort, architect
Agustín Indaco, researcher
Victoria Ivanova, curator
Edward Keller, designer and lecturer
Alexey Kokorin, climatologist
Polina Kolozaridi, sociologist
Annika Kuhlmann, artist
Christopher Kulendran, artist
Leopold Lambert, architect and writer
Jennifer Leung, architect
Alexey Levinson, sociologist
Zach Lieberman, media artist and programmer
Keiichi Matsuda, designer
Paul McCabe, facilitation and innovation professional
Sergey Medvedev, political scientist
Sean Monahan, writer and artist
Sascha Pohflepp, artist and writer
Daniele Profeta, architect
Patricia Reed, artist and writer
Denis Romodin, architecture historian
Alexander Semenov, marine biologist
Jesse Shapins, designer and media theorist
Stephanie Sherman, artist and curator
Sergei Sitar, architect
Sergey Sivaev, economist
Alan Smart, architect
Agata Soccini, computer scientist
Nicolay Spesivtsev and Dzina Zhuk, artists
Nick Srnicek, writer
Nikolay Ssorin-Chaikov, anthropologist
Julia Tcharfas, artist and researcher
Anton Vidokle, artist and filmmaker
McKenzie Wark, writer
Inigo Wilkins, author and artist
Peter Wolfendale, philosopher
Molly Wright Steenson, designer
Katya Zavyalova, architect and technologist
Arseny Zhilyaev, artist
The New Normal final projects will take on several forms and outcomes, oscillating between traditional urban design outputs to the production of software, cinema, strategy, and everything in between. All the final content and research is also developed for external public presentation and broadcasting in various formats for various audiences: online and offline, physical and virtual, fact and fiction. For more information, please visit Projects and Research.
In addition, a parallel programme outcome is the design of new kinds of urban design practices itself, which are reflected by the diversity of perspectives, interests and expertises gained by our graduates during the 5 months of the programme. The New Normal alumni will become a new kind of urban professional who is no longer limited by a particular occupation; rather they will expand their professional training and acquire skills and methods that will enable them to create and apply multifunctional and multidisciplinary solutions to current urban challenges.
Application period for The New Normal programme is now closed. The next postgraduate programme of Strelka will be announced in August 2019.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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