Computational Composites: Understanding the Materiality of Computational Technology

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


The problematic addressed in the dissertation is generally shaped by a
sensation that something is amiss within the area of Ubiquitous
Computing. Ubiquitous Computing as a vision—as a program—sets out
to challenge the idea of the computer as a desktop computer and to
explore the potential of the new microprocessors and network
technologies. However, the understanding of the computer represented
within this program poses a challenge for the intentions of the program.
The computer is understood as a multitude of invisible intelligent
information devices which confines the computer as a tool to solve
well-defined problems within specified contexts—something that rarely
exists in practice. Nonetheless, the computer will continue to grow
more ubiquitous as moore's law still apply and as its components
become ever cheaper. The question is how, and for what we will use it?
How will it, for instance, be implemented in design and architecture,
and in what new directions we will take the technological
developments? We need a new understanding of the computer to guide
these developments as none of the previous apply to these new
conditions and new oppertunities.
I propose that we begin to understand the computer as a material like
any other material we would use for design, like wood, aluminum, or
plastic. That as soon as the computer forms a composition with other
materials it becomes just as approachable and inspiring as other smart
I present a series of investigations of what this understanding could
entail in terms of developing new expressional appearances of
computational technology, new ways of working with it, and new
technological possibilities. The investigations are carried out in relation
to, or as part of three experiments with computers and materials
(PLANKS, Copper Computational Composite, and Telltale). Through the
investigations, I show how the computer can be understood as a
material and how it partakes in a new strand of materials whose
expressions come to be in context. I uncover some of their essential
material properties and potential expressions. I develop a way of
working with them in a design process despite their complexity and non
a priori existence, and finally I argue that these investigations form both
valid and valuable research results within the context of design
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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