ONLINE Imperial Data: An Architectural History
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A Guest Talk by Zeynep Çelik Alexander
Welcome to an online talk by Dr Zeynep Çelik Alexander (Columbia University) where she discusses her research project on history of data and architecture. Please find below her abstract for the talk “Imperial Data: An Architectural History” that is hosted by the Design and Aesthetics for Environmental Data project (department of Digital Design and Information Studies) together with the Centre for Critical Data Practices. The talk is supported by the Humans and IT research program.
Imperial Data: An Architectural History
In the second half of the nineteenth century, London became home to storehouses of information. The Museum of Economic Geology, the Kew Herbarium, and the Imperial Institute were among the institutions in which information collected from around the empire was aggregated, structured, and made retrievable with a relentless empiricism. This spatializing of information was in the service of resource extraction at a moment when imperialist policies were being informed by laissez-faire economics. The shuffling of paperwork in the metropole was thus expected to trigger a chain of processes that would result in vast stretches of land being quarried for an ore or replanted with a new species in a colony. Examining this history, the talk tries to explain the history of the epistemic regime that we call a “database,” first and foremost, as a political technology.
Zeynep Çelik Alexander is an architectural historian who teaches at Columbia University. She is the author of Kinaesthetic Knowing: Aesthetics, Epistemology, Modern Design (2017) and a co-editor of Design Technics: Archaeologies of Architectural Practice (2020) and Writing Architectural History: Evidence and Narrative in the Twenty-First Century (2021). She is also an editor of the journal Grey Room, a member of Aggregate and the Center for Comparative Media. She is currently at work on a book titled Imperial Data: An Architectural History.