Horizon2020 Program SoPHIA: First Research Findings

SoPHIA is an ongoing Horizon2020 program that aims to promote collective reflection within the cultural and political sector in Europe on the impact assessment and quality of interventions in European historical environment and cultural heritage at urban level. Consortium comprises of Roma Tre University (project leader), Interarts, the European Museum Academy (EMA), EDUCULT, the National Technical University of Athens, the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) and the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO). However, SoPHIA’s goal is to create a broad community of practice and therefore, is supported by a large number of renowned professionals working in the field of cultural heritage who act as members of SoPHIA’s Advisory Board and an equally impressive number of stakeholders directly or indirectly related to the objectives of the program.

The National Technical University of Athens led the first stage of this project and I am very happy and proud to have also been part!
Here are the first stage research findings along with keynotes from the Athens workshop that was held online last summer (due to corona). Stay tuned to SoPHIA’s official website for more information.

Emotional Learning Design

Visceral (appearance): the automatic, unconscious reaction we have to experiences (…) System 1 thinking: these reactions are fast, immediate without reflection (…) Real world imagery and photography may create the right first impressions for such learning (…) The Gestalt Law of Proximity is often quoted in interface design and states that items close to each other are perceived as groups (…) The Gestalt Law of Similarity states that items similar to each other will be grouped by the user.

Behavioural (performance): This is about emotion and feelings around actual use or usability (…) There is a massive amount of good practice in interface design around usability. It is vital that the interface is a simple, consistent, predictable and easy to use as possible, as time and cognitive effort spent on the interface detracts from the cognitive effort needed to learn (…) Without challenge, difficulty and cognitive effort, you will not have the deep processing necessary for learnt knowledge, skills and behaviour to stick (…) Inducing emotion may be ideal when you want attitudinal shift in diversity, equality and other belief shift or self-awareness training but can be dangerous in non-affective training, where it can induce the illusion of learning

Reflective (memories and experience):  System 2 thinking, the rational, reasoning side of the brain (…) This is complex and involves much more than just getting a score on the assessment, although that can be an important feeling of success (…) Challenging cognitive effort can propel the learner forward and make them feel as though they really are making progress. Feedback is also a powerful accelerator of learning, so personalising learning and feedback can move things forward making the learner feel good about themselves (…) It is easy to forget that one learns for a reason, ultimately to apply that knowledge, so the transfer through to action really does matter.

Donald Clark, Emotion in Learning Experience Design – Norman’s 3 facets; Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective…, Full article available here

“Circular Building Products for a Sustainable Built Environment” Profed Course, launches October 7.

A new, fully online Profed course on Circular Economy at an advanced level will be available by TU Delft, October 7. Come join us at the “Circular Building Products for a Sustainable Built Environment” online course, register now and enhance your learning on Circular Economy.

The course is suitable for architects, product designers, managers, supply chain actors and other professionals working towards the development of future products used to create sustainable, circular buildings. TU Delft’s Circular Built Environment hub (CBE) has designed and developed this course working with leading industry and research partners, to achieve a higher level of applicability and relevance. It is based on real world case studies and provides you with the tools to create new products and business models. It will help you to fully understand the complexity of the task and to be able to evaluate existing circular approaches. You won’t be alone: a group of highly qualified people will support your learning throughout the course. For more information please visit our page.

https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/circular-building-products-for-a-sustainable-built-environment/

Design after Design

I have just read Jeremy Till’s Design after Design lecture and it is so inspiring.

Till discusses the ‘modern project’ using the principles of progress (“If the modern project is underpinned by the need to maintain progress on all fronts, then design is used as a messenger for that urge“), growth (“the modern project is only deemed credibly progressive on the back of markers of growth“), order (“The modern project was, and still is, a project of ordering and categorising, and with it a project of excluding and privileging“) and reason (“the application of rational thought to a given context in order to better it“) and how they are currently challenged by climate change. The modern project, he claims, does not respond to ethics. It will only address its own demise. Climate emergency also defies reason and the scientific method.

So, what about design then? “What we see,” says Till, “is a radical shift from design being attached and addicted to the production of the new, and into practices that pay attention to what comes before the object and what comes after it.” Design now “accommodates difference,” it is “a collective enterprise of sense-making,” it is “sensitive to systems of production, both material and human.”

Full article available here

TU Delft MOOC: Circularity in the Built Environment is open again at edx!

After a very successful second re-run, our MOOC has been launched again last Monday! This is a self-paced MOOC, so you can start any time and also follow it in your own time. If you are a student, a working professional in the field of architecture, urban design and engineering and you want to know more about the circular economy, join the course and the instructors from our department will guide you through.

 About this course

Building construction is one of the most waste producing sectors. In the European Union, construction alone accounts for approximately 30% of the raw material input. In addition, the different life-cycle stages of buildings, from construction to end-of-life, cause a significant environmental impact related to energy consumption, waste generation and direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions.

The Circular Economy model offers guidelines and principles for promoting more sustainable building construction and reducing the impact on our environment. If you are interested in taking your first steps in transitioning to a more sustainable manner of construction, then this course is for you!

In this course you will become familiar with circularity as a systemic, multi-disciplinary approach, concerned with the different scale, from material to product, building, city, and region.

Some aspects of circularity that will be included in this course are maximizing reuse and recycle levels by closing the material loops. You will also learn how the Circular Economy can help to realign business incentives in supply chains, and how consumers can be engaged and contribute to the transition through new business models enabling circular design, reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling of building components.

In addition, you will learn how architecture and urban design can be adapted according to the principles of the Circular Economy and ensure that construction is more sustainable. You will also learn from case studies how companies already profitably incorporate this new theory into the design, construction and operation of the built environment.

               What you’ll learn

At the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Recognize the principles of circularity and their application to the built environment
  • Identify the scales of the built environment from materials and products to cities and regions
  • Identify the life-cycle phases of building products and how they can be circular
  • Discuss design principles in building of products and key aspects such as stakeholders, incentives, time-frames, business models
  • Discuss the circular design and development approach for buildings and recognize the impact of a building on society and the environment during its life-cycle
  • Recognize the flows at different city scales and how they differ depending on the actors and the local context
  • Reflect on the complexity and variety of possible circular solutions in terms of energy, water and waste management
  • Analyze and map the different stages and value webs of building materials at the regional level
  • Reflect on possible environmental impacts of the different building life-cycle stages and activities along the value web
  • Explore the potential of intervening to steer the value web towards more circularity

You can start learning all about the circular economy by clicking this link right now! Also, if you are interested in the work that is going on in the field of circularity, have a look at the Circular Built Environment Hub.

The mirroring effect in education

As we have seen above, the self defining nature is a means of maintaining authority, in the one instance over society, in the other over students. Teachers set the problems and provide the means to solve them. The fact that theories are developed in artificial environments means that their behaviour become entirely predictable. As Argyris and Schön note;

..techniques make self fulfilling prophecies for the professions. These techniques tend to be used to achieve a self-reinforcing system that maintain constancy…The artificial environments are designed to enable the professions to realise objectives as he sees them control the task, render the behaviour of others predictable, and thereby control it.

The same level of control is equally apparent in the profession of the teacher. It may be seen therefore that self-defining rational theory also leads to self-fulfilling theory. Nietzsche is withering in his critique of the rational mind’s pursuit of the truth and its apparent limitations:

If somebody hides a thing behind a bush, seeks it out and finds it in the self-same place, then there is not much to boast of respecting this seeking and finding; thus, however, matters stand with the pursuit of seeking and finding ‘truth’ within the realm of reason.

What this points to is the dangers of the closed circuit. Theory guides practice which in turn becomes the basis for theory; at best this a refining process in pursuit of the perfected theory defining a universal truth; at worst it becomes like a dog chasing his tail. This system generates a mirroring effect, whereby the precepts of the theory are reflected in the actions of practice.

Jeremy Till, Contingent Theory: The Educator as Ironist, 1996. Full article available here (highlighting is mine)

Definitions revisited

I do like exploring the subtle changes in the nuanced interpretations of different terms and how they are used in everyday life. It is sometimes their misinterpretation that leads to misunderstandings and heated debates. So, a good definition, is always welcome. I am not convinced of the use of the term digital learning though; it is a term much more connected to computer skills and less to connected learning.

online: focuses on the connectivity of the learning; it implies a physical distance; less desirable for those who prefer social interaction and don’t who have limited access to stable internet/ virtual: the term suggests that the level of engagement required compared to a physical experience will be similar but different; however, virtual is linked to inauthentic and therefore is less desirable for those who want to experience a ‘real’ education event/ digital: inextricably linked to data storage but has evolved into meaning ‘related to the use of computer technology’; digital is also offline; digital learning doesn’t have any negative connotations like the other two terms.

blended: most prevalent term of the two; it implies different modes of delivery and/or student engagement; for others, it is a mix of onsite-online(digital) learning activities/ hybrid: the use of this term implies that students have a greater degree to choose how they engage with their learning; it implies agency

distance: it is a term that was in use before the widespread proliferation of digital approaches to learning (courses were taken through correspondence); refers to communication style/ remote: the term is used to avoid any reference to mode of communication and limit discourse to physical distance

References: Building a Taxonomy for Digital Learning, QAA (from a Stephen Downes post available here)

Competition Culture Europe/ Greece

Very happy to share the news with you! Last fall, we started out a research program in collaboration with A10 New European Architecture Magazine and Architectuur Lokaal at academic scale with the aim to investigate architectural competitions in seven European countries. This year round there was an equal number of academic institutions each working on a separate module. We were supposed to meet in June in Vienna, but the pandemic cost us that trip and the opportunity to share our research findings amongst us. This is why we set up a BLOG that currently accommodates the key points of our research, two very recent case studies, numerous interviews of the people involved and a commentary on Greek competition culture.

I would like to sincerely thank all the interviewees for their valuable contributions, Tzina Sotiropoulou and Antigoni Katsakou for participating in our last live session and Prelab for accommodating all of our live sessions. Most of all, I would like to thank the two students who took up this endeavor, Katerina P. Moustaka and Stelina Portesi. I am obliged to them for their hard work despite the challenging times.

Greek competition culture is still developing. Our research is only just a small fraction of a wider discourse that is unassailably connected to the future of the profession as well. Therefore, we are open to your comments and your feedback.

What does an ecologically sensitive and socially just CE look like? (Part Two)

An equitable, Inclusive, and Environmentally Sound CE Open Forum, May 13, 2020

Patrick Schroder, Promoting a Just Transition to an Inclusive CE, Clatham House (Report): The ‘just’ transition concept is not new; it comes from climate change and climate justice movements (…) many social and political issues have been neglected in planning for the CE transition (…) a just transition framework for the CE can identify opportunities that reduce waste and stimulate product innovation (…) low- and middle-income countries that rely heavily on ‘linear’ sectors and the export of these commodities to higher-income countries are likely to be negatively affected by the shift to circularity (…) there is a need for new international cooperation programmes and a global mechanism to mobilise dedicated support funds for countries in need (…) COVID19 has shown that global emergencies have fast forwarded processes that otherwise may take years (…) three points: a. CE is necessary for both long-term resource security and short-term supplies of important materials, b. there is a need to improve the working conditions of the informal CE (waste pickers etc) and c. global supply chains will be radically changed (…)

What does an ecologically sensitive and socially just CE look like? (Part One)

An equitable, Inclusive, and Environmentally Sound CE Open Forum, May 13, 2020

Cindy Isenhour, Department of Anthropology, Climate Change Institute, University of Maine | CRITIQUE I: CE cannot be just about efficiency and technological improvement alone within the confines of a global economic system (…) in fact, success of CE has been hindered in part by carbon leakage to developing countries, off-shorial waste or by other means of shifting environmental burdens and market externalities (…) for some critics, high levels of total material throughput emissions and consumption have cannibalised a great deal of the gains (…) evidence that CE has helped us to decouple growth from environmental degradation is sadly hard to come by still (…) critics claim that despite CE success is not solely dependent on regenerative design (new packaging materials, industrial symbiosis, nutrient cycling technologies or recyclable polymers), but it is also about a fundamental shift, in global societal organisation and cultural frameworks (…) these have the power to renegotiate the meaning of ownership-property-economic value on materials and how we measure the successor our economic system (…) Can CE be capable of cultural change?| CRITIQUE II: CE scholarship is focused on rational choice theory and ecological modernisation and based on cost-benefit analyses (…) however, economic decision-making is highly contextual and social (…) consumers don’t want to alienate themselves from their peer groups and their neighbours (…) there is a necessity of coordinated approaches and collective action between social actors, so as to build trust and possibility of collaboration (…) How do we implement a CE that recognises the sociality of the economy? | CRITIQUE III: CE represents a new commodity frontier (…) sustainability programming can often capture the resources for those segments of society that are already more fortunate leading to economic exclusion (…) How can we broaden participation in CE as well as its conceptualisation and operationalisation to ensure equity and justice?

Brain(s) to brain(s)

Image available here

Computer mediated brain to brain interaction (mice)

A brain-to-brain interface records the signals in one person’s brain, and then sends these signals through a computer in order to transmit them into the brain of another person. This process allows the second person to “read” the mind of the first or, in other words, have their brain fire in a similar pattern to the original person

In 2013 scientists tested the method to mice; they surgically implanted recording wires that measured brain activity in the motor areas of the brain

Brain to brain interaction using an electroencephalography cap and transcranial magnetic stimulation (humans)

the human device was non-invasive, meaning surgery wasn’t required. This device transferred the movement signals from the encoder straight to the motor area of the brain of the decoder, without using a computer (…) Then the scientists used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on the decoding person’s brain, sending little magnetic pulses through their skull to activate a specific region of their brain. This caused the second person to take the action that the first person meant to (…) The decoder wasn’t consciously aware of the signal they received (…) however, only movement was transferred, not thoughts

Brain to brain interaction using an electroencephalography cap and transcranial magnetic stimulation & led lights (humans)

Same researchers designed a game with pairs of participants, similar to 20 Questions. In the game, the encoder was given an object that the decoder wasn’t familiar with. The goal was for the decoder to successfully guess the object through a series of yes or no questions. But unlike in 20 Questions, the encoder responded by looking LED flashing lights, one signifying yes and the other no. The visual response generated in the encoder’s brain was transmitted to the visual areas of the brain of the decoder (…) The decoders were successfully able to guess the object in 72 percent of the games, compared to an 18 percent success rate without the BBI (…) this was the largest BBI study, and also the first to include female participants.

Multi-person brain-to-brain interfaces/ collective intelligence

To do this, researchers drew on their past work with brain-to-brain interfaces. The Senders wore electroencephalography (EEG) caps, which allowed the researchers to measure brain activity via electrical signals, and watched a Tetris-like game with a falling shape that needed to be rotated to fit into a row at the bottom of the screen. In another room, the Receiver sat with a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) apparatus positioned near the visual cortex. The Receiver could only see the falling shape, not the gap that it needed to fill, so their decision to rotate the block was not based on the gap that needed to be filled. If a Sender thought the Receiver should rotate the shape, they would look at a light flashing at 17 hertz (Hz) for Yes. Otherwise, they would look at a light flashing 15Hz for No. Based on the frequency that was more apparent in the Senders’ EEG data, the Receiver’s TMS apparatus would stimulate their visual cortex above or below a threshold, signaling the Receiver to make the choice of whether to rotate. With this experiment, the Receiver was correct 81 percent of the time.

There’s a mind-boggling number of possible applications—just imagine projecting ideas in an educational environment, directly sharing memories with others, replacing the need for phones or the Internet altogether, or even, in the more near-term, using it to teach people new motor skills during rehabilitation.

References

On “Digital learning environments, the science of learning and the relationship between the teacher and the learner”

Image available here

Under what conditions do these technology tools lead to the most effective learning experiences? Dο they serve as a distraction if not deliberately integrated into learning activities? When these devices are incorporated deliberately into learning activities, how are students using them to make sense of ideas and apply them in practice? (…) It is much more complicated and difficult to develop an environment that can facilitate learning in complex conceptual domains (…) while adaptive systems have taken some forward leaps, there is still some way to go before these environments can cope with the significant diversity in how individual students make sense of complex ideas (…) Depending on how students structure related ideas in their mind, that structure will limit the way in which new information can be incorporated (…) The problem with providing personalised instruction in a digital environment is therefore not just about what the overall level of prior knowledge is but how that knowledge is structured in students’ minds (…) Technologies that are and will continue to impact on education need to be built on a foundation that includes a deep understanding of how students learn (…) teachers are constantly navigating a decision set that is practically infinite (…) The question becomes one of when and how technologies can be most effectively used, for what, and understanding what implications this has for the teacher-student relationship (…) there are two central narratives about what learning is: the first, acquisition, is vital but the second, participation, is even more powerful for learning (…)

There are several key areas helping students work with technologies:

  • Informing the development of and evaluating new technologies: research examining the effectiveness of the tools lags well behind the spread of their use (…) there is a clear need to draw on principles of quality student learning to determine how best to effectively combine the expertise of teachers and power of machines
  • Helping students to work with technologies: it is critical to determine how best to support students to do so in the absence of a teacher to help with this
  • Determining how technologies can best facilitate teaching and learning: the science of learning will assist in understanding the changing student-teacher dynamic in education is through the implications on broader policy and practice (…) The increased use of these technologies in classrooms must be driven by what is known about quality learning and not about financial or political motives.

Full article available here