Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Working Models

In reading Beck and, listening to Paul Moorcroft's lecture I could not help but consider the question of what work models serve to do and how they accomplish this work. In the Moorcroft lecture particularly, the disjunction between the larger affective work of the model as a tool to inform and empower social and political agency seemed to conflict with literal work of the model to represent, translate, and encapsulate reality as accurately as possible came to the forefront. This disjunction is an extension of the problematic of the nexus of science and ethics that is central to Beck's discussion of risk. On the one hand, the scientist, with his awareness of the risk is obligated ethically to act in such a way to mitigate the risk, something best achieved through affect which can be translated into action (dire predictions about the demise of the rainforest), and on the other he is ethically obligated by his discipline and its long term credibility to present  accurate information about the risk(the impetus for the ED model). As Beck notes in his section on the fallacy of acceptable levels, this itself is a difficult enough task as it is by definition ethically charged and therefore incapable of being scientifically objective, particularly when the variable of scale of risk is introduced. Further, the fundamental inability to accurately model real conditions, after all, translations can only amount to approximations, raises the question of whether this aspect of the models should be dominant.

What if we look at models that exist outside of the risk economy. Architectural models serve as a means to convey complex ideas about real physical situations. While they require a degree of accuracy, they are at their most effective when they are the most affective. When a model encapsulates a feeling or idea in an evocative and convincing way, one that appeals to affect rather than rational explanation, it is at its most effective. In recent years the trend within architectural representation has been in the direction of more affective representation, in the forms of experiential renderings, distorted, manipulated, and rich perspectives which express the building rather than explain it. The portion of the image below that is obscured by light, cloud, or motion blur is telling.

These images are used to convince clients, win competitions, and are in general the new standard of representation. They attempt to capture the dynamic experience and acknowledge both the model's and building's existence as part of a flow. The model, as a tool for design and understanding, is always changing, the image is but a fixed and fleeting viewpoint, and these rendering techniques aim to capture the general characteristics. The building is also always changing, in terms of its relationship to its surroundings, how it is used, how people view it, and how they are affected by / affect it. The model and the image serve to convey that openness. They are fundamentally understood to not be directly or completely accurate to reality (although there is a counter trend within the field of parametricism). This understanding allows the space required for multiple interpretations to be grafted onto the same object/image and maintain its presence within the flow of production as tool for further creative development rather than a static piece of information pulled out of the milieu from which one can only make inferences about that which remains unseen. 

In this sense, models that are involved in the risk economy in their attempts at approximation might gain further legitimacy by emphasizing the fact that they are an approximation and a tool for understanding, recasting themselves in terms of constructing an affective relationship (between human and climate). In emphasizing connection first and the accuracy of the model of that connection as secondary, though still incredibly necessary people such as climate change scientists might be more able to achieve the widespread public awareness they so desperately desire while maintaining the accuracy they require. The must remember that models serve as representations, and can draw off of non-scientific disciplines to add another dimention of effectiveness beyond accuracy.

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