Exploiting ambiguity: The diffraction artefact and the architectural surface

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Journal Article
International Journal of Architectural Computing, 2019, 17 (1), pp. 103 - 115
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© The Author(s) 2018. In the contemporary ‘envisioned’ environment, Internet webcams, low- and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites are the new vantage points from which to construct the image of the city. Armed with hi-resolution digital optical technologies, these vantage points effectively constitute a ubiquitous visioning apparatus serving either the politics of promotion or surveillance. Given the political dimensions of this apparatus, it is important to note that this digital imaging of public urban space refers to the human visual system model. In order to mimic human vision, a set of algorithm patterns are used to direct numerous ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ technologies. Mimicry thus has a cost because this insistence on the human visual system model necessitates multiple transformative moments in the production and transmission pipeline. If each transformative moment opens a potential vulnerability within the visioning apparatus, then every glitch testifies to the artificiality of the image. Moreover, every glitch potentially interrupts the political narratives be communicated in contemporary image production and transmission. Paradoxically, the current use of scripting to create glitch-like images has reimagined glitches as a discrete aesthetic category. This article counters this aestheticisation by asserting glitching as a disruption in communication. The argument will rely on scaled tests produced by one of the authors who show how duplicating the digital algorithmic patterns used within the digital imaging pipeline on any exterior building surface glitches the visual data captured within that image. Referencing image-based techniques drawn from the Baroque and contemporary modes of camouflage, it will be argued that the visual aberrations created by these algorithm-based patterned facades can modify strategically the ‘emission signature’ of selected parts of the urban fabric. In this way, the glitch becomes a way to intercede in the digital portrayal of city.
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