Design for a mind with many bodies : cybernetic micro-interventions in the cryosphere
Author(s)Gonzalez Ramirez, Ricardo Jnani
Cybernetic micro-interventions in the cryosphere
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture.
Mark Goulthorpe and Terry Knight.
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Historically, designs that function within the realm of ecological interventions have heavily gravitated towards attempting to gain full authority and control over the particular ecosystem in order to reform it. This approach is seen far more often than that of working in tandem with the ecosystem through an adaptive and autopoietic manner.  According to Pickering, this predominant, hegemonic, and static mode of operations "ignores emergence [and] assumes that we know all the chains of cause and effect." The thesis proposed here instead suggests that through a soft, cybernetic approach of aggregated micro-interventions a higher degree of adaptability and autopoiesis could be attained within the realm of interventions in natural ecosystems. The approach attempts to highlight the importance of a reactive quality in systems designed to monitor, mediate, and activate the evolving needs of an environment. The logic behind micro-interventions being that the design is not a single large-scale intervention, but rather an aggregate, dispersed, and flexible network that generates the necessary influence through incremental accruement. The work culminates in a step towards the design of one mind with many bodies; a network of soft robotic agents functioning through a responsive and iterative organizational system. In order to investigate this hypothesis, the ongoing degradation of the ice caps in the cryosphere is examined as the setting. The increasing speed at which melting is taking place, and will continue to take place, calls for a focused exploration of intervening directly at such remote and fragile ecosystem in order to mitigate their ongoing atrophy. Recent research shows direct correlations between the subsurface structures of a glacier and the activity observed on its surface, as well as how it decays and moves through time.  Similarly, the study of ice suggests that, depending on its composition, environmental flux, and method of freezing, its structure has an array of properties varying in ductility and plasticity.  The work developed here investigates the potential of cybernetic micro-interventions as the approach to monitor, mediate, and activate the evolving needs of a dynamic equilibrium within various ice formation in the cryosphere. The thesis is composed of four elements. First, an extensive survey maps the flux between elements of the ecosystem and their relationship to self-regulating performance. Second, a series of ice experiments explore methods of strategic melting and snow capturing. Third, a series of design studies suggest utilizing tessellated folding surfaces as a potential method of pneumatically activating the agents. Lastly, a catalogue of speculative scenarios illustrates strategic melting on glaciers as a method to facilitate self-regulation through increasing snow retention while decreasing mass and relieving stress.
Thesis: S.M., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture, 2016.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 174-177).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Architecture.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology