It was during EDRA41, at another one of Joseph Juhasz’s deep and thought-provoking symposia, that I came face-to-face with EDRA’s expanding influence. The topic for discussion was “Where does evil reside?” and in addition to Joseph Juhasz, presenters included Lynn Paxson, Robert Flanagan, Ruben Martinez, and Colleen Kwong. You can imagine the debate that unfolded and the energy that was flowing in the room. Sitting across from me was a young man that I did not recognize. His comments stretched the dialogue and particularly struck a chord with me when he tied evil to surveillance systems, the topic he would be presenting the next day. “What?” I thought to myself. “Who is this person?” I have been exploring new ways to think about surveillance systems for a few years at that point and knew I had to talk with him after the session ended.
As it turned out, he was a computer science doctoral student from the MIT Media Labs. He came to EDRA because he was using cameras to study how people move through banks. The goal of the study was to use that data to develop algorithms that predict the direction of movement. As the premier research organization on people-environment studies, EDRA was the setting in which he could get feedback on his whole approach – conceptual and methodological.
EDRA members include academics, practitioners, and students from fields such as architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, geography, psychology, planning, gerontology, and anthropology. A global multidisciplinary community, EDRA is expanding its reach and membership base to include people like this computer science student, who come from fields that traditionally have not been associated with generating knowledge that improves understanding of the interrelationships between people and their built and natural surroundings. Computer science, electrical engineering, math and statistics, are among those new disciplines. This makes every conference fascinating, as one never knows what kind of connections and ideas can arise.
As we head out to EDRA45 in New Orleans next month (May 28-June 1), cherish the time with old friends and the opportunity to meet someone new!