The Communication Network and the Evolving Built Form
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By Susan Drucker & Gary Gumpert

The EDRA Communication Network has been existence for some time, pushing the parameters of this special domain. We are special because of the unique position we take. We believe the Communication Knowledge Network is pragmatically linked to many of the other networks – we are not an island onto ourselves – and ought not be, because the impact of communication and technology upon social interaction, while complex, is incontrovertible.

A vivid example of the linkages between this network and others can be found in our 2013 EDRA intensive at EDRA44Providence on Wednesday, May 29 that focuses on Communication, Design and an Aging Community is significant in the role that “Communication” plays in the EDRA environment.

The aim of the Communication Network is to examine and analyze communication environments of the modern world. Specifically, the network focuses on the Information Technology (IT) rich environments and their influence on behavior in virtual and physical environments.

The increasing development of convergent technology, in which a variety of media are integrated in a single platform or protocol has enormous implications both on the nature of community and planning, but also upon the relationship of individuals within a global network. With the development of the "wired" or "smart" city, the increasing role of telecommuting, the ambiguity of "public" and "private" space, the rise of cyberspace and virtual environments, the spatial and ecological consequences require the attention of planners, designers, and architects.

We have been weaned on immediate and ubiquitous connectivity. Does Wi-Fi, the Internet, the mobile phone, satellite communication, the I-Pod, flat screen television, wireless devices, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, virtual communities, laptops, kindle, alter a sense of identity within the built environment? What do mobile technologies mean with regard to place attachment?  Augmented Reality provided through smartphone apps and QR codes mediate experiences with the environment. Audio-guides once relegated to our museum experiences have entered urban environments. These neglected areas of exploration within environment behavior studies are significant.

We suggest the following parameters that define the “Communication” approach: the materials of architecture and design, the infrastructures that support communication, the regulatory structures the support and define communication, the social fabric that is the essence of communication, and the literature and film of the urban landscape. Diverse areas of communication research can make significant contributions to our understanding of the people-environment relationship. Interpersonal and organization communication, health communication, law, public relations, journalism, media studies, information technologies, and film are a partial list of relevant communication specializations.

Members of this network have been involved with the development of the “Communicative City” construct through which one can evaluate or plan urban municipalities that provide or facilitate the creation and maintenance of a healthy communicative environment. A “Communicative City” seeks to enhance communication in the interest of creating a healthy and humane social environment. The “Communicative City” is about people’s subjective and behavioral responses to urban conditions.

Several meetings have been developing the Communicative City construct with the next meeting being held at the University of Leeds on June 14-15, 2013 dealing with “Communication and the City: Voices, Spaces, Media.” Communicative Cities in the 21st Century is in press with Peter Lang Publishing. TheInternational Communication Gazette has published a special issue on the topic in the Summer 2008 and a follow up issue focusing “Mediated Urbanism” will be published later in 2013.

Some members of this network are also involved with studying urban communication. The new Michael Brill Grant in Urban Communication and Environmental Design is a significant development.

Ultimately the network seeks to transcend the artificial restraints of professional structures – the silos of division. We welcome the members of EDRA and other Knowledge Networks to collaborate and explore with us. 


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