Technology in Society and Its Impacts on Architecture Projects

technology cityscape

By André Luis Atique
EletroEquip / AW Digital

Technology changes society in several aspects, transforming how it relates, providing information, providing entertainment and evolving culture and habits. Thinking about it, holistically analyzing the hierarchy of needs of Abraham Maslow, the human being has five basic needs. For each one of them, there are related applications, corroborating the technology ingrained in society:

  1. Physiological — basic needs for life such as breathing, eating, drinking (iFood, Dr. Consulta, health insurance apps).
  2. Security — the need to feel safe (cell phone location, fintech, Uber).
  3. Social/Love — the need to relate to other people (Facebook, Tinder).
  4. Esteem — the need to feel worthy, esteemed, self-confident (Twitter, LinkedIn, EaD, Kindle).
  5. Self-realization — need to feel good, do what you like, notice evolution (Instagram, Decolar, Airbnb).

To support all these changes in behavior and all these resources available to users in the form of applications and services, the hardware needed to evolve. Today, computers that used to be used mainly for studies and work are multitasking platforms with cameras, speakers, digital recognition and high processing capacity. In the same way, cell phones have evolved, bringing even more resources than conventional computers, taking photos, making movies, paying bills, helping to invest in the stock market, organizing appointments, guarding cinema tickets — then adding weather, GPS, e-reader and internet browser capabilities, while holding the ability to make calls. All this hardware power gives people the possibility to make use of technology at its highest level, interacting in all spheres of their lives, as explained above.

Exploring the context of communication, people understand that they are no longer attached to the barriers of distances, and can speak and see each other, making use of audiovisual resources. Kock says that virtual communication is more complex than physics because it requires a greater cognitive load (attention, perception, memory, creativity) but that everyone knows the real environment, facilitating adaptation to the use of media. The context of social isolation made activities that were previously impossible to be done remotely, possible. Happy hours, weddings, birthday parties, religious services, social gatherings are some examples of this. Technology through audiovisual resources has made people in the same city as close as people in different countries and has brought together all age groups with the simplicity of connection.

The evolution in society’s interaction with technology has also impacted the economic chain. For example, in the entertainment industry, companies like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube have shortened the path between the viewer and the producer of entertainment content, analyzing the profile of users and offering specific material according to their choices and tastes. Welcome to the era of technological macrotransition.

Audiovisual Technology in Corporate Spaces

Understanding this reality of technology in people’s lives and how it facilitates communication makes it foolish to conclude that the corporate environment would remain intact. Technology for people means evolution, innovation, renovation, information and environments that do not accompany this integration — from physical to digital — are detached from reality.

Within a scenario of recessive economy, due to the social isolation caused by COVID-19, how will the routine return in an environment where people need to relate, but with restricted physical contact? The answer is connectivity all over the place! For the first time, executives and office workers are prioritizing technology, as it has become mandatory for the exercise of their activities. A relationship is essential for business to continue, and technology allows people from different and/or equal organizations to meet in a virtual room interacting by voice and video. The more resources there are in communication, the better it will be. Remote meeting platforms have made people even more productive by shortening distances and redeeming time with commuting. Everyone is just a click away.

The home office will change a lot in corporate environments. Speaking of physical space, taking as an example a company with about 1,000 employees, if it needs a workstation for everyone, as well as meeting rooms and the like, the company has a certain cost. But if this company promotes rotation of 20% of employees in the home office once a week, it can save on all its fixed costs related to rent and bills coming from this space. According to research carried out in 400 corporate offices in Brazil, 95% of them intend to explore remote work more, but not to fully migrate. In this scenario, to adapt to the new reality, the company will need to structure a home-office policy and manage workstations, not giving physical space to employees, but digitally scheduled rotating places. This management is possible through scheduling systems for hot desks and meeting rooms where the user defines, within company policies, the days they will go to the office and on which workstation they will be.

Another point is about the format and technologies needed to hold a meeting. Currently, most people are adapted to remote meeting platforms (Skype, Teams, Zoom, etc.), so the challenge is to bring this reality to the project’s concept. Technology has advanced in this regard, too, delivering solutions in which the user arrives with their computer in the meeting room, connects it via HDMI and USB on the desktop interface and uses their usual videoconferencing platform with professional microphones, professional speakers and a suitable display present in the room. This, in addition to being a very current resource, is cheaper than conventional videoconferencing systems. This is already one of the most used concepts in ongoing projects.

Speaking of hardware, a third trend in companies is for them to try to escape connectivity problems. There are several computer models, and it is common to find video connections of the most varied possible (HDMI, VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, USB-C, etc.). In addition to computers, users also have the need to transmit cellphone content on a screen wirelessly. To resolve this issue, the audiovisual industry brought hardware where the user connects to it wirelessly and can transmit the contents of their computer or cell phone to any type of display such as TVs, monitors and projectors.

But what about public spaces, common areas, lobbies and halls? The tendency is for them to tell a story with technology and architecture.

Audiovisual Technology in Public Spaces

There is a concept on the rise in architecture called “Media Architecture.” It defends the conception of space in an integrated way with technology. Brynskov et al. says that media architecture is the “comprehensive concept that encompasses the design of physical spaces on an architectural scale, incorporating materials with dynamic properties that allow dynamic, reactive or interactive behavior.” The idea is to promote this integration so that the space can communicate with users, provide coordinated, assertive information to the public, interact, and have the technology aesthetically incorporated into the environment.

Going deeper into the concept, what would be a bad application and a good application of media architecture?

A bad application would be a TV hanging on the wall with paid TV content, out of harmony with the environment, in terms of aesthetics, purpose and content. For Webster, “Digital installations must be treated as an architectural material that needs to be handled with care, well designed and with purpose.” A good application streamlines, excites and expresses a narrative of the space, a situation found in the new office of Serasa Experian, at Torre Sucupira, in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. The project’s objective was to transform the lobby into an environment that would tell the story of the company and impact everyone. For this, an LED panel was mounted on the ceiling and wall, transforming the hall into an immersive environment in this concept. As a result, employees began posting spontaneous videos in the hall on social media, visits to the space increased and the president participated in a video about the project. The president appeared on the panel and spoke about the company’s history, talking about the strong brand he represents and talking about delighting customers. The elevator hall became the star of the project, as it united the concept of space with technology.

Every company wants to show an updated, technological, innovative, inspiring company image, but how do you do that? To help explore the concept a little more, Hoggenmueller et al. brings five ​​classifications with its definitions of media architecture, namely:

  1. Physical integration of exhibition technology in architecture: It uses technological components as part of the concept of space. An example of this is the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with large multimedia panels composing an immersive and imposing environment with each part telling part of the same story.
  2. Aesthetics of the material within the environment: To be concerned with the composition of the material and how it will integrate with the environment to be part of it. Looking for a new way to communicate with the public and a modern look, the Museum of Modern Art at Kunsthaus Graz in Austria used a scenic lighting system in all its “shell,” sending text messages to the public.
  3. Communicative and informative aspects of media architecture: Information panels on highways, streets and squares have their function; however, it is necessary to consider not only the material of the communication but also how to communicate with the public, seeking new and creative visual representations or transforming public spaces into increased playful environments. To illustrate, imagine the external lighting of a building that changes color with buttons made available to the public, bringing interaction, novelty and promoting the enterprise.
  4. The consideration of contextual aspects plays a vital role for successful implantation in public spaces: following the concept of situated urban visualizations, Vande Moere et al. emphasize that the visualizations embedded in the form of physical displays must respect and respond to the characteristics of the surrounding location, providing information related to the local context and offering sociocultural relevance to the local population.
  5. Media architecture facilitates and improves social interactions in the urban environment. As interactive experiences are increasingly prevalent in the built environment, interactivity has also become an essential aspect of media architecture research. However, we do not see interactivity as a principle. Instead, we suggest that for the interactive media architecture to be successful, it must meet the principles mentioned above. A display that presents interactive content related to the place’s sociocultural context can be an idea of ​​this context.

To conclude, society is technological, and all spheres are being transformed according to the macrotransition represented by this era. Both closed and public spaces are adapting to the demands brought by humanity, becoming more adapted to the remote and the virtual. However, the spaces need to be well-harmonized to make this reality pleasant, exciting and able to generate even more engagement in people. So, through this symbiosis of architecture with technology, one can find the best answer for the public and private spaces of the future.