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  • Who needs it: Architects, landscape architects, urban planners, interior designers, and furniture designers are the core collaborators for this discipline. It is also relevant to design-oriented disciplines from textiles to mechanical engineering (CAD, CAE) to industrial and manufacturing systems engineering (CAM). I have talked with people in Civil Engineering who have shown me the relevance of this area to CE, Architectural Engineering and Construction Science, Materials Science, and even areas of the physical and life sciences where design technology is needed. The physics and materials science aspects are also related to nondestructive evaluation (NDE).

  • Why we need it: Development of tools is a primary rationale, but there is also staying timely. We need to remain receptive and adaptive to new fields. For example, we have lots of people with Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) interests, and we have human factors researchers with expertise in certain kinds of ergonomics, but there just isn't a place for a user interface ergonomist (for example) to earn tenure. At Virginia Tech or UIUC, there are always a few people who have HCI as a core area, and there is always a center such as the UIUC Beckman Institute where they can cross disciplines to get cooperative efforts funded and published. Here, we have to do a little more than ask.

  • When we need it (and how long we've needed it): We need it ASAP, and this has been the case since the late 1990s. We have some visualization infrastructure in the College of Architecture - an Elumans VisionDome and more at the Krider Center operated by Jeff Head - but it yet hasn't quite hit the big time in terms of full utilization. Similarly, Charlie Zheng in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering (MNE) uses visualization in his research, but there isn't yet a college-level visualization center in Engineering or a university-level one. I've operated a visualization lab in our department for eight years, but aside from massforge, there hasn't been a long term project that it supports. By contrast, top research universities such as MIT have CSAIL (a recombination of the Laboratory for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence Lab), the Media Lab, etc. The computer graphics course is jointly offered by CS and Architecture.

  • How bad we need it: A visualization lab is just the beginning. Planning informatics - from simulation research and tools development - would help us advance the state of the field in intelligent systems. So would a research and teaching program in informatics applied to design. We need these as much as we need work on optimization and scheduling. I believe that this is one of the most eminently fundable areas in all of informatics.

  • Where it should live (i.e., to what college it should belong): Seeing as it would be primarily an offshoot of Landscape Architecture and its urban planning program (Regional and Community Planning), I think the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design would be its natural home.


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Banazir

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
mapjunkie
Nov. 9th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
I'm all for such a department, since I've lived very uncomfortably next to this edge for a long time, but it'll be a tricky one, because most of the value you want to capture in this area is relatively new and edgy: ubicomp, Internet of Things, bits&atoms, building information systems, user-facing CAD, parametric design, cradle-to-cradle architectural systems. I think the way you are pitching it you are actually lowballing the informatics potential.

banazir
Nov. 9th, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Informatics potential
it'll be a tricky one, because most of the value you want to capture in this area is relatively new and edgy

Absolutely! Actually, there are a lot of exciting areas to go from the design side of it, and I live nowhere if not on the edge. However, I've got to think of how risk-averse the Landscape Architecture people, MNE CAD, CivEng traffic, and IMSE Ergo folks (and their more "mainstream" colleagues) are. It's a fine line.

I think the way you are pitching it you are actually lowballing the informatics potential.

If I am, it might be because I pushed so much of it into the other four departments, or am thinking of where I see our CS department going in the near term. It's going to get spread thinner before it gets piled higher and deeper. Or maybe I just don't know enough about architecture and design. That's a fair guess, too.

--
Banazir
mapjunkie
Nov. 9th, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Informatics potential
However, I've got to think of how risk-averse the Landscape Architecture people, MNE CAD, CivEng traffic, and IMSE Ergo folks (and their more "mainstream" colleagues) are. It's a fine line.

Right, it's like the perfect place to nail it is where the folks that normally would have slipped through the cracks entirely are now in the "offside" of the department, the same way HCI was incorporated into CS.

Or maybe I just don't know enough about architecture and design. That's a fair guess, too.

Well, I don't know, because it's a bigger area than CS, even than a Georgia Tech style CS that includes CS, MIS, Software Engineering, Systems, etc. It includes within it's purview all the ways that one interacts with the material world, which is just hard to think about.

These folks have been kind of thinking about process and informatics long-enough that service design and information architecture is kind of old-fashioned among some of them, which is just sort of mind blowing.

If you want to follow up in this area, I can point you at some starting resources. Adam Greenfield and Bruce Sterling have some great podcasts. The Urban Revision System (http://www.lulu.com/content/2734646) is a great example that isn't to be missed.

I think it might be worthwhile to follow up some in email, kind of catch each other up with what's been going on. I have a direction I'd like to pursue and not too many leads, and maybe you'd have some insight.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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