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March 31, 2021, 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Wednesday, March 31
5-6:30pm EDT
Virtual Event
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Drone-enabled 3-dimensional mapping now meets technologies of 5G broadband, empowering real-time surveillance – should there be ethical constraints?

In November of 2020, the digital New York Times  celebrated the arrival of 5G broadband service in the greater New York area with a paid notice conveying a streaming video merging photogrammetry and aerial surveillance (in enhanced digital photographic color). Later the post was revised to explain the location (an island in the Hudson), and situate the aerial dream as part of a “5G Journalism Lab.”  Is this how 3D scanning data gathered by drones will end up, as users take advantage of the coming capacities of 5G broadband? Or will the more ubiquitous surveillant capacities known since closed circuits of the 1990s be the more logical place for tracking richly detailed aerial data? What happens when facial recognition software can process drone footage in real time? Surveillance + Agency sharpens the question of knowledge from above (“sur” over, “veiller” to see) and agency that might potentially be in the hands of us with newly distributed tools.  Artists and community-oriented city planners seek to empower digital citizens to aim the ubiquitous technology of charge-coupled lenses and mobile recording devices back at forces of power, celebrating crowd-computing capacities to parse our data for ourselves. Engineers solve for complex problems of machine learning in airborne cameras newly capable of “autonomous cinematography.” Architects, meanwhile, are both the generators and the consumers of 3D data streams. How will the structuring algorithms processing the coming flood of spatialized data be processed – can we build ethics into the computation itself? This panel aims to address these tangled techno-cultural problems in the moment of their acceleration.


Sarah Williams — Moderator
Dr. Williams is Director of the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT. As Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, she combines her training in data science, urban design, city planning, and landscape architecture to create communication strategies that expose urban policy issues to create civic change. She calls the process “Data Action,” which is also the title of her recent book published by MIT Press (2020).

Nicholas de Monchaux — Panelist
Nicholas de Monchaux is Professor and Head of Architecture at MIT, as well as a partner in the architecture practice modem. He is the author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo (MIT Press, 2011) and Local Code: 3,659 Proposals about Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016).

Sheila Kennedy — Panelist
Sheila Kennedy, is an American architect, innovator and educator. She is a Professor of Architecture at MIT and a founding Principal of KVA Matx, an interdisciplinary practice that is recognized for innovation in architecture, material research and the design of new resilient infrastructure for emerging public needs. Her work in design research examines intersections between natural ecologies and hybrid ‘high’ and ‘low’ technologies in networked cities and urbanizing global regions impacted by climate change.

Luca Carlone — Panelist
Assistant Professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Dr. Carlone directs the MIT SPARK Lab, which works at the cutting edge of robotics and autonomous systems research. His research into geometric computer vision applied to sensing, perception, and decision-making in robot systems yields expertise at the confluence of 3D and 5G.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan — Panelist
Lawrence Abu Hamdan is a “Private Ear”. His interest with sound and its intersection with politics originate from his background as a touring musician and facilitator of DIY music. His audio investigations have been used as evidence at the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and as advocacy for organizations such as Amnesty International and Defense for Children International.

Brad Samuels — Panelist
Brad Samuels is a founding partner at SITU and the Director of SITU Research—an organization that merges data and design to create new pathways for justice. Outside the multidisciplinary practice, Brad sits on the Technology Advisory Board for the International Criminal Court, The Advisory Board for the Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Human Rights Science, the Advisory Board for Dartmouth’s Wright Center for the Study of Computation and Just Communities and the board of The Architectural League of New York. He is a Fellow with the Urban Design Forum and teaches in Barnard College and Columbia University’s undergraduate architecture program.

Caroline A. Jones – Faculty Producer
As Director of the Transmedia Storytelling Initiative, Professor Jones encourages events that engage with emerging technologies in spatial, time-based media; her art historical research also explores post-digital media theory.

Emma Yimeng Zhu (SMACT ’21) – Production Assistant
Emma Yimeng Zhu holds a bachelor degree in architecture from Cornell University. Throughout her undergraduate study, she has experimented with a variety of art forms.  Recently, she discovered installation art as an effective tool/vehicle to convey her idea about the relationship between architectural space and human body.

MIT Transmedia Storytelling Initiative
MIT College of Computing, Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing
MIT Architecture