Social Media and Social Space

I recently read an article in Metropolis on Social Media by Andrew Blum.  Andrew states that within the last decade our social media has gone from one-way (the video wall) to two-way (the facebook wall) and notes: “Architecture has yet to acknowledge the impact of social media on our experience of physical space.” He cites a number of architects who are experimenting with this interface, including some in Boston, but I’d agree we have only scratched the surface. In the last five years there is no shortage of distracted people scrolling their Smartphone’s and tablets as they move from one place to the next. Their interests lie in communication, not the streetscape. No longer are we tied to where we physically are, or to the people standing next to us. All societal advances have had great impact on the planning of buildings and cities. They are either planned with them or yield to being planned around them; as too often the case with the automobile.

As social media has changed our sense of immediate place, how will it change our buildings and cities? There are jumbotrons and automated checkouts and other digital devices inserted into our daily experience, but what about the physical walls and space?

Perhaps the Apple retail stores are currently at the forefront. The walls are transparent to view the product, there is no central checkout and there is an army of employees to assist each customer. The architecture is light, transparent and open to allow unencumbered social interactions between customer, employee and product.

But what if the architecture became the interface device itself? What if it became the micro-social unit of the building? What if buildings linked to other buildings across the city, across the country, across the world? Facebook, Twitter, and yes Buildings are essentially frameworks for people to use, inhabit, write upon and change.