The "Smart" Mandate: Infrastructure, Responsive Environments, and "Resilient Hope"

The Digital Transformations Platform and the Uncertain Archives Research Group are pleased to invite you for a workshop with Dr. Orit Halpern, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University. Orit Halpern will first give a short presentation of her work resilience and afterwards she will offer feedback to workshop participants and their research ideas. So please use this opportunity and come prepared with a short (!) research pitch or a research question.  

We have limited seating to ensure the possibility for dialogue so please register with Nanna Bonde Thylstrup before October 25 at:


Today, growing concerns with climate change, energy scarcity, security, and economic collapse have turned the focus of urban planners, investors, and governments towards “infrastructure” as a site of value production and potential salvation from a world consistently defined by catastrophes and “crisis”.

This talk will interrogate the different forms of futurity and life that are currently emerging from this complex contemporary relationship between technology and design by engaging in a genealogy of "smartness" ranging from cybernetic ideas of machine learning in the late 1950's to early efforts to integrate computing into design at MIT in the Architecture Machine Group in the 1970's to contemporary greenfield "smart" developments in South Korea, India, and Abu Dhabi and the algorithmic financial instrumentation and data center infrastructures that support this speculation. In doing so, the talk will ask how these contemporary practices in ubiquitous computing, machine learning, responsive environments, and "resilient" planning are shaping the design of large scale infrastructures, making certain forms of life vulnerable and sacrificable and producing our imaginaries of the future of life.

About Orit Halpern

Dr. Orit Halpern is a Strategic Hire in Interactive Design and Theory and an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montréal. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. Her recent book Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke Press 2015) is a genealogy of interactivity and our contemporary obsessions with “big” data and data visualization. She is now working on two projects.  The first, titled The Smartness Mandate, is a history and theory of “smartness”, environment, and ubiquitous computing and the second, tentatively titled Resilient Hope, examines the forms of planetary futures being produced and destroyed through high-technology large scale infrastructural projects.

She has also published and created works for a variety of venues including The Journal of Visual Culture, Public Culture, Configurations, C-theory, and ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany.

She has an MPH. from Columbia University School of Public Health, and completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University in the History of Science. She has also held fellowships from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, the Graham Foundation, Digital Culture Research Lab at Leuphana University, the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, and the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt.