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Finding Connections between Design Processes and Institutional Forces on Integrated AEC Teams for High Performance Energy Design

Engaging the need to better understand the problems of high performance energy design in AEC collaborative practices and delivery methods, this study tested a schema that differentiated between the micro level of everyday design decisions, the meso level of project organization that guides project delivery, and the macro level of institutions—professions, disciplines, and firms— within which AEC practice takes place. Based in observations and interviews of two large projects in a U.S. architectural firm, we used a comparative case study to develop a series of analytical themes that located where issues of meso and macro level forces impacted micro level energy design decisions. This study found that the architect’s disciplinary vision and project management styles were very influential over energy design accomplishment, while firm attitudes promoting high performance design had little effect. Overall, we found no example of micro level design decisions that did not implicate some type of meso or macro level influence. This suggests that industry guides emphasizing technical solutions achieved at the micro level are not adequate for the needs of evolving AEC integrated practices.

Monson, Chris, Carrie Sturts Dossick, Gina Neff, Laura Osburn, and Heather Burpee. “Finding Connections between Design Processes and Institutional Forces on Integrated AEC Teams for High Performance Energy Design.” Cle Elum: Engineering Project Organization Conference, 2016. http://www.epossociety.org/EPOC2016/papers/Monson_et%20al_EPOC%202016.pdf.


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Imagined Affordance: Reconstructing a Keyword for Communication Theory

In this essay, we reconstruct a keyword for communication—affordance. Affordance, adopted from ecological psychology, is now widely used in technology studies, yet the term lacks a clear definition. This is especially problematic for scholars grappling with how to theorize the relationship between technology and sociality for complex socio-technical systems such as machine-learning algorithms, pervasive computing, the Internet of Things, and other such “smart” innovations. Within technology studies, emerging theories of materiality, affect, and mediation all necessitate a richer and more nuanced definition for affordance than the field currently uses. To solve this, we develop the concept of imagined affordance. Imagined affordances emerge between users’ perceptions, attitudes, and expectations; between the materiality and functionality of technologies; and between the intentions and perceptions of designers. We use imagined affordance to evoke the importance of imagination in affordances—expectations for technology that are not fully realized in conscious, rational knowledge. We also use imagined affordance to distinguish our process-oriented, socio-technical definition of affordance from the “imagined” consensus of the field around a flimsier use of the term. We also use it in order to better capture the importance of mediation, materiality, and affect. We suggest that imagined affordance helps to theorize the duality of materiality and communication technology: namely, that people shape their media environments, perceive them, and have agency within them because of imagined affordances.

Peter Nagy and Gina Neff. 2015. “Imagined Affordance: Reconstructing a Keyword for Communication Theory,” Social Media + Society, July-December 2015: 1–9. DOI: 10.1177/2056305115603385

Shifting logics of constructability and design: a study of emerging AEC integrated practices for enegry performance

In this paper, we analyze the practices of translation and synthesis for energy performance in building design. We use grounded theory method to collect and analyze qualitative interview and observation data to examine the difficulties of knowledge sharing and problem solving between builders and architectural and engineering designers. Extending the theory of disciplinary specific “institutional logics,” we show that designers and builders integrate their work in three ways: 1) by addressing gaps in their own knowledge that require information from a knowledge domain different from their own, 2) by synthesizing design and construction issues holistically, and 3) through integrating construction and design work practices. These insights offer evidence of shifts in the institutional logics that structure the construction and design disciplines.

Monson, Christopher, Laura Osburn, Carrie Sturts Dossick, Heather Burpee, and Gina Neff. “Shifting logics of constructability and design: a study of emerging AEC integrated practices for energy performance,” Proceedings of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering’s 5th Internationals/11th Construction Specialty Conference, Vancouver BC, Canada, June, 10pp.