Tag Archives: Building

Online Education and Digital Storytelling

Mercedes Bell, a researcher for onlineuniversities.com, shared an article The Art of Digital Storytelling.

The article makes several good points and provides numerous examples graphed below. When digital storytelling is used for education, a new challenge today is keeping the reader engaged, without clicking away, wandering through so many loosely related topics, its easy to get lost, and forget where a digital pathway started, or where it is heading.

The objective of digital storytelling, online education, large scale digitization and information projects needs to be spending more time with better information.


Taking Apart and Putting Back Together in a Repeatable Process

The greatest thing about relational databases is they store everything loose in some kind of homogeneous level playing field. It is only be establishing relationships between data that anyone is able to see anything in context. Without context, they are just data. In context they are messages, thoughts, ideas, studies, results, and work products.

If an idea is very complex sometimes it helps to break it down into component parts. Systematically taking it apart to understand what makes this idea tick.

DesignIT Studios

Starship ModelerWikicommons Watch Movement

Taking an idea apart can be very informative. Especially when various parts need to be updated and optimized, continually changing like software releases. If the watch above was wordpress, the Swift theme, and the internet each gear changes sooner or later but the whole watch still needs to work together if it is to continue functioning.  Putting things back together offers it’s own set of challenges.  There is an opportunity to purge elements that are no longer useful during this process. Like a hoarder moving everything out of their house onto the curb then back into the house, maybe some of those items are not worth saving after all. Or fixing a car engine, or someones medical condition, when it is unclear exactly what the problem is but simply by taking it apart and putting it back together, whatever was not working gets repaired.

IDSA Materials and Processes Section

Instructions are needed, parts need to be labeled. A sequence of reassembly is needed to ensure the reassembled whole still is the same. It can be difficult to see how the parts fit together when viewed too close.

Carol Padburg

Because everyone’s perception and experience is different, the exact same elements, in almost exactly the same combination may be understood a different way from different points of view. The receiving end may be “reading something into” what the sender intended. It may not be possible for two different people to consistently see the same things the same ways.

Put Back Together Pictures

However, this is not true for machines like computers or networks like the internet because machines have no prejudices, emotions, or previous experiences.  They simply process the information, break up whole ideas into packets, send them somewhere, another machine puts them back together. For this to be reliable everything on both ends needs to be a repeatable process. It would be so helpful to have a mold with the end result packed in with every packet to ensure consistency. MIT has just started a project to map controversies that may be useful to understand multiple interpretations of the same information.

MIT Mapping Controversies Project

This project is important today because we are surrounded by so many controversies, and so much data, it’s difficult to sort out which parts are actually valid, worth processing, keeping in the information houses where we store things. For example the Washington Post had an article today about the disconnect between science and the general public entitled “Not Blinded by Science, but Ideology” where global warming is a perfect example.

To avoid using information the wrong way, or putting together messages, thoughts, and ideas that may be different than original authors intended, especially while processing the data in emotionless machines – repeatable processes are needed.

BZen Consulting

Info-Sight Partners Actionability Index

Global Wonderware

Today the primary representation of how pieces of information are to be put back together need to work with SQL. Looking at the relationships is usually just miles and miles of code. However, there is a company at http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca who makes Schemaball, a Schema Viewer for SQL Databases where the relationships themselves can be put under a microscope and examined across the whole database in one glance.

It’s curious why geometry proper is not used more often to direct the arc, layouts and relationships. Something like a mold could be useful to ensure the reassembly is 100 percent correct on the receiving end, to match exactly, what the sender intended.


But how would you store and encode that geometry?


Emergent versus Imposed Boundaries

When organizing large quantities of resources and information in the digital world… putting things into groups, determining what goes where and assigning boundaries, it can be helpful to look at the real world for lessons learned.  Imposing boundaries in unnatural locations is bound to fail sooner or later, the results can be disastrous taking generations to overcome.

Take for example Southern Africa. Oceans, mountains, deserts, vegetation and other natural features determined where people lived and worked.


Physical Geography and Natural Vegetation
from Exploring Africa at Michigan State University 

Over time, people settled in various areas surrounded by their culture. Learning the best ways to be productive based on the conditions in their area – whether it was a jungle with vast resources or a desert with very few. 

From Africa Expat

Ancient people such as the Shona in modern day Zimbabwe congregated and stuck together in different areas.  Many of these languages and traditions continue today. But these curving, natural, and emergent boundaries don’t match boundaries imposed from outside cultures.

From Wikimedia Commons

Occasionally, an imposed boundary may coincide with a natural boundary such as a river.  More often though, imposed boundaries are designed to work within larger more global schemes, without paying enough attention to the local impact.

From Wikimedia Commons

Anyone can see where arbitrarily drawing lines has gotten us today.  What can be learned from history to avoid similar situations in the fresh, clean, brand new digital world where ideas and information are still patterning out and have no where in particular to belong except where they are emerging as “next to something else” or arranged for convenient, all encompassing, upper level views

Linked Open Data, Colored, as of March 2009

What about situations where digital terrain and intellectual data boundaries are being purposefully laid out. For example Master Web of Science, mapofscience.com and Places & Spaces where navigating the data is like exploring uncharted territory, and Katy Borner and collaborators seek to enable the discovery of new worlds while also marking territories inhabited by unknown monsters.

The difference in the semantic world versus the physical world should be that the digital world has no constraints like rivers or mountains. Eventually all of the layout can be determined.  Attention does need to be paid to where cultures are emerging, and how this can benefit everyone both globally and locally.

 Not only watch how the semantic web is emerging, but to direct it’s flow in productive ways, geared for people in different areas that may vary widely in their density and resources, rather than as one empire. Because that only causes trouble in the long run.

Layout Algorithm, NYU

Data Mining at Information and Visualization

Random Layout Algorithm at Cell System Markup Language (CSML) an XML format for modeling, visualizing and simulating biopathways.

The advantage of paying attention to this is, reaching an appropriate balance between random emergence and directed flow will ultimately serve end users and programmers better than any other option, and the solutions will last for a long time.

Communities of Practice at NASA


Smart Grid / Dumb Grid

Smart Grid versus Dumb Grid.

From TerraWatts.comNew Power for the Planet

Smart Grids Could Power a 21st Century Economy at GovTech.com

Looking at planning documents like those above it seems possible that a Smart Grid could be achieved. However, the reality is some places barely can move power around still.  Whats the best way for these places to be able to leap frog forward, skipping entire generations of innovation, to get directly to a Smart Grid, Smart City, Smart Buildings, Smart Building-to-Grid Interfaces?

Indias Electrical Mess at This Is Just Stupid

Safe Electricity for Slum Residences – A Pilot Project in Paraisopolis, Sao Paolo Brazil, at Leonardo-Energy.org

from DG Draft 9 Graphics Set at Nick’s Public Gallery


Digital Continuity



ABOVE: Nature-2 (rough).jpg @ 50% (Gray)
BELOW: Untitled-1 @ 33.3% (Layer 4, Gray)

Both by Bruce MacPherson, work-in-progress sketches for the MathFactory, for Gallagher & Associates Design Proposal



Below is the introduction from Time & Bits, Managing Digital Continuity edited by Margaret MacLean and Ben H. Davis, an eternity ago in 1998 for the Getty Research Institute.  The Getty Research Institute is dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the visual arts and aesthetic appreciation through the advancement of long term digital preservation and information exchange techniques to protect our common cultural inheritance.  The book is about an early workshop pondering over new problems with obsolete media and machines impact on the cycle of: capturing, preserving, distributing, representing, and unlocking a real understanding of the meaning of stored data. See the Long Now Foundation Projects for follow on work such as the Rosetta Project.


Workshop Figure 1

This was a very unhappy interface. And small wonder. No doubt this entire virtual environment was being encrypted, decrypted, reencrypted, anonymously routed through satellites and cables, emulated on alien machinery through ill-fitting, out-of-date protocols, then displayed through long-dead graphic standards.  Dismembered, piped, compressed, packeted, unpacketed, decompressed, unpiped and re-membered.  Worse yet, the place was old.  Virtual buildings didn’t age like physical ones but they aged in subtle pathways of arcane decline, in much the way that their owner’s did.

Bruce Sterling, in Holy Fire. Science fiction writer and founder of the Dead Media Project.


Workshop Figure 2

Below from the article Storage Knowledge by Doug Carlston, page 28 Time & Bits: Managing Digital Continuity

– process information is everywhere and, with increasing frequency, it will not be possible to perceive the full expression of the content-creator’s intent if the ability to perceive the process information is lost.

Imagine, if you will, that we are talking about process content that represents the instructions for building a virtual space and populating it with still and animated images tied to sounds.  Even if one could disambiguate the various data forms and figure out what was image, what was sound, and what was descriptive code, the author’s expression is virtually impossible to deduce absent its interpretation via his original processing device.  If in the future it becomes common to create digital wire models of complex inventions and other devices in lieu of written words, we will have an entire body of obviously important process data held hostage to its original interpretation device.

Perhaps in these areas we just have to give it time.  We do seem to have some movement towards standards, numerical bits have been translated in a reasonably consistent way into numerals and letters of the Roman alphabet (and others), a necessary first step toward a process Rosetta Stone.  And there appears to be a compelling universal interest in standardizing the operating systems and chief applications of commonly available computers, although these standards themselves continue to evolve at a hazardous rate.  Perhaps this process will not continue indefinitely, in which case we are confronting merely an interim problem while the universal standards are finally worked out.


All of this was written before the explosion of the semantic web, online services, and the large scale development of open standards.  Nevertheless, many early concerns raised at the Time & Bits workshop are still valid.  The documentation of places and buildings together with the public information they generate has only just begun.  When will the process information be mature and standardized enough to tell the story of all these people and places over long periods of time?  There are many arguments on OntologForum regarding the utility, accuracy, and even the possibility of universal standards for such large scale processing. Like buildings in the real world, some digital architectures are better than others, some data deserve to be taken better care of and

“there is no constituency representing that body of information”

Margeret MacLean, Setting the Stage, page 33 in Time & Bits: Managing Digital Continuity.

3 images below are from the central garden at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. You can go anywhere, touch anything, get led in directions you want to go anyway, and have tremendous vistas open up around unexpected angles.  There are curves and corners. Only the best materials are used and they are taken care of.  The combination is gorgeous together.  This level of spatial design, execution, and maintenance is needed for an equivalent level of high quality, long term, takes-forever-to-build, semantic web spaces made expressly for the general public.


File: Getty Center Central Gardens Wiki Commons




Companion Post: Trace Continuous Threads



23 MVDs

The National Building Information Modeling Standard will be comprised of different parts.  Works in progress to standardize certain ways of looking at things in the AEC/FM Architecture Engineering Construction Facility Management Industry are Model View Definitions using IFC Industry Foundation Classes and IFC based solutions for data exchange. Currently there are 23 MVD‘s in progress. MVD’s with diagrams are below.


Some MVDs are at the design stage, some have diagrams shown below. Generic concepts are on the left side in blue, IFC 2×3 Binding Concepts are on the right side in yellow.

Architectural Design > Structural Design

The General Concepts include: Beam, Building, Building Storey, Column, Grid, Project, Ramp, Site, Slab, Stair, User Defined Object, and Wall. The IFC 2×3 Binding Concepts include: Beam, Building Element Proxy, Column, Project, Ramp, Site, Slab, Stair, and Wall. Apparently the Building Element Proxies encompass User Defined Objects and the Building Stories.



Architectural Design > Thermal Simulation

Will be useful for energy performance and sustainability studies. Here the main concept on both sides is “Space”



BPEA Building Performance Energy Analysis 

More detailed for sustainable studies, now project is moved above, spatial components are separated from other concepts, the building elements are more defined.  Spatial zones are indicated which can be related to sensor data and long term performance tracking.




Code Compliance Checking

Focuses on the building systems and elements. Codes vary by jurisdiction boundaries, can’t these geometric boundaries be used to help narrow down relevant codes?




Concept Design > Quantity Take Off

Costs. Organized by Project first, then Site, Building, Building Storey, and Space.



Indoor Climate Simulation > HVAC Design

Related to Code Compliance Checking.  Project is not separate here, the main generic categories are Building, Building Storey, Project is at this level, Site, Space, and Thermal Zone. Long term wide spread studies might combine this MVD with sustainable processes listed above.



Spatial Requirements and Target > Thermal Simulation

Focusing here on Project and Space Type




Structural Design > Structural Analysis

Looking at: Building, Building Storey, Project, Structural Analysis Curve Connection, Structural Analysis Curve Member, Structural Analysis Point Connection, Structural Analysis Surface Member, Structural Linear Action, and Structural Point Action. Reminds me of the art fundamentals program at Virginia Commonwealth University where students explore surfaces and spaces. Mathematicians analyze critical points and actions too, how can there be an internship program bringing together people in their 2os across each discipline?



Now look at this Domain Map of the Building Service Performance Project by Bob Smith, based on meeting notes here


What’s needed next is a map of open standards in NBIMS MVD formats.


Open Standards / Commercial Technology

Benefits of Using the BIMstorm Process and OPS Onuma Planning System to develop Open Standards  

Open standards for building and geospatial information are rapidly changing.  So much is being figured out at the same time its hard to know which of the many parallel tracks will eventually meet in the distance.  For example:

Performance Specifications:  Proprietary versus generic names of things are very tricky ~ the CSI Construction Specification Institute International Framework Dictionary is currently being developed;   

Data Exchange Policies:  Recording brand names, model numbers, and manufacturer’s warranties as performance specifications, designs and data change hands from Architect, to Contractor, to Owner ~ COBIE Construction Operations Building Exchange is currently being developed;  

Building Codes:  Construction type and use group are able to align with building data by facility type and location ~ ICC International Code Council SmartCODES are currently being developed;  

Space Definition Rules:   BOMA calcs and owner program requirements ~ OSCRE Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate are currently being developed;  

Geospatial Coordination: OGC Open Geospatial Consortium has already made a huge impact, open standards continue to be developed with an impressive focus on interoperability amongst the standards themselves;  

Sustainability: Owners, Architects, and Contractors understand how to go for LEEDS points now ~ USGBC US Green Building Council has already made a huge impact, standards and requirements continue to be developed;  

Tools for Public Inquiry:  How can environmental organizations assess their area using USGBC/LEED data, GIS Watershed, BOMA Calcs, SMARTCodes and all the above while OmniClass, MasterFormat, UniFormat and all the words we use are constantly evolving?

BIMstorm and OPS provide an opportunity for non-technical people to like and understand the potential of BIM and open standards in simple ways.  Room Criteria Sheets and Google Earth are OK, regular people can play out a variety of scenarios without liabilities, deadlines, or costs.  It can’t be only technical people who solve these problems.   The main benefit of using the BIMstorm process and OPS is being able to figure out how open standards SHOULD work together with commercial technology.  Open standards need to be vendor neutral, but it takes vendors to help develop these standards along the way.  There is still a tremendous amount of work ahead and true interoperability will never be “done”.  Until then, using the BIMstorm process and OPS provides a unique opportunity to work together towards the same shared end goals.  Can’t get there without using real products and technology.

Deborah L. MacPherson AIA, CSI CCS
Specifications and Research, WDG Architecture PLLC
Projects Director, Accuracy&Aesthetics
NBIMS National Building Information Modeling Standard, Consensus and Model Implementation Guide Task Teams
Member of the buildingSMART alliance


Breaking into Constructable Parts

Favorite quote from Edward J. Barkmeyer in the Manufacturing Systems Integration Division at National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)

“….the problem is that Internet is still the big city of the Middle Ages. We know how to build all kinds of buildings and we have a lot of demand for them and a lot of construction of various kinds and qualities going on. But no one is responsible for much of it, we have no civil engineering discipline, we have no land use planning, we have random patchworks of streets, we are carrying the water on foot in buckets from the most convenient well, we have no police force and no fire brigade, we have sewage problems, crime problems and frequent plagues. Some communities thrive and some die out, and we don’t really understand why. And yet people keep coming here, because there is education, and jobs, and entertainment, and money to be made. Ultimately, technology enabled us to get control of it, and fires and plagues forced us to. But it took 7 centuries. I hope the Internet experience is shorter.”



Collage made for CADD Microsystems June 2006


Complex Geometry

Breaking into Constructable Parts

Automated layer reduction for repeated assemblies

Checking the drawings and project requirements

Calculating estimates and pricing

Showing the extent of materials

Showing work by each contractor

Showing dependent work sequences

Standard layers, symbols, & drawing notations

Automated placement of call outs and details

Sloppy drawings, inconsistent terms & symbols

Danger of a facility wide error or omission

How do Contractors and Owners participate?

What is dynamic?

Can models document the construction and operation processes?

Can progress photos be overlaid and fit to the drawings as construction moves forward?

What do they do in this place?
What is the status of the inventory?
Where are the collection elements?
What are the specifications of those environments?

Humanizing the spaces and materials
Default scale and perspectives

Tracking better combinations for cost efficiency and aesthetics

Sharing one up to date approved model over time


Context of Codes

According to sustainable design architect William McDonough, in the world of building codes, context is all.


1. Insist on the right of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.

2000 Carbon Atoms in a Diamond Lattice
James R. Morris, C. Z. Wang and K. M. Ho

2. Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations to recognize even distant effects.


Core by W3C
3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement, including community, dwelling, industry and trade, in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.


High Sky 2 by Bridget Riley, lives at the Neues Museum, Nurnberg, Germany.
4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist.


Spatial Layout, Deborah MacPherson CAD drawing with SpinnerCropHoudek

5. Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential dangers due to the careless creation of products, processes or standards.


SeaShellCage by Dream Geometry at Midcoast.com, Research & Development Through Free Exchange of Ideas.
6. Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life cycle of products and processes to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.

7. Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative force from perpetual solar income. Incorporate this energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.

8. Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever, and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not as an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.

9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long-term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility and to reestablish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.

The Hannover Principles should be seen as a living document committed to transformation and growth in the understanding of our interdependence with nature so that they may be adapted as our knowledge of the world evolves.


Specifying Public Information

If the construction of semantic space was an organized process like the construction of physical space, more consensus documents are needed.

The real world, historical process of creating, promoting, and maintaining places for democracy to be conducted occurs in places and buildings around the world.

The project map below shows a sample set of public projects by the Architect of the Capitol


Democracy is also conducted at embassies around the world regardless of how many buildings you have.


Hot Spots Around the World

Private enterprise has a role in democracy. The magnificent, spacious, new Newseum building is a place to discuss free speech, free press, and free spirit in sweeping and fine detail. See a construction movie of the building coming to life here. The purposefully transparent building is ideally located between the Capitol and White House  to put the first amendment under a microscope.

Photo by Sam Kittner

The requirements for constructing and making democracy big and transparent in the digital world are harder to plan for and construct than the real world. In the real world property lines already exist and there is defined processes for building based upon where the building will stay. There is not a formalized system for public information to be built or stay in places yet.

To pretend public information were like public places made through contracts like buildings – the first document needed for any project would be a set of General Conditions defining the roles of typical project participants. It could be a diverse mix.


Tree of Life, Gustav Klimt at Krobs

AIA201 reduces the complexity of every project and the entire AEC industry to only 3 roles: Owner, Architect, and Contractor. The Architect’s drawings and specifications are directed exclusively to the attention of the Contractor. Yet, the Architect has no direct relationship with the Contractor except to certify the work is in compliance with the contract documents and design intent.

If you keep the basic structure of 3 roles but switch:

Owner = Public
Architect = Press
Contractor = Government


People in the University of Florida Department of Astronomy

Excerpts from A201:

Owner (public) and Contractor (democratic government), both the person or entity identified as such in the agreement and referred to throughout the Contract Documents as if singular in number.
But, what are the contract drawings and specifications?


The Contractor (democratic government) shall perform Work in accordance with the Contract Documents?
But, what are the performance requirements for public semantic spaces promoting democracy by enabling community voices?
What is the relationship between the public as Owner, the press as Architect, and democratic government as Contractor to define information exchange requirements

A201cont: The Contractor (democratic government) shall not be relieved of obligations to perform the Work in accordance with the Contract Documents either by activities or duties of the Architect (press) in the Architect?s administration of the Contract (Constitution), or by tests, inspections or approvals required or performed by persons other than the Contractor (democratic government).

What should this information structure feel like when you are in this place?


Gustav Klimt Beech Forest

What type of information structure would work best for a new democracy like Nigeria to thrive? What is comfortable? What gets things done? What worries and concerns are on their minds? What is the role of the local and world press in a city like Lagos? Can idealized information exchange structures be made to avoid reinventing the wheel and provide people in need with sustainable information designs?


Carefully building up to systematically destroy

Every real story has at least two sides. To tell it fairly, there is a need to create a balanced, equitable structure to see where the situation stands and compare apples to apples. Too bad there are no data structures made like coloring books so you could fill in the blanks.

Setting up an equitable structure to examine two sides of an argument is a challenge in itself. One example of instructions for creating symmetrical, even opposing structures is here copyright ? 2003, Zef Damen, The Netherlands. His reconstruction of the Milk Hill 17-06-2003 formation is below. But pretend this unfolding logical structure was used to examine a touchy subject, see both sides of a story, set up and compare histories and facts…

Step 1 or 27 – place opposing view points into the same structure, begin to divide and classify. One side is for an issue like the war in Iraq, the other side is against.


Step 9 of 27 – more and more details, connections, and separations are needed between the opposing histories, available records, and points of view. There are more sides to the argument because it is getting more complex. There are more factors to consider, deciding a stance on large impact issues like wars is not simple.
Step 27 of 27 – a complex situation is depicted, as many view points as possible given equal space.


Once the structure reaches a limit of the number of facts that can be isolated and examined together in one group – the confusion of messy reality can be methodically broken down into manageable parts to systematically destroy weak arguments and keep only the best examples.
Systematically eliminate directly opposing views requires a formalized process of elimination that is best done by people. But how could machines help us find the fallacies? A taxonomy of fallacies is defined by Gary Curtis, Logic at Indiana University, Ontologist for Cycorp


What if proper fair layouts of emotional and expensive real world situations could be made in order to fill in the blanks to illustrate the many side of any issue – and computers could be taught to recognize what doesn’t actually fit or belong in certain areas? Ideally, by people and machines working together, eventually opposing, extreme, and just plain wrong views will eventually cancel each other out. The truth will be exposed because that is all that would be left. Once the information was clean, accurate and diverse – then you could really pick up a problem to start examining it and see various relationships from every angle.

Then structures even simpler than coloring books would be needed. For example FLIPP explainers by David Cox where “notice we would see (in this case 11) patterns even if no subject matter were shown.

In other words, the FLIPP explainer is a formalized logical structure to arrange and look through potentially huge amounts of information. If any layout from simple to complex was made to sort through and present the paintings a person or culture prefers, could the same layouts be reused for different subjects too?