Dr Moa Carlsson: The Data Gaze: Design, Automation, and Politics of Aesthetics in Postwar Britain

  • 1pm - 2pm

  • Adam House, Adam House Lecture Theatre
    3 Chambers Street
    EH1 1HT

Led by Dr Moa Carlsson, ESALA, Edinburgh College of Art

Software systems are increasingly acknowledged as cultural artifacts that enact theoretical commitments about the practices they are meant to support. Still, deployment of computerized methods for analyzing views and visibility is increasing in urban and environmental planning despite the lack of empirical evidence as to whose point of view these systems actually serve. Offering an examination of technology and aesthetic politics in the evolution of the British planning system, this session highlights aspects of the mechanization of architecture and planning work from 1945 until the dawn of the personal computing age in the 1980s. I will survey the widespread use of mathematical vision in the British war effort and trace how pioneering architects and planners, hired by major industrial developers, began to exploit the general characteristics of mainframe computers (speed, accuracy, replicability, and economy) to define new ways of representing and measuring visual phenomena, and of comparing alternative visions of the countryside, using quantitative “facts”. The result was a new planning tool, rooted in military mapping technology, that profoundly transformed not only visualization and representation practices but that also helped to ensure continued industrial expansion.


Moa Carlsson is an architect and design scholar interested in issues of automation and technological cultures in architecture, planning and design. Her research and teaching explore relationships between design, digital media and visuality, with a specific focus on the governance of open visual space in Great Britain and the United States after 1945. She was awarded her PhD (2019) and M.Sc. (2013) in Design and Computation from MIT, and her MArch (2008) from Lund University, Sweden. She has previously taught design studios, and history and theory seminars at MIT, The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), The Boston Architecture College, The Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) and The Architectural Association (AA). Before earning her PhD, she worked professionally in architecture and landscape architecture in London, New York, Vienna and Sweden.

Free and all welcome