Friday, August 15, 2008

The Intellectuals Circle

 The Intellectuals Circle is a seating arrangement that promotes a non-linear outlet for intellectual discussion. There are four sections of four opposing seats. The circular footprint is 12 feet in diameter.  Participants sit opposing one another around the circular structure, overlapping slightly at the shoulder. The idea behind this type of seating arrangement is to encourage clear, verbal communication without visual cues or theatrics between the participants. The Intellectuals Circle will be placed around public spaces at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's campus throughout the course of a year. 

Jean Baudrillard, a french cultural theorist, once replied; "There are no more French intellectuals. What you call French intellectualism has been destroyed by the media. They talk on television, they talk to the press, they no longer talk among themselves."
This is in response to a question about the state of French intellectualism which easily applies to the United States as well. With the phenomena of websites like You Tube, and the culture industry of the American media, there is an overwhelming abundance of  monologue culture void of a dialogical outlet.

The Intellectuals Circle seating structure is based on the reverse thinking of an 18th Century prison design by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham's,  Penopticon.
"The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the "sentiment of an invisible omniscience" (Wikipedia)
Instead of using a centralized theme of observation as a means of control, the Intellectuals Circle allows participants to converse freely on the periphery, without direct visual contact with the person closest to them. There is no center at all, only four ways in which to enter, sit and exit at will.