The Intellectuals Circle seating arrangement promotes a non-linear outlet for intellectual discussion. Participants sit opposing each other around a circular structure, overlapping slightly at the shoulder. The idea behind this type of seating arrangement is to encourage a clear form of verbal communication without visual cues or theatrics between participants.
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 and they are no longer talking among themselves.”
This response to the question about the state of French intellectualism easily applies to the United States as well. With the phenomena of websites like You Tube, and the culture industry of American media, there is an overwhelming abundance of a monologue culture void of a dialogical outlet.
The Intellectuals Circle seating structure is based on the reverse idea of an eighteenth-century prison design, the Panopticon by English philosopher Jeremy Benthams.
“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 and within the structure's periphery, without direct visual contact with each other. There is no center and only four ways in which to enter, sit and exit.
The entire fabrication of the Intellectuals Circle was built at the MIT Hobby Shop. Fabricators included student members from mechanical engineering and architectural programs and Hobby Shop members.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
The Intellectuals Circle: A Seating Arrangement for Mindful Discussion will begin its tour of the MIT campus Thursday, April 2, 2009. The tour kicks off in the Brain and Cognitive Center's Atrium. The Circle will remain on display until May 3.
Please visit this site for future installation locations throughout the Summer of 2009.
After a short break and a re-infusion of new student help (o.k. and a month's worth of procrastination), the circle is now complete. When we started this project it was but a concept, that
is now realized.
Thank you, MIT Council for the Arts, MIT Hobby Shop students and members, Anderson and McQuaid Lumber and Festool. Without your generous support and patience, this project would not have been realized.