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    Atmospheric data and software arts: new ways of investigating the built environment

    de Freitas, Elizabeth and Trafi-Prats, Laura ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3468-1073 (2024) Atmospheric data and software arts: new ways of investigating the built environment. In: Postfoundational Approaches to Qualitative Inquiry. Routledge, London, pp. 51-64. ISBN 9781032287911 (paperback); 9781032287881 (hardback); 9781003298519 (ebook)

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    This chapter stays tuned to questions about sensory and digital research methods in the social sciences. We respond to the postfoundational condition of qualitative research, by taking cue from the fields of software studies and investigative aesthetics, to explore the glitch fragility of technical research tools. We advocate for projects that are (a) politically and materially engaged with digital transformations of life and culture, (b) attentive to the atmospheric and distributed eco-sensory nature of experience, and (c) explicitly focused on the role of contingency and speculation in experimental modes of empirical inquiry. We explore new qual-quant mixtures of meaning, and open the black box of software, to argue that contingency is inherent to all method. We believe this allows for a much-needed political intervention, as we reclaim and rewrite the meaning of digital data, wrestling it away from surveillance capitalists. We suggest that postfoundational research might become a kind of software art which reckons with algorithmic contingency, not only as lack or deficit in representation, but as an opening onto the trans-individual and pre-personal atmosphere of the built environment. We discuss a research project about the atmospheric conditions of school buildings, and a series of experiments that engaged with school building envelopes. Our investigative approach was collaborative, working with participants to reanimate the school milieu and reveal the incomputable dimension of lived architecture. We discuss how the evental nature of the building was lured out of stasis by the student engagement with various technical and sensory devices. The chapter responds to the editors’ orienting questions regarding research that engages the political through attention to the contingency in research methods, while exploring the pre-personal and pre-individual.

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