Broadening research perspectives through the Gaia Hypothesis

I’ve always found the concept of the Gaia Hypothesis fascinating since hearing about it more than ten years ago (yes, I’m a late bloomer). For the uninitiated, James Lovelock proposed that the Earth is actually a self-sustaining and self-regulating organism (a superorganism, if you will), made possible by its living inhabitants, or more specifically, their interaction with the planet’s non-living components. My rather simplistic explanation belies its actual complexity, which I will not even try to tackle here. Suffice to say that the Gaia Hypothesis offers a holistic, if not New Age-y way of looking at life on Earth.

What piqued my curiosity yesterday is whether or not one can apply this hypothesis on a smaller scale. Is it possible to achieve some sort of homeostasis within a living space to maintain the overall well-being of its occupants? Of course, a single living space can’t really be self-sustaining in a literal sense. But maybe it is possible that, through the establishment of meaningful relationships between biology and technology, one can be helped to maintain conducive living conditions with greater efficiency as opposed to relying solely on conventional amenities, such as active air conditioning and lighting. Furthermore, with a geophysiology on such a small scale, information and communication technology can perhaps augment cybernetic feedback between these components.
So, I guess what I am trying to ask myself now is, would it be possible for one to look at a living space, be it a house, a dormitory, a net café, an office or whatever, along with everything in it, as a single entity? Can it give us a deeper understanding with regards to sustainable design as opposed to traditional architecture and construction? I’m sure there are people out there who have gotten into this. I only wish more people (least of all me) knew about it.

This whole thing about green living spaces and well-being has for the most part occupied my mind ever since I arrived here in Europe. And as I near the end of my short residency here at FoAM, I can expect pretty much the same in the coming months, long after I make it back home in the Philippines. But at least for now, it is interesting to see this parallel which never even occurred to me until yesterday.

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Biomodd and new research ideas

While I don’t spend a lot of time with Angelo Vermeulen and Diego Maranan, being scattered across the world and all, these two are all but family to me. But the thing is, I always feel a certain initial level of inadequacy when working with them at the same time. I do not have the gift of spontaneity, or at least the ability to effectively communicate brilliant ideas and thoughts as quickly and naturally as they do. I start slowly, and then catch up near the end. Not the best way to go about things, I admit – but that’s how I always seem to do it and I’ve gotten by fine so far.

Biomodd had already been little more than a fond memory – two years since Biomodd[LBA2] and more than a year since [C]Biomodd. I sort of hinted at Angelo that I would love to be a part of other iterations, but I didn’t really expect anything to happen. I guess I should have realized that considering the pace Angelo has sustained for years, it would have been only a matter of time before he would present such an opportunity.

Biomodd[TUDelft3] has been given the go signal and both Diego and myself have been asked to fly to the Netherlands and participate. Now, that by itself has already filled me with both excitement and apprehension. It’s going to be a huge personal and professional experience. But to follow that up, we have also been encouraged to stay a while longer there (which I was planning on, anyway) and look into entering some sort of mini-residency to pursue our research ideas (which wasn’t exactly part of my plan).

Now, I have worked with Diego a number of times. But aside from a small conference paper, we have never done real research together, mainly because of different approaches and interests. So, the question I had the past few weeks was whether or not it was possible for us to bridge our respective fields and come up with something that still interests both of us. Our colleagues at UPOU know of him as an accomplished dancer. But it’s just a small part of his interests. Movement would be a more apt term (as my girlfriend would point out). I somehow related that to ergonomics. And what if we concerned ourselves to not just body motion, but that of the environment as well? I immediately thought of how such a consideration would give a more holistic approach in dealing with green living spaces – something I’ve been casually exploring recently. Diego liked the idea, and so did Angelo. We actually came up with our residency proposal in one sitting. I guess that resoundingly answered my question.

Even if this mini-residency doesn’t push through, I have already been presented a few good directions in terms of what I want to do with my career. And for that, all involved parties have my gratitude.

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