beyond virtualization

virtual reality, collective intelligence and post-capitalism

Master's Thesis
Supervisors : Christian Girard, Mario Carpo

Beyond Virtualization aims to consider the social and political impacts of the democratization of virtual and augmented reality technologies, as well as their repercussion on architecture and the design process. A particular importance is given to the transformation of social and cognitive modes of organization.

New technologies are often presented as salutary and emancipatory, before being progressively absorbed by governments or corporations as tools of control, exploitation or value creation. However, the development of Internet in the 1990s stimulated the emergence of new distributed organization models, the democratization of production and distribution tools, as well as the exchange of knowledge and information. In order to assimilate, reinterpret or orient these technologies towards a collective vision, it is crucial to understand their functioning, their implications and their limits. Virtual immersion, praised and forgotten in the 1990s, recently witnessed a renewed optimism following the public launch of Head-Mounted Displays (HMD) in 2016. Following a brief presentation of virtual reality technologies and their relevance in architecture, the paper then considers their capacity to transform human intellect and environmental perception. In the second part, it focuses on the implications of virtual reality regarding architectural practice and radical politics, and questions the possibility to orient its use to facilitate the development of alternative models founded in collaboration and collective intelligence.

Virtual reality, as a representational tool and communication technology, is nothing more than an additional interface allowing us to explore the virtual at large - a concept predating any digital technology. Of particular interest to architecture is the ability to experiment with the notion of space : its perception, its design, its representation, its discontinuity, its temporality or the way it relates to the body. The involvement of the body makes virtual reality a multi-sensory interface, offering new ways to apprehend information and immaterial entities, temporarily distancing itself from reality to better understand it. However, the manipulation and reinterpretation of the psychological, cognitive, identitary, social and bodily notions which make its strength raise some serious ethical considerations, and foresee the possibility of a complete alienation to virtual delights.

Inspecting its use in arts inform us on its ability to foster collaboration - a crucial component of architectural design, as well as on the stirring complexity resulting from an interconnection between physical and virtual spaces. By offering the ability to navigate across different layers of reality, virtual reality technologies radically change how we relate to the built environment - and thus the role of the architect. While the consideration of Internet evolved from a technical tool to the constitutive technology of a new socio-political context, it would seem incomplete to consider virtual reality for what it is without considering the way it relates to society and the changes brought by its widespread adoption. The social, economical and political context in which it evolves is altered by virtual reality, as much as it influences its development. This research paper aims to consider how virtual reality can promote the elaboration and implementation of alternative models to an entrenched system, founded on collective organization, resource sharing, interdependence and collaboration by its potential to augment our intellectual abilities and deepen our understanding of complex systems. Ultimately, it considers virtual reality as a tool for experimentation, questioning the values we stand for and the very notions of mankind and identity. It attempts to draw development strategies for a responsible and aware use of virtual reality, in order to make the most out of it while limiting its use to ends of control and value creation.

Download [FR] [32.7 MB]

Download [compressed] [FR] [6.15 MB]

Publication :
Virtual Dream Center, edited by Jean-Baptiste Lenglet and Jessica Boubetra. Web, March 2018.

Cover background - Luka Lavrenci


IoT and the logics of soft-production

with Romain Curnier

Papers and publications related to the hyperwwwork project :

"Hyperwwork, Twelve Ideal Offices Towards a Labor Without Work"
in isthisit? issue 05, edited by Bob Bicknell-Knight.
London, August 2018.

"Hyperwwork: Is Alexa our new Chief Happiness Officer? IoT and the Logics of Soft-Production"
in Smartness? Between discourse and practice, 15th Architectural Humanities Reseach Association International Conference.
TU Eindhoven, Netherlands, 15th-17th November 2018.

"Hyperwwork: Is Alexa our new Chief Happiness Officer? IoT and the Logics of Soft-Production"
in Architecture and the Smart City, edited by Sergio M. Figueiredo, Sukanya Krishnamurthy, Torsten Schroeder.
Routledge : New York, 2019.

virtual biotope

ecosystem(s) of the virtual

Event curation
Club Late Music / La Cité Fertile, Paris, France


"Collaborative ecosystems and the art of immersion : the (re)definition of a collective intelligence?"
Panel talk with Club Late Music, Virtual Dream Center, Unicorn Paris, Immersion, Playtronica, Fabbula

UTC+N - Asynchronous Temporary Time Zone
Audiovisual installation by Club Late Music (DÉSIRÉ, D R D R A K K E N, GRiG, jEUNE fAUNE, Shayu), in collaboration with Lambert Duchesne and Victor Ronné

Exhibitions and demonstrations
Unicorn Paris, Virtual Dream Center, Alpha Rats, Adem Elahel, Gourau&Phong, Corpus Misty

DJ sets
Pæn æx Pæn x DJIVD, GRiG


From massive data mining to financial trading algorithms, from instantaneous communications to immersive technologies, the virtual increasingly shapes everyday life. But contrary to popular opinion, it is not defined in opposition to the real : they are complementary and indissociable.

Raw materials extractions, production plants, data centers - the virtual carries its own material reality. In no way detached from its environment, it exists and takes shape inside it.

Beyond its physical materiality,  the virtual participates in the (re)definition of our perception of the world. Through its capacity to explore a new range of possibilities, whose various representations (tales, drawings, photographs) participate in the development of our collective and individual intelligence, the virtual encourages the multiplication of experiences and modes of perception. Thus, it becomes a tool to understand phenomena whose logics and features would be otherwise imperceptible. It allows for the reevaluation of our interactions with our environment - and by distancing the real, to better apprehend it.

For a few years now, we have witnessed a general virtualization of our society, affecting not only the information and communication sectors, but also the broader economic and financial activities, the collective structures and the private realm. Virtualization gets to influence and disturb our lifestyles by proposing new social paradigms, for example by facilitating the emergence of virtual communities and organizations.

By its existing condition, the virtual compresses territories, spaces and temporalities. Collaboration, exchange and discussion are facilitated by the dissolution of boarders and the ease of information exchange, accelerating collaborative convergences and allowing for anyone to develop its social, cognitive and intellectual potentialities in a dynamic, emergent and cooperative way.
Henceforth, the virtual acts as a breeding ground for a multiplicity of ecosystems, where the mesh of digital communications sets up a new form of collective and community intelligence.

altered realities

Invited by La Cité Fertile, the open-source label and collective Club Late Music asked artists and musicians to explore the ecosystem(s) of the virtual, in order to question their limits and their intersections with our reality. Through a mutual aesthetic and a shared critical standpoint, the program navigates between immersive experiences questioning on their own and as a whole the notions of identity, community, distribution and information perception. More than a simple virtualization of society, it embodies and exhibits a deep transformation of our relationship to the world.

While the consideration of Internet evolved from technical tool to the constitutive technology of a new socio-political context, the experiences hereby presented not only use immersive technologies as a tool or medium, but consider them in their relation to society and their capacity to transform it. As Net Art engendered Post-Internet Art (also called Internet-Aware Art), here is anticipated the idea of "Post-Immersion", considering the immersive experience as a force having transformed social and cultural structures. The subject matter is then not immersion as en entity but the reconfiguration of multiple facets of society, overcoming the piece focused on novelty. With their capacity to materialize and make one feel complex or immaterial phenomena, to invoke a familiar body language, or to submerge one in virtual worlds freed from any physical constraint, these experiences, often the result of collaborative production, reveal an ecosystem emerging from collective intelligence. Information exchange, inter-individual dynamic interactions, tools and models lead to the emergence of propositions whose sentient properties exceed what could have been produced by disconnected individuals.  "Creation" does not arise from the mind of a single individual but is distributed across the exchanges of broader cognitive ecologies. 

Download event booklet [FR]