Mind & Matter


Big Shot and the New Simulated Environment

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Big Shot Architectural Images.

In The Vital Illusion, philosopher Jean Baudrillard contemplates the manipulation of reality by contemporary technologies, including virtual media. Not only is reality dead, according to Baudrillard, “it has purely and simply disappeared.” Elias Canetti writes that “[a]s of a certain point, history was no longer real. Without noticing it, all mankind suddenly left reality.” Virtual simulacra and “real-time” access to information bear the blame. “In virtual reality,” Baudrillard states, “absolute transparence converges with absolute simultaneity.”

The appearance of a new image-based service focused on materials embodies this idea. Big Shot Architectural Images collects and sells digital content for direct application in building construction. Taking advantage of the increasing popularity of visually enhanced products and materials—a phenomenon I call the “Photoshop Effect”—Big Shot intends to extend the success of image repositories such as Flickr and Getty Images into the physical realm.

According to founder Jennifer Daly, “This is not artwork meant to be hung on a wall. Its boundaries will supersede that of an average frame and itself become the architecture. It will enclose and define space. People may touch it, work on it, sit on it, or it may become part of a skyline. The only predictable outcome is that the art will be wholly integrated with the architecture.”

Although Big Shot reinforces Baudrillard’s premise, it also promises a new degree of control for a media savvy generation of architects, designers, and artists. It offers a virtual marketplace for many design-related professions to cross disciplinary boundaries. Like any technology, however, Big Shot’s service could be used towards thoughtful or disappointing ends. Let us hope it encourages the former approach.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.