Spatial Design at AUT

School of Art + Design, AUT University, Auckland, NZ

Hyperactive Environments Research Cluster

The Hyperactive Environments Research Cluster explores the built environment in terms of effect.

An environment is not a table on which miscellaneous things can be arranged; a blank site for interchangeable objects. An environment is a relational totality.

As Bruno Latour argues, objects are active. They are not simply set in motion by people, but act in their own right. You are immersed in a world of active agents: trees, dolphins, oil, antiseptics, software pirates, x-rays, gravity, planning regulations, magnetism, and rain. These active agents produce difference and generate effects: water wears down stone, the value of the US dollar affects raisin production, the handle of a door shapes your hand, a new motorway severs a neighbourhood, pigs dig up truffles, your retina detects the wavelength of photons, plants grow towards nutrients. Some of these effects involve a human, and many others don’t. In light of Harman’s critique of correlationism, the HERC advocates the consideration of many actions and effects, not just the actions humans take, and the effects that they detect. ‘Hyperactivity’ is the term we will use to describe the multi-dimensional and multi-directional activity of our environments.

What are the implications and design opportunities this hyperactivity affords? How can our relationship to our environments be conceived in terms of an ethics of engagement rather than abstraction? How can we design for such a full and active world?

Research projects will address well-defined design problems for specific sites, proposed by individual researchers. Please consult with HERC staff in putting together your proposal. There are also research opportunities for Masters students in this area.

Haptic Environments Research Cluster Staff: Carl Douglas, Elvon Young


Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford: University Press.

Harman, G. (2009). Prince of Networks. Bruno Latour and Metaphysics. Melbourne, Australia: