Digital Literati and Angelus Novus

Gökhan Kıyıcı

Published Jul 23, 2020

First of all, two anecdotes from the two masters of literature can give a background for the introduction of the digerati term. Primarily, Banham underlines an emerging culture that may affect architectural practice unless architects do not propose to run with technology [1]. Another notable example is demonstrated by Walter Benjamin. Painting by Klee called Angelus Novus explained in his words [2]: ”An angel... were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at... His face is turned towards the past... he sees one single catastrophe...” (Figure 1).
Both anecdotes propose that although history and accumulation of knowledge are instructive, contrary to contributions canonical approaches, dogmas, rituals have the retarding effect in search of the novel ways in culture. Another constructive thinking can be transferred from Hays. According to him [3], “...the vocation of architecture is to reflect or to cause reflection on the processes behind crisis” which leads to the idea: the crisis is modulated into critique. Along with the differences in their definition ‘crisis’ and ‘critique’ have the same Latin word stem [4]: ‘krei’ which means to discriminate or distinguish.
So we can consider how could any historical progression can be evaluated. Today, in architectural design discourse a large number of study in digital design triggers us to rethink old terms that we already get used to practice. Design, drawing, material, fabrication gets new meanings during the breakthrough in architectural praxis. Here an abundance of theoretical 
debates can result in questioning adaptation of the discipline.
Architecture needs to respond to digital opportunities of new materials, new geometries that served by new software through new theory. From an educational point of view, undergraduate programs revise their physical conditions. A Well-known example from that approach is to add-on smart boards for classrooms or extend computer laboratory capacity. Besides, graduate programs announce untraditional research programs that bring different major areas together such as Digital Strategy in Politecnico di Milano focuses on the design and communication of the networks [5]. Moreover, although books,
pencils, papers, and eyeglasses are still in use, tablets, touch screens of every electronic device from the refrigerator to watches, virtual reality headsets, multi-touch input devices appear rapidly as a pervasive tool of our daily life. We can propose that the same replacement between former traditions and brand new ones can be seen in the architectural context starting from the modern period. In architectural history, the architect of the renaissance rose from the ashes of ancient Rome’s cultural legacy. International Style apparently had powerful connections with The Primitive Hut[i]
 as minimalizing geometry with a ‘less is more’ motto. Furthermore, drawings that made on clay tablets founded in Mesopotamia show almost the same quality as drawings made on paper by computers [6]. As a consequence, in transferring knowledge during paradigm shifts we have to be a ‘literati’ a word that defines persons interested in literature or the arts, have a curiosity to read and to know [7]. If we consider today's architecture’s novel terms such as ‘parametricism’ or ‘morphogenesis’ that Oxman mentions [8] while revising the theory of digital design, we should speak about the term ‘digerati’. This is a compound word which is made by two different words ‘digital’ and ‘literati’ and describes persons well versed in computer use and technology [9]. In the digital age, how do we need to take into consideration digital literacy in architectural schools? Is it sufficient updating just physical tools or places in universities or do we need a remodeling phase for architectural education? Our answer to these foregoing questions is architectural schools have to create a novel model for their student in order to survive in this fast living age of technology. As a result, if we review the current situation of our architectural education in universities some critical points can be put forward in order to extend our responding to digital design’s context crisis in an architectural point of view:

-Same as the angel in Benjamin’s metaphor, design culture should break off relations with visual-based design and should face Deleuzian ontology which has a more generative characteristic if we compare it to formalist and static position of the former.
-Education should spread out of the physical realm of the university, to a multi-spaced construction that enables reaching both virtual and actual reality and knowledge.
-Every architecture student should take courses about communication, coding, programming during their undergraduate education.
-Students should know about material and structural possibilities which will later feed their architectonic thinking and proposals.
-Every architecture student should know about robotic fabrication and its extensions in tools meaning.
-Universities should prepare well their archives and let students access their open-source libraries.
-Architect candidates should raise as a ‘digerati’ which is a decent way to meet the needs of our age.
Finally, the term ‘digerati’ is not a very crucial word only, but also it should be a new behavior pattern for the contemporary architects as well as the human being of today as angelus novus.

[i] ‘The primitive Hut’ term can be found in Marc-Antoine Laugier’s ‘Origins of The Primitive Hut: Essay on Architecture’ text written in 1753.


[1]: Banham, R. (1960). Architectural Design Theory in the First Machine Age. London: The Architectural Press. p.329-330.

[2]: Benjamin, W. (1940). On the Concept of History. (Trans. Dennis Redmond). Retrieved from < benjamin/1940/history.htm > on November 29, 2018.

[3]: Hays, K. M. (2010). Architecture’s Desire: Reading the late avant-garde. Cambridge: The MIT Press. p.7-8.

[4]: Crisis Word Description. Retrieved from < word/crisis> on November 30, 2018.

[5]: Digital Strategy: Design E Comunicazione Per La Rete- Ed. 5. Description. Retrieved from <> on November 30, 2018.

[6]: Halse, A. O. (1960). Architectural Rendering: The Techniques of Contemporary Presentation. New York: F. W. Dodge Corporation. p.3.

[7]: Literati Word Description. Retrieved from <https://www.merriam-> on November 17, 2018.

[8]: Oxman, R. (2012). Novel Concepts in Digital Design. Computational Design Methods and Technologies: Applications in CAD, CAM and CAE Education. 18-33. 10.4018/978-1-61350-180-1.ch002.

[10]: Digerati Word Description. Retrieved from < https://www.merriam-> on November 17, 2018.


Funded by the Erasmus+ Program of the European Union. However, European Commission and Turkish National Agency cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


Project Coordinator

TOBB University of Economics and Technology

Department of Architecture

Sögütözü Cad. No: 43 Sögütözü/Ankara


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