This thesis uses social media as point of departure to understand distinctions between face-to-face human interaction and human interaction that is mediated by digital technology. I began by asking simple questions: What does it mean to replace a hand shake with a text message? What does it mean to greet someone not physically as a person but as a flattened image on a screen? Ultimately, what does it mean for two subjects to interact without physical proximity and how does the distance between them inform or misinform their perception of one another?
The locus of the research was to explore the role of architecture as a site-specific, physical object within the tangle of social connection/disconnection between physically separated subjects in an immaterial digital space. And so the goal of the thesis was to find opportunities to use architecture as a point of convergence for social interaction in the analog and social interaction in the digital.
The case study for this thesis was a hypothetical social network, The Open Aid Network, created for the purpose of increasing contact between, and aligning the efforts of, the estimated 1.8 million humanitarian organizations around the world. Like preceding social networks such as Facebook and Google, for reasons of logistics, communication and coordination that are inextricably linked to face-to-face interaction, the Open Aid Network would inevitably need to establish a physical presence through architecture. In other words, it would need to translate its digital identity into a physical object. The result of this thesis was an exploration of a new building and spatial typology: an architectural translation of the digital-social to become the physical-social, of Internet non-space to become physical place, and of ubiquitous human interaction to find permanence in site specificity.