Wikipedia defines the many different, although related, meanings of architecture as follows:
Architecture is the art and science of designing and constructing buildings and other structure for human use and shelter.
Architecture may also refer to:
- Architecture (magazine), a defunct magazine
- Architecture Label, a record label
- Architecture Records, a record label
- Cytoarchitecture, the arrangement and interaction of cellular structures
- Landscape architecture, the design of man-made land constructs
- Naval architecture, the science of design of water-borne vessels
- Process architecture, the design of general process systems (computers, business processes, etc)
- Computer architecture, the systems architecture of a computer
- Enterprise architecture, an architecture, or framework, for aligning an organization’s systems
- Enterprise information security architecture, or EISA, the portion of enterprise architecture focused on information security
- Hardware architecture, the architecture design of an integrated device
- Information architecture, the systems architecture for structuring the information flows in a knowledge-based system
- Robotic architectures, the architecture of the hardware and software in robots
- Software architecture, the systems architecture of a software system
- Systems architecture, the representation of an engineered system
- Technical architecture, the technical definition of an engineered system
- Website architecture, the design and planning of websites
- Vehicle architecture, an automobile platform common to different vehicles
Architecture sometimes refers to:
In all these cases, architecture systemically provides a frame within which our perceptions are fashioned and shaped. In the case of software architecture, the implications these days are enormous. And I don’t think we generally understand how enormous they are.
For there was a time when our behaviours were mostly – indeed, essentially – channelled and defined by the laws our generally elected legislators passed. We did this or didn’t do it because of the corresponding punishments, which our parliaments and judges laid down and/or meted out as appropriate and reasonable. The carrot and stick functioned as, in fact, in a way, it always must – but at least it was a carrot and stick with a certain legitimacy. In some sense, over a period of time, there was a connection between public opinion and moral dilemma – in some way, then, we the people were in charge.
Now, however, it’s the brightest bods in private industry – that is to say, software engineers the world over – who define what in public we are able to do and what we can’t. Not, in this case, a matter of laws which must pass through a more or less rigorous process of review and revision before they go on the statute books. No representations or lobbyists – then – putting pressure on MPs, congresspeople and senators in a duly democratic system of give and take.
No. In this case, and these days, the reality is quite different. Today, it is the clever clogs who decide behind closed doors what our constitutions will allow us to do.
For we live so much of our lives in virtual worlds now that what we can do online and what we can’t is beginning to have more importance for our life outcomes than any century-full of laws, legislation and overbearing legal precedent. And what and who and when we can click constitutes our virtual Bill of Rights.
Essentially, what I’m saying here is that our laws are now being made by privately-run companies who employ highly intelligent and creative individuals to create a multitude of virtual worlds which stretch from Twitter to Facebook and from buying groceries online to selling bric-a-brac at auction.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Anthony Weiner – and then you’ll see what I mean. As the writer of the piece concludes most succinctly:
Weiner was caught in the social net, undone by a bunch of conversations several years earlier between some San Francisco geeks trying to figure out the settings of a cool new product.
The details of web product design had led to the pants being pulled down on a promising political career.
Of course, such a conclusion is probably too easy a way of wrapping up the whys and wherefores. In part, there is surely the factor of personal responsibility at play in this particular set of circumstances – and which really shouldn’t be ignored. But none of us is perfect, even so. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” and so on and so on …
I would, therefore, argue that two of the prime objectives of civilisation are:
- to acknowledge this reality by being kind and gentle – wherever this is possible and societally acceptable – when dealing with the manifest fragility of humankind;
- to learn how to coax and systemically persuade us away from some of the more destructive behaviours we might be inclined to demonstrate if left to our own devices;
That’s what our laws – at least in relation to what I have experienced of the mainly Western civilisations around me – seem to generally have attempted to effect.
At least in my lifetime.
So it is that I come back to the importance of architecture more generally. And to finish, the most appalling and unhappy expression of prejudice I have come across from any MP of any political persuasion:
A Conservative MP has suggested “vulnerable” jobseekers – including disabled people – should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage.
Backbencher Philip Davies said the £5.93-an-hour legal minimum may be a “hindrance” to some jobseekers.
Firms were likely to favour other candidates and MPs should not “stand in the way” of those who wanted to work for less to get on the “jobs ladder”.
What’s more, Philip Davies gives credence to this dangerous architecture of opinion – for prejudice is as systemic and structured as any landscape or building you’d care to alight on – by quoting constituents with mental health problems who also share these unhappy attitudes:
He said he had talked to people with mental health problems during a visit to a surgery run by the charity Mind, and they had “accepted” that they would be passed over in favour of jobseekers without disabilities.
He then goes on to argue that:
“Given some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, cannot be as productive in their work as somebody who has not got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable given the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk,” he said.
The solution to the challenge then being a few pennies less on the payroll in order to convince an already unconvinced employer to change their entire employment mindset? I don’t think so.
Surely there are other – far more proactive, far more constructive, far more supportive – methods of dealing with such beliefs. Whether, in fact, they belong to blinkered MPs – or to their unhappy and suffering constituents.
Which is why I would assert that the real issue here is yet another one of architecture: as mentioned above, in this instance of prejudice. And why I think that this concept of architecture, more widely, is so very very important to all our 21st century lives. If only we were able to see beyond the frames which so condition us, and which we each carry around inside us, then the future would be far brighter – and our societies much more welcoming places to inhabit.
But this latter objective doesn’t seem to be the aim of any of our latterday top-flight politicos or economists. Far more important to crunch numbers vigorously than do anything within your power to create what we might also describe as an architecture of happiness.
I wonder why that is.