Mark Paterson | Architectures of the Oculomotor

Friday, February 23, 2018 at 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Building 7, 429
77 MASSACHUSETTS AVE, Cambridge, MA 02139

MIT Department of Architecture / Spring 2018 Lecture Series
Design & Computation Series, organized by PhD student Athina Papadopoulou with Prof. Terry Knight


"Architectures of the Oculomotor: Body Motility, Ocular Processes, and the Perception of the Built Environment"

When it comes to perceiving the built environment, a static model of vision has been the principal organizing modality. In this paper I return to some prior historical articulations of the significance of motility in perception across art history, architectural theory, and the history of physiology. Experimental discoveries by Mach, Breuer and others in the 1870s for example connected sensory subsystems dealing with balance and orientation to eye movements, offering an alternative to the ‘retinal’ or static model of vision. In addition, by means of a hypothetical ‘walkthrough' of an archaeological site, a Roman palaestra, I offer parallels between spatial motifs of the interior spaces of the body – labyrinths, vestibules, chambers – and those within the built environment, underlining the heightened physicality of oculomotor perception.



Mark Paterson is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He has conducted funded research on the use of haptic technologies within museums, and on the mixed spaces of human-robotic interaction (HRI). He is the author of Seeing with the Hands: Blindness, Vision and Touch After Descartes (2016) and The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies (2007), and co-editor of Touching Place, Spacing Touch (with Martin Dodge, 2012). His current book project is How We Became Sensory-Motor: Mapping Movement and Modernity. His research blog is at



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