greater spaces

A Sense of Space: meet Maria Nikoli, who is developing a multisensory sketching tool for architects

Maria Nikoli is an architect with a license in an earthquake-prone country. Having worked as an architect, web designer, and researcher, she found her passion at the intersection between architecture and embodied interaction design. She is now an MSc candidate in Interaction Design at Malmö University.

Illustration: Maria Nikoli

1. What do you find exciting about technology right now? It’s very intriguing that tech now involves multiple senses at once. Audiovisual media are dominating every platform. There are tons of experimental projects out there that involve other senses too, such as olfactory VR games, for example. I find that very fresh and exciting.

2. Why or how did you choose this path? I decided to follow a very “techy” subfield of architecture while I was writing my research thesis at architecture school, which was about the relationship of body, space, and digital technology. It was then that I realized that technology shapes us and our societies. It even shapes our cultural expressions, as Kristina Höök said. I find this very exciting, and it’s the reason I ended up at a Master’s program in Interaction Design.

3. What has been your favorite project so far and why? The project I’m currently working on: my thesis for the Master’s in Interaction Design. I’m developing an interactive tool with an aim to help architects enrich their sketching process. When architects sketch, they usually do so with visual media, but this tool will afford a multi-sensory, embodied approach. I can’t reveal too many details about my work before my examination, but I can tell you that it’s going to be about sonic ambiances and kinesthesia. Follow me on LinkedIn and stay tuned, more info is coming soon!

4.What do you feel the proudest of in your career? When I was an architecture student in Greece, a couple friends and I founded an activist group that dealt with LGBTQ+ and womens’ rights. We were very active within the very conservative community of our Polytechnic. Of course, this group could not solve the problem on a large scale, but we could see right away that some marginalized students felt like they were finally given a voice. More and more people were making themselves heard and our needs within the student community became more visible.

5. What has been your biggest mistake over the past year and what did you learn from it? My biggest challenge over the past year was accepting that there are some things that I cannot control. What I learned from it is that during times of uncertainty — such as a pandemic — it’s natural that projects may be delayed or go into unforeseen directions, and that’s okay.

6. What is the biggest daily challenge in the field of tech? Tech is a rapidly changing discipline. The tools that we use are constantly evolving. So, whether you work with code, or design software, or anything else really, you always have to be up to date. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up the pace.

7. What do you imagine will happen in technology over the next five years and the next decade? There’s a shift towards technology that is less based on visual symbols and written language and more based on orality, movement, and other sensory input. And in some ways, this technology is already here: think of Alexa, for example, or swiping movements and gestures, or even sensor-based tech. In the future, there might be less of a visual interface and more seamless, unmediated interactions between human and machine.

8. What should we keep an eye on in the future? Social media and other types of digital platforms seem to be fertile ground for the rise of far-right extremists — a recent example would be QAnon emerging out of the 4chan website. Of course, digital technology itself is not the reason why these movements surface. However, if we are to counteract these movements in any way, we should be able to fully understand the tools they use and why they use them.

Read more about Maria’s work at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-nikoli-928706209/

About Greater Spaces

Greater Spaces is written by Majken Overgaard and Vanessa Julia Carpenter where we work to expand the narrative of what technology is and who creates it. We speak with Danish and international female role models within technology and between these interviews we share what is most interesting to us, with a focus on diversity.

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