The artistry of construction: an investigation into construction as a creative process and the influence of mobile phones within domestic scale construction projects
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This Thesis seeks to analyse the influence that mobile phones exert on existing communication and working practices, and on the relationships of participants involved during on-site construction. The complexity of contemporary construction makes it difficult to plot static causal relationships between communications and actions on site, not easily addressed by a managerial framework that often misses the subtleties of the construction process. The aim of this Thesis is to increase our understanding of construction as a creative process and the operational influences of mobile phones during on-site construction. I examine the subtleties of mobile phone usage through three studies, and bring evidence to bear on the problematic of communication in construction. The first study analyses the construction of an art installation, positioning construction as a creative process. This description will inform the second and third studies, which examine the perception and usage of mobile phones within construction respectively. The narrative of this Thesis operates simultaneously along several different levels, pointing to the interconnection between creative, technological and collaborative factors that shape contemporary construction. I advance and interrogate an alternative description of construction based on the proposition that construction is a creative process and more sensitive to the communication practices within it than is often assumed. How are mobile phones specifically, and communication technology in general, manifested in construction? Beyond the functional considerations of communication as linear channels and construction as a linear process I identify a complexity within communication that challenges established assumptions of linearity evident in much of the construction management literature, both within the construction process and within the communication technologies that it deploys. This research counters the dominant causal description of the construction process and communication within it as fixed channels for the transfer of information. Within this description the mobile phone is revealed not as a static component in a fixed place within the process of construction but as a device best conceived as a medium for tweaking, tuning and calibrating onsite processes. The mobile phone complements, supplements and challenges other communications media and procedures in the construction process. My analysis provides a description of communication technology and mobile phones within construction that asserts its fluidity, enabling a broader description of construction to facilitate further interrogation of its communication procedures and media. Much research into the process of construction is dominated by a scientific management framework, asserting the fixed causal relationships between people. The process of building construction falls within the sciences. This Thesis challenges the exclusively scientific framing of construction and argues that there remains an underlying artistry to the process of construction, commonly theorised by philosophers in terms of “techné” and the craft inherent in the process of making. By this I mean that construction is influenced by the technological sophistication of the context in which it is being carried out. From the clay brick construction of Sub- Saharan Africa to the Millennium Bridge in London, these are a product of both communications and constructional technologies. While there exists significant research addressing the operation of design activities under the influence of communication technologies, there is a significant gap in the research analysing their influence on working practices during construction. It is within this context that I investigate the influence of mobile phones during on-site activities.