Monday, October 4, 2010

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] of flashmobs, foursquare and facades.....

Dear Dimitris and Martin,

thanks a lot for sharing your
discussion recording. This is really a very interesting discussion
topic, and I perceived your 6 points as very inspiring
thoughts to reflect about our attitude / relation to the public and
the private, and also about impact, dangers and possibilities of
pervasive media…

Also Veroniki: thank you for pointing
to the text by Christiane Paul - i think it is a really good
introduction into the artistic discussion about public space and new

I find it is especially important - as
you already mentioned in your summary, and as it is also stressed by
Paul - to stress the notions of accessibility, transparency, control
and a real common involvement as an opposite to a top-down production

Just some of my (unfinished) thoughts
about that:

If we talk about complex issues, I find
it always a good idea to go back to the very basics:

Wikipedia gives following definition
for public space:
„A public space is a social space
such as a town square that is open and accessible to all, regardless
of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level. One of the
earliest examples of public spaces are commons. For example, no fees
or paid tickets are required for entry, nor are the entrants
discriminated based on background. Non-government-owned malls are
examples of 'private space' with the appearance of being 'public

After travelling recently quite often
to Asia's mega-cities, I was thinking a lot about the blurring of the
boundaries, the semi-public spaces…. In the big cities here a lot
of companies and agencies are competing, that make "creative
use" of pervasive media and the latest technology. The so called
"brand-spaces" seem to appear everywhere. If space after
Lefebvre must be thought as a product of social praxis, for me there
are many questions rising up. Are the people which define space also
the owners of space, is just one of them. I think, it might now be a
good time to talk about politics again, especially if we look for
concept / practices, that try to resist the realms of power.

- My former university organizes an
interesting symposium (unfortunately I will have to do some work in
China during these days), that is also partly dealing with these
questions (maybe some of the points mentioned in the abstracts can
enrich our discussion too, maybe also the notion of
Gemeinschaft/community, see Nancy or Ranciere for more about that...

I think a further fruitful notion in
the context of our discussion could be the notion of manipulation.

A small anecdote:
Last week I visited Shanghai Expo. The
Absolute Top Object here is for most of the Chinese Visitors a
special Expo-Passport. In each pavilion they can collect stamps, and
the passport functions in that way like a map of an unknown
territory, that has to be discovered part for part: This way You
always get a track record of what you have already visited and what
you still have to visit: There is this illusion of that you can get
the "complete experience", without missing anything, as a
surrogate of the idea, that you are in control of the whole.
Literally, the passport gives you a legitimation (you have a
citizenship with its rights and duties). Afterwards you own a
document, and you have a piece of memory and also a proof.

This concept of the passport is so
successful (it is one of the main discussion topics for the people of
Shanghai), that this morning i was reading in the local newspaper
that other institutions like the Beijing Zoo will now also introduce
passports to attract more visitors. I think we can find here some
structural correspondences with pervasive media, that are leading me
to two questions / remarks: First: You can achieve the most effective
control, if there is an illusion of no control: If you create a
dispositive, where participants / citizens have the illusion to be
authors / explorers of reality, it is much easier to control the
space and the people within. Following Foucault and Deleuze there is
a lot of academic writing about that. I think there is one possible
future of pervasive media in manipulating people to be convinced,
that they are acting while in reality they are following predefined
patterns. There is kind of a labyrinth we are moving within, but a
labyrinth has still its constructor, who is in possession of the
building plan. I think that is also still true for many attempts to
create interactive artworks, that still have a specific goal behind
their conception (even or especially if that goal is the interactive
component). So second, the invisible monitoring and collecting of the
data becomes more and more the main issue. I think this point is also
not new and is highly discussed too, especially if we talk about
social networks.

simple definition of Pervasive Media (from: ):
„For more than a decade, scientists
have promised a world of devices and services that infuse the
landscape of our daily lives with experiences that are designed to
fit the needs of the situation. [...]
Pervasive Media is basically any
experience that uses sensors and/or mobile/wireless networks to bring
you content (film, music, images, a game…) that's sensitive to
your situation – which could be where you are, how you feel, or who
you are with."

The important word in this definition
is certainly „situation": We could say that who defines the
„situation", will achieve the main benefits out of the use of
pervasive media. If we talk about hybrid spaces / hybrid cities in
relation to pervasive media, there are mostly at least two layers of
authorship in public space (in fact i think it is a little bit more
complicated...As Martin pointed out in his last email, there is also
the question in how far technology dictates our behaviour and how far
control is possible at all... but let's say knowledge plays an
important role):

The first layer of the user / consumer
aka architect on the first layer and the second layer of the
architect / interpreter / collector. Even if the first layer seems to
be main experience, i think this layer is not important at all. It is
simply about creating attraction through elaborated narratives. So it
is no wonder that currently there is a big interest in pervasive
media. There is a lot of funding for research in this area, both
academic and commercial, and certainly in the realms of military
research. If we reflect about artistic strategies i experience the writings of McLuhan also as
quite fruitful:

"We ought to have a few words words about why space has never
been studied. Why not mention the Greek discovery of visual space,
the Roman discovery of enclosed space and then also their discovery
of the straight road. Bosch, Munch, Joyce, hardware, software."

"Man in the electronic age has no possible environment except
the globe and no possible occupation except information-gathering. "

"I believe that artists, in all media, respond soonest to the
challenges of new pressures. I would like to suggest that they also
show us ways of living with new technology without destroying earlier
forms and achievements. The new media, too, are not toys; they should
not be in the hands of Mother Goose and Peter Pan executives. They
can be entrusted only to new artists."

I now want to describe shortly two examples of my own work, dealing with
these questions to some extent:

The Grand Defender (2010) was based on
the military chapters of Chinese philosopher Mozi.

These rarely published fragments
(chapters 14 + 15 of the book Mozi) are the records of instructions
for a group of military experts belonging to the philosophical school
of Mozi (ca. 5th to 4th centuries B.C.). These Mohist experts were
employed by ruler of states in the Warring states period (5th to 3rd
centuries B.C.) in China to protect and defend cities and towns from
attack by neighbouring states. The chapters are concerned to a large
extent with the administration and regulation of a city, and they are
an early and very interesting document about how effective control of
the public can be achieved through the construction of an elaborate
system of rules about data-processing and storing, message-carrying,
summarizing and decision-making (in fact there are some astonishing
parallels to the use of pervasive media).

In 2008 I did a video-installation,
where I hacked a robotic surveillance camera in public space in
Barcelona. Its custom parameters as pan, tilt, zoom, iris...
(normally used to track people) were controlled in extra developed
software with predefined autonomous sequences of motion.These
sequences were created after a purely aesthetical consideration,
following a musical score for 4 "breathing voices" (Music:
Elad Shniderman) for an arrangement of 4 screens in a row. The
surveillance camera was no longer functional, but became autonomous.

Last but not least, i really think that
Your discussion recording would be the perfect starting point for an
artist collaboration platform in the manner of the E-mobilArt
project... :-)

I found it really very inspiring.

All the best


> From:
> Date: Mon, 4 Oct 2010 12:43:41 +0100
> To:
> Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] of flashmobs, foursquare and facades.....
> Dear Yasminers
> Thank you both to Veroniki and Katherine for opening up the discussion, and
> providing some valuable observations. I suspect that while the
> transformation of city fabric and urban design approaches is already
> happening at a rapid pace in some advanced urban spaces, like lobsters in
> the pot- we cannot sense how radically all our cities are currently being
> altered through our changing behaviours- dictated by this new technology.
> Alhough the visible changes to fabric are not yet universal- they will soon
> follow our altering patterns of use. The technologies to deliver true and
> seamless hybridity are already invented, but are slow to develop in our city
> streets-I think this lag is a normal one and that when a technological use
> matures it appears ubiquitously with extreme rapidity.
> I think Flashmobs are an extreme case of what the new technologies imply-a
> performative role in public space for each individual-a role we see at one
> end of the spectrum with the posting of photos of a dead man's body by
> English school kids on Twitter-before the death was reported to the Police-
> and at the other by the ubiquitous mobile public conversation with distant
> friends, complete with gestures and facial expressions.
> I agree that Foursquare and Layar present space as a social and shared
> experience-I am more interested in how we can use this sense as a tool to
> creatively reinvent urban space as contiguous between past and present, and
> to show connectivities which are not so obvious-eg the origins of
> commodities in shops etc...
> Facades and projection will be the next big alteration to our urban
> experience-particularly the arrival of mobile projection. I think Michele
> Teran's Frutiskino work is a great
> exemplar of the privacy questions these technologies raise.
> Kind regards
> Martin
> On Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 11:06 AM, Katharine S. Willis <
>> wrote:
> > Dear list members,
> > In the discussion on hybrid spaces, an earlier post from Martin and
> > Dimitiris (20 July) talked about 'The synchronous experience of a mobile
> > spatial interface and of the non-mediated physical environment, a hybrid
> > spatial experience, material (space determined by material elements) and
> > immaterial space (determined by digitally produced representations) are
> > merging'.
> > This is a useful starting point and there is no doubt that the physical
> > spaces we inhabit and move through are now mediated with technologies; they
> > are hybrid spaces. Yet it seems to me that we are finding it difficult to
> > move beyond the rhetoric and to really respond to the challenge of how to
> > engage with these hybrid cities as designers and how to understand the new
> > behaviours that are emerging in these layered spaces. Below I introduce some
> > of my own thoughts and questions on this topic.
> >
> > of flashmobs, foursquare and facades....
> >
> > It puzzles me that when I look and move around I notice very few obvious
> > changes in the physical nature of urban space (maybe I expect too much?).
> > For sure I carry a device with me that augments the space. But the screen is
> > still my interface; it rarely spills out into the city. In fact the city and
> > the built space itself remains surprisingly neutral and passive. I may look
> > at the city through a digital lens, but the physical world rarely responds
> > to my passing or presence. When I try to grasp how space has been changed,
> > it is summed up in these three areas:
> >
> > flash mobs.
> > These highly choreographed performances in public space show how media and
> > technology can inform new ways of behaving in public space that's moved way
> > beyond rheingolds smartmobs. They come into being through a whole plethora
> > of media platforms, twitter, facebook and sms and demonstrate a temporality
> > that the physical space of the city cannot (will not?) respond to. It can
> > only be a passive observer or stage. How can the static nature of out built
> > environment and space start to respond to these forms of serendipity and
> > micro-coordination of social behaviour? Can hybrid space start to perform,
> > to come together and disperse when its use is over?
> >
> > foursquare.
> > love it or hate it the use of foursquare represents a new practice of
> > recognising and naming presence in space on technology's terms. Take a look
> > at foursquare listings at any place and you will find as diverse a set of
> > descriptions for places as you could imagine. It documents the sociality and
> > mobility of places we are present in, where people pass through and
> > encounter others; train stations, airports, sandwich bars, stores and
> > nightclubs. These are places of shared experience, not addresses or
> > locations, and our presence our physical environment is a presence in this
> > hybrid space. So as locative media re-values the sociality of presence with
> > strangers in urban public space how can the spaces start to allow for these
> > passing encounters? Do we simply need a few more places to be 'slow' and to
> > stop (without having to pay for a coffee), where we can be present in both
> > digital space and the physical space without causing disruption due to our
> > civil inattention. Is it as simple as more benches, more meeting points with
> > wifi and a power supply?
> >
> > facades.
> > As I move through transit spaces there is a growing number of screens
> > showing digital images, sometimes they respond to my input. Whole facades
> > are superimposed with images and sometimes projections or even screens. Do
> > we need windows in public buildings any more? probably not. So how do we
> > design for spaces that need not look out, but that offer other ways of both
> > enclosing and making interfaces between one space and the next? Mirjam
> > Struppek's work on highlighting the important issue of urban screens starts
> > to reclaim the screens as a creative design problem. But on a broader level
> > how do we connect our physical spaces with our digital spaces. How do we
> > make a less diss-jointed hybridity, drawing together the physical
> > requirements of the built space to connect outside and inside, and the media
> > spaces which demand a different kind of accessibility; one which is only
> > concerned with non-visual, unbroken links to the network?
> >
> > Although this is my personal perspective on some of the issues facing us
> > in the design of hybrid spaces I also introduce them in the context of the
> > 2010 Mediacity conference in Weimar, Germany ( which
> > will take place at the end of October. This will also provide the
> > opportunity to consider and discuss some of the challenges of the hybrid
> > city in a co-located panel discussion, which I will be moderating.
> > It would be great if list members were also able to contribute to this
> > discussion in some way either by responding to some of the topics or above
> > or by introducing their own questions and comments. I will do my best to
> > include these in the debate.
> >
> >
> > regards,
> > Katharine
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Yasmin_discussions mailing list
> >
> >
> >
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> >
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> --
> Martin Rieser
> Professor of Digital Creativity
> De Montfort University
> IOCT/Art and Design
> The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH
> 44 +116 250 6146
> _______________________________________________
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HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.

HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").

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