Back to Trust in Play Homepage

Notes - Digital Technologies in Public Spaces

Jane Jacobs - Greenwich Village 1950s.
Campaigner/Neighbourhood Organisaer - what’s valuable in the city is the lif ethat happens within the eighbourhood, not the palnning
“Great cities are not like towns only larger, they are not like suburbs only denser.
They differ in basic ways. They are made by strangers”

This is what draws us to cities. They are filled with Strangers who have things we need/want/desire.
That’s great but also fightening. How do we we build trust/feel at home in this space?

This is a central design question for Martjin. “How do you feel at home in the strangeness?”

Richard Sennett - “a city is place where people can learn to live with strangers to enter into the experience and interests of unfamiliar life”

Public Space as Theatre
Great cities through time become the backdrops for civic life. The boulevard and the grand public space. Freedom of movement of troops/people. (Paris) Makes people healthier/easier to control. But a new type of urban life emerges. People sit outside on the terraces. This is new. The idea of the flanneur is born - creates a backdrop against which the people of the city can be viewed/seen/watched. The whole of public life mixes with itself.
Through repeated interactions they come to see/understand people from outside our own circles, familiarity. We build/gain trust at an interpersonal level (same routines as you) but also on a categorical level (types of people - classes, nationalities, etc)

We begin to perform our lives on the streets. Symbolic interactionism - how through interactions on the streets (ephemeral, superficial,) Brief, intermittent interactions that build trust in public spaces. We are all actors and spectators in this theatre space.

Contrasts with the coffee house culture of 17C England - emerged as places for the bourgeusie. Political discussions. A hot house for discussion, interaction, and then further dissemenination. Everyone comes into the space but they play a role. But it is a closed shop. Rational discussion ‘as equals’ but in an unequal place.

Public spaces as a place for discussion on society/politics vs Public space as a place to express our everyday lives

The city is a stage where we make aspects of lives public allowing us to relate to each other.
We both ARE the public and we BECOME the public.

SO. How do we design for this? How do we make sure we build this trust?

  • Stage where we can perform (the magic circle) - we are the actors we need space to be.
  • Seats where we can observe - how can i watch and learn the rules.
  • A comfortable foyer where we can linger, observe and meet - we want to be passive and active.
  • Vantage points that allow us to take in different perspectives - we can learn about ourselves and others through seeing things from different viewpoints
  • An environment that allows for reflection (discursive walking) - different modes for moving through a spaces, places where we can be/move without agenda. Can be designed for.
  • A site that accumulates symbolic means - a patina. - Adds layers of connectivity. We can have individual ties to a place/location through the personal and collective experiences of that location.

Examples of projects that have done this:
Sense of place - how can digital media/technology tap into this? How do we tap into the rhythms of the city. (Henri Lefebvre - Rhythmal) - building the heartbeats of the city come from the expression of dominant ideologies in the place (workers going to the factories are an expression of capitalism in action)

Project - Making the public visible

  • bike counters in Sao Paolo. Shows people they aren’t alone doing a thing in a place.
  • Peru national football stadium. can see the nosie of the stadium in colour intensity outside the stadium.

SIDEBAR Links to psychogeographic ideas of situationism(50’s/60’s). - how can we draw these ideas out? Countering capitalisms hold on the public spaces. Experiences that break the rule of ‘normal’ movements in the space.

  • Simon Heijden’s Tree - the virtual tree interacts with the people and the weather of the city (as a real tree would) Leaves fall when people pass it, so you can see how busy the streets are.
  • Taking data from the wider building and extracting it into a visual space that can be interpreted. We are pattern recognising creatures. We perceive the subtle rhythms of that space over time.
  • Urban Alphabets (Suse Miessner) - cocreation. Taking pictures of typefaces in the city (crowd sourced) everyone comes together to create a public alphabet based in that community space
  • Distributed Rhythm - computers in windows, patterns created through data in the city on that day.
  • Office Cleaning - Niki Radic. - A critical response to the invisible elements of the city neighbourhood. Putting the people who make the spaces work in the front.
  • Waterlicht - Studio Roosegaarde - Representing the waterlevel if the dams broke in Amsterdam.
    In all these we aren’t directly interacting with people, but we’re experiencing that layeredness of the city

Playful Interaction

  • Pacmanhattan - playful use of the city. Making the cities more interesting for the people to use.
  • Lampposts with the shadows of the people ame before you. Invisible interactions with people.
  • Body Movies - Lazano Hemmer Removing the celebrity culture from the public space. Everyday people’s pictures presented on large spaces, but you can interfere with those as well, creates the playful space. Breaking down the interaction so it’s not just averages/turn taking. Several people at the same time all playing separately. Reaction vs. Interaction. With Interaction we responds and rewrite the rules as we’re playing.
  • SMSlingshot - messages on buildings but with the slingshot phone messaging as a playful mechanism
  • Megaphone - Moment Factory - What you shout into the megaphone is text visualised onto public buildings
  • Climate on the Wall - Aarhurs University - Visualising the contents of an important conference that the public cannot be part of. Using the ideas of magnetic poetry on a large scale. The design was to have the conversation on the projection, but they ended up making a conversation piece - people talked about it on the street, not on the visual area they created. The conversation as emergent phenomenon. Learning from the game, vs learning from each other through the game.

SIDEBAR Is there a long format response to these ephemeral public interventions. Is there a chance to have a longer lifespan? Is this a novelty thing?
Can be sturdy and robust from cheap technologies. Cost is a point place. As is consent.

Why are these things becoming so much more ubiquitous? -is it tech, is it that we’re building audiences for it, are more artists drawn to it? Why is it such an emerging form?
Because we can. The public has largely left behind the large public space, and moved to a more network oriented model across multiple spaces. The grand central movement/moment has drifted away.
The public space is now defined by an event not a space. The event makes a public moment, not necessarily the space creating it. Its now a thing in time, not in space.

Thanks Alex, you must type fast!