[iDC] Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

kanarinka kanarinka at ikatun.com
Sun Aug 13 17:54:01 EDT 2006

Hello All -

A pleasure to meet some of you at ISEA. A brief introduction - my  
name is kanarinka/Catherine D'Ignazio. I am an artist, software  
developer, co-founder of iKatun and the Institute for Infinitely  
Small Things, former Co-Director of Art Interactive in Cambridge, MA,  
and part-time faculty in the Digital+Media dept at RISD. I have been  
lurking on the list for some time now but have not posted.

I wanted to post a nagging doubt I have in light of the title of the  
ISEA conference theme "Interactive City" in conjunction with the  
ZeroOne "Global Festival of Art on the Edge" and the artwork  
showcased there.  This is not a condemnation, more of a call to  
reflection for myself (who participated in a project there) and  
possibly for others. I would be interested to hear from others as to  
their thoughts on this.

The festival's imagination of the "Interactive City" seemed to be  
characterized by a spirit of play which feels increasingly oriented  
towards middle-class consumer spectacle and the experience economy.  
To give you an example of some art experiences that were possible at  

- eating ice cream and singing karaoke
- calling an old person in San Jose to talk about whatever you might  
have in common with them
- pressing a button on a machine and getting an artsy plane ticket  
with your photo on it
- drifting through the city as if it were a sports field via applying  
sports plays in urban space
- visualizing your social network via bluetooth as you go around the  
conference and talk to your friends
- watching/listening to noise music made by people riding skateboards  
around the conference
- listening to an erotic sci-fi narrative about san jose on your cell  
phone while riding the train
- flipping light switches to make a one-word message in public space
- viewing colorful 3D representations of wireless digital data

So, my questions to the artists, the organizers, the attendees and  
everyone else is - is psychogeography/locative media work simply R&D  
for a new generation of entertainment spectacle? Or, what are we  
actually trying to do with these ideas of "play" in urban space? Who  
gets to play? And what about the interactive cities in Iraq and  
Lebanon and elsewhere? Why didn't we address war, security,  
militarization and terrorism as aspects of the contemporary  
interactive city? For me, running around making the city into a  
sandbox, a playground or a playing field feels increasingly  
irrelevant and irresponsible.

A gentleman invited to drift with us summed it up nicely "Sorry, I  
can't go with you. I have to work here until 8PM and then I have to  
go to my other job."

What are your thoughts?


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