[iDC] Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

Interactionfield struppek at interactionfield.de
Mon Aug 21 06:50:01 EDT 2006

Thank you for this great exchange of ideas, and thanks to Kevin to pointing
me towards this mailinglist and discussion!

In 2002 I tried to create these categories of how interactive media projects
could contribute to address urgent problems discussed during my Urban
Planning studies:

- Promoting interaction, fearless confrontation and contact with strangers
- Promoting formation of public sphere by criticism, reflection on society
- Promoting social interaction and integration in the local neighborhood
- Supporting understanding of the critical development of our high-tech
- Supporting conscious participation in the creation of public space see:


Yet I recently also doubt a bit about the possibilities of achieving these
aims especially with new technology, we clearly have to see the limits or
definitely look closer at the combination and integration of analogue
strategies also due to the serious environmental and health aspect of
filling up our life with technology. Its not so easy to transfer the new
evolved community energy of the alternative internetspaces to the real

It seems just the next "natural" step to focus more on the real exchange
processes that can still be observed in public space and also of learning,
when new technology make sense to apply to support them, since they give us
new valuable tools.

There is definitely a true need in Urban Planning to get new ideas and a
revival of thinking about "what is an interactive city that engages citizens
not just as consumers, especially since (from my experience in germany) city
governments mostly see the by law required participatory processes as
burden. How can we engage differently with the problems of growing,
uncontrollable cities in contrast to creating safe, drug like

In Germany we had this huge issue coming up about shrinking cities, with
problems of braindrain, destruction of communities, decaying urban space,
problems to keeping up the quality of city space etc. which definitely calls
for new creative ideas to address the people left in these spaces and engage
them in these new urban issues.

I still think, interactive city is a great name, that can revive discussions
about participation in Urban Space, just if we dont focus on the machine -
human interaction. If we consider that ideal interaction calls for a process
of exchange by equally engaged participants, that brings a discussion
further, with inputs from both sides and further developments on both
sides... I truely think thats a challenging idea in the relationship between
artists and their project going in public space on one side and the people
they encounter there. But also exploring and learning about the interactions
that could happen between the urban space and its users and amoung
themselves, which in fact in my eyes is simply the rediscovery of the idea
of the citizen, a person who is in interaction and exchange with its city
and its co-citizens. And thats indeed a hard task in a world of people
trained to consume. We have forgotten what it means to be a citizen and we
are not treated as citizens anymore, the lecture of Saskia Sassen indeed was
inspiring in that issue. Also in the great pannel on Saturday " Community
Domain Session 2"  a remark about the problem of growing outsourcing of
responsability instead of taking action appeared.

I liked the project Typewire by Tad Hirsch which seemed to express that very
nicely with his automatic calling coconuts in the trees.
Who still complains about noise pollution and uses his "citizens right" and
makes the effort to report to the airport's complaint line? So it seems we
need a little help from the techcoconuts to do it for us!?

About Locative Media

I sometimes think the name "locative media" puts us a bit too much away from
this important idea of interaction, the ability to engage with a different
audience in the city, to crate new experiences, to search for tools that
create friction that brings us all further. Of course "locative media"
helped to get away from the believe in virtual places and the hurrah to the
global, to rediscover the importance of local matters. I also suspect that
the sudden  hype that "locative media" was able to create so impressively
quick is one reason why projects often seem to be superficial. If engagement
in Artproduction is stimulated by a sudden popularity, there naturally is a
lack of experience and engagement from a deep background. But luckily this
is just a matter of time to overcome this phase.

Wasnt the term at first used as an alternative to location based services
(who also had no real break through so far). I sometimes suspect it somehow
became now a term used for all projects thinking about the local, but then
again it is associalted so strongly with GPS technology or mobile phones,
and that surely has limited potential. Often the invisibility factor
additionally with a complex play of hacking the normal use of a very new
technology makes it hard to engage a truely wider audience as Marc Tuters
aims for. So I really appreciate to see a start where projects like trace
are working with a performance style, going around with this little
beautiful solar powered recharging cart. This encorporates the possibility
of face to face exchange with the people in public space. Unfortunately I
could not observe if people from the streets reallly felt encouraged to be
curious and engage in an exchange (of course perfomance style in general is
not a garantee for possibilities of reflective exchange, if I look at the
Ice Cream Karaoke project....)

See also the interesting surveillance technology based and internet
connected project of re:site montreal, it documents an intense exchange that
occured. (it was not at ISEA) It gave unintentionally space also for
analogue exchange on the woodconstruction, creating a great discussion
between artists and people in the run down park where it was located:

I see a strong conflict in new technology based projects who want to engage
a deeper level and want to be able to reach a wide audience in public space.
It needs patience to get in discourse with the modern urban audience and
often new technology is too much based on always thinking about the latest,
easily forgetting the things might bee too new for people out there. So we
should give also Lovative Media some time to develop. This is now a point
where I think the combination with traditional stategies and knowledge of
engaging with people in public space have to jump in. But for sure, really
working close with very local communities and their problems is sometimes
not really spectacular and cool like a fun icecream karaoke! Especially if
we want to shape and not only explore urban space.

For example I am sure, storytelling projects can have the potential to
reengage people in an interest in their community, but they need to be
embedded in a knowledge about how participation works in public space and
what problems there are locally.

I wish there would be a clearer discussion about various strategies and
descriptions of experiences with how to get people in the streets involved
on a deeper more sustainable level. Also clearly remebering that public
space is about diversity of people about the need for diverse strategies.
Play can be one good strategy and trigger, involving especially children and
therefore also their parents, but it gets easily boring for me if I get the
feeling its just to entertain not grown up grown ups. Then easily I
understand the comments of an old couple I got to speak to in the guided
tour at ISEA who simply could not take a lot of the pieces serious...

Thanks for reading and sorry for my clumsy English....


>> I was most disturbed by the serious lack of interaction with the
>> 'real' city.  The conference/trade-show steel&glass core of San Jose
>> is a transplanted and embodied ideology that is part of the current
>> waves of 'urban renewal' happening in a large number of US cities (and
>> many post-Mall towns who had their centers blighted by suburban
>> mega-shopping centers) -- a trend that has been running for a couple
>> decades with varying degrees of 'success'.  That artificial core is
>> surrounded by the remains of community, albeit without a humane
>> central core to orbit around.  The locals reduced to service jobs
>> life-supporting the artificial core.  What? No grocery store!? good
>> evidence of unsustainable urban architecture.  Okay, there was a
>> farmer's market one day a week, but that seemed to cater to the yuppie
>> set and was not set up to sustain the area in a meaningful way...  And
>> the large Vietnamese community (reputedly the largest in the US) has
>> prospered -- were any representatives from it invited to the RIM
>> conference I wonder?
>> However, outside, and to some degree, interspersed with this quite
>> inhumane architecture (and ideology) is the REAL city.  The hard-core
>> chronic street population, the student culture (FWIW), the Latino
>> porch chill culture (and the WHOLE LATINO CULTURE as well!!!!), the
>> other cultural communities -- all substantially ignored.
>> With our global agenda, our techno-sophistry, our clean and sleek
>> appearances, we blended in seamlessly with the image of Silicon
>> Valley, but remained somewhat silly looking conferencees with dangling
>> wired and wire-less appendages and apparently flown in from some other
>> demographic universe.  incongruous.
>> Of course, seamless integration isn't ever going to happen anywhere
>> and there are always interstitial moments to reach across any social
>> barriers.  but why wasn't there a formal interface with the local
>> Latino or Vietnamese community?  It was nice to check out the gallery
>> just up from the ICA, but that was the only event I ran across, aside
>> from the nice vibe of local folks chilling at the Caesar Chavez park
>> fountains (and the kids playing in the water with the blue-and-white
>> screen devices from that one zero-one project).
>> but our general demographic of techno-fetishizing places us in/locks
>> us into a particular locus in the contemporary urban US landscape.
>> some personal reflections on the locative aspects -- I went out on
>> some initial 'test runs' on several 'official' projects that friends
>> had initiated.  in all cases there were significant problems with the
>> technology, and between that and walking around with headphones I felt
>> very much less connected with the 'pulse of the city' -- compared,
>> say, to the evening of gallery hopping which left open significant
>> social spaces for unexpected encounters with the Other. Now I must say
>> that I do respect efforts people make to take contemporary
>> technologies and somehow use them to reclaim social ground.  However,
>> there pops-up in my mind often the metaphor of "the master's tools.'
>> and whether the profound significance of that metaphor has yet to be
>> explored fully in the context of locative (and other social-space
>> art/activist deployments).  Somehow, projects need to take into
>> account possible permutations of the technology employed that the user
>> might invoke to totally undermine the expected use -- and build on
>> that.  I felt that several projects have the air of an attempted
>> military-like deployment, an aimed-at rigor, a clean execution of a
>> plan, when warm social spaces are replete with error, mistake, and
>> humane possibility.
>> Perhaps these are the lessons of imperfect deployment -- what happens
>> in the social space when the expected technological deployment doesn't
>> take place.  maybe un-mediated Dialogue?  hmmmm.  I think I'll propose
>> a project with a large technological infrastructure guaranteed to
>> fail, to breakdown, and in that interstitial space, use one of those
>> ubiquitous battery chargers to make tea to facilitate a warm space
>> like the CRUMB crew so successfully did...
>> I've always believed that when a technology inhibits the possibility
>> of a direct human connection, that it should be dispensed with
>> immediately.  Clinging to a device which actually interrupts some kind
>> of more direct direct connection will eventually cause a deeper sense
>> of alienation, IMHO...  (the history of camera-based tourism is a good
>> example...).  Is there a formula for using the device another way to
>> dispel alienation?
>> okay, a few rapid comments for a Saturday morning...
>> cheers
>> John
>> ps: some earlier critical musings from Riga in 2004, from my written
>> notes compiled for a short Baptist rant at RAM 5:locative at RIX-c
>> :http://neoscenes.net/travelog/comments.php?id=32_0_1_0_C
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