[iDC] Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

Adriene Jenik ajenik at ucsd.edu
Mon Aug 21 14:58:14 EDT 2006

Hello all,

I have read this thread with both interest and sadness.

Interest, because many of the issues and questions being raised 
post-ISEA/01 are issues I grapple with in the core of my artmaking 
practice, but sadness that either not many people saw my SPECFLIC 2.0 
piece at the MLK library, or I guess did not get it, or did not think 
it successful in its attempts to take many of these issues on.

The piece is set in a public space - is not dominated by technology, 
but uses multiple media forms to create a "story-experience." That 
story- experience was about the public space - in this case the 
library - of 2030, and the use of the future lens is meant not to 
extoll the wonders of technology, but to rather create a temporary 
public space where there is a critical reflection on the (social) 
implications of the technologies.

By involving the audience in provoking one of the live characters - 
many issues were brought up, if not explicitly "answered" - including 
first amendment rights, the current war (and past wars), female 
sexual response - in addition to the ideas around the future of the 
book. Even though it was late at night there were young people and 
children there as well as elderly people. A large portion of my 
collaborators were young latino/as from the Bay and South Bay area 
including local area performer/writers Praba Pilar and Melissa Lozano.

I'm only writing now because a) my artwork is my contribution to this 
discussion on a broader level (I'm not a scholarly writer), a 
conversation I want to be part of, and b) I'm dying for feedback and 
fear I've missed the mark since noone among the list who is desirous 
of more politically/locally/socially engaged works recognized my 
efforts as a contribution to this.

I wrote earlier on 8/19 to the list, but it has not come through - 
Trebor, is there an issue with my postings I'm not aware of that has 
preveted them from pasing through? In that earlier post I also thanks 
Giselle for her writing & the text she appended & hoped to find out a 
link to the full article.

Thanks for the challenges this list puts forth...



At 03:50 AM 8/21/2006, Interactionfield wrote:
>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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Adriene Jenik
Associate Professor, Computer & Media Arts
Visual Arts Dept., University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093-0084
tel. 858 822-2059       fax 858 534-7976

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