augmented reality

layar logoAn intimate and almost seamless experience, layar seduces the user to engage and share, daring to tell all. Most obvious filters for immediate consumption were twitter and instagram <pic>, which allowed the hybridisation of space, conflating the mediated image with an augmented reality (AR) of geolocated tweets and personal images. The local nature of the media presented an allure that made the experience almost personal, as users revealed their thoughts and their postcode. Wikitude required more customisation with tripadvisor posts superimposed over a shopping mall which made the screen real estate of a smartphone almost redundant (see net .locality). Both AR applications suffered from erratic movement and a vagueness in direction as the mobile phone screen moved in a “chaos of data” (Karppi, 2011). Both offered more educational and cultural filters but suffered from a lack of social content, held hostage to the commercial nature of the medium.

layar _instagram2layar _instagram3

More commercial applications are suggested by Drakopoulou in her paper on the intersection between informational and urban space, including heads up displays (HUD) for cars (BMW, 2011) or peripheral vision displays (PVD), like google glass. Both move away from the handheld smartphone to an experience that is wearable and more immediate (further removed from holding a physical object), enabling a more vicarious immersion in “a redefined urban environment that is techno-synthetically composed.” (Drakopolou, 2013).

no google glass 2Both technologies have the potential to infringe upon civil liberties with a data trail users will inevitably leave. Google glass is already proving controversial with businesses banning “glassholes” (Casey, 2013). The Mail online (Prigg and Thornhill, 2014) suggested that facial recognition apps have the potential to scan a room matching networked images (including sexual offenders), either for more efficient political campaigning or lonely hearts. Google are confident that “behaviours and social norms will develop over time.” (Casey, 2013).

The rapid development in computer generated imagery (CGI) in cinema, video and gaming and by extension AR, is moving ever closer to reality, blurring the lines of distinction and removing the divide of the screen. As eyesight and peripheral vision become fully integrated into a commercial space, the technology must be held accountable to avoid the mediation and manipulation of reality, driven by a market driven ideology.

“Rather than enriching places with electronic information, these new augmented reality applications do little to enrich but they rather visualise the hybridisation of space, of the urban environment, by visualising the commodification of all spaces, both mental and physical.” (Drakapolou, 2013).




DRAKOPOULOU, S., (2013). Pixels, bits and urban space: Observing the intersection of the space of information with urban space in augmented reality smartphone applications and peripheral vision displays. First Monday, 18(11). <Available at: article/view/4965>  [Accessed 17mar2014].

KARPPI, T. (2011) Reality Bites: Subjects of Augmented Reality Applications. In Unfolding Media Studies, eds. Puro, J. and Sihvonen, J. Turku: University of Turku: 89-102

NEWTON, Casey (2013). Seattle dive bar becomes first to ban Google Glass. (Last updated 9 March 2013 5:12 PM GMT). Available at: <> [Accessed on 17mar2014]

PRIGG, Mark and THORNHILL, Ted (2014). Could Google Glass find your dream date? (Last updated 07feb2014: 20:00). Available at: <> [Accessed on 17mar2014]


BMW, 2011



field notes    _week6                                                           

net .locality

Technology blurs the boundaries between public and private. The urban dweller, seduced into disclosing the content of a private communication becomes an urban consumer. (Gordon and deSouza, 2011, p. 173) In an ‘economy of attention’ (Lanham, 2006 cited in Gordon and deSouza, 2011, p. 79), this desire to be located and contextualised in a networked locality of miniaturised icons and intermittent text is exploited and aggregated; ‘dataveillance’ (Clarke, 1988 cited in Gordon and deSouza, 2011, p. 11) becomes normalised for commercial prediction and social stratification. Public space is privatised and private information is disclosed as public.

The ‘perceived’ (Gordon and deSouza, 2011) social norm of co-presence in the digital and physical world leaves me confused and resentful, bound up in a fear of losing control over a fledgling digital identity. To compound my anxiety, privacy policies and terms of usage employ a syntax requiring an entire module to Master, to the extent I blindly accepted Foursquare et al.

SC20140315-184025 SC20140315-184041

"i need more real screen estate!" App: Wikitude  Geolocation: in bed

“i need more real screen estate!”
App: Wikitude
Geolocation: in bed


I discovered a kebab shop had some friends I could check-in with. I also discovered that my screen real estate was insufficient for the information overload I was attempting to navigate. Customising my networked locality was going to take a long time, besides which the shopping centre was about to close along with their free wiFi.



This attempt to discover and use a socio-spatial practice was doomed because I was unwilling to be seduced by its representation. I was not engaged by sharing with peers nor my provider and did not want the attention. Interestingly enough, on a parochial level (Humphreys & Liao, 2013) I am quite happy to make objections to local planning initiatives for yet another multi-occupancy concrete bunker or sign an ePetition to improve local workers terms and conditions, yet the experience of net locality for the purposes of socialising and entertainment left me cold and ultimately excluded.

Don’t like shopping, not really big on kebabs but I may spend time customising my digital presence to engage and motivate others in civic action. By checking-in to my urban space and legitimising the representation of a contextualised locality, I could be ‘mayor’ in a town of like-minded people.





GORDON, E. (2008) Towards a theory of network locality. First Monday, 13(10). <Available at:> [Accessed 12mar2014].

GORDON, E. & de SOUZA eSILVA, A. (2011). Net locality: why location matters in a networked world, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

HUMPHREYS, L. & LIAO, T. (2013). Foursquare and the parochialization of public space. First Monday, 18(11). <Available at:> [Accessed 12mar2014].

TOSONI, S. & TARANTINO, M., (2013). Space, translations and media. First Monday, 18(11). <Available at:> [Accessed 12mar2014].



GORDON, E. (2013). Place of Social Media. Technology and Civic Engagement
 <Available at:> [Accessed 12mar2014].

TELHAN, O. & YAVUZ, Mahir M. (2013) United Colours of Dissent. <Available at:> [Accessed 12mar2014].

An example of civic engagement and gaming by the engagement game lab, who’s executive director is Eric Gordon



field notes 12march2014

Location Based Services – Reflections and Observations in the Context of Net.Locality

‘Net locality’ can be understood as a dual on and offline, interactive, engagement and communicative practice. “Now, what is being organised is not just information, but the physical world that contains it” (Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:7). We no longer ‘enter the web’ (2011:7) from a fixed locale, we exist within a continual hybrid space; “… physical space has become the context for […digital] information” sharing (Gordon & de Souze a Silva 2011:9), mediating public and private spheres, real and ‘virtual’ or ‘digital’ spaces throughout our daily practices, behaviours and communications. [1]

LBS Image 1

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 18.28.54

By ‘checking in’ and ‘sharing a location’ one sends out the message that they are happy for others to know their location and potentially ‘join them’ in a social space, a café, at university, or even at home. Humphrey’s argues that LBS and subsequent interactions “makes the public social life of a city [and arguably any environment where you are connected] more familiar” (2010:775) and can “build and reinforce social ties” (2007:764).

 “The web now extends to physical locations […] The new organizing logic of the web is based on physical location. Increasingly, the types of information we find and access online depend on where we are […] opening themselves up to the environment” (Gordon and de Souza e Silva, 2011:7-11).

From LBS Image 1, ‘checking in’ made a “presence though markers on a map” (Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:86), and in turn opened ‘others up to the environment’ through a positive recommendation, encouraging others to comment and remark on their experiences of the environment (see the comment by a friend). This LBS and networking are described by Lofland as ‘parochial spaces’ “characterized by a sense of commonality among acquaintances and neighbours who are involved in interpersonal networks” 1998:10). A ‘highly contextual’ realm; similarly demonstrated by the interpersonal networks and interactions within the below image (LBS 2).

LBS Image 2


My ‘showcasing of the aesthetic of the public realm’ (Humphreys 2010) encourages a family member to comments on the image; “I know exactly where you are”. Such recognition and familiarity is only made possibly by the inclusion of the above image to ‘represent’ my space and presence in the countryside as one cannot always ‘check in’ at a specific ‘site’ or ‘location’. This further enables a ‘parochialisation’ and familiarisation of the public but rural, non-mapped digital space. As Lefebvre (2001) recognizes, “reconfiguring spaces means reframing the social interactions within them” (in 2011:79), made possible through the ability to ‘attach information to places’ (2011:79), in this case the photographic snapshot of ‘place’.  Therefore, LBS further blurs the ‘hybrid space’[2], the connected co-presence (Licoppe 2013), or if we are to critique these spaces, the ‘absent presence’ (Gergen 2002). Therefore the digital ‘sphere’ and the present space are ‘blurred further, once distinctive and separate ‘public’ and ‘private’ spheres, now creating an dualism and further layering of the ‘hybrid space’.

Net locality is “not the product of specific technologies, but is instead emerging out of a cultural need to contextualise ourselves within a growing network of information” (Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:13). If we are to agree with this social shaping view of technology, are the reasons to why we engage with such locational devices then, to mark our individual, personalised stamp upon the Internet, to have a presence amongst the vast layers of information in which we encounter? Williams (1983) suggests that there is a humanistic desire for mobility and communications, and as such it could be argued that ‘net locality’ practices demonstrate the online (and quantifiable) representation of such intrinsic human behaviours.



De Souza e Silva, A, 2006, ‘From Cyber to Hybrid: Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces’ In Space and Culture, Vol 9: 3 pp. 261-278.

Gergen, K. 2002. ‘Cell phone technology and the realm of absent presence’. In Katz, J. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Gordon, E. & Silva, A. de S. e, 2011. Net locality: why location matters in a networked world, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Humphreys, L. & Liao, T., 2013. Foursquare and the parochialization of public space. First Monday, 18(11)

Licoppe. C. 2013. ‘Merging mobile communication studies and urban research: Mobile locative media, ”onscreen encounters” and the reshaping of the interaction order in public places’. In Mobile Media & Communication Vol. 1 no. 1 122-128


Further Readings/Resources

Dawes. S. 2011, ’Privacy and the public/private dichotomy’, in Thesis Eleven Vol 107: 1 pp. 115–124

Humphreys, L, 2013. ‘Mobile social media: Future challenges and opportunities’ in Mobile Media & Communication Vol 1: 20 pp. 20-25.

Humphreys, L. 2007. Mobile social networks and social practice: A case study of Dodgeball, In Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Vol 13:1 pp. 341–360

Humphreys, L. 2010. ’Mobile social networks and urban public space’, in New Media Society, Vol 12: 5 pp. 763–778.

Katz, J. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Licoppe, C. 2004. ‘Connected presence: The emergence of a new repertoire for managing social relationships in a changing communications technoscape’. In Environment and Planning: Society and Space, 22, 135–15.

Further Reflections

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 18.28.40

Within the above image showing a ‘check in location’ accompanied by a photograph, below right is an advertisement for an upcoming concert for a band the user has ‘liked’ on Facebook. “We are where are devices are, and we are perpetually leaving behind data traces that can be mapped to our physical world” (2011:2). Therefore, initially this advert appears seemingly unrelated to the ‘location’ update but on further inspection we can recognize the triangulation of data; ‘checking in’ at a location in London, where the advertised concert is taking place, alongside the other information willingly volunteered on Facebook and selected a ‘preference’ to. Does such willingness to share such personal information demonstrate changing perceptions and acceptance of a lack of privacy, as acknowledge by Gordon and de Souza e Silva (2011), and assume an acceptance of such targeted advertising?

[1] It is perhaps no surprise that location-based services (LBS) are the fastest growing sector in web technology ($13.3 Billion in 2013 ABI research 2009 in Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:9). Within this sector personal navigation services “that allow users to access and share location and information with friends – is the fastest growing area (2011:9) with a focus now from ‘web virtuality to mobility’ (2011:8).


[2] Hyrid spaces are “social situations in which the borders between remote and contiguous contexts no longer can be clearly defined” (de Souza e Silva 2006 in Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:86)

Net Localities

Gordon and De Souza e Silva’s (2011) use the term Net Localities to describe a meeting of digital information and the city. They are interested in what happens to institutions, communities and places when networked data floods into physical spaces (p.13) principally via our mobile devices. Net Locality for them is “a ubiquity of networked information” (p.3) in other words, access to a global network of information while situated in a local street. As such, Net Locality means a change in how we experience scale, something they later describe as a thinning of the distinction between nearness and distancelessness. Net Locality is also shift toward the ordering of data by location, in short, “the organisational logic of the web is based on physical location” and “…the types of information we find and access online depend on where we are”. In addition to these factors the locational affordances of mobile devices mean that “virtually everything and everyone is located or locatable”, so Net Locality is also about what happens to individuals and society in that context.

If Net Localities describes a place in which there has been a shift from a world in which there was a clear distinction between atoms and bits (Negroponte ,1995) to one in which “the world we live in and the web can no longer be so easily separated”. (p.1) Having used a location based app this week I find this move toward a seamless blurring of boundaries between digital information and location contrasts with my experience, which was quite seam-full. Having first attempted to “Check In” on arrival at my Mum’s house, I found that my Mum’s house is not yet a Place. I needed to “Add this place to check in here”. I was required to type in the name and address and save these details so that in future my Mum’s house would be visible in the App. Bingham-Hall (2013) also has his doubts about conflating information and space as his an account of using a laptop in a public space in Kings Cross outlines; “… if someone were to ask me where I’ve been and what it was like I would surely describe the observable three-dimensional space of Granary Square. If I told them I’d been ‘in/at Facebook’ or ‘everywhere at once’ I’d be seen as having misunderstood the experience of communicating online.” He suggests we need to aim for “a much more nuanced and tempered understanding of the coming together of digital and urban that is based in, and can therefore help to shape, reality.” (Bingham-Hall, 2013)

Bingham-Hall, J,. (2013). On the Search for Space in the Digital City a Dispatch from Granary Square. Urban Pamphleteer, [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 Dec 2013].

Gordon, E,. and de Souza e Silva., (2011). Net locality: why location matters in a networked world, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Thin and thick trust is a really interesting aspect of Gordon and de Souza e Silva’s text  and chimes with Kio Stark’s Stranger Studies 101 (2010):

Also, their text brought to mind Benjamin Bratton’s iPhone City (2008), which talks about urban and mobile:

Finally, this image by John Stanmeyer (2013) of migrants holding their phones up for an intermittent signal from a nearby country with cheaper rates, highlights that the ubiquitous networked info. that Gordon and De Souza e Silva discuss is still expensive for many people.

 Image source:

Foursquare Eastbourne

Gordon & Souza e Silva define ‘Net Locality’, 2011, in terms of, “a ubiquity of networked information”, (p2), by investigating behaviour that is dependent on, or created by, locational data, which is discoverable by mobile technologies. Their intention is to see “what happens to individuals and societies when virtually everything is located or locatable”, (ibid). However, the marketing industry currently refer to these technologies as ‘SoLoMo’ (Social, Local, Mobile), where the focus is primarily on the possibilities for commodification of location-based services.

In an attempt to better understand how it is to be visible and locatable through mobile technology, I signed up to the mobile, location-based app. Foursquare with the intention of experiencing and interacting with the app. within my everyday routine and local area. The territory covered generally fell within what Humphreys and Liao refer to as the “parochial realm”, public yet familiar and contextual, “along routes and patterns of our everyday lives”. However, Foursquare does not appear to be well used in my locale and I did not experience “social exchanges through the network” in the small time with the app so far, meaning I have not had significant opportunity to see how parochialisation is affected by location based technology.  Through further and continued use there might be opportunity to feel part of a Foursquare community, seeing as this was not really possible over the few days I used it.

I found myself surprised at how place is organised within the app. for example, my parish church, which was built around 1080 AD, and I consider to be a significant local landmark was not featured on Foursquare, giving me opportunity to create an entry. I contrast, the café in my local park had three slightly different entries and the local zoo had an main page, along with a number of separate entries for zones containing different activities, such as the play park and one of the food outlets, even though none of these are separate franchises.

Gordon and Souza e Silva (2011) discuss specific location based mobile games generally as specific events, however since their book was published many non-game apps have become gamified, i.e. utilising game elements and mechanics to a non- game situation. Foursquare has gamified elements added, as I gained points,  a couple of badges and became ‘Mayor’ of my workplace (with just two check-ins). With further use I can imagine these game elements “potentially create user motivation to engage” (Gordon & Souza e Silva, 2011 p65.), creating an incentive to return regularly to the app.

In thinking about location based technologies this week, I also wanted to draw your attention to a few interesting links and examples:

twitter map

The geography of Tweets: Visualisation Europe
Copyright Twitter, Inc. (@twitter)

Twitter has a Flickr page with visualisations of billions geo-tagged Tweets organised onto corresponding maps (Every dot is a Tweet, and the color is the Tweet count.) uses information gathered from Instagram for you to select and area and then view where people are taking the most pictures. They call this a ‘heat map’, under this images are displayed, grouped by specific locations (bars, shops, scenic places etc) Although, location does not define content as many of the images are not of the places they were uploaded from.



Herefeed ‘heat map’ example.

Filip, is a “wearable smart locator and phone for kids”, its a watch and a pre-programmable phone (can store 5 numbers and only these numbers can call the phone), with location-based technology, so you can find where the child/device is. greenfilip




Humphreys L & Liao T (2013) Foursquare and the parochialization of public space. First Monday Vol. 18, No, 11

Gordon E & Souza e Silva A (2011) Net Locality. Wiley Blackwell, UK

Reed R. (2011) The SoLoMo Manifesto accessed 10/03/14

space, people and technology

I grew up overlooking Tooting Bec Common, which I regarded as my own free space to play. Common land is something that I vaguely remember to do with ‘commoners’ and being able to graze sheep. By extension, the term “commons” has come to be applied to other resources which a community has rights or access to. In later life, this memory evolved into a political sensibility to demonstrate in a public space, like causing bicycle congestion for ‘critical mass’. Berry et al. (2013), refer to the difference between ‘public’ and ‘the public’ as being distinct, separated by “a very particular political formation associated with liberal and bourgeois democracy” (Berry et al, 2013:5), discussing issues within the public sphere. Originally ‘the press’ and now other forms of media, represent this discussion removing the need for face to face contact. This space “is never finally fixed but only stabilised at certain historical moments.” (Berry et al, 2013:6)


Street Ghost by Paulo Cirio


Street Art is an example of negotiation with private property and civic engagement; vandalism or art. A fine example is Paolo Cirio’s ‘Street Ghost’, where life sized “pictures of people found on Google’s Street View are printed and …affixed to the walls of public buildings at the precise spot on the wall where they appear in Google’s Street View image” ( A more sinister negotiation of public/private space is the use of sonic media to act as deterrent. The Mosquito is a high-pitched frequency, painful to those under-25, seen as anti-social users of public/private space. Mitchell Akiyama (2010), argues that this stratifies space, creating inhospitable zones and weaponising sound. It is based on a physiological phenomenon that separates young people from adults but ultimately criminalises youth indiscriminately. “we must not let mainstream culture define youth through exclusion; to do so is to deny young people agency.” (p.466)

Both examples illustrate the intersection of space, people and technology mutually constituted by socio-cultural practice and codified into an urban place of significance and meaning.





Akiyama, M., 2010. Silent Alarm : The Mosquito Youth Deterrent and the Politics of Fre- quency. Canadian Journal of Communication, 35, pp.455-471.

Berry, C., Harbord, J. & Moore, R.O., (2013). Public space, media space. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cirio, Paolo (2013)  Street Ghost. International Conference, Workshops and Exhibition May 3-5, 2013 – University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 04mar2014].

Digital Trees

Berry et al (2013, p7) describe public space as a space in between the virtual and the real, labour and leisure, work and home. Their description is made complex as the “urban everyday extend now to the omnipresence of the virtual.” The promise of public space, described as “chance and contingency associated with embodied experience”, remains a promise, but it is juxtaposed against advertising and privatizing devices that mitigate against it. Fallman (2011) drawing on Ito et al (2009), also refers to a mitigation, when describing the “cocooning” effect of digital devices in public spaces. “Cocoons are micro-places built through private, individually controlled infrastructures, temporarily appropriating public space for personal use” (Ito et al, 2009) – an example being listening to music on a mobile phone. However, Fallman (2011) counters this analysis of emerging technologies, finding any “singular notion of space or a singular notion of embodiment in isolation” problematic.

Image source: Robert Voit

Image source: Lisa Parks

What is refreshing about Park’s (2010) text; Around the Antenna Tree: The Politics of Infrastructural Visibility is the shift in analytical focus, away from effects of media practices on public space, to effects of media infrastructures on public space. Parks (2010) uses images of poorly disguised mobile phone antennas, to question what is at stake in the attempted concealment of technical infrastructures that enable our mobile phone calls? Is an effect of this concealment keeping “… citizen/users naive about the systems that surround them, that they subsidize and use”. Is public knowledge of this technology skewed by discourses that focus mainly on capacity, via monthly minutes and texts? Certainly, when one of the “trees” is put in the wrong place, like a national park, other issues come to the fore; “(re)allocation of publicly-owned natural resources, the installation of new equipment on private and public properties, and the restructuring of lifestyles and communities” (Parks, 2010). By choosing to focus on the taken-for-granted infrastructure behind mobile media, Park’s work reveals areas for further critical exploration of digital media that counter the myth of immateriality.

Berry, C., Harbord, J., and Moore, R., 2013. Public Space, Media Space. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fallman, J. 2011. Mobile Interface Theory. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 02 March 2014].

Parks, L. 2010. Around the Antenna Tree: The Politics of Infrastructural Visibility. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 02 March 2014].

Film about the material infrastructure of the internet in NYC:
Bundled and Buried Behind Closed Doors
Timo Arnall Immaterials project:
Interactive advertising in public spaces:
Apotek Hjärtat – Blowing in The Wind
British Airways
Intervention in public space
Robin Howie – Dialogue with Public Space


Public, Media, Urban, Space(s)

Traditionally ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces were defined through our daily routines between space and time; ‘home’, ‘work’, ‘leisure’ and ‘local’ and ‘global’ parameters (Silverstone et al 1994; Williams 1990). Our perception and construction of these different spheres is arguably achieved through our media consumption practices (Berry et al 2013; Habermas 1992). For example, the home was experienced as a ‘private’ sphere for ‘leisure’ and family time defined by your locality, with the working environment within the ‘public’, outside of the home (Berry et al 2013; Silverstone et al 1994); the very act of engaging, with television in the home was traditionally conceived as a family bonding and ‘leisure’ activity bringing “the experience of belonging to a nation into everyday life, enabling ‘the public’ to be experienced in ‘the private’” (Hollows 2008:107), and ensured citizens felt a part of the ‘imagined community’ of a nation (Habermas 1992). ‘A public’ refers more towards ‘an audience, gathering or following’ (Hannay 2005:26-32 in Berry et al 2013:3). The ‘public space’ or ‘sphere’ refers to intended action; “where private individuals come together to discuss and deliberate upon ‘public’ affairs and matters ‘in the public interest” (Berry et al 2013:3). [1] However, new structures and patterns of interaction are emerging from mobile and digital communications and networks (Wei 2013).

Now such familial communications and social activities can be displaced from the private ‘home’ and achieved whilst in the ‘public space’ through applications on a mobile device; an imagined community, family interactions achieved on the move within the city. “Wireless technology and the media that use have [… broken] down the boundaries of urban public space – as surely they do domestic space” (Berry et al 2013:8). Forlano understands this new ‘space’ as ‘hybrid’ (Forlano 2013), the ‘membrane’ between public and private (Groening 2010); the meditation of our daily routines and activities through digital modes, a reorganization of private experience within the public realm (de Souza e Silva 2006; Bull 2004).

So how about connecting with strangers, other citizens in the public realm? An idea explored through a collaborative city art project in Vancouver ‘Unnumbered Sparks’ a collaboration between artist Janet Echelman and Google Creative Director Aaron Koblin, as part of TED’s 30th annual conference (2014).

“We all carry devices in our pockets that have the power to connect with people around the world, but rarely do we get a chance to use this incredible power to connect and create with the people standing next to us” (Ramasway 2014).

 Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 09.58.11

(Photo Ema Peter)

The interactive lighting sculpture is in fact a giant 300ft web browser with high-definition projectors. Visitors interact through their mobile device, using a mobile browser they select a colour and use their fingertips to trace paths using their device, projected onto the sculpture as beams of colour and light (Ramasway 2014). As Forlono argues “the appropriation and use of urban technologies have transformed the aesthetic, symbolic, and lived experience of cities in important ways” (Forlano 2013:1). This installation is a collaborative visitor and crowd controlled giant floating canvas, which anyone can create and contribute to in the public sphere, on their private device, collaborating with other citizens to create a stunning, visual experiment (

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 09.58.17

(Photo Ema Peter)

Such collaboration and the merging of private and public spheres calls for “a need for emergent notions of place, that specify the ways in which people, place and technology is interdependent, relational and mutually constituted” (Forlono 2013:2). This is a methodological challenge due to the “difficulty of defining the spatial and conceptual edges to research” due to the “logic of regional, national and temporal boundaries […being] undercut by mobile networks of connectivity” (Berry et al 2013:2-3). We need to develop a research approach, which develops mobile communications studies within other fields of research, for example anthropological, sociological and psychological studies, to enable a more holistic, and all encompassing approach (Licoppe 2013).



Bull. M. 2004. ‘To each their own bubble’: Mobile spaces of sound in the city’. In: Couldry N and McCarthy A (eds) Mediaspace: Place, Scale and Culture in a Media Age. New York: Routledge, 275–93.

De Souza e Silva, A, 2006, ‘From Cyber to Hybrid: Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces’ In Space and Culture, Vol 9: 3 pp. 261-278.

Gergen, K. 2002. ‘Cell phone technology and the realm of absent presence’. In Katz, J. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Groening, S, 2010, ‘From ‘a box in the theater of the world’ to ‘the world as your living room’: cellular phones, television and mobile privatization’ in New Media Society Vol 12: 8, pp. 1330-1346.

Habermas. J. 1992. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Polity Press: Cambridge.

Hollows. J. 2008. Domestic Cultures. Maidenhead: Open University Press

Humphreys, L, 2013. ‘Mobile social media: Future challenges and opportunities’ in Mobile Media & Communication Vol 1: 20 pp. 20-25.

Humphreys, L. 2010. ’Mobile social networks and urban public space’, in New Media Society, Vol 12: 5 pp. 763–778.

Licoppe. C. 2013. ‘Merging mobile communication studies and urban research: Mobile locative media, ”onscreen encounters” and the reshaping of the interaction order in public places’. In Mobile Media & Communication Vol. 1 no. 1 122-128

Plant 2001. J. E. Katz. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Puro 2002. In J. E. Katz. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Ramasway, R. 17/3/14/. Google Creative Lab, ‘A Browser Which Paints the Sky’ (Available at:, Last accessed: 13/5/14).

Silverstone. R. 1994. Television and Everyday Life London: Routledge,

Wei. R. 2013. ‘Mobile media: Coming of age with a big splash’, in Mobile Media & Communication Vol 1:50.

Williams. R. 1990. Television, Technology & Cultural Form, London: Routledge


Further Resources

Curran, J, Fenton, N. and Freedman, D. 2011. (eds) Misunderstanding the Internet. Routledge: London.

Humphreys, L. 2007. Mobile social networks and social practice: A case study of Dodgeball, In Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Vol 13:1 pp. 341–360

[1] The traditional concept of the  ‘public’ realm can be identified outside of the ‘private’ sphere, defined through professional and formal relations, the unfamiliar and perhaps characterized by the presence of strangers (Humphreys 2013). The family, the household, and informal relations can define what was traditionally conceived as the realm of ‘private’ life and the ‘private sphere’ (Habermas 1989), characterized by intimate and personal networks (Humphreys 2013).

[2] We use digital technologies, in particular mobile media to guide, inform, and entertain; this enables private spaces to be created within the ‘public’ (Gergen 2002; Plant 2001; Puro 200)

‘public’ spaces, technologies and art

What it means to be in a public space, or part of the public or even what constitutes public behaviour are constantly challenged, contested and negotiated. Thompson, 2011, references Hannah Adrent 1958: 50ff, when he states that in the past the public realm could be seen as, “a space of appearance in which things that were said and done could be seen and heard by others as well as by ourselves” p55, and that this meant that the behaviour of individuals was visible by others.

He goes on to ask what it means to be visible now, in an age of new media technologies? Technologies that afford us “mediated visibility” p56, which is “freed from the spatial and temporal properties of the here and now.” ibid. Technology has brought into question our understandings of what it means to be ‘public’, where place, people and behaviour are in a perpetual state of possible flux, interrelated, hybridised and co-produced. Any distinctions between it what it means to be public or private are now a “fluid situation”, where boundaries are “blurred and constantly shifting”, “porous, contestable and subject to constant negotiation and struggle”, Thompson, 2011, p 64. This fluidity is also expressed by Lange, in her 2008, ethnographic study of investigating online behaviour and specifically the “varying degrees of publicness” p361, demonstrated by users.

Many artists and designers are inspired to investigate and question our understanding of what is meant by public and private by utilizing place, audience and technology. Forlano, 2013, concentrates on the opportunities for the co-production of place by making digital media and urban technology visible through art and design, by describing a number of works. Taking up her use of empirical investigation, I present below a number of examples, which I feel highlight negotiations of place, behaviour and technology.

Many works are site-specific making the public space a constituent part of the work and a large number of these of these draw attention to places that we do not consider of any importance until their context is changed or challenged by the installation of an artwork.

Public spaces, such as pedestrian walkways between buildings or underpasses, are often used for installations of light and/or sound. Particularly if they allow for darkened space for projections and interesting acoustics. e.g. ‘Lowlands’ by Susan Philipsz the Turner Art Prize Winner 2010


Strømer, a Dobpler interactive LED wall, 2008

The artist may question, augment or transduce the space through the addition of art. The facades of buildings can become screens for projection mappings and media experiences, which may also include user interaction, like the Dobpler interactive LED wall called ‘Strømer’, installed in a pedestrian tunnel in Oslo in 2008 as part of the European City of Culture.

Some artists/designers/advertisers look specifically at high traffic areas, particularly ones where a potential audience lingers rather than just passing through, therefore may make of use public spaces such as airport terminals, railway concourses and the following work uses the pavement beside a busy road, in Montreal.

21 Balançoires (21 Swings) 2013, from Daily Tous Les Jours on Vimeo is a giant instrument made of 21 musical swings. Swinging triggers different notes so that all the swings together create ‘music’. The designers say that it “stimulates ownership of the public space”, by transforming what was previously an unloved space, into a community space for spending time in, rather than just traversing through.

We Feel Fine

Screenshots from

However, work does not need to be situated in a physical location to comment on the changes to what it means to be public or private. We Feel Fine (2005 – ongoing) is a web-based infographic installation, by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, a crowd-sourced artwork that, makes use of public networked space to display online comments, which are, “publically private and privately public” Lange, 2008. The site data-mines blogs for comments relating to feelings and collects these along with information about age, gender, geographical location and even the weather conditions when the blog post was written. The original bloggers have not specified that they want their comments to be relocated and republished, however the technology doesn’t require their permission, questioning both the potential for the web to tell peoples stories and the opportunities for others to manipulate this information for their own means.


Forlano L. 2013 Making Waves: Urban Technology and the co-production of place in First Monday Vol 18 no 11. accessed 26/02/14

Lange P. 2008 Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube, in Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 13 pp361-380‎ accessed 01/03/14

Thompson J. 2011, Shifting Boundaries of Public and Private Life, Theory Culture Society, Vol. 28, pp49-70, Accessed 01/03/14