Social body of digital connectedness


The city is lined with veins through which the livelihood of its citizens flows, networks and interacts. The streets, pavements and rails stream data and record the experience of locative existence enhanced by mobile technologies. The social body is mobile in physical and cyber time and space as people are digitally connected to the Internet together. An immersive relationship between media and users allow for an altered feeling of presence as we “exist as an abstraction” (Miller, 2011) between a physical environment and a conceptual, interactional space. “Today, as lines between the Internet and the ocean begin to blur, one may lose the feeling of a body boundary at the borderlands of material and virtual worlds” (Sutula).

Communication media acts as an extension of man, of his body and senses (McLuhan, 1967). Technology begins to determine our human consciousness and corporality in the city. Haraway (1991) argues that cyborg is in our everyday interaction with, and dependence on, the multiple cybernetic technologies that make up our personal, social, economic, political and technological selves. People and their behavior are the data that flows through the city’s veins.


The Big Bang Data exhibition reflected a moment in time wherein our everyday embodied living in the city, our movement and attitudes, form a stream of data that translate mobile connectedness into art. “Many artists today are increasingly confronted by the temptation or necessity to engage with fields typically associated with science and engineering: broadly speaking, ‘technology’. One of the compelling features of Big Bang Data is the overcoming of this traditional division between art and science, recognizing instead the inescapability of networked culture” (Jordan and Pepi, 2016). In Selfiecity, Lev Manovich investigates selfies using a mix of theoretic, artistic and quantitative methods. The selfie is explored, analysed and studied as a form of self-portraiture, part of the history of photography, as well as a development in human connectedness in the use of mobile technologies in the city. Data is visualised.




Big Bang Data Revisited [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 15 May 2016].

Haraway, D., 1991. A Cyborg Manifesto [pdf] Available at: <http://faculty.> [Accessed 15 May 2016].

Manovich, L., Selfiecity: Investigating the style of self-portraits (selfies) in five cities around the world [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 15 May 2016].

McLuhan, M., 1967. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. London: Sphere Books.

Miller, V., 2011. Key Elements of Digital Media. [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 February 2016].




bits to atoms and atoms to bits



We are cyborgs! From the earliest tools to enhance our bodily function to the body extensions that transport us in space and time into cyberspace. What performance artist Stelarc envisioned with his third ear, Ear on Arm – an ear that hears, grown on his arm, connected to other places through the Internet – is now no longer a reality of the arts but actualized through 3D printing. With the right blend of biology and materials science, the 3D printed bionic ear brings together electronic matter and biological tissue. A reality being worked on an Australian girl born bereft of one ear.

What Lipson and Kurman (2013) refer to as “modest manufacturing miracles” (p.7) are the 3D printed objects that range from “3D print living tissue” to “nutritionally calibrated food” complete with “electronic components” (p.7). This technology gives humans full control of the physical world as a digital ‘design file’ makes manifest its physical object. The boundaries between the virtual and the physical are once again blurred and questioned as 3D printing brings “the virtual world into close alignment with the physical one” (Lipson and Kurman, 2013, p.13). One can almost imagine a digital animated character leaving the screen and being embodied in physical space functioning as it would in its animated capacity.

Physical things are composed of shape, material and behavior. 3D printing will allow control over all three abovementioned components. A voxel, “the physical equivalent of a pixel” (Lipson and Kurman, 2013, p.16) is to the physical object world what the latter is to the digital image. Physical objects made up of voxels “would create intelligent, three-dimensional active physical objects”(Lipson and Kurman, 2013, p.17) thus transferring data from the computer into physical matter.

Telepresence is a reality in our living in the digital city as we are transported in space and time and constantly shift between the physical and the virtual world through our digital body mobile extensions. Taking this a step further, 3D printing will allow us to “fax things from place to place” as “physical objects smoothly transition from bits to atoms and atoms to bits” (Lipson and Kurman, 2013, p.17).





Euronews. Hi-tech. Girl to be fitted with 3D printed ear in Australia [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Lipson, H. & Kurman, M., 2013. Fabricated. The New World of 3D Printing [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2016].

MIT Technology Review. Cyborg Parts [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Stelarc. Ear on Arm [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Stelarc and Sondergaard, M., Conversations with Stelarc’s Internet Ear [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2016].




‘Harmless’ Mobilities

Major black gold explorations in the 1970’s have allowed for mobility to be central in our lives. Consuming energy unsustainably lives were lived fast and moved faster to a constant ‘on the move’. The “carbon-based movement of people, goods, services, ideas and information” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.x): the result of a relentless consumerism that leaves an impact on the individual’s self-identity, livelihood and experience of life. A bleak outcome of which is pictured by Tolstoy and depicted in Elliott and Urry’s Mobile Lives (2010). Being in our body and psych cannot be independent of the environment, while in turn; our inexorable consumerism has devastating impacts on the world that sustains our being. “Fast modes of movement” which “extends into the core of the self” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.3) as the body is mobilized beyond its physical possibilities, through miniaturized mobilities, which extend the self virtually in time and space.

“The social structure of human agency and individual life is substantially and increasingly constituted through systems of movement” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.13), which mobilities are comprised of: the corporeal travel, the physical movement of objects, the imaginative travel, virtual travel, and communicative travel (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.16). Movement in all forms abovementioned mark the fulcrum of a fast, agitated and unstoppable consumption of energy: the burning of which resource impacts negatively on the earth with the result of human induced climate change.

The high-carbon capitalist society has undermined its own existence, as global warming reflects back on a lifestyle that may have to be stopped in its tracks and slowed down to a slack pace of motion. Thus the future of mobility in our lives is contested with possible, probable or preferable scenarios presented. All with negative impacts of the collapse or readjustment of our technologically driven mobility. The Survivalist (2015) is a movie that depicts the actualization of such a scenario, what Elliott and Urry (2010) call the regional warlordism (p.144).

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Though the hyper use of technology may impact negatively on the environment, we in turn are dependent on technology itself to clear up the mess. Through our miniaturized mobilities with apps such as Hackair and Captor and others, we can take on direct action for social and environmental change. Though some might say that this does little more than solely bring awareness of human-induced climate change, it may stop us in our tracks and instigate new forms of harmless mobility.





Elliott, A. & Urry, J., 2010. Mobile Lives [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 May 2016].

Hackair [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 May 2016].

The Survivalist. Stephen Fingleton, 2016. DVD.

Messy Human Elements

“The city is its people” (Hill, in Hemment & Townsend, 2013, p.88). In the quest for efficiency in the technologically driven and overridden smart ‘ghost’ city, the human person is stripped of its central role in the dynamic venture through life’s everyday interaction and experiences of communication. Thus the smart city can be pictured as a barren factory endowed with machinist capabilities, serviced by the human person sleepily pushing buttons for function and routine activity. Such a structured, routinely and highly efficient state of being may actually be in conflict with the nature of the human person, the citizen of the city, whose “profoundly human elements… the messy ones” made up of “events never planned” calls on what citizens may actually want, “a slightly less ‘connected’ journey to experience serendipity in their lives once in a while” (Mulligan, in Hemment & Townsend, 2013, p.83).

One cannot envision the city without its citizens. However making the citizen a passive consumer of technologies presented and decided upon by corporations and government, excludes the Smart Citizens from their central role in the livelihood of the Smart City, that of engagement in the process of deciding on technology use and its design. Dan Hill quotes Cedric Price in asking, “Technology is the answer. But what is the question?” (in Hemment & Townsend, 2013, p.87): This in the quest of understanding the central and active state of Smart Citizens in the existence of the Smart City; “smart, engaged, aware and active citizens” (Hill, in Hemment & Townsend, 2013, p.89). “We make cities in order to come together, to create commerce, culture, conviviality, and the very notion of living in cities. Buildings, vehicles and infrastructure are mere enablers, not drivers. They are a side-effect, a by-product, of people and culture” (Hill, in Hemment & Townsend, 2013, p.88).

Among various art and design projects, which engage citizens in the active, smart running of the city, is Hackair. Such an open platform hands over direct responsibility to citizens and engages them in measuring and publishing air pollution levels. This increases citizen engagement and awareness in the well-being of its city environment, through technologies that enable smart citizens’ direct and active commitment, rather than a passive consumerist approach to technologies.






Digital Single Market. 22 new CAPS projects in Horizon 2020 [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 April 2016].

Hackair [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 April 2016].

Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., 2013. Smart Citizens: FutureEverything [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 April 2016].

Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., 2013. FutureEverything Publications: Smart Citizens [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 April 2016].

Hill, D., 2013. Essay: On the Smart City; Or, a ‘manifesto’ for smart citizens instead [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 April 2016].


Flâneur: Phoneur: Dérive



As one reflects on the totality of the Digital Cities experience, it is well noted that predominant to the themes encountered are the notions of physicality, virtuality, a sense of place and identity, in the playful meandering through space mediated by mobile technologies. Such notions seem to have reached a noticeable fulcrum in the sphere of mobile gaming, which embraces a redefinition and “interruption/disruption of everyday practices” (Hjorth, 2011, p.361) in the spaces of urban life. Urban mobile games which encompass the three forms of mobile games, namely location-aware, location-based, and hybrid reality games, emphasize bodily movement through urban spaces, connected to virtual environments enhancing the embodied experience of locality and place. One connects with the concept of place as being “constructed by an ongoing accumulation of stories, memories and social practices” (Harvey, 2001 cited in Hjorth, 2011, p.358). Such an interaction of experiential processes is augmented by blurred distinctions between the online and offline, physical and virtual presence reconciled by mobile media gaming technologies.


Shoot me if you can is one such mobile game that deploys the ocular-centric capabilities of mobile media together with the physical experience of movement in urban spaces, wherein metaphorically, photos are the bullets of the mobile camera that shoots. Players are virtually connected together and to the system, through the mobile phone, with their body present in physical space. Shoot me if you can is a photographic experience as one is free to shoot and capture images of strangers/opponents; a comment on the prominence of the digital image in our everyday lives; a statement on the image-based big-brother surveillance effect on our culture. “Shoot me if you can also reveals Korean youngsters’ paranoiac desire to photograph and the violence of surveillance camera in city life… attempts to interpret urban data through a public performance” (




Blast Theory. Available at:

Hjorth, L., 2011. Mobile@game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 April 2016].

Shoot me if you can [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2016].

Shoot me if you can: Leonardo Electronic Almanac [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 April 2016].


Bench-mediating Spatial Storytelling


A Literary project relating stories, conversations, lives and poetry about the sea, by the sea. Benches that line the bay set the scene for the visitor to encounter narratives of people conversing intimately or routinely around life by the sea. Fishermen fixing boats, preparing nets and setting sail, and returning from a day at sea to sell their daily catch. The homeless seaman, taking naps on the benches with skin burnt by the sun and coarse living in the bay. Record his unintelligible stories. A bay adorned by multiple traditional fishing boats and a statue of ‘Toninu is-sajjied’ (Toninu the fisherman), to whom a traditional song was also dedicated. Traditional Maltese Poetry will be listened to as one proceeds from bench to bench: the central theme being the sea, while the physical medium being the bench. Conversations with fishermen will inform narratives on life at sea. At the top of the bay Spinola Palace historically guards against invaders.

Spinolabay actionbound

Mission of Bound

While basking in the sun, in the meditative form of sitting on a bench by the sea, you can engage primarily by listening to poetry and stories of the sea. You can further engage by recording own thoughts, conversations, sounds, human interactive sounds, and poetry. These can then be uploaded as storytelling lived bodily experiences for that particular bench, for others to engage with in the future. Thus, while engaging with the history of the fishing seaside village/bay, by listening to historic accounts through local poetry and storytelling, you are also forming the story of its present and future, through immersion in the physical medium of the benches that line the bay.

Mobile locative narratives set the scene for the sharing of stories through different forms: auditory, literary and other textual forms. The blurring of the physical world and storytelling space is marked by “nodes” (Ritchie, 2014, p.63) in the form of wayfinding markers, such as benches, boats, statues and people. The bench is the physical medium “to bridge the digitally and physically mediated story spaces formed by digital media and the environment” (Ritchie, p.55). Thus the line between the storyworld and the physical world is indistinct and “the immersive nature of the story thus mediated” (Ritchie, 2014, p.55). On the walk by the sea, sitting on the bench and in interaction with the locals of the seaside village, the physical environment becomes “a medium through which a story can be told through the actions of its inhabitants in the spaces themselves” (Ritchie, 2014, p.58). (Non) linearity of sequence, which influences perception, and the tying of a narrative to a location are aspects of fundamental significance in the spatial storytelling of this actionbound experience.



Ritchie, J., 2014. The Affordances and Constraints of Mobile Locative Narratives [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 12 March 2016].

A fleeting exclusion: space and the city

The fleeting and temporal trait of sound and its direct relation to space in the scape of the city reflects the experience of location-based mobile media. An awareness of the prominent positioning of sound, which is often overshadowed by the visual, is brought to the forefront in the embodied active experience of walking to the remix of designed sound or sound art through the city. Listening also takes on an active role in directing movement and conducting the soundtrack of the locative experience. “Mobile music as part of the urban landscape” (Beer, 2007 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.284) creates an “experience of control” (Simun, 2009 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.284), an immersion or exclusion into/out of the multisensory city.

I question and wonder whether the potent experience of sound in immersive locative mobile activity through the city, is really one of immersion or is it that of exclusion from the city’s surroundings? Mobile music (mp3) and the use of headphones detach oneself from the public space and remove the person from the surrounding sense of sound that immerses us in location. Though the National Mall offers an interactive site-specific sound experience, the listener/walker who engages with it, loses out on the unique, momentous, temporal and fleeting sounds that that walk through time might have in store. Thus our senses are controlled, exclusion takes hold. If “sound situates man in the middle of actuality and in simultaneity” (Ong, 2000 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.288) how can one not experience exclusion in the private domain of controlled sound while outdoor in public space?

Space and our senses’ interpretation of it lies at the center of the locative media experience. While through sound “the ear is a much better analyst of space” (Motte-Haber, 2002 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.287) the visual creates distance and eliminates space. “We hear… the presence of atmosphere” (Toop, 2004 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.287) while “if we look at objects we perceive space as being empty, only being ‘decorated’ with objects” (Behrendt, 2012, p.288). I’d like to present the spatial aspects of the visual and aural in the work of video artist Gary Hill Around and About (1980), a relationship between sound and vision in which space is almost eliminated by the objects that reflect it while sound makes us experience that distanced space by feeling its presence.


The historic, narrative form that actionbound offers as an app for locative interaction with sound can be experienced (though I have not personally experienced it) in the likes of Soho Stories; An excellent way to preserve and document the history of certain areas and communicate it to passersby. On this note, I am yet to experience the use of such an app and hopefully will start to do so as from this week.



Behrendt, F., 2012. The Sound of Locative Media [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 2 March 2016].

People flow in the City

The ‘Big Bang Data’ exhibition at Somerset House, London from tomorrow (3 December) to 28 February 2016 (5)

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: A staff member interacts with a live social media map of London at the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House on December 2, 2015 in London, England. The show highlights the data explosion that's radically transforming our lives. It opens on December 3, 2015 and runs until February 28, 2016 at Somerset House. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House)

Data Streams by Tekja, at the Big Bang Data exhibition, offers a glimpse of data visualized to capture the “pulse of the city”. “A culture value” is given to data that is then analysed for understanding the sentiment of people’s information in London, creating a live social media map of the city. Such a project initiates notions of space – code/space and media space, software, and temporality, in the digital embodiment of people in the city, as well as questioning the public/private domain of data.

The differentiation between online and offline space in the city has become blurred as well as has the physicality of public and private space. Such a space is inseparable from media as “sections of urban life crossed over to cyberspace” (Koolhass, 1995 cited in Berry et al, 2013, p.1). The bodily encounters of the public sphere in the everyday experience of city space are mediated by software: daily routine activities that rely on code to function. In fact “software conditions our very existence” (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011, p.IX). Code and space are interdependent as code is written to produce space (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011, p.X) while software captures and processes automated information and data of people in the city – as in Data Stream – with a direct influence on well being and daily participation in life’s urban activities.

Embodied in the city space we respond to mediated digital activity, while human and technological interactions influence identity. As Grosz (1995) proposes “environments actively produce the bodies of their inhabitants” (p.109 cited in Berry et al, 2013, p.4). The software driven environments we inhabit are coded to determine and facilitate people’s everyday activities at four levels: coded objects, coded infrastructures, coded processes and coded assemblages. Code determines what digital technology can do in the network society.

The “connected quality of urban public space” can be visualized in Charles and Ray Eames’ (1959) Glimpses of the USA, a multi-screen performance presenting a “mosaic of information” in the multi-media environments of American daily life (Berry et al, 2013, p.8).








Berry, C. et al. 2013. Public Space Media Space [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 February 2016].

Eames Official Site: Glimpses of the USA Film [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 February 2016].

Kitchin, R., and Dodge, M., 2011. Code/Space Software and Everyday Life [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 February 2016].

Tekja: London Data Findings – Big Bang Data Exhibition in Somerset House, London [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 February 2016].


Visual, Virtual and Embodied

My presence at the Big Bang Data exhibition translates in an embodied experience through such immersive elements of digital media as telepresence, virtuality and simulation (Miller, 2011, p.31). Such an experience plays a fundamental role in direct relationship with the nature of the exhibition itself, wherein the Internet and real-time data is explored by a number of artists, designers, journalists and visionaries.

Data gives us new ways of doing things, of immersing oneself in different environments, new forms of social interaction: what Miller refers to as the “immersive relationship between media and user” (Miller, 2011, p.31). From previous modules on the MA Creative Media, my main concern has been with the Internet of Bodies – (dis)embodiment in the networked society. Furthermore, my interest in last week’s reading’s reference to embodiment in digital cities and the use of dating sites such as Tinder and Grindr (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013) points to the same direction. Such a topic is well tackled in this week’s reading by Miller (2011) Key Elements of Digital Media, which systematically describes how communication technologies have the potential to alter our feelings of presence. Such an “altered sense of presence” allows us to exist in the “physical environment in which our body is located and the conceptual or interactional ‘space’ we are presented with through the use of the medium” (Steuer, 1992 cited in Miller, 2011, p.31). Thus as Miller (2011) proposes, I shall “exist as an abstraction” (p.33) at the Big Bang Data exhibition. Through telepresence, I shall experience presence in a foreign environment by means of a communication medium (Steuer, 1992 cited in Miller, 2011, p.31).

As the title of this Blog post implies, I am most fascinated by the visual, virtual and embodied aspects of data. Thus, in relation to digital cities, Lev Manovich and Moritz Stefaner’s Selfiecity, which reflects data generated by the public through selfies in six main cities, and shared on social media, reflects body representations and digital visualisations. Such a work links to other works by artists who have explored the embodied representations through selfies in the visual and performance arts. Body by Body (2014), a collaboration by Melissa Sachs and Cameron Soren, as well as Kate Durbin’s performance art project Hello Selfie (2014). Furthermore such themes of representation and simulacra are touched on in Miller’s account on virtuality and embodiment.


Kate Durbin’s performance art project Hello Selfie (2014)


Body by Body (2014)


Julie Freeman’s use of data as an art material in her work We Need Us, is also highly influential and inspirational to me, work which is realized by the use of data visualization to data art. Such a work explores humanity in the network, thus the embodied and emotional experience of data is once again prominent. Finally, the immersion into live data at the London Situation Room, involves a real-time data experience of interaction and human data in cities that also brings to the forefront the theme of embodiment in digital cities.




Askinazi, J., 2014. Kate Durbin on her Performance Art Project ‘Hello Selfie’ [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 January 2016].

Big Bang Data Exhibition in Somerset House, London [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 February 2016].

Dismagazine., 2014. Body by Body [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 January 2016].

Miller, V., 2011. Key Elements of Digital Media. [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 February 2016].

Tarantino, M. & Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the Centrality of Media and the Centrality of Space [online] Available at: < > [Accessed 10 February 2016].

Space as Social construct

Throughout history, humans have moved to cities to connect, for social and economic reasons. The search for employment and wealth has attracted people to cities. As Townsend (2013) proposes “cities accelerate time by compressing space” (p.1), and it is this binary relationship between space and time that we may suppose composes the digital city. While previously, the home was the connecting digital space to the network; mobile devices have now taken such a communicative endeavor onto the streets of the city through the mobile web in a “symbiosis of place and cyberspace” (Townsend, 2013, p.6). Such a mobility dominates life in the city and does indeed “compress space” while hastening time. What Townsend calls “a metropolitan nervous system” (p.3) is the social body of digitally connected people in the urban space of the city, linked to the global mobile web. In digital cities with our dependence on smart mobile devices the barrier between biological beings and the networked digital world is broken down. This is the result of the Internet of Things; wherein “the lines between person and network get even more blurred when identifying gadgets are paired with sensors that tune in to the human body’s status, monitoring it in the same way sensors monitor mechanical devices” (Tossell, 2014).

Through digital interfaces people interact with and immerse themselves in the city in different ways. Such information technology combined with the surrounding elements of the city is what Townsend (2013) defines as the smart city. Though she cautions about the consequences of technology on the city, it is technology itself in the smart city that combines with the body addressing “social, economic, and environmental problems” (Townsend, 2013, p.15). Allison Dring, speaker at the Connected City Summit, designed such an environmental solution called Prosolve. Prosolve, a decorative façade module that reduces air pollution in cities, is an ideal example of smart technologies acting on the environmental impact of industrialization on the digital city.

Gaston Bachelard in the Poetics of Space, with what he alludes to as the space of the house, we can attribute to the networked digital space of the city: “inhabited space transcends geometrical space” (1969, p.47). Tarantino and Tosoni (2013) bring forward the idea of space as a context for social interaction, and further give importance to the construction of urban space “mediated” (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013, p.1). Thus the study of urbanization is paralleled to that of the “media cities” (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013, p.1).



Bachelard, G., 1969. The Poetics of Space. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.

Tarantino, M. & Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the Centrality of Media and the Centrality of Space [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 February 2016].

Tossell, I., 2014. On the Internet of Things, your body is the next thing to be networked [online] Available at: < technology-news/the-internet-of-you/> [Accessed 10 February 2016].

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia [pdf] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 February 2016].