Hybrid Spatial Experiences

Key Areas to be addressed: Artists use of location-aware mobile communication in public space linked with social media. Artists recreating a sense of ‘place’ with emergent pervasive technologies. Pervasive media is successfully enriching place with information and social networks, but these messages don’t necessarily add artistic or social meaning to those spaces, thereby creating place out of space.
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Chair Person: 
Martin Rieser
Chair Person: 
Dimitris Charitos
Teri Rueb
Christian Nold
Mark Shepard
Marcos Novak

Chair: Prof. Martin Rieser
2nd Chair: Asst. Prof. Dimitris Charitos

Key Areas to be addressed:

1) Artists use of location-aware mobile communication in public space linked with social media.

Q How can we as artists adequately understand the changing nature of  pervasive and  mobile media?

2) Artists recreating a sense of ‘place’ with emergent pervasive technologies. 
Pervasive media is successfully enriching place with information and social networks, but these messages don’t necessarily add artistic or social meaning to those spaces, thereby creating place out of space. We live in a world of lost histories-artists can reframe these in new ways for the public, the problematic is how this differs from any traditional public art practice.

Q :If pervasive media allows the informational enrichment of space, can we also enable the public to do this for themselves through processes which are not determined in a top-down, but in a bottom-up manner?

Q: Can the use of pervasive media, through such processes, reveal new aspects of social interaction, new patterns and dynamics of activity within urban space?

3) A hybrid spatial experience is the result of the use of locative media or augmented reality mobile ICTs which afford the merging of material (space determined by material elements) and immaterial space (determined by digitally produced representations).

Q: In what sense can we examine and define the artistic affordances of this emergent medium?

Paper Abstracts:

Disturbing  Conurbations:  Swimming against the Dominant Spectrum

by Teri Rueb

The dominant discourse across industry, government, culture and academia falsely presumes mobile telecommunications technology to be inherently networked, global and urban.  Across these disparate domains, there is a tendency to assume an urban context, a global context, and a technological bias in terms of understanding the spatial dimensions and implications of wireless mobile networks.  This technologically determined position is partly an artifact of the focus on spatial dimensions associated with fixed telecommunication networks (as in fixed telephone or stationary computer / modem) that have tended to follow patterns of population density.  Also implicit in such figurations is the association of the ‘urban’ with the ‘relevant’, suggesting that mass consumption or participation in itself constitutes an ‘urban’ condition that is of inherent value.  Whether overtly or covertly, the ‘urban’ as invoked in these and other discourses tends to signal the presence or potential of large-scale and expanding markets, a meaning that effectively displaces spatial and social practices deemed to be less profitable.  Thus, the uncritical application of the term ‘urban’ imposes an implied hegemony and dichotomy between the terms urban / non-urban.

In everyday terms, however, the lived experience of mobile networks is highly localized to the body of individual subjects, especially as such networks are spatially anchored to the mobile device and its corresponding range of network coverage and access which together constitute a three-dimensional dynamic spatial phenomena.  Anchored to the mobile subject in situ the lived experience of mobile interaction, while inevitably interwoven with the global and urban as factors of network society and the post-human condition, is nonetheless differentiated in terms of cultural and geographical context.  In “The Urban Revolution” Lefebvre problematizes the city by defining the word “urban” explicitly as the interaction of superstructure and base in a mutually constitutive relationship that is not localized to the city.  This formulation is worthy of recall in contemporary discourses that conflate all things with the urban as if nothing could escape its cultural logic or analytical framework.  Through the presentation of projects drawn from my own practice, I will reveal mobile interaction as a spectrum condition, where the becoming non-urban of mobile subjectivities is articulated through hybrid and heterogeneous spatial productions of embodied interaction in the magnetosphere.

Designing for the Internet of People

by Christian Nold

Without a public or democratic discussion we are being pushed into an Internet of Things that will reshape out experience of public space. In contrast, I propose an Internet of People for a Post-Oil World. This vision is one of a community build network which is both local and global and that provides the tools and infrastructure of daily life. To build this we need to set social standards that embed the social qualities of that we want - into future technologies. What do we want those standards to be, and how do we agree on them?

Pathetic Fallacies and Category Mistakes: making sense and nonsense of the (near-future) Sentient City

by Asst. Prof. Mark Shepard

As computing leaves the desktop and spills out onto the sidewalks, streets and public spaces of the city, we increasingly find information processing capacity embedded within and distributed throughout the material fabric of everyday urban space. Artifacts and systems we interact with daily collect, store and process information about us, or are activated by our movements and transactions. Ubiquitous computing evangelists herald a coming age of urban infrastructure capable of sensing and responding to the events and activities transpiring around them. Imbued with the capacity to remember, correlate and anticipate, this near-future “sentient” city is envisioned as being capable of reflexively monitoring its environment and our behavior within it, becoming an active agent in the organization of everyday life in urban public space. This talk will unpack some of the tacit assumptions, latent biases and hidden agendas at play behind new and emerging urban infrastructures.

P(l)aying (with) Attention: Distracted Reality versus Augmented Place

by. Prof. Marcos Novak

Locative media use our coordinates in space as keys into our information, ostensibly to bring that information to us where we need it. Augmented Reality ostensibly augments the reality we are in by overlaying this information on our perceptual field, the better to serve us. But do these technologies really serve to connect us to the places we find ourselves in, or, to the contrary, do they serve to further remove us from them? This paper will discuss the promises and problems of our ever-changing relation to space, mediated and otherwise, and will propose various responses and strategies for addressing them.

Locative media and the politics of space

by Martin Rieser

The paper  describes two recent locative walks constructed in Athens using the Empedia Software suite developed for iphone and Android smartphones. The projects were large scale collaborative workshops involving  a broad range of disciplines to tease out the nature of politics in relation to city space in Athens. One workshop: Codes of Disobedience and Disfunctionality used graffiti as a trigger for public interaction and the deconstructing of the political codes behind public manifestations of resistence to the neo-liberal financial crisis and its supposed remedies. The second walk Urban Digital Narratives addressed the issue of displacement in the newly gentrified Gazi area of the city and created a varied portrait of an inner city area under great pressure from a changing economy and the presence of a variet y of ethnic communities. The authoer will ask how effective can locative media be both a representing these issues and laying them before an interested proactive audience.

Investigating the hybrid character of spatial experiences afforded by locative media

by Asst. Prof. Dimitris Charitos

The introduction of physical location as a criterion for determining access to digital content, in locative media experiences, has resulted in a strong correlation between the physical environment and digital information. The environmental experience is augmented by multiple layers of information mapped onto the physical environment, thus affording hybrid mediated spatial experiences, consisting of both physical and digital environmental elements, which function as the context for new kinds of collaborative activities and social interaction. This presentation will focus on the concept of hybrid space and more specifically on the spatial experience afforded to users of locative media. Firstly, hybrid spatial experiences will be investigated from the perspectives of new media and communication theories. Secondly, a series of different conceptions regarding the hybrid nature of such spatial experiences will be discussed, in an attempt to identify common ground or certain differences between them. Finally, for the purpose of discussing the issue of hybrid space, the presentation will refer to results of a research study, employing a multi-user locative media system, which focused on the user’s spatial experience and attempted to investigate its nature and characteristics by using quantitative as well as qualitative methods.

Bios of the Participants

Christian Nold

Christian Nold is an artist, designer and educator working to develop new participatory models and technologies for communal representation. In 2001 he wrote the book “Mobile Vulgus,” which examined the psychosomatic history of the political crowd. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2004, Nold has led many large-scale  participatory mapping  projects. In particular his “Bio Mapping” project has been staged in sixteen different countries with more than 1500 workshop participants. For the last six years, Nold has been developing an extensive tool-kit of technologies that blend together human and non-human sensors for local governance. In 2010, Nold launched an experimental currency, the “Bijlmer Euro,” which allows people to follow where their money moves. This year will see the publication of the book, "The Internet of People for a Post-Oil World", co-written with Rob van Kranenburg.

Marcos Novak

Professor Marcos Novak directs the transLAB at UCSB. He is researcher, artist, theorist, and transarchitect. In 2008, "Transmitting Architecture", the title of his seminal 1995 essay, became the theme of the XXIII World Congress of the UIA (Union Internationale Des Architectes), the largest architectural organization in the world. 

His projects, theoretical essays, and interviews have been translated into over twenty languages and have appeared in over 70 countries, and he lectures, teaches, and exhibits worldwide. Drawing upon architecture, music, and computation, and introducing numerous additional influences from art, science, and technology, his work intentionally defies categorization. He is universally recognized as the pioneer of architecture in cyberspace, of the critical consideration of virtual space as architectural and urban place, and of the use of generative computational composition in architecture and design.

He is a Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is affiliated with CNSI (the California NanoSystems Institute), MAT (Media Art and Technology), and Art. He named and was instrumental in the design of the UCSB AlloSphere (the three-story high sphere for the creation of immersive virtual environments, the largest such facility in the world) and created its inaugural project, the AlloBrain@AlloSphere,  using fMRI scans of his own brain. He is currently working on a new Allotopes project for the AlloSphere. In 2004, he was honored to become a Fellow of the World Technology Network.



Esther Polak

Esther Polak studied graphic art and mixed media and is interested in how technology determines (visual) perception. In this context she explores the visual and documentary possibilities of GPS.
Her AmsterdamREALTIME project (2002) was one of the first large-scale art explorations in GPS (Global Positioning System) mapping. Ten inhabitants of Amsterdam carried per week a GPS tracer with them. Their routes through town were made visible on a projection screen in the exhibition space. The traces on screen form an alternative, highly personal map of the city. This was a joint project of artists Esther Polak, Waag and Society Jeroen Kee (realtime.waag.org).

In 2004-2005 she developed MILKproject. In this project a European dairy transportation was followed from the udder of the (Latvian) cow, to the mouth of the (Dutch) consumer. All people who played a role in this chain received, for a day, a GPS-device that registered their movements. The team developed a lucid visualization-software for these traces, and let the participants react upon them in their own kitchens or living rooms. MILKproject tells the personal life-stories of these very different Europeans, from the Latvian farmer to the Dutch open-air market salesman with his clients, who are all connected by one thing: the milk from a truck of one Latvian milk collector. The project was awarded with a Golden Nica at Ars Electronica in 2005 It was developed in collaboration with , Ieva Auzina and Rixc, Riga center of new media culture (milkproject.net).

At this moment Polak works on a new GPS-project: NomadicMILK. For this project the tracks of both nomadic herdsman and regular dairy transports in Nigeria will be recorded and visualized. The project will make use of a newly developed GPS-visualization tool: a small robot will draw the tracks directly on the ground in lines of sand. This way the tracks can easily been shown to the Nigerian participants and discussed with them along the road. (www.nomadicmilk.net)

Martin Rieser

Martin Rieser's art practice in internet art and interactive narrative installations has been seen around the world including Milia in Cannes; Paris; The ICA London and in Germany, Montreal, Nagoya in Japan and Melbourne, Australia. He as delivered papers on interactive narrative and exhibited at many major conferences in the field including ISEA: Montreal 1995, Rotterdam 1996, Chicago 1997, Nagoya 2002, Belfast 2009, University of Oslo 2004, Siggraph, 2005, Refresh Banff Arts Centre 2005, Digital Matchmakers Trondheim 2005 Plan ICA 2005, NAI Rotterdam 2008, Intelligent Environments Seattle 2008,Barcelona 2009, Locunet University of Athens 2008, ISEA 2009 and at many other conference venues across the UK and Europe.

His interactive installations include Understanding Echo shown in Japan 2002, Hosts Bath Abbey 2006 and Secret Door Invideo Milan 2006, The Street RMIT Gallery Melbourne 2008. He is currently developing mobile artworks for Vienna (The Third Woman), and public installations for the new DMC in Leicester (Secret Garden) . He has published numerous essays and books on digital art including New Screen Media: Cinema/ Art/Narrative (BFI/ZKM, 2002), which combines a DVD of current research and practice in this area together with critical essays. And has recently edited The Mobile Audience, a book on locative technology and art due out this year from Rodopi, also logged in a blog: www.mobile audience.blogspot.com He has also acted as consultant to bodies such as Cardiff Bay Arts Trust and the Photographer’s Gallery London, Arkive in Bristol, The Soros Media Institute in Prague and UIAH in Helsinki.

Teri Rueb

Teri Rueb's interactive sound walks, sculptures and site-specific installations explore landscape, architecture and spatial aspects of sound. She recently launched a new site-specific work across two sites Elsewhere : Anderswo as part of the exhibition Landschaft 2.0 at the Edith Russ Site for Media Art (Oldenburg, Germany) and the Springhornhof Kunstverein (Neuenkirchen, Germany).

Past works include Core Sample (Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor and the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art), itinerant (Boston Commons and Public Garden), and Drift (set along the Wadden Sea near Cuxhaven, Germany). Trace, set along a network of hiking trails in the Canadian Rockies, was her first GPS-based sound walk created as a new media co-production with the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard is an artist, architect and researcher whose post-disciplinary practice addresses new social spaces and signifying structures of contemporary network cultures. His current research investigates the implications of mobile and pervasive media, communication and information technologies for architecture and urbanism. Recent work includes Hertzian Rain, a variable event structure designed to raise awareness of issues surrounding the wireless topography of urban environments through telematic conversations based on sound and bodily movement; Sentient City Survival Kit, a collection of artifacts, spaces and media for survival in the near-future Sentient City; and the Tactical Sound Garden [TSG], an open source software platform for cultivating virtual sound gardens in urban public space. His work has been exhibited at museums, galleries and festivals internationally. In 2009, he curated Toward the Sentient City, an exhibition of commissioned projects that critically explored the evolving relationship between ubiquitous computing and the city. He is the editor of Sentient City: ubiquitous computing, architecture and the future of urban space, published by the Architectural League of New York and MIT Press.