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moving messages and uncertain content

a report on the urban screens manchester 07 conference


Augenblicke, Peter Aeschmann from Urban Screens Manchester 2007 www.aerschmann.ch Augenblicke, Peter Aeschmann from Urban Screens Manchester 2007 www.aerschmann.ch
STAGED IN OCTOBER 2007, URBAN SCREENS MANCHESTER 07 BROUGHT TOGETHER A RANGE OF INTERNATIONAL ACADEMICS, ARTISTS, CURATORS, PRODUCERS, ARCHITECTS, DESIGNERS AND URBAN PLANNERS WITH A SHARED INTEREST IN LARGE FORMAT URBAN SCREENS FOR FOUR DAYS OF PRESENTATIONS AND SCREENING EVENTS AROUND MANCHESTER’S CITY CENTRE.

This conference followed the first Urban Screens conference convened by the Institute for Network Cultures in Amsterdam in 2005. Supported by the Cornerhouse and the BBC, Urban Screens Manchester was curated by Dr Susanne Jaschko with a focus on the "creation of content, commissioning/funding issues, curatorship and the architectural possibilities of urban screens in the 21st century" (www.manchesterurbanscreens.org.uk).

Since the 1980s, the roll out of digital networks, the proliferation of mobile phones and the installation of large electronic screens in urban centres, has created novel forms of mediated interaction in public space. Large public screens in particular have rapidly become a symbol of contemporary urban development projects across the world and have emerged as an important site for new forms of commercial branding and aesthetic practice. The global expansion of large-format screens in urban centres was evidenced by a range of case studies presented from around the world, including: Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester (BBC Big Screens); Brussels (Dexia Tower); Dublin (the Digital Hub); Texas (Victory Media Network); Galacia (Fundacion Caixa); Istanbul (Yama); Melbourne (Federation Square); Seoul (Art Centre Nabi); Shenzhen (Shenzen Stock Exchange); Toronto (Dundas Square Filmport Development); Vienna (UNIQA Tower).

large screens & cities of culture

From David Lakin’s (Arup) perspective as an engineer, a large screen is simply an active façade that is integrated with the exterior of a building and provides an opportunity to extend both architectural design and information flows. But large screens have now clearly attracted a new set of expectations in relation to the way culture can regenerate urban sites. In conjunction with mobile media and digital networks, they have helped to reignite the belief that a new interface between art and technology can lead towards more engaged forms of social agency, as well as providing the stimulus for the building of community networks. Jaschko claimed that urban screens are part of new range of communicative technologies for public display such as LED, LCD, plasma screens, large-scale projections and media façades "that offer new and exciting possibilities for artistic and non-commercial use as well as for community development and play" (www.manchesterurbanscreens.org.uk). According to Michael Joroff (MIT), the creative function of large screens oscillates between that of shaping the environment through textual narratives, to a looser engagement with images and sounds that are otherwise considered invisible or non-material. This suggests that large screens operate across a spectrum ranging from what ES Turner, in his classic text The Shocking History of Advertising, called “sky shouting”, to a more subtle emission of signals and spatial ambiances that only register in the background of people’s consciousness.

This uncertainty as to the status of the screen is reflected in the fact that there are relatively few instances of corporations allowing ‘their’ large screens to be used for aesthetic or social purposes (for instance, the ‘Big Screens’ in the UK, CASZuidas in Amsterdam, NABI Art Centre in Seoul and Federation Square, Melbourne). In Seoul the majority of large screens are used as a commercial tool for capturing public attention. Despite the preponderance of utilitarian application, Joachim Sauter argued that the large screen is now part of a broader digital agora. In an optimistic tone he asserted that any new technology that expands the levels of interaction and identification is also creating a space that generates new social experiences. How do we grasp the significance of these experiences? And how are large screens enmeshed in broader processes of social change? As Gunthar Selichar noted, the stress on mobility, consumption and surveillance in contemporary society has rendered the condition of being static as equivalent to being homeless, multiplied decision-making moments, and extended the range of personal experiences that are open to public scrutiny. Is the large screen to a public square what a television is to a lounge room, or even a video monitor to a gallery? The proportions maybe consistent, but is the function, let alone the effect, the same? The great hopes invested in large screens have yet to be tested. However, the Urban Screens Manchester conference and art events provided an opportunity to witness the showcasing of recent practices as well as observe the commentaries on the historical precedents and cultural implications of large screens.

historical precedents

To make sense of the newness of large screens there is inevitable comparison to older communicative devices. For instance, the function of large screens is often described as the new ‘Digital Village’ notice board. Throughout the conference there were numerous attempts to decode images and information on large screens as if they were a conventional form of text. The activity that occurs on these Screens was thus compared to the more familiar forms of writing, scribbling, creating narratives, and telling stories. Alternatively, the interpretation of the visual content on large screens was framed by contemporary visual concepts of abstraction and sonic theories of ambience. In particular, the non-narrative imagery that artists construct for large screens was contrasted to more instrumental uses of large screens by highlighting the way their imagery operated as creative and critical interventions into the urban landscape. These broad interpretative frameworks suggest that a specific language for comprehending the visual and aural impact of large screens is yet to emerge. Large screens appear to be ‘popping up’ everywhere, but their cultural significance is often registered in a loose and uncertain manner.

If there is a consensus on the ubiquity of the Large Screen, there is also much work to be done on developing narratives of how they arrived and what other historical forms they are related to. Uta Caspary (Humboldt University) approached the historical appearance of digital media as part of longer tradition of ornamentation and public scripture. From the triumphal narrative of the Pharoah’s conquest to the use of stained windows in Gothic cathedrals, Caspary argued that there was a constant effort to use architectural façades as surfaces for storytelling. In his keynote paper "Elements of Gigantology or an Archaeology of the Urban Screen", Professor Erkki Huhtamo (Design/Media Arts, UCLA) emphasised the importance of historicizing public screens as information surfaces within changing cultural, historical, social and ideological frames of reference. Huhtamo highlighted the antecedents of contemporary urban screens and their intermedial relationships with other cultural phenomena, by providing a pre-history which ranged across: Kircher’s mirror projections and katoptric tricks; Samuel van Hoojstraten’s shadow projections: the illumination of public monuments in the Son-et-lumière presentations; the use of magic lanterns and limelight technology in the Automatic Stereoptican in the US in the 1860s in the real time reportage of news; the development of the dynamic screen as ‘adscape’ in nineteenth century urban messages such as fly-posters and sky advertising; and Albert Speer’s use of anti-aircraft spotlights in the ‘Cathedral of Ice.'

In mapping this historical terrain, Huhtamo introduced us to the "hypothetical field" of "Screenology", a methodology geared to mapping and evaluating contemporary manifestations of the urban screen. Huhtamo is interested in posing the questions: where have giant public screens come from, under what cultural conditions have they emerged, what are the intermediary relationships that facilitated their development and finally to examine the material and discursive manifestations of their emergence? Central to this genealogical process is the importance of discursive notions of urban screens, such as Albert Robida’s XXème Siècle (1882), which in their fantastic prophecies of a screen-saturated society, conveyed the hopes, fears and dreams of a rapidly transforming public media-sphere.

Citing the recent work of Tony Oursler, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krysztof Wodiczko, Huhtamo concluded with a reflection on the extent to which the historical attentiveness of "Screenology" has already been internalised by contemporary artists. Indeed, Oursler’s Influence Machine (first installed in Madison Square Park in October 2000), which recalled 19th century sound and light projection in its captured voices and images of contemporary and historical ghosts, would seem to be a model for a historicist and self reflexive exploration of the impact of screen-based technology on our daily lives.

In his paper, "Who’s Afraid of Blue, Red and Green", with its invocation of the work of abstract expressionist painter Barnet Newman, artist and academic Professor Günther Selichar (Media Arts, Leipzig) mapped a somewhat different (art) historical trajectory. Presented as part of the Focus Session "Towards a New Aesthetic of Screen Art in the Urban Environment", Selichar proposed a self-consciously formalist approach to the politics of public space, drawn from his own explorations of the relationship between painting and new media practice. Selichar presented his recent project Who’s Afraid of Blue, Red and Green (2004), a collaboration with Creative Time in New York, which was displayed on the NBC Astrovision screen at Times Square. Devised as an intervention in what he described as the "invasion of the civic territorium" by commercial screen-based advertising, the project took the form of an online competition and public art project "based on the elementary visual building blocks of digital display screens"—the three pixel colours that ground video, computer and television screens. Participants were invited to design an animation comprised of 15 vertical compositions in blue, red, and green, with the three winning entries featured on the last minute of every hour as part of The 59th Minute: Video Art on the Times Square Astrovision. (See the ‘Blue, Red and Green’ website for a full description and project gallery http://brg.adm.at/.)

Drawing upon Barnet Newman’s ‘zip paintings’ from the 1960s, and playing with the notion of the test pattern, Selichar asked participants to both reflect on "our attention to the pervasiveness of screens in our daily life and the complexities that underlie them", and to intervene in the privatised media saturation of the urban environment through the insertion of spaces of "pause." This self-reflexive return to a more contemplative, ambient, even auratic, model of production and consumption then, constitutes a kind of "anti-avalanche" of information, contesting the density and inevitability of the mobile adscape historicized by Huhtamo.

conceptual mapping: curatorial dtrategies

One of the crucial questions that has emerged in relation to the introduction of large screens is their potential to initiate a new kind of social aesthetic that goes beyond conventional forms of public broadcasting. Large screens have been seen as dazzling surfaces that not only captivate the 'wondering crowds' but also as sites that inspire new interactive roles. To attract and connect viewers, artists and curators have been forced to conceive of new strategies ranging from ambient imagery to mini narratives. One of the distinctive features of these new strategies echoes the point made by Gerz—the singular artwork that claims an auratic status and requires display as a precious object, is less likely to have the necessary multiple and open forms of communicative functions in real time and the social after-effects that defines the success of an interactive work.

Curatorial models that were presented ranged from small artist collectives such as Trampoline and Transmedia, to gallery spaces such as Art Center Nabi, Seoul, and large-scale commercially sponsored initiatives such as Victory Media Network in Dallas, Texas. This was a salutary reminder that curatorial strategies are context specific and informed by the negotiation of varying economic and content-related issues. Using the Transmedia series of urban screen interventions as case studies, freelance curator Michelle Kasprzak, in her paper "Irreproducible Context: The Challenge of Curating for Urban Screens", spoke of the expanded audience for artists afforded by the emergent large-screen format, but also of the "poignant fragility" lent to art pieces occupying a space alongside big-ticket events and high-end advertisements. Arguing that the energy of this expanded audience cannot be duplicated, she stressed the importance of ongoing negotiation with commercial interests as a key part of the curatorial role. This sense of the ‘benefits and tyrannies’ of curating for temporary and permanent big screens, was equally central to Professor Mike Stubbs (FACT, John Moores University, Liverpool), who emphasised the importance of curatorial strategies which balance topical intervention and the formation of partnerships as conduits for artistic content. This notion of the curator/producer as negotiator between different stakeholders led to robust discussion around issues of censorship during question time, with Mike Gibbons, Head of Live Sites and UK Coordination for London 2012, stressing the responsibilities and sensitivities incumbent on the curator in programming in public space, for a diverse and mobile audience. In short, the discussion reiterated the points that have been well rehearsed in the public arts domain—that art is both implicated in the social rules, tastes and conventions, and provides an opportunity to critically reflect on their limits.

This issue was also taken up by Dooeun Choi, curator of Art Center Nabi, who presented a range of recent projects screened at COMO, Nabi’s networked urban screen, launched in 2004 and located in Seoul's SKT-Tower and Daejeon SKT Building in Korea. As curator of a privately funded gallery, screening non-commercial content, Dooeun is able to explore COMO’s potential as a live window presenting interactive installations and networked art projects, which intervene in the commercial density of the Seoul adscape, and are geared toward proactive user experiences. Choi emphasised her responsibility to gradually introduce what might be challenging content to a public unused and perhaps uninterested in creative media. COMO tries, she argued, to "reclaim the humanity of media saturated and impersonal cities by recovering and celebrating the individual as a unique player." However, this process must be incremental, moving forward in ‘small, yet persistent, ways.’ Choi discussed, for example, Nabi’s participation in the real time transmission of Zhang Ga’s The Peoples’ Portrait, between large screens in Adelaide, Seoul, Beijing, Linz and New York. Utilising custom-designed kiosks across multiple sites, the Peoples’ Portrait project enabled passers-by to take snapshots, which were transmitted via the internet to an image database and then retrieved and displayed on large screens across the participating sites, producing a globally interactive and collective portraiture.

The curatorial issues facing Kristin Gray, Director of Victory Media Network, are somewhat differently calibrated. Victory Park is underwritten by exclusive corporate partners, and their current partner, Target, is both a sponsor and a major content creator for Victory, screening a range of artist commissioned advertisements for the site. This commercial material is screened alongside non-commercial content, in a 50% artistic/50% commercial ratio. This balance of public/private content, argued Gray, fulfils Victory’s remit as a mix-use development which aims to "engage the public, educate the community and support artists." This model of targeted commercial investment supporting the production and creative and community content, is to some extent, determined by the sheer scale of Victory Park, which is home to 4,600 square feet of LED screen space, with 8 vast mobile screen panels, utilising rollercoaster technology to be synchronizable with artists’ video designs to create complex and sophisticated spatial interactions. Touted as a "revolutionary multi-sensory outdoor art centre in one of the most significant master planned urban developments in the history of the Southwest Region", Gray emphasised the Park’s dual role as both an entrepreneurial space and as a public plaza, and the importance of having sponsors that embrace the Park’s ethos as a site for building community.

According to David Gales (Vantage Technology, which provided assistance in integrating the technology): "A new public media paradigm is being created and, in some ways, still being defined. Whatever it will become, Victory Park is not intended to become another Times Square. Culture and art, rather than advertising, is the driving force of its content engine. (Quoted in Brill, L, 2007, "Victory Park: Deep in the heart of Dallas", Signs of the Times, June: 92-93.)

The major issue, however, facing Gray in sustaining this unique digital gallery, seemed to be one of content—or more precisely, how to get enough of it. Aside from the Target advertisements, Victory has done little commissioning to date, and Gray stressed that she was exploring ways to attract more creative and interactive content through competitions and global calls for content.

The curatorial strategies outlined in the conference brought into sharp relief broader changes in cultural space and civic agency. The emphasis on the curator’s capacity to ‘negotiate’, the re-definition of citizens as ‘players’ and the new public/private partnerships, are all suggestive of pragmatic shifts in the cultural terrain.

key architecture & applications of surfaces

Animated architecture, or the transmutation of entire buildings into moving image screens, has been presented as a powerful tool that can both hybridise public space and generate ephemeral imagery. The possibility for an individual to intervene in the visual appearance of the skin of a building through interactive media, and to thereby play with the urban terrain rather simply respond to it, has presented a new range of questions regarding both the aesthetic boundaries of buildings and the levels of agency that these new media platforms enable. The visual effects for the general surroundings is also poised between delight for the opportunity to play and disdain towards another gigantic form of visual pollution. Alexander Stubli? from the artist group Mader Stubli? Wiermann, presented a number of projects dealing with time bound media such as light, video and sound, in the public sphere. The LED façade cloaking the UNIQA Tower in Vienna (2006), for example, forms a seamless, integrated grid around the building. Designed as a kind of post-production enhancement of an existing building, LED grid twists and turns in illusionary morphing patterns, visible at night as a light installation.

In her paper "From Architecture to Metadesign", Els Vermang of LAb[au] presented a case study of the Dexia Tower in Brussels. The tower has 4200 windows that can be individually colour-enlightened, by RGB-led bars, turning the façade into an immense display. Extending the possibilities of animated architecture demonstrated by earlier projects such as Toyo Ito’s Tower of Winds (Yokohama 1986), the light display is programmable and allows for direct public interaction. At the base of the tower, a station is mounted where the public can programme architectural compositions. Once a composition is created, it can be sent as an electronic postcard with a snapshot from the tower, taken from a distant location. In a new project, Weather Tower, the tower will forecast the following day’s temperature, cloudiness, precipitations, and wind, by using colors and geometrical patterns to visualize these data.

The common theme linking these projects is their receptiveness to the use of technological media in architecture to both represent and generate new social relationships in public space. In this respect, architects working with LEDs, as much as large screen operators, could learn from a range of contemporary public space art projects, such as 10_dencies by Knowbotic Research (Tokyo and Berlin, 1997), and the various Relational Architecture projects of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, where the intent is to develop experimental interfaces capable of producing a range of experiences, including promotion of qualities such as sharing, co-operation and negotiation between individual and collective agency. Works such as Lozano-Hemmer’s Body Movies (Rotterdam 2001) provide exemplary instances in which strangers are invited to participate in a project that stretches communal relations in a public space.

transforming public space?

In his keynote address, Jochen Gerz pondered over the form that public space assumes in contemporary life. He suggested that it is not something fixed or static, but rather something plastic and incomplete like a painting that is painted or a book that is re-written everyday. Gerz noted that public space is both a container for social activity and a medium for creating sense. From this perspective, the form of public life is both historical and ephemeral; it holds knowledge of the past like a bookshelf, but, like a daily newspaper, it is constantly being updated. Jean-Claude Bustros (Hexagram) also claimed that screen technologies provide new possibilities for people to reshape public space. He suggested that the incorporation of media architectonics and interactive informational flows would lead to hybrid landscapes and dynamic forms of social exchange. Public space would no longer appear as a fixed environment but more like a stage that would be transformed by the actions of its users. Gerz argued that changes in the social uses of public space also affect the frameworks for defining creativity. Hence the aesthetic distinction between what is original and common that was central to art history would need to be reconsidered in light of the plural and unpredictable forms that art assumes in public life. The question that continutally emerged throughout the conference was: in what way do large screens make a difference to public life and extend the possibilities of art?

Professor Joachim Sauter (University of the Arts, Berlin and UCLA), the founder of ART + COM, opened the "Urban Screens as Community Interface" session with a selection of projects which also focus on the integration of screen technologies and the built environment. Arguing against the effectiveness of the screen as a flat surface displaying pre-rendered content, Sauter strongly advocated a deployment of LED technology which is installation based, and hence experiential and site specific. Sauter presented ART+COM’s most recent project, Duality, which is under development in a building complex in downtown Tokyo, on the bank of an artificial pond at the exit of the metro station Osaki. In attempting to augment the experience of bodies traversing space and provide moments of contemplation in the information-rich city, the project investigates the putative duality of paired concepts such as liquid/solid, real/virtual, and water ripples/light waves. Pedestrians walk over a 6 x 6 meters large LED plane, installed at the edge of the water. The LEDs are covered with translucent glass diffusing their light. With their steps, the passers-by provoke virtual waves on the LED plane, computed in real-time. When these waves hit the edge of the pond, they are extended into the water as real ripples. Sauter argued that this seamless integration of the virtual and the material runs contrary to the usual practice of art in public space, in that rather than imposing an identity on the space, the transformative power of Duality will be an integrative augmentation of an existing urban context.

moves 08, BBC Big Screen, Liverpool moves 08, BBC Big Screen, Liverpool
This conceptual and formalist approach to public space—with the curator as designer—contrasted starkly with Mike Gibbon’s notion of public screen broadcasting as "animating" public space. Gibbons has spent the last five years building the Big Screens in the UK for the BBC as part of the partnerships with towns and cities. As part of the original Commonwealth Games urban plan in Manchester, large screens were introduced with the explicit intention of both animating public spaces that were in a state of neglect, and to provide a focus point for people to congregate. The Big Screens were intended not just as outdoor venues for sports spectacles, but also as a catalyst for other kinds of communal experiences. The Big Screens are now installed in the city centres of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Rotherham, Bradford and Derby, with a further roll-out expected across the UK. Drawing on BBC content and creative content from partnerships with local cultural institutions, such as the Cornerhouse in Manchester, the BBC Big Screens have developed through partnerships with cities, their local councils, arts organisations, education bodies and regional development agencies—and hence, function according to a strong social remit of community building and cultural re-development. Much of the programming of the screens is structured around events, such as major sporting events, in an attempt to bring people together in public space. As the Public Space Broadcasting project moves into a new phase of development, Gibbons emphasised the need for evaluative processes to assess the ways in which this outdoor phenomenon been received—asking: what can we learn from public reactions; if it the same everywhere in the world; and can one country and one culture learn from another?

Stephen Brennan, Director of Marketing and Strategy of the Digital Hub Development Agency in Dublin, was also interested in the ways in which large-screen technologies might function within larger public initiatives to bring communities together. The Digital Hub is a €250M Irish government initiative to create a leading knowledge community built around digital media. Brennan has worked on developing programmes that bring together the creative and technical aspects of digital media. The Digital Hub project has been one of the first sites in Ireland to use an interactive urban screen to further this process. Located in the historic Liberties area of Dublin, this initiative will create a mixed-use development, consisting of enterprise, residential, retail, learning and civic space over the next decade. Brennan discussed how the urban screen acts as a creative outlet and also a device by which the community can address some of their concerns about the development/project via SMS or the internet to the screen directly. Hence, the Hub functions as both a platform, forging links between local authorities, local arts schools, museums & galleries and the wider artistic community, and as an interface via which the community can track, assess and discuss the effectiveness of the project itself.

interactive possibilities

Throughout the conference, there was a strong emphasis on possible future directions for public interaction with screens, with most curators and producers focussing on this as a key area of development. Dr Paul Coulton (Infolab21, Lancaster University), who has worked extensively with mobile applications and programming, discussed the manifold possibilities now available in the exploration of inter-media integration of large screen projection and the development of mobile social software with a particular emphasis on mixed and augmented reality utilising location. Arguing that play is an important part of cultural identity, he also, like Dooeun Choi, drew on the idea of participants as players in order to define the new forms of social interaction crossing borders between the real and the virtual world and extending the every-day perception of the city. However, going against the grain of the hype of a placeless virtual world, Coulton also stressed that in the new game programmes and locative narratives there is both a return to emphasising the significance of context and the particularity of place as well as a greater emphasis on the ethical responsibilities of individual identities.

Academic, artist and curator, Maria Stukoff (International Centre for Digital Content, John Moore’s University, Liverpool), presented her doctoral work on the ways in which proximity-based interfaces using mobile telephony might transform urban screens as surfaces for social networking, building a public/social choreography. Stukoff argued that where architectural face-lifts effectively regenerate the urban landscape, artists are able to "engage communities therein: translating locality into enriching content generating artefacts, live events and public art." The proliferation of wireless communication technologies has become a digital canvas for artists to utilise. She presented her current project, blu_box, an interactive Bluetooth system created in collaboration with Jon Wetherall (ONTECA, Liverpool) exploring game-play, social intervention/interaction and live performance through mobile telephony. By visualizing dataflows, the blu_box system maps the sensitive and complex relationships that exist between virtual and physical environments. Projected upon a large urban screen, Stukoff argues the blu_box network "renders visible the invisible spatial condition of wireless communication flowing between mobile devices, the public and the city in animated moving images."

Jury Hahn and Dan Albritton (Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University) also exploit these possibilities for supporting new context-aware interactions. Their MegaPhone project, which screened in Manchester during the conference, is a phone-controlled, real-time, multi-player collaborative gaming platform for big screens in public spaces. Players join the game by making a regular phone call, and they can see their input (either voice or keypad) immediately and use their button presses and voice to control an interactive experience on the screen. Applications on the screen currently include action-oriented games, trivia contests and realtime voting systems. Hahn and Albritton have developed MegaPhone as a means of using new types of gaming to create ad-hoc social connections between strangers in a public space, thereby "turning pedestrians into players." Significantly, MegaPhone also has trans-national possibilities, in that phones from any service provider in any country can be used. Hahn and Albritton emphasise the possibilities for the global networking of screens and opening up potential cross-cultural public spheres.

future directions: from big impact to small gestures

In her introduction to the Focus Session, "Urban Screens as a Community Interface", Professor Beryl Graham (Design and Media, University of Sunderland), emphasised the importance of problematizing notions of community in the assessment of the impact of screen-based installations in public spaces. Large screen infrastructure demands significant funds, and in many of the cases cited in this essay, it includes public moneys. To justify such expenditures local governments will need to measure the performance of public screens against civic indicators of social cohesion and cultural renewal, as well as aligning them with their existing economic strategies for developing tourism, attracting inward investment, and promoting the city’s distinctive identity. Graham highlighted the need for rigorous audience research in order to move beyond speculative reflection on the social impacts of urban screens, but also argued for an approach to audience testing which is not reductively demographic. She briefly sketched a hybrid model of artist-based observational studies as an alternative; an amalgam of practice and theory to capture different styles and levels of participation and engagement.

We share her concern for empirical investigation of the impact of large-screen technologies, which is attentive to cultural, economic and social differences. Large Screens represent a critical new intersection of social, cultural and economic interests in the public realm. Urban Screens Manchester demonstrated the global roll out and diverse applications of this technology. But many key questions remain to be addressed at the next Urban Screens conference to be held at Federation Square in Melbourne, 2008. What is "public space" in the context of media-saturated cities? What is the relationship of "public culture" to the new modes of communication and display? How should the emerging genre of "public space broadcasting" be regulated? What are the roles of existing media producers, advertisers, artists and established cultural institutions in shaping this new dimension of public space? What other values and voices might be relevant? Where are "the public" to be found today—in the street, watching TV at home, online, or somewhere in between? What are the consequences of the new forms of mobility for public life, and what are the potentials for using media to create new dimensions of public space and civic agency?


This report was written by Meredith Martin, Sean Cubitt, Scott McQuire and Nikos Papastergiadis and edited by Meredith Martin.

Also in this edition: "Making light of winter", about the screen and light event coming soon to Melbourne's Federation Square and featuring a screen installation by Canadian filmmaker Srinivas Krishna.

Urban Screens Melbourne 08: Mobile Publics will be held at Federation Square, Oct 3–5. Registrations: http://www.urbanscreens08.net/

The moves08 movement on screen and dance film festival will have its shorts program shown on BBC Big Screens across the UK, April 5-25. www.movementonscreen.org.uk

RealTime issue #84 April-May 2008 pg. 30

© Sean Cubitt; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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