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August 15, 2006

[iDC] Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?


"Interactive City": Middle-Class Consumer Spectacle?

(note--Michelle also blogged about the iDC thread here]

Hello All -

A pleasure to meet some of you at ISEA. A brief introduction - my name is kanarinka/Catherine D'Ignazio. I am an artist, software developer, co-founder of iKatun and the Institute for Infinitely Small Things, former Co-Director of Art Interactive in Cambridge, MA, and part-time faculty in the Digital+Media dept at RISD. I have been lurking on the list for some time now but have not posted.

I wanted to post a nagging doubt I have in light of the title of the ISEA conference theme "Interactive City" in conjunction with the ZeroOne "Global Festival of Art on the Edge" and the artwork showcased there. This is not a condemnation, more of a call to reflection for myself (who participated in a project there) and possibly for others. I would be interested to hear from others as to their thoughts on this.

The festival's imagination of the "Interactive City" seemed to be characterized by a spirit of play which feels increasingly oriented towards middle-class consumer spectacle and the experience economy. To give you an example of some art experiences that were possible at ISEA:

- eating ice cream and singing karaoke
- calling an old person in San Jose to talk about whatever you might
have in common with them
- pressing a button on a machine and getting an artsy plane ticket
with your photo on it
- drifting through the city as if it were a sports field via applying
sports plays in urban space
- visualizing your social network via bluetooth as you go around the
conference and talk to your friends
- watching/listening to noise music made by people riding skateboards
around the conference
- listening to an erotic sci-fi narrative about san jose on your cell
phone while riding the train
- flipping light switches to make a one-word message in public space
- viewing colorful 3D representations of wireless digital data

So, my questions to the artists, the organizers, the attendees and everyone else is - is psychogeography/locative media work simply R&D for a new generation of entertainment spectacle? Or, what are we actually trying to do with these ideas of "play" in urban space? Who gets to play? And what about the interactive cities in Iraq and Lebanon and elsewhere? Why didn't we address war, security, militarization and terrorism as aspects of the contemporary interactive city? For me, running around making the city into a sandbox, a playground or a playing field feels increasingly irrelevant and irresponsible.

A gentleman invited to drift with us summed it up nicely "Sorry, I can't go with you. I have to work here until 8PM and then I have to go to my other job."

What are your thoughts?

kanarinka [kanarinka at ikatun.com] [from iDC: Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?]


Kevin Hamilton
Sarah Kanouse
tobias c. van Veen
Brad Borevitz
mollybh at netspace.net.au
Daniel A Perlin

Posted by jo at August 15, 2006 09:14 AM