Public Interactives on the World Stage

Public Interactives Expo Project Banner

Public Interactives include several types of experiences ranging from large-scale projections in public spaces (urban screens) that visually address large groups of people to human-scale digital installations intended to be used by individuals in public spaces.

For example, Environmental Interactives describes one category of public interactive experience where people engage with computational media embedded in built structures. The form of these interactives might include wall embedded displays, spaces with dynamic lighting and sound features that respond to the presence of bodies, buildings used as screens, rooms populated with animated surfaces (tables, floors), and/or buildings inhabited by robotic avatars.

I am traveling to Shanghai from June 29-July 18th to document (as many as possible) instances of public interactives that are installed at the 2010 World Expo.

The intent of this research project is to map the interactive experiences built as part of the architectural structures (including the Pavilions and functional built spaces) of the Shanghai World Expo. We will do this by visual documenting (through images and video) the design, form, and use of these dynamic interactive structures and experiences (in situ).

The documentation will be used to enable students (in interactive media design, media studies, architecture, and visual culture) to learn how to “see” these new interactive elements of architectural structures and to learn how to describe them using meaningful terms (for different notions of interactivity, for example). The broader objective is to develop ways to analyze the cultural impact of these emergent public media forms.

I am inviting students and colleagues who may already be planning to attend the Shanghai Expo to participate in this research effort, to become, in effect, part of a distributed research team studying the global staging of public interactives. Participation can range from contributing relevant links about the interactive experiences at the Shanghai Expo to documenting interactives at the site.

This research effort is ideally suited to the notion of a distributed research team: the Expo includes more than 200 pavilions and exhibits, it runs for six months, and it is a major attraction for visitors from all across the globe.

While the aim is modest at this point–to create an archive of public interactives through the creative efforts of interested participant–the outcomes will contribute to the development of new analytical frameworks for the examination of public interactives as an emergent form of media.

While in Shanghai, I will present a background lecture on the history of the World Expo and an introduction to emergent genres of interactive media as part of a course being offered by the University of Southern California’s (USC) American Academy in China. The course, being offered by Professor Paul Tang, is called Emergent Urbanism: Momentary Urbanism of Spectacle and Speculation. This is one of the offerings in the exciting new efforts going on at the USC School of Architecture now headed by Dean Qingyun Ma.

There are a number of people already contributing to this project from various institutions across the globe. Some of them will be in residence in Shanghai during the Expo visits, others will be assisting via web research. If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact Professor Anne Balsamo at annebalsamo (at) gmail (dot) com

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