U10 #4 / FYD: Spatial Media with John Bingham–Hall

On Wednesday, we had the chance to have an all–day–workshop with John Bingham–Hall about spatial media in public space. Considering that I have just started a self–directed project on the relation between public and personal space, I had been very curious of what this workshop would be about. Here are a few extracts of notes that I took throughout the day.

What are the ideologies of cities and public space and what is the role of communication in it?
Public Engagement is about bringing people into their area and make them use the (new) opportunities that they are offered.
There are different ideologies of urban communication:
– Anthropological Spaces: the layout of the city as representation of how the inhabitants are using it
– Transitional Public Space: when there is no real free space for people to just hang out, only to go through
– Roman Forum: a public square where people go to debate, discuss, act out the city and educate themselves, somewhere to come in contact with each other.
(Current roman forums might be social media as 3rd spaces)
– Supermodernity: supermarkets, shopping centres, airports etc, something build by an outside party not by society

Arising question: Do we still need to be in close contact with people and places to share information and sociability with the presence of non–stop social media? In any information or interaction there is a different spectrum of communication that is more open and chaoticin human interaction, while digital interaction is always curated.
Mention of sociologist Erving Goffman (Behaviour in Public Spaces) in opposition to Georg Simmel, and does anonymity in the city need to be changed or embraced? Are we helping people by encouraging interaction in a city filled with ignorance of each other’s presence or are we imposing something that keeps people from getting along?

– Communities: Is a geographical categorisation the right way to classify people? Why do we still call places a community?
‘Communities in modern cities do not depend on living in a particular place. It is liberated from geographical boundaries by social networks.’ (Zachary Neal – The Connected City, 2013)
– Community & Communication (latin: communis) = ‘common, public, shared by media’. We are communicating more than ever, so a lot of new communities are created, and social capital is the shared social know–how and advice, getting information from one person to another. Cities enable social progress and personality, as having a lot of different people living in a liberal and varied environment creates new opportunities to cross boundaries through media + web. Identities become trans-spatial.

– Digital Media challenges:
Distance: you have to be there to get something out of it – proximite communication vs trans/distantial communication
Augmented Reality: doesn’t change the city, only your perception of it
Urban Imaginaries (Martijn de Wall): Does technology shape the way we use the city?

There are four types of spatial media projects:
-Embedded Media: Signage, physical and permanent installations or objects, a fixed message, broadcast, sanctioned and distant
-Overlaid Media: Intervenes in space temporarily, signage visible to the most number of people possible, demonstration, temporary, unsanctioned, partisan, undesigned, organic message
-Portable Media: Map, something that you can carry around with you instead of looking at the space around you, to be used in a specific way; private experience,
planned, selective, about space to be used in space, funtional. Danger: ‘the issue is maintaining consciousness of what is around you in the future’, and an overload of what we have to take in.
-Detached Media: Something used to enrich your experience, understanding of space and society but outside the space; about a place, to be used anywhere, one-directional, whole affirming, non-social interaction

Mini-Brief: King’s Cross and Somer’s Town
How is it possible to connect people from Somer’s Town to the new people, students from King’s Cross in order to make them engage, benefit from the new opportunities and get to know their environment, communicate or facilitate communication in or around the public space of King’s Cross and/or Somer’s Town?
Connecting King’s Cross: Who is the community and what opportunities does King’s Cross offer to Somer’s Town and vice versa?

We then walked through Somer’s Town to get an idea of the area.

When we came back we had about two hours to brainstorm and get a quick draft for a project together. In collaboration with Anton Stepine, I worked on a design that would physically connect King’s Cross and Somer’s Town. We focused on the passage from King’s Cross to Somer’s Town which for now goes through a really dark tunnel and there is no real way around it and it doesn’t look very inviting. A construction over the railways from Euston station would enable a connection and bridge between King’s Cross and Somer’s Town as well as create a common recreational space connecting the parks on both sides of the bridge.

Overall I found this workshop very interesting and inspiring, showing different aspects of spatial design in outside public spaces. Being able to try around with a real space was a useful approach and helped to realise and visualise different problems and obstacles that need to be resolved (or not).


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