Beyond the Visual in Urban Interactive Interfaces: Dialogue and Social Transformation

Beyond the Visual in Urban Interactive Interfaces: Dialogue and Social Transformation

Ana Paula Baltazar dos Santos (School of Architecture, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil), José dos Santos Cabral Filho (School of Architecture, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil), Guilherme Ferreira de Arruda (School of Architecture, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil), Lorena Melgaço Silva Marques (School of Architecture, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil) and Marcela Alves de Almeida (School of Architecture, Federal University of São João del-Rei, São João del-Rei, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/ijcicg.2014070101
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Abstract

This paper discusses the hegemony of the visual and its pervasiveness in current urban installations and technological gadgets. It draws a distinction between functional and playful interactions, showing the prevalence of the former in the design of most interfaces. It discusses interfaces that despite being based on the visual surpass functional interaction by promoting the bodily engagement of people in a playful interaction. This leads to the distinguishing between the interface—which might be reactive, proactive, or dialogical—and the interaction it promotes. It then argues for an interactive interface that moves beyond the visual towards physical action, promoting dialogical interaction. Such a discussion draws from physical computing to enable remote physical actuation to enhance people's feelings of belonging and presence. It then presents an interface that connects two public spaces through the Internet using physical computing to enable remote actuation. It finally indicates pointers for those future interactive installations that are concerned with social transformation.
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2. The Dialectics Of Spectacle And Experience

Hegel stated that vision and hearing are the two superior senses, as they do not consume their objects. What is seen and what is heard remain the same, while what is eaten, for example, has a finishing point. According to Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Louise Pelletier (1997) the superiority of vision and hearing over the other senses dates back to classical Greece, when the ‘distance’ that has marked Western science and art was established—when Greek Tragedy separated stage and orchestra from the audience.

The ‘logic of the visual’—to use Henri Lefebvre’s term—has its impact on space first as a ‘spatial practice’, as that of the theatre displacing the ‘lived space’ of the ritual, and only later, in the Renaissance, as the dominant means for the production of space, which Lefebvre calls ‘representations of space’ or ‘conceived space’ (Lefebvre, 1991). Such an impact means a clear distancing from lived space, the space in which people are bodily engaged in its simultaneous design, building and use, towards conceived space, in which design, building and use happen separately.

The hegemony of vision is not usually acknowledged by historians of architecture and urban space. According to Lefebvre, even Sigfried Giedion—the first historian to put ‘space, and not some creative genius, not the “spirit of times”, and not even technological progress, at the centre of history’ (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 126)—failed ‘to show up the growing ascendancy of the abstract and the visual, as well as the internal connection between them; and to expose the genesis and meaning of a “logic of the visual”’ (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 128). However, Pérez-Gómez and Pelletier in their history of architectural representation, point out that such hegemony of vision culminates with the shift from embodied to visual spatial practice. For the user this means a contemplative practice and for the designer it means that perspective and projections are used to foresee space as an object. Moreover, Sérgio Ferro (2006) shows that as well as representing space as an object, this design process serves to make space a commodity.

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