Staged Façades: Peripheral Displays in the Public

Staged Façades: Peripheral Displays in the Public

Bernhard Wally (Research Studio Pervasive Computing Applications, Austria) and Alois Ferscha (Research Studio Pervasive Computing Applications, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-549-0.ch010
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Media façades, realized through projection systems, could be a promising technology for scalable public displays in urban spaces. With low requirements regarding the infrastructure and virtually no influence on the buildings’ fabric, projected façades offer exceptional flexibility and extensibility as well as easy maintenance. As cities are increasingly confronted with digital signage products besides other public display systems, a projector-based system offers the possibility to be switched off and restore the screen to its previous state in the blink of an eye. We present the prototypical implementation of a “Staged Façades Framework” leveraging a façade’s structure and ornamentation for dynamically adapting pieces of multimedia content.
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At times in which computers appear to be everywhere while at the same time – due to miniaturization and rigorous embedding – physically appear nowhere, where tiny computing devices are continuing to pervade into everyday objects, users presumably do, and increasingly will not notice them anymore as separate entities. Appliances, tools, clothing, accessories, furniture, rooms, machinery, cars, buildings, roads, cities, even whole agricultural landscapes increasingly embody miniaturized and wireless, thus invisible information and communication systems. Information technology rich systems and spaces are being created, radically changing the style of how we perceive, create, think, interact, behave and socialize as human beings, but also how we learn, work, cultivate, live, cure, age as individuals or in societal settings. A major issue in such technology rich settings is how we perceive information, how we interact with digital media, how we manage to sustain attentive to information of interest, how we stay aware of the dynamics and changes of information, or how we manage perceptual complexity and information overload.

In an attempt of relating the understanding of science and the understanding of art, (Vogel and Balakrishnan, 2004) postulates scientists to see only the “observed in the material world”, while the artist sees the “spiritual”: “While the scientist describes and predicts, the artist distils and presents. Interpreting science […] means balancing the desire of scientists to spew data with the artistic urge to create a transcendent experience.” In quintessence, “Informative Art” (Holmquist and Skog, 2003) is art with electronics, with content and presentation being primary, while technology, form and function is fused and secondary. Following Buckminster Fuller’s belief, that as technology advances, art begins to resemble science, we here addresses the process of “creating an (urban) experience” from “data spews” by means of artful display installations, often referred to as informative art or ambient displays, or ambient information systems. Here, in this work, we refer to such systems as “Peripheral Interfaces” or “Peripheral Displays”, stressing the fact that these interfaces aim at not overloading human attention, but rather deliver information to the periphery of perception, mostly in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Of particular interest in this work are peripheral displays in cities. According to the most recent U.N. estimates, by the end of 2008, half the world’s population will live in urban areas and about 70 percent will be city dwellers by 2050. Thus, cities are becoming increasingly the most relevant places bringing together people from many areas of culture and life, acting as important opinion leaders, initiators of change, or providers of new opportunities. Expressions of communication among citizens in urban settings are public displays, addressing and delivering information to crowds, rather than individuals. Contemporary public displays, designed to raise attention (for e.g. commercial purposes like advertisement), have started to aggressively pollute the visual appearance of a city, and paradoxically, by that continuously distracting attention. Aggressive public display installations and settings hence fail to achieve their purpose, encouraging a new style of city displays, seamlessly and unobtrusively embedded into the architectural appearance of city.

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