Saturday, September 30, 2006

Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra

Composer John Cage developed a large-scale, participative music project for Chicago at Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's School of Design in the 1930s with a vision for the technological future of music.

Now U.S. jazz composer David Baker is encouraging people to use their phones during the debut performance of "Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra" that will open the 20th anniversary season of the Chicago Sinfonietta classical music festival next month.

Parks, Memory and Time

A well-designed memorial creates a deeper connection between place and time, personal and public, art and politics. This project describes the design elements used to bring together the sculpture of Louise Bourgeois and the accomplishments of Jane Addams.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Smells of the City

As Google Map mashups go, this is a great one. I could see putting this on my cell phone and cross referencing as I navigate the city's stench.

Who Cares about parks these days?

What is the future of public space in America's cities? This article picks five exemplary projects and aims to answer that very daunting question.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

EPIC 2006

As new information technologies move out of labs, corporate settings, and classrooms and ever more deeply into the everyday experience of people, the study of this phenomenon grows in importance to audiences outside the academic community. EPIC is one setting where bridges across academic/aesthetic/corporate chasms are being built. Urban communication scholars ought to have a voice in this process.

Guangshen Highway

For years, the Doors of Perception Conference has offered innovative ways of thinking about technology, design, and urban form. In this presentation (in a large pdf file) Gutierrez + Portefaix grapple with the challengees of understanding the urban from emerging from the very rapid expansion of infrastructure on a massive scale in the Pearl River Delta.

Is LA more dense than New York?

This is an argument against Robert Bruegmann's recent report, "LA the King of Sprawl, Not at All."

Traffic congestion and overcrowding are daily reminders that a lot of people live in Los Angeles. This allows the claim that the city of Los Angeles is more dense than New York City to fall on willing ears. There’s only one problem. The city of Los Angeles is NOT more dense than New York City. A recent study by UCLA urban planning students Sandra O’Flaherty, Andrea Osgood, and Lara Regus sheds some light on the facts and how confusion arises from various definitions of density.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


New technologies allow individuals the ability to easily capture, upload, and annotate everyday life to an unimagined degree. And the r at the end means it's full of web 2.0 goodness.

WayMark gives users an alternative perspective on their daily interactions by documenting continuously and effortlessly their life. All you have to do is install the Waymarkr software on your Internet enabled Series 60 mobile phone. Once the software is enabled, your phone will continously take photographs of your events and perspectives. All photographs are sent to a remote server so your phone never runs out of space. You can then login to the Waymarkr web site, annotate and share your photos, see stop motion movies of your captured event and map out where your images were taken. You can also see other user's photos that were taken at the same time and place as yours.

The New York Society for Acoustic Ecology

AudioBus B61 considers the route of the 61 bus as a computer-based sound and landscape image loop with fluidly shifting audience and live performance elements. It is designed to simultaneously collect and broadcast information associated with the experience of public transportation.

It is just one of many projects relevant to urban communication presented at Conflux in Brooklyn.

$1500 Grocery Carts

New communication contexts develop everyday, as screens are carefully engineered to meet the requirements of specific social settings. The use of screens on grocery carts raise any number of questions about parent/child relationships, attention spans, etc.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Totems: The Communal Spirit of Black Murals

Murals are public-access stained-glass windows. They sanctify the community like the Stations of the Cross sanctify the church.- Nelson Stevens

An essay by Michael D. Harris helps document the role of murals in creating a sense of place, community, and history.

Amen Break

Making fine use of the reflexive, multi-media nature of web, Nate Harrison examines 6 seconds of music to trace connections among technology, intellectual property, and a wide range of cultural expressions in cities across several continents.

Architectures of Control

Don Lockton's web site explores how products, technologies, and cities are designed to restrict user behavior and enforce certain modes of behavior.

In Memorial: Bill Stumpf

The aeron chair gives material form to the intersection of the creative urban class and the dot com boom of the virtual world. The chair, among many other objects was designed by Bill Stumpf who passed away on August 30, 2006. Bill Stumpf helped transform the field of design through an emphasis on research-based creativity, in the service of adding more beautiful things to advance the arts of daily living.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Millennium Park

The single most powerful icon of urban communication in my mind is Chicago's Millennium Park. Timothy Gilfoyle has written a marvelous history of all of the elements that went into the creation of this special urban space: the legislation that provided an open lakefront, the rise of the railroad infrastructure that brought economic wealth and cultural clout to Chicago and the subsequent decline that left a ghostly space in the heart of the city, the public private investments needed to fund the park, the impact of globalization on local corporate philanthropy, and the aesthetic vision that informed contemporary sculpture suitable to the scale of the park.

If we are lucky, in five years a scholar will write a book documenting the use of this park as a site of urban communication, which varies in scale from crowds of hundreds of thousands that come together to mark civic holidays to single individuals contemplating the water garden, and range from the high culture of a restored black and white print of Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 classic Battleship Potemkin backed by a symphony orchestra to the simple joy of a Chicago style hotdog.

Logic + Emotion

Urban communication intersects with a host of specialized knowledge communities. Web content developers, interactive marketing companies, and interactive experience designers play an increasingly important role in reshaping the communication spaces we inhabit. Logic + Emotion, a blog created by David Armano, provides an interesting window into this process which
exists at the intersection of Marketing 2.0, Brand Engagement and Experience Design—where passive consumers are transformed into active participants."


One of the great joys of urban communication occurs when abstract theories grapple with the complexities of city life. Cyberbia is a web site for the urban planning community, and one forum there is dedicated to representations of urban life. The thread in the link above is a brief essay accompanied by dozens of photographs of Hong Kong. Images numerous enough to dramatize the deep differences in scale, notions of public and private, and density of commercial images that are encountered in most typical American cities which too often serve as a template for our analysis.


If Dubai, rising out of the desert sands that meet the Persian Gulf, is going to be more permanent than Burning Man, urban communication scholars may have an important role to play. The carefully engineered private enclaves of land, indoor ski slopes, massive malls, and transportation infrastructures are strikingly visible. Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world because it is a hub where flows of economics, culture, and history converge. But where are the spaces of communication needed for a community to make sense of itself? Google's Sketchup and related forums on the Web are one place where this might happen.

Web 2.0 + Flickr + Burning Man = ?

If we should think, as James Carey emphasized, of communication as ritual, perhaps the one of the most selfconscious attempts to form community through ritual is Burning Man. In opposition to the passivity, emptiness, and inauthenticity of mass culture, creative individuals come together at an isolated place for a limited period of time. What happens when this rtitual is remediated through digital photography, collective blogging, and folksonomic tagging so that 66,490 and counting images of Burning Man are availble on Flickr? Is the authenticity of the community extended to an ever growing range of participants, or is it hollowed out into a meaningless spectacle, in Douglas Kellner's sense of the term?

Web 2.0 + Flickr + Geotagging = !

When a suite of basic capabilites are put together in an open context, things can scale very quickly and the emergent whole can be very greater the the sum of its parts. When the capability of easily organizing content spatially is added to a community the size of Flickr, new forms of communication practices are inevitable. 1.2 million geotags were added on day 1 of its availability. For years now, commercial web sites, community organizations, and arts movements have experimented with ways to label, organize, and the way individuals make sense of space. The greatly expanded depth and breadth of representing space will unleash new forms of community memory, personal expression, and uses no one can yet imagine.