Re-negotiating social space : Public art installations and interactive experience

Abstract: Digital media technologies are becoming increasingly and extensively integrated into our way of living. We communicate, inform and entertain ourselves through media technologies in disparate spaces. When digital technology is integrated into our everyday environment, the border between media interfaces and physical environments is blurred. Traditional divisions of spaces dissolve and are rearranged, complicating the linkages between private and public spheres.   The key phenomenon shaping these experiences with digital media technologies is interactivity. Interactivity intersects these spaces allowing users of mediated content to be affected by the actual, and vice versa. This study has emerged through the need for further research focusing on the term interactivity in today’s media practices, contributing with more targeted research and theoretical work concerning the interconnection between space and digital technologies. The study pursues interactivity by taking on a different perspective than earlier research, staging a qualitative study from a grounded theory perspective complemented by phenomenological theory. In this way interactivity is approached from diverse angles, moving away from earlier fixations on technology and placing it within social and spatial contexts.   The study uses three contemporary Scandinavian interactive art installations, ‘Colour by Numbers’, ‘Emotional Cities’ and ‘Climate on the Wall’, to explore how interactivity plays into the relation between humans, technology and social space. The integration of interactive art installations in public space raises issues regarding humans’ sense of space and human relations vis-à-vis interactions with such artworks. The study finds evidence that interactive art installations can shift humans’ perceptions of space, allowing them to have social experiences and feel locally connected or anchored. Humans do not necessarily become placeless due to interactive technology. It may as well enhance space by converging with existing spatial references. The mediated and the actual may re-enforce each other expanding and transcending diverse spaces.