narratives of love and loathing

the creation of hybrid (physical+digital) spaces for civic engagement in the 21st Century city

Remixing Dundee Timeline Poster in PDF format

"Town plans are no mere diagrams, they are a system of hieroglyphics in which man has written the history of civilisation, and the more tangled their apparent confusion, the more we may be rewarded in deciphering it."

Patrick Geddes, The City in Evolution

If you wanted to provide a media platform that enabled people to visualise their city, to situate themselves in relation to their landmarks, and to identify themselves with their place - what they love and loath about it - how would you do it? Our collective identities are inscribed in the land by stone walls and field furrows, streets and lane markers, manhole covers, lamp posts, post boxes, bus shelters, newspaper distribution routes; forgotten watercourses, terraces and towers, satellite dishes, landlines skylines and laylines; views from hills, from bedrooms; light falling across doorsills..., ring tones, the continually surprising contiguities of public and private spaces. In an age increasingly dominated by digital media, how can we build a public domain of narratives that gather together these many and varied identities and knowledges and put them into circulation. We require nothing short of a new cartography.

This project proposes artist-led, community workshops to identify the knowledges and identities inscribed in the built environment, build a living archive of texts and images, and create collective mechanisms for their transmission. It will prototype new forms of civic space and institutions for a political, social, and material culture dominated by digital media and communication networks. It is committed to the importance of the public domain, and exploring its robust and continuing re-instatement as a platform for collective voice and social consciousness; it challenges the claims of, e.g., the social networking sites as sites of genuine social engagement. It raises questions about democracy, hierarchies of access to the public domain, and the public and private sponsorship of civic space. It falls within a number of AHRC sustainability agendas, including those outlined in 'connected communities', 'digital humanities', and 'care for the future'.

When this platform - a network of media stations: equal parts webscape, local museum, pawn shop, & streetscape - is installed as a permanent network of local institutions in the city, it will have significant impact on community engagement with civic life and the environment, with potential benefit to public discourse on sustainability, education, and the planning consultation process. The intelligibility of this hybrid digital+place-based infrastructure is as critical for the life of democracy as was the development of the Greek polis. Here are the issues:

  1. At a time when social engagement is increasingly drawn away from the built environment by the media environment, how can we re-invigorate the relation between them in order to make new forms of civic space possible?
  2. How can participation-based workshop models drawn from human-computer interaction and from socially engaged art practice be used to develop strategies for communal engagement with the civic space?
  3. How can neighbourhood enclave-generated digital and material narratives be used to congregate communities and support their identities and knowledges?
  4. What remix language and cartographic toolkit are necessary for new forms of civic praxis?