Digital media has been firmly established in contemporary society and now is a time of unprecedented growth and innovation in the world of digital technologies. Conversely, before and during this period, physical public space has diminished in quantity and quality. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that creating and intensifying connections between digital space and physical public space might open up new possibilities to reactivate urban places.
Historically, art has provided a territory in which new ideas could be introduced and tested. For example, the great landscape gardens of Versailles provided a model for the later development of the urban structure of Paris. Many artists in the last few decades have experimented with how digital/virtual environments might be related to real physical space. It is reasonable to assume that these experiments will be applied in broader contexts and will most likely have impact at the scale of the city. This essay contextualizes current interactive installations within an overview of selected forward‐looking precedents.
The analysis of early experiments in collapsing the realms of virtual and physical environments demonstrates that the implications of a fuller integration have not reached its potential in contemporary applications.
Walter Benjamin's speculation that media could contribute to urban space of heightened interaction is a promise still waiting realization. Art installations that promote interactive relations between the spectator and physical space are used as instigations for speculations at an urban scale. In particular, attention is given to the development of improved interfaces.
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