US09 Report: Mettina Veenstra on Public Screens and Social Capital

Urban Screens 09: The City as Interface Mettina Veenstra is the principal researcher and coordinator of the theme public spaces at Novay Research. Novay is a research institute for ICT driven innovation. Her presentation today at the Urban Screens conference focused on what public displays can do for public space in terms of stimulating encounters and interactions between people in public spaces. They aim to explore the role as public displays as external stimulus to create contact between people, a process called triangulation, with art being an important form of it. The speaker identified eight applications of public displays: information, entertainment, art and culture, advertising, communication, better services, e-participation (the stimulation of discussion on environment and other local issues) and influencing (colors or imagines that can improve the mood of people).

But why is it important to foster social interactions? According to Mettina Veenstra social interactions lead to social capital which is important for our well being and our economy. Some important issue which the research institute takes into account when creating installations for public space are: create local content, and allow people to interact with the screens by means of games for example. A list of their projects can be found on their website.

Another issue that is being researched by Novay is the integration of sensors and facial recognition technology in order to create context aware applications which can offer personalized information. The presentation was rather uncritical of the role of surveillance technology in public space.

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