MAS.961 | Spring 2008 | Graduate

Special Topics: Designing Sociable Media


Assignment 7: Augmented Publics - Communicating Spaces

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People are interested in other people. Many new communication technologies reflect this: online discussion forums, social networking sites, recommendation systems and other social software endeavors are tremendously popular.

Yet, paradoxically, these technologies decrease the sociability of our public spaces. New information and communication technologies are almost universally personal technologies that engage their users with distant events, while alienating them from their immediate surroundings.

How can we revitalize public spaces by integrating social and information displays into our public spaces? How can we use a variety of display devices (large and small displays, visual and auditory media, screens, projections, robotics, etc) and sensors (cameras, Bluetooth, etc) to create spaces that reflect and speak to the interests of the people within them? How can we integrate public spaces with our new electronic senses to create vibrant environments where social, transactional and informational displays are an integral part of the environment?

For the next couple of weeks we’ll be thinking about the design of technologies for public spaces.


Milgram, Stanley. “The Experience of Living in Cities.” Science, New Series 167, no. 3924 (March 13, 1970): 1461-1468.

Donath, Judith. “Technological Interventions in Everyday Interaction.” Essay written for the catalog of the Act/React show at the Milwaukee Art Museum. 2008. (PDF)

Ling, Richard. “The Social Juxtaposition of Mobile Telephone Conversations and Public Spaces.” Paper for conference on the Social Consequences of Mobile Telephones, Chunchon, Korea, July 2002.


  1. Read the papers. Milgram’s is a classic work on urban life, and urban alientation. The paper draft of mine is about interactive art-works that use vision or other non-keyboard interaction as input. Ling’s paper is about the social mores and problems surrounding mobile telephones.
  2. As you read Ling’s paper, think about what a phone like device could be that is designed to be used among other people - rather than the private dialog intended by the current phone design. Describe or sketch it.
  3. Sketch or describe a interactive object, installation, information center, etc. that exists in a public space and allows people to interact with it via some communication technology (e.g. phones, SMS, bluetooth, etc) and/or vision. What space do you imagine such an entity? What is its function? What can people do with it? How does it change the nature of the space? This can be a practical implementation or an artistic installation, it can be designed to be helpful, entertaining or provocative. This is meant to get you thinking about these ideas, we’ll be following up on this next week - don’t worry about a polished sketch - I am much more interested in your ideas at the moment than a finished concept.

Student Work

Seth Hunter

Sohin Hwang

Lana Swartz

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Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2008
Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets with Solutions
Projects with Examples