Sense and the City: Smart, Connected and on the Move.
Recently, I have an opportunity to visit London Transport Museum for “Sense and City” exhibition. It explores how emerging technologies are changing the way we access and experience London, and compares this with past visions of the future. Here I will review the exhibition in curatorial and cultural context, and will be reviewing in 4 sections, the exhibition, the curator’s interpretation of the exhibition, the usage of display techniques and lastly, how the interpretation of the curator and the techniques affected my experience of the exhibition
The exhibition is about emerging technologies curated in the exhibition – GPS, electric vehicles, pervasive internet access, sensor data, short range wireless communication, reactive surfaces, augmented reality, open data smart phones and blizzard of new apps – are redefining how we live and spend our lives in the city in over the next ten years time. The exhibition itself looks back to what we imagined how the world would be in the past, with futuristic vision made decades ago, along with shows how significantly digital future, today and up-and-coming applications have influence on our daily life and our experiences, as well as questions about our future urban relationship with the capital city.
The exhibition has been organised in partnership with Royal College of Art and is supported by contribution of Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London. Taking area of two floors space, Sense and the City can be divided into 2 major parts, the past utopia of the future and the section focusing on today and future. Upon entrance, there are displays showing evolution of how we, from the past to present, socially, economically, and politically live, communicate, transport in the city during past decades, while the other side of the displays, there are visions of future prediction in the past by famous artists and architects being shown in light boxes, including some pictures of failed futuristic inventions such as a spiral escalator. The centre of the space features two prototype vehicles – the white, sleek, minimal Sinclair 5 and the one-wheel, self-balancing scooter Ryno.
Moving along to the other part of the exhibition at the other section of the room, the centre piece of the exhibition is an interactive table with eight screens that visitors are able to view film, animations, infographics, and images with written explanations and the audio from the overhead speaker on subjects regarding our integration to the city in terms of mobility, geotagging and driverless car and bla, bla and so on. The visitors are also invited to take part in surveys.
Surrounding the centre piece are definitions of today’s technologies of transportation and communication on one side, while the other side of the wall are on-screen Visions of Tomorrow by Royal College of Art design students illustrating their brilliant ideas of future transportation and communication in London 2020, again with written explanation and samples of their works in moving images.
Next, located on the lower floor, are the “Beautiful Data”, animated data visualisations regarding communication and transportation in London and United Kingdom and the exhibition finishes off with finale prototype “Bus Shelter of the Future”, the intelligence bus stop which not only offers protection against weather, but it is also equipped with the latest multi-touch screens, augmented reality and movement sensor technology, HD cameras and 3G communication aiming to provide travellers with real-time travel information, options of travelling route.
The Curator’s Interpretation of the Exhibition
Interpretation means [quote]…. (from hand out)
By considering how the curator interpret “Sense and the City”, I find that he interpret the whole exhibition according to the way people make senses, how they sense each other and how they “sense” the city from the pass to present and in the near future, all of those are reflected in sections of exhibition he divided. He suggests that people never stops improving how we “Sense”
For the tag line “Smart, connected, on the move”, he refers to our lifestyles that we have and tend to continue having it in 10 years time. Mobility is inevitably the very important factor of urban living as we are now always on the go, still we keep us connected to each other. As well as our lives and the “urbanness” is now melted as one.
Also, the curator has tried to prep the visitor to today’s technologies that leads to our way of communication and transportation in the future by giving background of how imaginary today is like for people in the past to visitor.
*going to add connotation/denotation/ simile kind of stuffs later*
Usage of Display Technologies
In museum, several technologies of display are available [quoted] e.g., display cases, open display, reconstruction (???), simulacra – objects made by museum in order to fill a gap in their collection, each of techniques gives different effects to visitors. For Sense and the City exhibition, it is seen that there are several techniques used:
– Glass display cases: used to showcase the evolution of how we communicated and transported during past decades. [quoted] Glass display cases produce the truth not in relation to the apparent representational accuracy of what is on display. When placed in a case, an object is dislocated from the everyday context and the effect on the visitor is of a truth: an analytic one rather than a represational one. In this case, placing objects in the glass case shows that the objects are being classified and categorized into groups with subjects and theme displayed by the written text next to them. The glass displays were also built and evenly placed in a similar way of computer icon, in square boxes with the size of approximately 50x50cm.
– Light boxes: used to show past visions of future which give visitor a clearer view of artwork than simply placing on the wall without the light. The light boxes were also placed linearly in order to direct visitors to see the work one by one by following the designed route. This technique is also used to display the definition of communication technologies used nowadays; blog, Bluetooth, geotagging, cloud computing, for instance. The definition are placed evenly in grid style giving a feel of futuristic cutting-edge design to the visitors.
– Open Display: featuring two prototypes of future vehicles, RYNO and Sinclair 5 placed in the centre of the hallway providing enough space for the subject to stand out and the visitors are allowed to take a look at the detail of prototypes closely
– Touch screen: in use for interactive media displaying complex data allowing the visitors select when and which info they wanted to learn more about to give them a better understanding at their own paces The touch screens are also used for the survey
– Overhead Speaker: used to give audio explanation for each touch screens and also some music that helps shaping visitors’ interpretation of each topic which implies the mood and tone of the topic
– TV Screen: in order to visualise ideas of technology of today’s technology on the next decade’s street. Giving visitors a better understanding of ideas by viewing the moving images and reading the explanation from the designers. The screens are also used to display animated infographics.
– Big screens: displaying maps and animations of transportation traffic placing next to each other and in dim light allowing visitor to be able to focus on the information and compare the data by watching one by one, one after another. This also guides the visitor the passage curator designed for them to systematically(?) learn from the exhibition.
– Prototype: The finale piece, the Bus stop, is a good example of prototype. Placed in open space allowing everyone to experience the feeling of using it in real size.
– Labels and Captions
– Panel and Catalogue
Impact on My Experience of the Exhibition
By reading the written description explained by the curator, it helps audience to interpret the show in a way the curator wanted to communicate. In the case that before reading the text the visitor interprets the work differently from the curator aimed to, this written material will provoke questions and therefore discussion inside visitor’s mind which intrigue thinking system.