Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

9. Cultural infrastructures


Human Matrix

Mapping of Cultural resources

Cultural planning



9. Cultural Infrastructures

9.1 Infrastructures

9.2 Transport, Communication and Services, including Waste Management, Water, Energy and Food supply

9.3 City and the Media: Urban Screens

9.4 Visible and invisible infrastructures in order to keep the city together


9.1 Infrastructures

When approaching the question of tangible cultural matters, including venues and other infrastructural prerequisites, then this should not mean merely new stadiums but be based on a broader defined potentiality of culture to alter conditions of life. It would have to mean upgrading the cultural infrastructure so that cultural resources allow for a higher quality of life based on social and economic cohesion. If culture is an expression of knowing how to make sure in life that basic needs are being fulfilled in the most economical and social way as possible, then not exploitation of resources (natural, human and cultural) is the prime orientation, but the human will to be just and fair to everyone and his or her needs. The chance to have a good life without incurring extra expenses is as important as quality improvement since the latter carries with it the risk of increasing costs. Thus such axioms of actions need to be outlined so that cultural initiatives can be undertaken and this within a very specific time framework so as to satisfy cultural needs as part of local identity and local development. (see point 12)

9.2 Cultural services besides all other infrastructural provisions

In developing its cultural plan, the city of Linz stressed one qualitative difference to usual services, for emphasis was given to making social and cultural services to become equally important when city officials go into neighborhoods and communities and start advising citizens how they can activate and integrate themselves into the ongoing life of their neighborhood, larger but still immediate community and overall city. Cultural planning here means to identify in each special community meetings points whether informal or formal while ideas are developed on how these already existing infrastructures can be used to facilitate cultural services from being made available to everyone. As Jan Brueggemeier would put it in today’s world is not so much how you address people but how you fetch them and taken them with you if you wish them to participate in activities the city may want to offer for free or for some kind of fee. The philosophy behind all these services should not be just a drive to be better, more, greater, happier etc. as if quantitative increases amount to an improvement in the quality of life. As everyone knows very well decisive if citizens can identify their needs with the potentiality of the city to offer some services by which they can undertake and do certain things. Clearly a cultural identification of needs differs from a customer and consumer orientated society. Michael D. Higgins asked rightly so does the city wish to be only one for consumers or can it be the home for a diversity of people with a variety of ideas on how to live and to work in order to satisfy real needs. The problem of motivation is clearly this: the many artificial and unnecessary needs bring about an entanglement in all sorts of gimmicks driven by an over consumption of things highly advertised as if desirable when in fact the cultural need is to give orientation in a humane way.

9.3 City and the Media: Urban Screens

A discussion about urban screen has become possible due to a network which informs and draws attention to the discussion points. [1]

Urban screens combine:

- information system passing over to film like artistic expressions

- background images (like functional music in supermarket)

- display in analogy to advertisement but at a more sophisticated level

Aesthetics and ruling on street signs given the variety by which messages are brought across. From the shoemaker showing his business to lawyers having set up their office, signs and symbols reflect a specific interface. The inner-outer world means facing the street side. This extends itself to having more and more impressive buildings all the way to shaping an entire square or even entire city as if putting a stamp on it. Power and rulership reflect themselves in impressive buildings to show that this particular organisation has the capacity to go beyond the mere functional and therefore includes decorative and other ‘imported’ elements e.g. from another country, or some outstanding artist.

The crucial question is how cities and therefore its political authorities can make use of ‘urban screens’ especially if it can be fed with all kinds of digital images, including those designed to inform the citizen about openings of museums, a special day coming up and even in emergencies where to turn to for help.

Urban screens go beyond the billboards or other kinds of tableaus to display a synchronic image containing information, but also special features e.g. birds in a lagoon. This means images of nature or of adventure are favoured as if the out of the usual can enrich everyday life. This is especially the case when urban screens are mounted in cafes with people talking but still casting occasionally a glance to absorb one of these images. This confirms also visual habits at home where televisions can run with people paying but scant attention if only to become immediately more attentive once some other and more serious images flicker over the screen.

If the confrontation with both advertisement and the media has made artists resort to this media in order to take up that language without giving in necessarily to its commercial use, then a project by Greek artist Maria Papadimitriou can be taken as an example. It is also noteworthy that this project came about due to a certain cultural incentive being created by the Athens 2004 Olympics with everyone wishing to get into the event and yet due to the restrictions from above left in reality many excluded and even more ideas stranded. Maria detected at a gasoline station along the national highway an urban screen which had been set up to watch the Games, but which since August 2004 has been left unused. The setting at the gasoline station was interesting since the location of the screen and the arrangement of chairs and tables came close to a semi-theatre. She decided to offer to the people running the station a film about a man coming down from the mountains and walking towards the city from where he took a bus to the port in order to immigrate. This link of transportation and exile at such a location means the artist perceives the transformation of modern landscape in a way that people need to see their own and often previous stories, that is before Greece became a modern society best identified with the last donkeys vanishing from the village square and replaced by a fleet of modern cars, including jeeps and other modern vehicles. For location and story can touch upon a source of memory that people tend to forget or leave behind once they decide themselves or are forced to make their way to another land in order to survive, to make a living or to fulfil a dream sought not possible at home. Like people starting to travel with a lot of baggage only to discard more and more as the travel route becomes longer and the unnecessary baggage too heavy to carry, people discard a portion of their memories. Like the little note underneath a stone, they are discarded with the promise to return to this place if one makes it ever back. Identities are not so much destroyed as they are often discarded with the promise to be picked up later provided the person manages to make the entire way back and then confronts his native place with the new feelings gained while having been elsewhere. It is presumably such a gasoline station that may be a place for a pause to reflect what lies ahead. That applies in both directions for when coming back they may want to take a deep breath, fetch out the elements of the identity they left there, in order to prepare themselves for coming back.

The example of use of urban screen a key locations may indicate that in a special cultural setting they can substantiate ongoing experiences. They will set the level of communication. And by integrating new technology and therefore rich media, the visual orientation can be enriched. It can serve also as a distraction just as going to the movies means something like stepping out and immersing in a different atmosphere. The important distinction between urban screens and a movie screen is that urban screens do not blend out the surroundings but rather attempt to be an integral part as much as they do not intend to impose or to distract from the surrounding.

Typical example of Urban Screen related activities:


On 22-23 May, 2009 the fourth edition of Video Vortex will take place in Split, Croatia. The Department of Film and Video at the Academy of Arts University of Split and Platforma 9.81 will organize the event, in collaboration with the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam.

After previous events on online video and responses to YouTube in Brussels, Amsterdam and Ankara, this event will focus on the moving image on the Web.

We invite contributions for the following themes:

- Telepresence and Web Aesthetics

Video meets Web aesthetics: how is the phenomenon of ‘telepresence’

incorporated in various art forms, such as music, theater, visual arts, literature and cinema? What are underlying aesthetics and what are the specific interface contexts?

- Social Cinema

Has cinema found its way onto the Web? Did it change the essential features of cinema? What are the new possibilities of collaborative production? Does the future of film museums and cinematheques lie in online cinematic databases?

- Architecture and the Moving Image

Online video offers an immense database of moving images, which could be displayed in urban public space. What are the existing cinematographic visions of the future of the moving image in public space? (In films such as Blade Runner, Minority Report, Children of Men, etc.) Which visions can be directly implemented, and which will remain film scenography?

- Video Sharing

What are the standards and alternatives for sharing, licensing and hosting moving images on the Web? This theme explores issues around the distribution, licensing, collaborative production, and video hosting.

- Technology and Politics of the Moving Image What is the future of visual browsers? How does moving image production relate to cultural, technological and political dominance?

Open standards and codex politics. Surveillance issues.

- Literature and Online Video Narrativity Narrative strategies on the Web. From screenplay writing with hypertext, the broadcasted self and narrative avatars to collective narrative processes leading to Web literature, tag based video narrativity, public journalism and performative real-time literature.

Please send in a 500-word abstract and a short bio to Dan Oki (danoki [at] xs4all.nl) before February 5, 2009.

During the Video Vortex in Split we will present five cinema events:

1) upload cinema 2) mobile phone cinema 3) social cinema 4) cinematic data base 5) performative cinema

For further information on the previous Video Vortex editions, please

see: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/videovortex/.

Also check out the Video Vortex reader:  Geert Lovink and Sabine Niederer (eds.), Video Vortex Reader: Responses to YouTube, Amsterdam:

Institute of Network Cultures,

2008. ISBN: 978-90-78146-05-6.  Available as a pdf on: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/portal/publications/inc-readers/videovortex/


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9.4 Visible and invisible infrastructures in order to keep the city together

From billboards to the skyline of a city, the temporal sense of existence can be altered as the light changes (both natural and artificial). Insofar as information highways facilitate data flows, the metaphorical implications thereof are both interesting and far reaching as people begin to navigate through cities with digital maps and a more profound knowledge about the cultural scene in each city than ever before conceivable.

Here should be taken into consideration only that infrastructure both visible and invisible which can and does keep a city together. As distinctive borders were in the past e.g. going through a gate after crossing the draw bridge and then entering the city once past the guards, the entire notion of physical space with clear borders has been revolutionized in the media age. Here to speak about invisible borders which delineate the city from the rest of the territory cannot be answered more as easily. Instead there are key entry roads and linkages e.g. airport and city, which direct anyone to the outer world or vice versa. Along the scenic routes key orientation marks are given in both visual and invisible terms to cultural artifacts and institutions e.g. galleries, museums, archaeological sites. They indicate where cultural features and expressions thereof can be found. At the same time, they make up the distinctive features of any city more than what used to be when only a church at the main square would give an imprint to a city and its specific context e.g. a Catholic or Protestant town, a port city, a railway centre, an industrial town etc.. Key features facilitate altogether something on which the city’s economy and social life is based. It will be repeated in the dwellings of its inhabitants but also in what sort of life unfolds everyday in its streets. There are practical, natural, economical, social, political and cultural notions to explain as to how the traffic flows and where people tend to go at certain times of the day, week, month or year. All in all these are coupled with special events such as the Olympics which then highlight the infrastructural prerequisites to handle such events since with it come an extraordinary amount of people all of which have to be accommodated for. For example, Athens hosted the Olympic Games in 2004 and was considered then one of the smallest cities despite of having a population of over 4 millionen. The small size was established, for instance, through the absence of sufficient hotel space, hence solutions were found by bringing in extra cruise ships which served the purpose of hotels. So coupled with every cultural and other event there are infrastructural prerequisites for which careful planning is needed in order to face the sudden extra ordinary demand. By up-scaling the infrastructural requirements a city must be careful not to elevate itself beyond normal measures too much for otherwise, as the case with Athens, most of the Olympic venues remain unused thereafter. Insofar for the Olympics there was no careful cultural planning in place, the adoption of these venues by the local population was minimal and hence mostly subject only to speculations on how to make a business out of these venues and the extra spaces they offer in a city in search for free space.

Once the entire matter of infrastructure has been settled, thought through and included in an evolving plan so to improve over time the interjunctions and interfaces, the linkages and connections between various transport nodes (point 7 of the matrix), there has to be taken a look at an entire different level, namely how the city communicates itself to its inhabitants and to everyone else who may happen to be either in the vicinity, passing through and thinking about coming to that city. At that level of communication are located as much issues such as street signs, advertisement as well as what landmarks and features should stand out on their own e.g. not covered by billboards or advertisement as defacement of a city’s interfaces is just as much a problem as noise and air pollution.

Lessons can be learned from special projects which aim to feature the arts and culture in a city. By the same token a difference to advertisement and other commercial languages has to be drawn and ensured through aesthetical guidelines which should become an integral part of any cultural planning process.


invisible infrastructures

To illustrate what invisible infrastructures entail, blogs and other forms of internet based information tools make possible that both experiences and information are made accessible to anyone wishing to find out more about the city and to find another kind of (aesthetical) orientation.

For instance, there has been developed a project by the Germanistic department at Munich University. The online journal exists since 1998 and is called: “Interactive City Experience”.

The "IASLonline Lessons in NetArt" can be found under following website address:


The basic idea is to collect stories and images reflecting city experience and do this with local sensitive media (Mapping)


Presented are projects for communication about city stories and city experiences in public spaces. Mapping of verbal and photographic city experience of inhabitants is made possible by projects which use digital participation means and "Location Media".

A few Net projects contain the technical possibility for sending contributions from city spaces by means of portable digital media (Laptops, PDAs and mobile phones) to a server.[2] These contributions can be verbal and/or visual documented city experiences. These contributions can be linked with location data: location media provide possibilities to link data with digital maps as well as with real locations ("geo-nodes").

Other projects depart not from the possibility of cooperative city descriptions, but from communication and information possibilities such as available through WLAN [3], mobile radio and GIS: either the city will be changed as communication space – and thereby to communicate possibilities, make contacts and to express city experiences -, or invisible data flows of new media are visualised.

The project "Interactive projects as to city experience" consists of three collection tips:

1: city experiences with location media (Mapping)" (available on the net).

2: games in city spaces (pervasive games)

3: facades and tele-presence (Installations).[4]

For the collection following criteria are common to all three proposals:

The project creates city happenings or possibilities for city experiences by means of Telefone, computer, Internet (wireless connections), mobile phones and digital locations (GIS).


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[2] There exist by now ‘image conferences’ making use of PDA’s

[3] Acronym for wireless local-area network. Also referred to as LAWN. A type of local-area network that uses high-frequency radio waves rather than wires to communicate between nodes.

[4] See works by H.J. Kuzdas who converted a settlement in Berlin into a European city by different houses taking on characteristics of Spain, Greece, UK, etc. This departed from the Berlin wall paintings and is linked to facades of large walls (‘Brandmauer’) left empty for a long time due to the destruction of the neighboring house and nothing put in place. The Berlin squatter movement made its entry into urban space by creating unique wall murals. City officials had them removed once the squatter movement was squashed or legalized with normal ownership relationships installed but the question here is whether or not such loss of cultural heritage in a city’s history is a positive sign or not an indication of preference being given to a more neutral space and frontage. The same discussion can be followed about graffiti.

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