Simon Fraser University

Claude Fortin is currently pursuing doctoral studies at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology. She obtained her Master of Arts in Communication at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication in 2011. Her research interests include social and spatial interaction design, urban screens, digital humanities and participatory methodologies. Fortin’s doctoral research aims to investigate the relationship between innovative communication practices, community-building and new media technologies. Her approach is interdisciplinary and builds on academic studies in the humanities, the social sciences, and fine arts (theory and praxis).

The appropriation of digital displays in urban space: technology as a public good

The past few years have seen social media platforms provide people around the world with new ways to, in the words of CBC journalist Mark Kelley, “collectively make things right.” From the rise of citizen journalism to the mobilizations made possible by Internet activism, new media is revitalizing free speech and democracy. However, in order for the digital revolution to have a significant impact, it must take into account the issue of universal access. This problem has led me to reflect on how technology could be conceived as a public good. Although digital displays are becoming ubiquitous in public space, their potential for interactivity is not being exploited. They are currently used for advertising or broadcast purposes by corporations and public institutions in a one-way flow mode of information delivery. This conference paper will look at how they could better serve a two-way flow of information that would benefit the needs of local, global and virtual communities for political participation. The objective of my current doctoral research is to study and develop the political, social, cultural and creative potentials of urban screens by exploring how this new media platform can be appropriated by communities to serve the public good in civil society. Specifically, I am investigating the development of technological systems in which handheld ICT devices and large digital displays are networked together to allow people to interact with, and through, these new channels of self-expression that have the potential to support free speech, allow for a greater diversity of voices to be heard in a live public forum, help communities reclaim public space and create new spaces for communities to self-organize to help level the playing field. I am looking at how a broadcast system can be turned into a conversation.