University of Southern California
United States of America

Karl Baumann is a digital artist, filmmaker, and scholar. His current work explores immersive and mobile cinema to navigate the complex layers of urban spaces. After completing an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) at UC Santa Cruz, Baumann taught media literacy with the Boys and Girls Club and participated heavily in Occupy Oakland. In addition to his locative and playable media projects, Karl has produced multiple feature documentaries and experimental videos within the USA and internationally. He is currently an Annenberg Fellow in the Interdivisional Media Arts Practice (iMAP) Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California.

Retracing Urban Space: Activism, Play, and Ethics in Mobile/Ubiquitous Media

As mobile media and ubiquitous computing reshape our urban environment, they complicate both perceptual and social dynamics of space. The experience of a digitally networked body augments a sense of mobility, access, and collaborative play. Yet at this rich conceptual moment there are adverse effects as well in reinforcing or further stratifying differential mobilities that become exaggerated by technology. As scholars, the question becomes how do we navigate, classify, and interrogate the multiple cultural practices and usages of these developments. Some artist projects and augmented reality games are politically motivated, while others reinforce privileged mobility of the urban elite (Google’s Ingress, Momentum, and Situationist) by subsuming social realities under the logics of their games. How do collective human practices produce ‘non-human’ systems of behavior and ‘automatic productions of space’ through networked technologies? As augmented space and ubiquitous computing become increasingly naturalized and invisible, these socioeconomic dynamics are crucial for interrogating the logics and nascent ideologies of these systems. Can we look to more radical political actions and mobilizations (the Occupy Movement and the 2011 England Riots) to find alternative methods? All of these instances are not only products of developing cultural practices and social formations, but are also defining forces in the ways in which augmented space is constructed. In this paper, I will draw out potent examples in order to explore the embodied experience, social dynamics, and ethical problems of augmented space as it reconstructs our urban environment.