Tracking the Moving Image, Mapping the Screen

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Project 5

The Tracking the Moving Image project has set out to ask where the screen is now that technology has developed in such a way that screens are not confined to the movie theatre or the living room. We test and challenge the predominant tendency of scholars who reflect on the digitisation of film and television with theoretical speculations based on the properties of the technology. Our answer to the question “What is a screen in the age of the digital” is to ask the question, “Where is the screen?”

Our starting point was the belief that the uptake of the new technologies for fixed moving image screens in public spaces not only leads to new materials on the screen, but also leads to a transformation of the public spaces in which they are installed, and, that this will vary according to the different uses of the space and the cultural contexts.

We therefore developed an empirical comparative study that looks at three different kinds of spaces in three very different megalopolises:

  • Cairo
  • London
  • Shanghai

We chose these three cities because they are (arguably) the largest on their continents and have very different historical and cultural contexts, potentially maximising difference. The three types of spaces that we worked with were retail spaces; transportation hubs; and cultural institutions, such as museums and galleries.

Our research shows that in all three cities, the installation of moving image technologies in public spaces is driven by neo-liberal cultures of aspiration, in which the individual is held ever more responsible for whatever happens to them and expected to fulfil themselves through material acquisition. However, the forms that these cultures take varies from space to space and from culture to culture. These forms are also disturbed by historical traces of very different aspirations, producing a rich and complex public screen culture that far exceeds the technology itself or any attempt to boil it down to a simple formula.

This is seen most clearly in the seizure of large screens in Cairo after the revolution and their redeployment from advertising directed at the very rich to the broadcast of the former dictator’s trial. But it is also there in the subtle shift from a pedagogical culture to a culture of embodied engagement in museums, where visitors are not staring at auratic objects so much as participating in screen-mediated experiences that teach them a different and more active way of being required in contemporary culture.

On the basis of various presentations of our work, we have won considerable interest, including three book contracts. We believe that our work will help to make urban planners, citizens, and designers all more aware of the differences and potentials of media in everyday public spaces, which is usually ignored or wrongly dismissed as “all the same” and “just more ads.”

For more information see our research outputs.

Project news and events

Symposium 2010: Mediatizing Public Spaces

Pilot Project: Walking the City

Research Diairies

October 2010

The Project's team organises the 4th annual GLMRC Symposium Mediatizing Public Space.

May 2010

Test Lab: Urban Screen Savers

March 2010

Chris Berry released his latest  Shanghai research diary.

A new Research Associate is assigned for the project.

Chris Berry and Amal Khalaf have just returned from a research trip to Cairo.  Read more about Project 5 March 2010
The Public screens research group showcases postgraduate research projects related to the project.

February 2010

Chris Berry gives a talk at the Institute for Chinese Studies, University of Oxford, 4th February 2010

December 2009

To follow the screen walks in London, Cairo and Shanghai please visit: Screenwalks

November 2009

Sherif EL-Azma (PDF download) presents at Goldsmiths on 24th November 2009.

October 2009

Read Chris Berry's research diary  on his visits of Shanghai 

See all Project 5 news stories

Project Team

Professor Chris Berry - Project Lead

Rachel Moore

Janet Harbord

Amal Khalaf