Workshop H

Locative media, memory and presence in the city

Unfortunately this workshop had to be cancelled by request of the workshop chairs. Please check out the other workshops on offer.

  • Katharine S. Willis, University of Siegen, Germany, willis AT
  • Karen Martin, University of Kent, UK, K.Martin-409 AT
  • Segah Sak, Bilkent University, Turkey, segah AT


In this workshop we will consider the nature of presence and the role of memory on how experiences are constructed with locative media in everyday situations. In particular we seek to explore how locative media can be appropriated for shared interactions that can occur spontaneously and playfully and in doing so re-inhabit and connect place-based social networks. The aim of the workshop is to collect, assemble, and share personal both present experiences and memories of the cities using digital storytelling practices.


Space, shared, locative media, place, memory, presence


Locative media respond to their current location thus triggering social interaction and situating the corresponding communication practices in their local spatial and social context. We address locative media not in terms just of technology–led applications or infrastructures, but rather as communications media that afford certain social practices, perceptions and behaviours in the context of their use, and as a shift which is changing the current media cultures and landscape as a whole. Locative media present a shift in the way in which presence and memory are experienced, as it enables the creation of shared spaces of communication defined by relationships and not only by proximity in time.

A key aspect of locative media is that they explore and adopt the narrative format and non-linear frameworks to tell stories about the city. For example a number of projects have offered ways of seeing the city as traces of presence, such as 34 North 118 West where “movement and reading brings a narrative of what was unseen and what has been lost in time, only for it to  quiet again once passed“ [1]. Similar projects such as Urban Tapestries [2, 3], Comob by artist Jen Southern [4] and the city flocks project [5] and show how time-based traces of people’s presence which can be retrieved in place support a feeling of connectedness and shared space.


As media become increasingly mobile and locative the opposing distinction of face-to-face and ‘media’ encounters is no longer useful; they are increasingly becoming overlaid and interwoven so that mediated behaviours increasingly impact on face-to-face encounters and vice-versa. In this context Ito introduced the concept of the ‘augmented flesh meet’; a technology-enhanced physically co-located gathering where mobile media and they observed how mobile phones are used to ‘bring in the presence of other friends who were not able to make it to the physical gathering, or to access information that is relevant to that particular time and place’ [6] which contribute to new techno-social settings and situations which stretches prior boundaries of what it means to “be together”. As a consequence Willis has highlighted how ‘presence becomes more ambiguous, since previous reliance on the visual to orientate and structure awareness in space is augmented with non-visual presence in technological networked spaces’ [7]. Spagnolli and Gamberini [8] accept that there is presence in mobile phone communication, but claim that this is because there is a shared “communicative place”; where the place is no longer spatially defined or relevant. Participants in such mediated spaces have ‘a sense of audience in every mediated conversation, which is often imagined and constructed by an individual in order to present themselves appropriately, based on technological affordances and immediate social context’ [9].

Collective Memory

“One can say that the city itself is the collective memory of its people”. – Aldo Rossi [10]

The conception of the city as a psycho-physical milieu of exchanges, where the city unfolds operates somewhere between remembrance and actual presence. As many cities of the contemporary world are faced with rapid transformations, the physical entity, and the experience of the city changes dramatically in a short time, and, consequently, formation or maintenance of an urban collective memory becomes almost impossible. The result is collective amnesia that breaks of the relation between remembrance and presence causing superficial experience of the city. . Moreover, the urban collective memory is affected not solely by our co-presence in the ephemeral physical urban spaces, but also by our ambiguous presence in all shared spaces, As a reaction, we propose locative media as a way of enhancement of urban experience and memory, and also suggest handling our mediated co-presence in the shared spaces and consequent changing nature of collectivity in means of the creation and sustainability of a collective memory.

Shared Spaces in the City

Shared spaces create a common sense of ‘being there’ or co-presence even when participants are quiet or absent. Presence is not just about being there in the moment but also the traces of presence left over time which manifest themselves as memories. We propose that a sense of shared space or connectedness is more likely to occur on the level of background awareness of things that have been and things that are happening in the social world. This may occur in a physical space or individuals interacting with media can experience degrees of connectedness or ‘a feeling of closeness or togetherness that may arise during communication’ [11]. Shared experiences are one of the key ways in which a sense of connectedness is created, whether this be with or without media. Shared encounters cannot take place outside of shared spaces, however, these settings do not need to be explicit and can be passive as well as actively experienced. Willis et al. define a shared encounter as:

‘the interaction between two people or within a group where a sense of performative co-presence is experienced and which is characterised by a mutual recognition of spatial or social proximity’ [12]

The perception of an audience creates a structure for the way that the person performs their presence.’ [13]. However, connectedness is oriented towards the achievement of social association rather than the transfer of information so that feeling of being in touch may, in some media awareness systems, be more important than the content of the communication [11]. Connectedness is thus a multi-faceted experience – it is both the articulation of a strong social connection and also an awareness of a past context of  city inhabitants who act as an imagined background audience.

A fundamental question raised by this change in the spatiality of communication practices is the role of presence and memory. In the workshop we will consider the way that co-presence and collective memory are experienced across the range of shared spaces created by architecture and media.

Workshop Aim

How can locative media start to reinforced a sense of connectedness, whether this be in the present or through responding to a sense of collective memory across an extended timespan? According to Gemeinboeck et al locative media has the potential “to turn the city into a canvas and a palette for writing and reading the city opens up a playground for revisiting the relation between the practiced and the mapped” [14]. We will explore the different ways that a sense of shared space can be created, through the use of narratives, the development of background awareness and using visualisation of the invisible traces of people on the city.

Audience and Material

The participants are expected to be familiar with the use of digital media such as digital cameras, video recorders, sound recorders, etc. Also, familiarity with editing software is constructive for editing and preparing the material gathered for online publication. The participants should also be enthusiastic about face-to-face communication with the residents of the city, in the context of the workshop topic.

Workshop Structure


Prior to the workshop we will widely publicise the workshop to a broad inter-disciplinary community through related email newsletters. We will set up a shared, editable web space for participants to upload relevant literature, topical information and workshop abstracts.


The actual workshop will be seen as a culmination of this process and we will aim to take a practical approach to exploring the topic. Papers accepted for the workshop will be distributed among workshop participants prior to the workshop, but the focus of the workshop itself will not be on the presentation of these abstracts. Instead these will provide a basis for each author’s contribution to the workshop activities. This will be a one-day workshop comprising of two sessions; an initial exploratory session and a main hands-on session. In the shorter first session participants will brainstorm in a group exploring the key themes addressed in the workshop abstracts. Following this initial discussion, the participants will spend time in a local area and gather a resident’s digital story about her/his experience of Brisbane. After the story collection phase, the participants and speakers will meet again to review the collected material, to edit it and share it with the other participants. The final stage of the workshop will be a discussion about how sharing these collected experiences contribute to people’s sense of presence or connection to the city.


To express your interest in participating in the workshop please prepare an abstract, which should be 2-4 pages long and include a biography outlining your background and research interests. We welcome abstracts from a broad range of approaches; it may be a position statement, the description of a project that is relevant or empirical results that are relevant to the topic. We are happy to accept both individual and co-authored submissions. Accepted abstracts will be published online on the workshop webpage. Please format papers using the ACM SIGCHI two column layout available at

Please email submissions to: workshop AT before 1 April 2011.


Katharine Willis, Post-doc Research Fellow, Graduate Research School  ”Locating Media/Situierte Medien”, University of Siegen, Germany

Karen Martin, Researcher, Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent, UK

Segah Sak, Ph.D. Fellow, the Institute of Fine Arts, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey


1.Hight, J. (2003). Narrative Archaeology ( Retrieved 13 June 2008

2.Lane G, Thelwall S, Angus A, Peckett V & West N (2006) Urban Tapestries: Public Authoring, Place & Mobility. Proboscis

3.Martin, K. (2010). Making Glue: Participation in Everyday Computing in Willis, K., Chorianopoulos, K., Struppek, M., Roussos, G. Introduction in Willis et al. (Eds) (2010). Shared Encounters. New York u.a.: Springer.

4.Southern, J. (2010). Comob Project,.

5.Bilandzic, M., Foth, M., & De Luca, A. (2008, Feb 25-27). CityFlocks: Designing Social Navigation for Urban Mobile Information Systems. Paper presented at the ACM SIGCHI Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) Conference, Cape Town, South Africa

6.Ito, M./ Okabe, D. (2005). Technosocial Situations: Emergent Structurings of Mobile Email Use. In Ito, Mizuko, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda (Eds). Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

7.Willis, K. (2008). Spaces, Settings and Connections. In: Aurigi, A., De Cindio, F. (Eds). Augmented Urban Spaces: Articulating the Physical and Electronic City. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Press, pp. 9-27.

8.Spagnolli A. / Gamberini L. (2005). A Place for Presence. Understanding the Human Involvement in Mediated Interactive Environments. PsychNology Journal 3, (1): 6-15.

9.Marwick, A. / boyd, d. (2010). I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience. New Media and Society, September 2010, 12 (6).

10.Rossi, A. (1984). The Architecture of the City. MIT Press, MA

11.Rettie, R. (2003) Connectedness, awareness and social presence. In: 6th Annual International Workshop on Presence; 6-8 October 2003, Aalborg , Denmark.

12.Willis, K., Chorianopoulos, K., Struppek, M., Roussos, G. Introduction in Willis et al. (Eds) (2010). Shared Encounters. New York u.a.: Springer.

13.Boyd, d. (2007). Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life. In Buckingham, David (ed). MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 119-142.

14.Gemeinboeck, P., Dong, A., Veronesi, F. (2007). Who writes the city? In Goggin, G., & Hjorth, L. (eds.) (2007). Proceedings of Mobile Media 2007. University of Sydney. Retrieved 14 November 2010.