This talk will examine if the expansion in the material conditions and subjective experience of culture in public spaces can be conceptualized as ‘ambient participation’. Ambient participation refers to the participatory potential of public space, it has wider social implications which could be elaborated through a politics of culture and more specifically in this instance, the politics of cultural difference. The term ambience has been employed, descriptively, by media scholars to communicate how the designed interfaces of twenty-first century urbanism – ubiquitous media technologies, imperceptibly embedded into the physical environment (McCullough 2013; Papastergiadis et al 2016) – impact on subjective experience. Ambient conditions create new forms of embodiment, and alter the feedback between modes of awareness, information and environment. Ambience can also be used to map this terrain of urban infrastructure – ‘digital cameras and iPhones, and urban informatics such as CCTV networks and eTags’. Of interest here is not only the subjective effects of these embedded technologies, but how they function as a layered, complex, and relational field of data (McQuire 2016; Jaaniste 2010; Arnold and Levit 2010). 

Nikos Papastergiadis is the Director of the Research Unit in Public Cultures, based at The University of Melbourne. He is a Professor in the School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne and founder - with Scott McQuire - of the Spatial Aesthetics research cluster. He is Chief Investigator on the ARC Discovery Project ‘Precincts and cultural participation in networked public space'. Prior to joining the School of Culture and Communication, he was Deputy Director of the Australia Centre at the University of Melbourne, Head of the Centre for Ideas at the Victorian College of Arts, and lecturer in Sociology and recipient of the Simon Fellowship at the University of Manchester. He has been both co-editor and author of journal Third Text and his publications include Modernity as Exile (Manchester University Press 1993), Dialogues in the Diaspora (Rivers Oram 1998), The Turbulence of Migration (Polity Press 2000), Metaphor and Tension (Artspace 2004) Spatial Aesthetics: Art Place and the Everyday (Rivers Oram 2006), Cosmopolitanism and Culture (Polity Press 2012), Ambient Perspectives (2013) and Ambient Screens (2016).

Part one of the three-part Aesthetics and Cosmopolis Series. 

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