Urban screens and public address

Every night in May, you can see a video art project on Inside Out on Times Square, on most of the screens usually reserved for advertising. Come and see it yourself, 11.57pm in Times Square!

Source: http://www.jr-art.net/news/midnight-moment-inside-out-takes-over-times-square. Part of the project video art project on Inside Out on Times Square, when in May ordinary citizens where screened instead of usual advertising spaces at 11.57pm in Times Square.

Time Square is a major New York City site for media innovations. Indeed, through history, we can look at the various forms of media imbricated in the fabric of buildings, such as the zipper text in 1928 in the façade of the buildings with outdoor electronic messages and breaking news displayed to the passing by. In 1976, the Specacolor sign system was invented by Goerge Stonbey using CRT technology and inspired contemporary electronic advertising billboards.

Nowadays the One Time Square building is almost all covered with coloured LED video screens and the building had no occupancy. In the past, it was the headquarters of the New York Times newspaper. We can see that through history the media used various medium to display information. The information displayed in the city are mainly commercial and inevitable according to McQuire (2010). Times Square place became a symbol in the city where thousand of people gathered and passed by every day. The lighting also plays a significant role in the city in creating a unique urban atmosphere. Marshall McLuhan (1964) suggested to concentrate on the medium of the media and not the content with his notorious argument, ‘The medium is the message’. He argued that the light bulb is a medium without any content as it enable night activities.

Times Square Moment: Tracey Emin, I Promise to Love You, February 2013

The media surfaces incorporated in buildings present a democratic potential for the public to engage in social and public life (McQuire, 2010). In line with this idea, interesting artistic projects seek to address another message to the public and share video art on large screens at Times square in the same screens used by advertising companies. Tim Tomskins – President of Times Square Alliance said  “for Time Square moment , for the first time, we have arts in the screens is created for the screens. So the combination is been on all the screens, in black and white and been to be the reflection merely of the energy and the light in the city was really very striking.”


McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, Routledge.

McQuire, S. (2010) ‘Rethinking media events: large screens, public space broadcasting and beyond’ New Media and Society, Vol. 12, No. 4


Parliament Square London a symbolic location for protesters

Source: Author own picture - Parliament Square London

Source: Author own picture – Parliament Square London

Over the centuries, Parliament square remains an important and symbolic location for protesters. Created in 1868, Parliament Square is overlooking the Palace of Westminster, near by Whitehall and the Supreme Court. Occupy Democracy movement used Parliament Square  as a venue of public address to create a projection of publicness beyond the local setting to have more impact and media attention (Iveson, 2007).

During a visit to Parliament Square, Matt an activist explained the pressure they received from the authorities to maintain the protest at night. Protesters also used texts in the form of banner and posters to communicate their messages to citizens. In the idea of Kurt Iveson, the speaker is addressing a co-present audience by setting up workshops and debates in the city (Iveson,2007).

Occupy Democracy – Parliament Square – London October 2014 from samira ariyane on Vimeo.

The picture below shows Brian Haw, a peace activist using several texts forms, like posters, banners, newspapers article and photographs to show his discontentment against UK and US foreign policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He begun a long standing protest in June 2001 and ended with his eviction from Parliament Square in 2011. Iveson noted that urban space could be venue of public address when co-presence is achieve in space but not in time (Iveson, 2007).

Brian Haw's tent and collection of hand-written posters became a familiar sight in Parliament Sq

Source: Andy Butterton/PA

The urban protests could be linked with Nancy Fraser idea of counterpublics. She revised Habermas idea of public Sphere where she found exclusions, such as women and marginalised groups (Fraser, 1990). We have in Occupy Democracy movement a group of people that are marginalised and don’t have their voice represented in mainstream media. Hence, activists are organising peaceful protests via social media and occupying key urban places that have a strong representation in the city.


Iveson, K. (2007) Publics and the city. Oxford: Blackwell.

Fraser,N. (1990) Rethinking the Public Sphere  A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy. Duke University Press.

Texts circulation in the city

Source: Author own picture -The Russell footpath project at Streatham

The text language in the city is the most common means of communication used by commerces, authorities or community groups. Texts are used in a form of shop signs, wall paint (old practice), road signs, newspapers or billboards. Those urban surfaces are mediums that circulate information in the city.

The Russell footpath project at Streatham is an example of interactive text board placed in a public place. The message is clearly address to local people as it is in a footpath not visible from the main road.


This example is characteristic of Kurt Iveson idea of venue of public address. Here you have a communication achieve in space but not in time where you have a message on a board left for passer by to read and write their views later (Iveson, 2007).


Source: Author own picture

Source: Author own picture – Example of message left.

The public space available for the proposal  is a small triangle square between the station and a new luxury flat redevelopment (old council building). We can imagine a conterpublic idea where people have a space to share their views and create a sense of public debate as the selling of this council building didn’t have any consultation with Streatham habitants (Fraser,1990 ).



Iveson, K. (2007) Publics and the city. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.20-49

Fraser,N. (1990) Rethinking the Public Sphere  A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy. Duke University Press.

Media Architecture – BBC Broadcasting House


Source: Author own picture – BBC Broadcasting House London

The architecture of the BBC Broadcasting House is a mix of modern and historic buildings dated of 1932. The external redeveloped part of the building is futurist with large glazed façades and a special design on the plaza pavement showed the national and international extend of the BBC. Countries and cities are engraved in the pavement with microphone broadcasting BBC world radio.

The old parts of the building looked at the BBC past of broadcasting legacy. You can see on the initial façade statues of Shakespeare the Tempest, evoking the magical of broadcasting character with the spirit of air and the magician (Arial and Prospero).

Source: Author own picture – Façade statues of Shakespeare the Tempest

This BBC media building is impressive from inside and also outside and tend to be like Nick Couldry (2005) called ‘the myth of the mediated centre’ in the way this building is projecting a language of power to the public through it architecture and design.You can see large digital messages on the wall similar that of the one used by finance companies. BBC is displaying the extend its services such as news, sport, travel and the weather.


Source: Author own picture – Main Hall BBC Broadcasting House London

Visitors can access BBC’s newsroom from the Media Café which gives a spectacular view on the media operations. The newsroom space is large and regroups various services such as radio, television, news, online services inside the same central London edifice. Some screen looks like an airport with Arrivals and Departures informations.

Source: Author own picture – View of BBC’s newsroom from the Media Café


Source: Author own picture – View of BBC’s newsroom – Arrivals screen.


Couldry, N. (2005) ‘Transvaluing media studies: or, beyond the myth of the mediated centre’ in Curran, J. and Morley,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/broadcastinghouse/ [Accessed 09/12/2014]