Civic Ads: Public Smart

SUMMARY: "Civic Ads: Public Smart" is adaptive to the transformability and plasticity of today’s urban communication and transportation typologies. Moreover, at a time when civic and commercial lighting systems are cumulative, Photic’s proposal proposes integrated, non-linear and adaptive distributions of light, and substitutive uses for smart electronic technologies beyond commercial signs or isolated interventions. "Civic Ads: Public Smart” is a bold proposal based on the assumption that public space should claim civic content in the urban iconography, and that already situated networks of communication technologies provide a compelling infrastructure for ecological and socially responsible information. This parasitic initiative aims at increasing our collective knowledge through the innovative use of networked information. Its anticipatory premise is suggestive that incremental initiatives of informative content will lead to a smarter collective, and will engage all to be more proactive on environmental issues.

PROBLEM SPACE: Today’s and tomorrow’s complex environmental and societal challenges require to increase the education and participation of the public at large. In “Civic Ads: Public Smart,” Photic argues that in order to increase collective cognition, the urban public realm must become informative, and proposes the emergence of a new ecology of civic media within urban design. Homo Sapiens is a sentient species that responds well to visual stimuli. Consequently, Photic proposes to introduce a “para-site” in the site of existing urban-situated technologies that permeates urban transportation infrastructure, namely the substitution of civic content for advertisement in the urban iconography. Significantly, this opportunistic initiative lies at the intersection of both the network architectures of transportation and of communications. Innovative in concept, “Civic Ads: Public Smart” thus does not involve the development of a new technology nor the implementation of a new system. It will be entirely solar-powered, whether on site (with autonomous nodes of information) or off-site (with a distributed network of PV arrays with a total capacity equal or superior to what is required by the project).

The targeted systems include but are not limited to (1) Bus Stops, (2) Subway Stops, (3) Roadways, (4) Taxis Fleets.
Two models of delivery systems are proposed:
(a) Wireless environmental sensor networks with backfeed loop (e.g. to monitor chemical pollution, temperature, weather forecast etc.). In this case, the color of light becomes a qualitative or quantitative indicator. The information on the panels is static and interchangeable (this system will be updated when organic LEDs become commercially available). A typical bus-stop in New York City now uses approximately 400 Watts of electrical energy; in “Civic Ads: Public Smart,” this energy load would be reduced 75% and be solar-powered.
(b) Audiovisual feed: New civic information is integrated into commercial broadcasts (e.g. re. recycling regulations, health advisories and warnings, world statistics etc.).

"Civic Ads: Public Smart" implies a fractal framework of knowledge, from the localized information of each display to the metascale of global public awareness.

SOLUTION: Building upon a speculative narrative which was conceived schematically in 2001 and awarded a in 2002 a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Photic is now seeking funding opportunities to develop “Civic Ads: Public Smart” in New York City (NYC), and to take it to the prototyping stage. New sensor, edge lighting and smart glass technologies applicable to the project have now become market-ready. Significantly, new media systems have also recently appeared, such as electronic displays at subway stations and interactive screens in roaming taxi fleets. If awarded a Buckminster Fuller Challenge Grant by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, Photic will do due diligence on all the components and parts of the proposed systems, and simultaneously engage in a dialogue with NYC’s city and transportation agencies as applicable (first year). Photic will consequently develop comprehensive specifications with the manufacturers (OEM) of the various components as relevant, as well as elaborate a detailed narrative of the possible scenarii for the integration of civic information in the public realm. As the project develops, technical and financial assessments will be computed, including comparative studies with current federal, state and municipal spending for public advisories (second year). Collaboratively with New York City’s agencies, Photic will pursue funding opportunities for a short-term pilot-project as well as for the incremental system-wide and city-wide implementation of the project in the long term (third year).

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