“Built Chameleons: Reactive Media Display” presented by Hessels


Session Title:

  • Large Displays in Urban Spaces and Elsewhere - Gigantic: Mediation Beyond Surface

Presentation Title:

  • Built Chameleons: Reactive Media Display




  • The number of screens now manufactured has surpassed the number of humans on the planet. Mediated environments today have become so pervasive, it is difficult to think of a moving image that is not electronic; we rarely say ‘digital’ display anymore as the assumption is so ingrained in our culture. Electronic screens are always attached yet rarely integrated, usually added on after the fact. Hence most media understanding does not consider the relationship between the screen and its placement. Media is a skin that does not reach to the bones, the structure of our environment.

    Smart materials are designed to react to changes in the environment. Even subtle shifts in light, temperature, noise, moisture, pollutants, and more can cause dramatic changes in color, form or structure. Natural reactions provide a starting point to introduce a new (yet ancient) context in which the schism of on/off is not applicable anymore but replaced by behavioral flux. These emerging material behaviors allow a rethinking of the relationship between “skin and bone” and ultimately between media and environment.

    As part of an evolving post-digital society, artists and designers are exploring pre-digital dynamic effects. Through the ability to transform energy from an environmental input into a visual language, smart materials and their reactions can become a new form of reactive display design. This emerging media will shift from the independent to the integrated and yield opportunity for a new media art, free from the screen, yet still able to convey information, narrative and aesthetics.

    The panel will consider how these new materials that reveal non-digital reactions are not a way to augment design by technology but instead integrate and evolve design with new manufacturing and material qualities. The presentation will discuss how these materials, when extended to a modern urban context, one can envision a more ambient, less aggressive form of display that still signals environmental variations in visually aesthetic applications within architecture, art, automotive, fashion and others. Smart technologies can offer alternatives to billboards, signs, public transport, way-finding, data visualization and a host of new art and design applications. While weaning a global culture off electronic screens may be impossible, allowing natural processes to communicate in both content and form will lead to increased recognition from the public in sustainable solutions and environmental concerns.

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