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The Poetics of Augmented Space


How is our experience of a spatial form affected when the form is filled in with dynamic and rich multimedia information? (The examples of such environments are particular urban spaces such as shopping and entertainment areas of Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Seoul where the walls of the buildings are completely covered with electronic screens and signs; convention and trade shows halls; department stores, etc,; and at the same time, any human-constructed space where the subject can access various information wirelessly on her cell phone, PDA, or laptop.) Does the form become irrelevant, being reduced to functional and ultimately invisible support for information flows? Or do we end up with a new experience in which the spatial and information layers are equally important? In this case, do these layers add up to a single phenomenological gestalt or are they processed as separate layers?

Although historically built environments were almost always covered with ornament, texts (for instance, shop signs), and images (fresco paintings, icons, sculptures, etc. – think of churches in most cultures), the phenomenon of the dynamic multimedia information in these environments is new. Also new is the delivery of such information to a small personal device such as a cell phone, which a space dweller can carry with her.

Therefore, this essay will discuss how the general dynamic between spatial form and information which has been with us for a long time and which I outlined above functions differently in computer culture of today. Since the kinds of environments I offered, as examples above do not have a recognizable name yet, I will give me a new name - an augmented space. The term will be explained in more detail below, but here is the brief definition: augmented space is the physical space overlaid with dynamically changing information. This information is likely to be in multimedia form and it is often localized for each user.

I want to focus on the experience of the human subject in augmented space as opposed to particular electronic, computer and network technologies through which the augmentation is achieved. I also want to re-conceptualize augmentation as an idea and cultural and aesthetic practice rather than as technology. To do this, I will discuss how various practices in professional and vernacular architecture and build environments, cinema, 20th century art, and media art can be understood in terms of augmentation. I hope that this will firmly position the concept of augmented space in historical and cultural as opposed to purely technological sphere.

Article  2002