“The Sentient City Survival Kit” by Mark Shepard

Posted filed underArchitecture, Media Art, Shows, Videos.


On the occasion of his participation in the exhibition “Sensing Place. Mediatizing the Urban Landscape at House of Electronic Arts Basel”, vernissage.tv had the chance to talk to artist and scientist Mark Shepard. In this interview, he talks about his Sentient City Survival Kit, his participation in this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, and other projects.

Mark Shepard earned Master Degrees at Columbia University and Hunter College, City University of New York and works as an artist, architect and researcher. His research focuses on the implications of mobile and pervasive computing for architecture and urbanism. In fall 2009 he curated the exhibition “Toward the Sentinent City” that was organized by The Architectural League, New York. In the exhibition, Shepard critically explored the evolving relationship between ubiquitous computing, architecture and the public space. In addition to the exhibition he edited the book “Sentinent City: ubiquitous computing, architecture and the future of urban space”. He currently holds a fellowship at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York.

Interview with Mark Shepard at House of Electronic Arts Basel. September 1, 2012.

A users guide to the Sentient City Survival Kit.

The Sentient City Survival Kit probes the social, cultural and political implications of ubiquitous computing for urban environments. The project consists of a collection of artifacts for survival in the near-future sentient city.

As computing leaves the desktop and spills out onto the sidewalks, streets and public spaces of the city, information processing becomes embedded in and distributed throughout the material fabric of everyday urban space. Pervasive/ubiquitous computing evangelists herald a coming age of urban information systems capable of sensing and responding to the events and activities transpiring around them. Imbued with the capacity to remember, correlate and anticipate, this “sentient” city is envisioned as being capable of reflexively monitoring our behavior within it and becoming an active agent in the organization of our daily lives.

Few may quibble about “smart” traffic light control systems that more efficiently manage the ebbs and flows of trucks, cars and busses on our city streets. Some may be irritated when discount coupons for their favorite espresso drink are beamed to their mobile phone as they pass by Starbucks. Many are likely to protest when they are denied passage through a subway turnstile because the system “senses” that their purchasing habits, mobility patterns and current galvanic skin response (GSR) reading happens to match the profile of a terrorist.

The project aims to raise awareness of the implications for privacy, autonomy, trust and serendipity in this highly observant, ever-more efficient and over-coded city.