Saving Face: Shared Experience and Dialogue on Social Touch, in Playful Smart Public Space

  • Karen LancelEmail author
  • Hermen Maat
  • Frances Brazier
Part of the Gaming Media and Social Effects book series (GMSE)


Can shared experience and dialogue on social touch be orchestrated in playful smart public spaces? In smart city public spaces, in which physical and virtual realities are currently merging, new forms of social connections, interfaces and experiences are being explored. Within art practice, such new connections include new forms of affective social communication with additional social and sensorial connections to enable and enhance empathic, intimate experience in playful smart public space. This chapter explores a novel design for shared intimate experience of playful social touch in three orchestrations of ‘Saving Face’, in different cultural and geographical environments of smart city (semi-) public spaces, in Beijing, Utrecht, Dessau-Berlin. These orchestrations are purposefully designed to create a radically unfamiliar sensory synthesis to disrupt the perception of ‘who sees and who is being seen, who touches and who is being touched’. Participants playfully ‘touch themselves and feel being touched, to connect with others on a screen’. All three orchestrations show that shared experience and dialogue on social touch can be mediated by playful smart cities technologies in public spaces, but rely on design of mediated, intimate and exposed forms of ‘self-touch for social touch’, ambivalent relations, exposure of dialogue and hosting.


Social engagement Digital performance art City smart spaces Intimacy Exposure Playful social touch 



The authors wish to thank Prof. Caroline Nevejan, Susa Pop and Public Art Lab Berlin and Connecting Cities Network for their inspirational contribution and support.

Saving Face [9] was developed by Lancel/Maat (Karen Lancel, Hermen Maat) as an art work, artistic research and case study (

The work was generously supported by Media Fund, Mondriaan Fonds, Festival aan de Werf Utrecht, MediaFonds@Sandberg, Cultural Consulate Beijing, BCAF Beijing, Beam Systems Amsterdam, Dutch Embassy Berlin, SICA NLTR 400. It was technically developed in collaboration with Sylvain Vriens, Tim Olden, Matthijs ten Berge, Mart van Bree, Beamsystems, using Kyle McDonald and Jason Saragih open source Facetracker library.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Delft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Artists duo Lancel/MaatAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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