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Interfacing the City

Media Theory Approach to Cognitive Mapping of the Smart City Through Urban Interfaces

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,volume 12429)

Abstract

The aim of the paper is to analyse the interface as a cognitive map of the smart city from a media-theoretic perspective. The issue of cognitive mapping in the context of urbanism was articulated in Lynch’s The Image of the City where the notion of “image ability” or constructing a mental map of the spatial and environmental features of the city played the major role in how humans experience the city. Media theory sees the city as an information-processing medium that consists of both physical and digital layers, making the (smart) city a hybrid product made of “atoms and bits”. Following Manovich, the paper argues that there is no necessary link between the digital data and their form, as digital material is a material without qualities which requires a certain form, that is an interface, to be perceived. The paper argues that the interface is 1) a relation between the visible surface layer and the deeper, invisible layer of a medium and 2) Norman’s cognitive artefact which helps humans with information complexity and overload. Applying Haken and Portugali (2003), the paper asserts the information-centric view of the smart city. Lynch claimed that the future form of the city should allow experiencing the city as a whole by constructing a synthetic image. The paper suggests that the only solution to Lynch’s requirement in the age of the smart city is designing an urban interface. Finally, the paper defines the urban interface and offers a brief selection of historical and contemporary examples of urban interfaces.

Keywords

  • Cognitive mapping
  • Image ability
  • Kevin lynch
  • Media theory
  • Smart city
  • Urban interface

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I am deliberately using the semantic ambiguity of the word “sensual”. I refer both to the ability of a form-interface to seduce our senses, following Don Norman’s approach to design elaborated his Emotional design [18] and the general goal of User Experience Design to create attractive and meaningful user experiences. But also, I refer to a form-interface that can be presented to and affect our senses.

  2. 2.

    This paper acknowledges the difference between the mental image and cognitive map. While the cognitive map introduced by [43] and used regularly in cognitive science and psychology refers to the internal mental model that a person keeps in the head, the mental mapping as practiced in Lynch (1960) and subsequently urban geography in general refers to an externalised cognitive model, usually in the form of a drawing when research based on Lynch’s work gives humans a task to create a drawing of the urban area. For the discussion on the origins of the cognitive map see [44]. This paper uses the terms interchangeably.

  3. 3.

    The arguments for the new media and software studies and analytical tools for studying new media technologies were for the first time analysed in a systematic fashion in Manovich’s seminal work The Language of New Media [40]

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Correspondence to Jakub Ferenc .

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Ferenc, J. (2020). Interfacing the City. In: Stephanidis, C., Duffy, V.G., Streitz, N., Konomi, S., Krömker, H. (eds) HCI International 2020 – Late Breaking Papers: Digital Human Modeling and Ergonomics, Mobility and Intelligent Environments. HCII 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12429. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59987-4_20

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59987-4_20

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