Performing Space at Science + Technology by other means Conference (Barcelona)

Performing Space is a mobile phone application that makes use of GPS technology in the study of public space. The method of acting and (re)enacting stories is used with the aim to investigate embodiment as an instrument in the transfer of site-specific knowledge. The app is presented at 4S/EASST 2016 Conference in Barcelona for the track walking and embodiment with and by technologies. Together with conference participants, the area of Poble Nou is explored, a neighbourhood situated right next to the conference venue.

Poble Nou has an industrial past, which is clearly to be recognised in its architecture. After the industrial revolution, however, a period of decline left the area abandoned. With the Olympic games in 1992, the area turned into the innovation district of Barcelona. Under the name of project 22@ the area was proclaimed to become the biggest centre of business and innovation of the city. Although in its initial phase the plan was critiqued by many local inhabitants, it has started to set foot in a seemingly more organic way than the critics had envisioned. The area, however, breathes an air of partial acceptance in which locals seem to be living in parallel worlds. It is not clear how the perceived and lived space are played out in the neighbourhood; for instance, how are innovative projects (such as the fab lab) in Poble Nou perceived by locals? Who participates in the transformation and use of sites and businesses and in what ways? Performing Space is an application that engages with these questions by building narratives around the neighbourhoods local businesses and urban furniture. Through reenacting and building on the narratives the stories evolve.

The proposal for this app sets off from Jacques Ranciére’s scepticism of ‘stultifying’ knowledge and proposes a process- and affect-based way of acquiring knowledge through performative mapping with GPS technology. A number of story lines are being assembled that present a controversy about a specific site. Each story line takes a different stance on the controversy. These stories become accessible to participants of the conference through the use of location-aware mobile technologies where the sound implicitly gives directions. Only by following the exact same route does the story unfold – when deviating from the track, the audio fades out. The public spaces that the participants pass through are the backdrop of the stories, a shared space between the guides and the participants. An intensive engagement with the story-teller is proposed through a performative cartography. Through taking the role of the story teller, at some point of the track, the participant is invited to continue his/her story line; a personification of the storyteller becomes a strategy to follow on Ranciére’s Emancipation of the Spectacle in defying “the opposition between viewing and acting”. This way non-fictional stories (told by local inhabitants) become mingled or juxtaposed to fictional ones (stories added by the listeners). This experience can be repeated with other participants through following, listening, reenacting and contributing to the stories of the previous groups. Via a website it will be possible to keep track of the evolving stories over time through the performances of different map-readers/actors. So even after the day of the conference, the actors will be able to see their persona growing and being reenacted by different participants.

The area of Poble Nou and on the right the conference venue

Poble Nou district. On the right the conference venue

Map of Poble Nou depicting its local businesses, startups, co-working spaces, spaces of production, etc.

Map of Poble Nou depicting its local businesses, startups, co-working spaces, spaces of production, design hubs, fablab, etc.

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Here’s a blog post of the track: