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#32: Augmented Reality

“This Workshop was one of the most instructive, productive, questioning, and complex of the Lab’s efforts so far.”  

                                                         -Ron Mallis, Founder, Boston APP/Lab


Boston APP/Lab is hoping to use the interest, ideas, and reactions to Workshop #32 as the catalyst for a follow up workshop in 2017.  E-mail to participate


  • What new opportunities does AR open up for civic participation?

  • How can AR “democratize” art?


Augmented Reality: an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information of an image of something being viewed through a device...



  • Whose reality?

  • What is the “something?”

  • Information about what?

  • And then what happens?


To lead us through this remix, prod us to think more expansively about the uses to which augmented reality can be put into place, and about the users ( actual and potential ) we were honored to have the participation of George Fifield, Director, Boston Cyberarts, and, from Emerson’s Engagement Lab, Eric Gordon, Founding Director, and Christina Wilson, Programs Manager, facilitate presentations.


Each discussed their AR-based projects – whether focused on civic participation (Participatory Pokémon Go) or civic art ("The Augmented Landscape") or both -- which they are currently implementing in the Boston area. While AR opens up the possibility for new ways of seeing and interacting with the world, such initiatives in the civic space also raise questions around issues of access to technology, representation in participation, and digital equity.

A big thanks to Dillon Bustin, Artistic Director, Hibernian Hall, and his colleagues at Madison Park Development Corporation.



  • Will virtual art eventually affect the real art? Are future artists coders?

  • Augmented Reality would be a powerful tool in the hands of artists in societies that suffer from lack of freedom of speech.

  • It could very much help in civic campaigns. AR has a great potential to become a powerful political narrative.

  • Democratizing the art? Who will access to this type of art? Who is more willing to discover the virtual art?   I believe if the augmented reality represents an existing reality of a society that has been underrepresented, if it helps the excluded voices to be heard, people will become more and more eager to search for them and to discover them.  

  • Can we download or save the virtual pieces of art? New series of applications could allow us to save the artwork upon the permission of the artist who has created it.

  • I would like to know about the platform on which the pieces of art are being uploaded. Is it accessible to public? Is it free? Is it like a domain to buy from IT providers? Is it possible to filter or luck it like the websites or apps that are being locked in some countries like Iran or China?


  • We assume that art is to be seen or experienced. However, by creating layers (some visible, some invisible), AR challenges this notion. How can we play with what is seen, what is not seen (and by whom)?

    •   Does this lead to a lack of narrative?

  •   If no one is aware the AR piece exists and never sees it, does it count as art?

  •  How can we use AR to expand of public memory? Is it a new way to create monuments?

  •  "Which people?" get to experience the AR?

  •  Who has the right to control the AR and who puts what where?

    • Can a park sue Pokemon Go if participants ruin the park while participating in the game?

    • If so, who will regulate this?

  • Potential Directions

  • Can we create online database for all AR installations?

    • Net Neutrality

  • What if AR is created by the culturally dominant voice?

    • What is the language and vocabulary used?

  • What if/ how can AR become more participatory?

    •   Creation of an app that allows users to manipulate the AR?

    •   Can it provide access and or build physiological walls?

    •   Does it change the power of voice?

  • Social media might be the way to make AR egalitarian

  • Urban planning and design! AR can be a way to see what will be the future of our city and space (providing hope, education, or terror ( i.e- global warming)

  • Commemorate/Personalizing your city with your own story (where you met your wife, where you used to live...)

    •  Does this personalization recraft the value of a city?

    •  Does this allow a voice for a new cultural dominance and significance?



#31:  Making Public Art for Civic Engagement


What are the necessary conditions by which art in public places can contribute to – or even generate -- civil engagement?
What kinds of interventions will ease communication among people, whether on the same or on different pages?
 What are the respective roles of the public...the place...the artist in creating this kind of engagement?
We invite you to join us in this energizing Workshop to help craft some real answers in real time. Co-designing and co-facilitating the Lab will be Susan Israel, President and Founder, Climate Creatives & Energy Necklace Project. Climate Creatives and Boston APP/Lab are teaming up to cross-pollinate our methods, to see what emerges – and to figure out what we can do together that we can’t do separately.
And, by the way, to expand the definition of “we.”


Preventing civil engagement

  • Lack of understanding

  • Lack of curiosity

  • Conflict aversion

  • Fear of the unknown(s)/of the other(s)

  • Self-involvement

  • Assumptions

  • Stereotyping

  • Unfriendliness

  • Apathy

  • Blindspots

  • Lack of awareness

  • To what extent has the private domain taken over the public commons as a setting for civil engagement?

Allowing civil engagement

  • Listening

  • Animals

  • Empathy

  • Hard times

  • Eye contact

  • Good questions

  • Inviting signs: “do this”

  • Circles

  • Proximity

  • Storytelling

  • Absurdity

  • What are some approaches to bridging physical space and cyberspace?


1. Cocktail Soiree:

This idea comes from the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center’s “Salons at Stowe” 

The purpose is to invite guests for a conversation about opposing views. Start with a 15 minute social time for guests to mingle and have casual conversation, add wine to allow guests to feel relaxed and drop inhibitions. (Keep to 15 minutes so the conversations remain introductory without encouraging people to identify their view.) Ask guests to have a seat anywhere. Each of the two speakers will have 10 minutes to present their views, then have a mediator ask the guests to share their thoughts. The intent is to have guests connect on a social level before discussing the issue, and these interactions may cause guests with opposing views to sit next to each other. Since they may have already had a cordial conversation, this will help guests to build a rapport and discuss the topic in a more civil manner.

2. Multifaceted sculpture: 

Create a sculpture that changes as the viewer walks around the piece. (Example: From one angle the sculpture appears to be playing children, from another angle it reveals refugees drowning.) The intent is for the viewer to experience the change as they walk around the piece. This gives the viewer control of how quickly the difficult issue is revealed to them. And by giving the viewer that control, it also gives them time to process their feelings. 

3.  “The Other Side”

This is a 24/7 high quality video and audio “magic mirror” that connects two social spaces, one in a deep blue state and the other in a deep red state. The ideas is to bridge public space and make this a shared space for public dialogue and interventions orchestrated by interested parties on both sides of the “divide” this is inspired by the iCom project by Stefan Agamanolis, a multipoint awareness and communication portal for connecting remote social spaces

 4. “Different Facets”

This is a sculpture that allows you to see different views depending on what angle you are looking at it from. Emphasizes the idea of multiple perspectives, a physical manifestation of the the oft-quoted  Alan Kay phrase, “A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points”

5. “Dinner Partisans”

Get people with different points of view together for dinner, have then share a meal, get together and meet each other in a social scene, and then have a moderator ask a difficult question to have people around a table work on a solution, little do people know that they have been seated with people of different political stripes at the same table, but once they have shared stories and a meal, they are more likely to come up with interesting solutions?

(From Ron Mallis: I thought of Luis Bunuel's movie "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" -- a group of upper middle class people attempting—despite continual interruptions—to dine together.)


#30: The Function of Public Art is to Transform the Way People Respond to Each Other

Some backstory...
We asked the following at an earlier Workshop on public art and urban design:

"How does or can public art transform the ways in which people use and think about public space? "

The sculptor Eric Sealine defined one such transformation:

"Art in public places has less to do with the object itself than with the community created by its effect on those who see/hear it."

Building and reinforcing community, in other words, through new "ritual spaces" in which (again from Eric) the “normal rules of (dis)engagement are changed.”


Thus, this upcoming Workshop.

With Eric, we'll begin with an open discussion of some basic assumptions and ideas regarding these kinds of "transformation." We’ll then spend the bulk of the evening in small groups brainstorming responses to opportunities for transformation: Where else? What else? Who else?
We want to hear from you -- your ideas, your "what if's...": 

  • Some examples of where and how these “ritual” spaces have, and can, come to life;

  • The conditions that make such spaces possible;

  • The design elements – visual, performance, both – and on the social elements – individuals, communities, groups -- that contribute to their creation.

  • Implementation roles and responsibilities

San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ mission state that “we generate culture that moves people.”
We invite you to join us in brainstorming – and collaborating on – ways to “generate culture that moves people.” It’s a pretty exciting goal.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was one of the Lab’s most idea-rich Workshops, with a considerable amount of additional post-event suggestions. We’d very much like to hear from you regarding these note – and the Workshop itself as outlined in the announcement: questions, further ideas, comments – pro or con. And see the concluding remark: send those brainstorms to



  • How to engage/connect with – non-verbally and otherwise – the public more in sculptural/performance art; art being used for “social purpose”

  • Can art create moments of safety, as well as moments of “shock”

  • Impact of space on residents; how art plays into space

    • What brings us together?

    • Space in which we can feel vulnerable

    • Boundaries: conditions around the edge: good public space has an edge that provides that feeling of safety/interest/place we can inhabit

    • Rituals that allow us to engage with each other, whether we know them or not

  • Can an artist predict how the people will respond to a work of art in a public place?

  • Can such art be “transformative” in the long term?

  • Who gives permission for “ownership” of that space?


THEME 1: Is there an “equation” or “prescriptive process” to creating a space that provokes civic/civil engagement?

  • “Origin” stories: visual/collaborative ways for strangers to stop and answer the question: “How’d you get to this place?” 

  • Creating a “wow” moment that makes you stop

  • Something about the piece that allows for “breaking the bubble” – permitting/prompting a conversation 

  • Provide a place/space that allows the “vulnerable” to be safe – somewhere relatable to the people of the area and the “outsiders”

  • Have the power of the piece resonate to the moments beyond the time spent at the installation:

    • E.g., how can the moment you had speaking with strangers be brought into your everyday routine?


THEME 2: What could that process look like?

  • Mapping, pinging, yarn, “draw” your route

    • On my way to..., coming

    • Trigger question: focus on something the participant wouldn’t normally focus on

    • Bring you out of your routine

      • How does sharing a routine bring you out of it?

      • How would something like this provoke engagement with someone else?

  • Central point: “you are here”

  • Tool(s) to record not just personal “history,” but something about the culture within which personal history happens/exists

    • Drawing? Chalk? 

    • Wall of to-do lists?

  • Visual data collection

  • Five major languages, with categories selected by language

  • People doing the same thing: bond of commonality/common ground

    • Curiosity voyeurism (re others’ routines/watching others document their experience)


THEME 3 (summarized by Herb Nolan): How can public art turn those rules of disengagement around?   

  • We need invitations to engage one another. If a work of art is successful we first look at the art and then turn to each other. 

  • Public art that engages in this way: cf. the "Bean”; Ann Hamilton’s “Event of the Thread”; Michael Alfano’s chalkboards on hiking trails

    • Later comment from Michael: My thought was to make the public as much a part of the creative process as I could. I want to go beyond interactive art to “changeable” art. I want the public not just to passively look at the art, nor interact with the art, but to be able to fundamentally change it and create new forms and images.

  • Public art does not need to be expensive cf. the Bean) to be successful in this way

  • What qualities invite this kind of engagement? Art that is:

    • interactive

    • receptive (of our input)

    • immersive

    • disruptive (of our daily routines)

    • temporal (there today, gone tomorrow)

    • open ended (reflects back our 

    • engaging (challenges the audience to do something or to collaborate)

    • asking  (not stating a conclusion)

  • A big snow storm that gets everyone outside has some of these qualities.

  • How to create a safe space and state of mind that is receptive to new experience?   Joy and surprise can create that space.


THEME 4: How, where, and with whom can one or another – or several – of these “concepts” be translated into actions? 

  • Answers to come...



  • From Mike Tyrrell on behalf of Brenda Be, LMerchie Frazier, Richard Youngstrom, William Bloomfield, and himself


      • One important sidebar centered on funding, and all agree it is vital to substantive visual impact, sustained programming (depending on the piece), and long-term maintenance. Funding is tricky and competitive. It's success is often tied to grant writing where given proposals are deeply synergistic with source programming/agendas. Perhaps "Funding" deserves its own charrette?


      • From here on, two "suppositions" emerged – not mutually exclusive, but certainly descriptive of range – between (1) the absolute need to invite and structure community input on permanent art installation initiatives, and (2) the desire for (and to some, the increasing need for) developing less prescribed methods for creating public art – a dynamic that encourages more trial and experimentation. Either approach should compel strategies whereby citizens can feel creatively engaged at maximum, and/or project aware at minimum.


Consensus formed where permanent long-term installations should typically require neighborhood review (avoiding "the bronze half-moon obstacle course," for example – the "we have to live with it" concerns), where conversely, invention and spontaneity in temporary work might better thrive if less beholden to prescribed review processes; i.e.: less prequalification and more risk-taking ("Here's a public art site -go to it"... and who knows?..."it might evolve into something less ephemeral; let's take a chance/we trust you").


    • Whether temporary or permanent, community input is necessary to a vital and enlightening process. In either case the artist's vision should be accorded trust and authority to the extent expected from any such leadership position. Hereby a magnanimous dialogue can ensue between the composer and his or her public. Again, the two perspectives are not mutually exclusive, and can play off each other. "All politics is local"... "A well defined problem is half solved"... "E Pluribus Unum!"...

    • Our group didn't discuss specific sites, but per Ron's request we should nominate some (and please do so here, in response to this draft?).... One area I always liked is the head of the Fort Point Channel. It's on the Harborwalk/Harbortrail, but there's much room for temporary waterborne or bank connected pieces; a good place to promote temporary, environmental art. The head of the Channel -including the water sheet- has long been the subject of speculation for improving the public realm in this area. We could potentially position ourselves at the forefront of making this place a significant and memorable gateway between Fort Point Channel and Boston Harbor, and the South End and Roxbury.


#29: Catalysts For Creating New -- And Strengthening Existing -- Social Networks: Arts In Public Places As Tools For Individual And Community Healing


 Questions & Themes

How – and at what scale – can art in public places heal communities?

 What – and where – are the opportunities for implementing such art?

 What are some of necessary characteristics of “collection points” -- that bring together the arts and the public?

How can such initiatives be sustained?

These questions, and others, were the focus of this workshop, taking place during a period in which healing is critical. We examined this subject from multiple perspectives and contexts, with opening input from the worlds of music, light art and technology, and public health.

Helping to establish this framework were: Courtney Grey, Founder, Kilombo Novo Indigenous Healing Arts; Rebecca Strauss, Music Director, Riverview Chamber Players (; Bevan Weissman, Co-Founder, New American Public Art (

Participants brainstormed new initiatives in the arena of arts in public spaces, with some leading questions:

  •  How would you -- informed by your environment, profession, community, personal perspective – apply them to create your own “catalysts?”

  • What are your definitions or illustrations of “healing” – at whatever scale?

  •  Where can those definitions or illustrations take places?

  •  Who participates?


Thanks to Darrell Ann Gane-McCalla, Jackie Gonzales, Max Stearns, Marina Sutton

Opening remarks:

Rebecca Strauss

  • Harmony & Hope: 5/13/16 “Responding to Violence with Music”

    • concert for victims of homicide - mostly youth and children!

    • this concert brought people to Arlington Street Church that never go to that part of town

    • concert bridged gap in demographics and race

    • wants to create summer concerts in the Roxbury community

    • future concert at First Church of Roxbury

    • trying to help people claim public space, lot of people in various demographics afraid to cross

  • Certain neighborhood divides

    • healing by bringing people together!

    • art-making as an act of healing!

    • creating resilience for people!

    • “third space” a sociological term! !

Courtney Gray

  • In Boston, Clara Wainwright: communal quilt-making while talking about community issues!

  • In Philadelphia: making mosaics on walls of empty lots; using the rubble to beautify

  • Unsightly local space; community working together and taking possession of the space

Bevan Weissman

  • Our Self project in Camden, NJ: using digital media; soundbite stories collected in community

  • Giving the digital media a physical presence in the public realm by building a moveable sculptural object that can be engaged with by viewers/listeners!

  • No one vandalized the piece; shows a respect for the art and the stories


How do you qualify and quantify the impact of public art?

  • How do you fund public art? How do you argue spending all that money when there are many more practical things that need to be funded?

  • Art as a “catalyst,” as a point of departure: don’t have to solve all the problems

  • People leave their mark on a space or an art piece

What kinds of initiatives can generate healing at whatever level?

  • Intertwined healing of individuals, families, neighborhood, community: all need to be healthy

  • In what ways are the words “resilience” and “healing” parallel? In what ways are they different?

  • Challenge: how to demonstrate value to the community, financially and every other way

  • Consider the healing impact of the space itself in which an event (e.g., Riverview Chamber Players’ “Harmony and Hope”) or other initiative (e.g., New American Public Art’s “Our Self”) is taking place or is installed  

    • Arts can blur demographic lines

    • Art (visual, performance) should be everwhere, part of daily life

    • Mainstream Boston vs. “mini-Bostons”: latter unable to reclaim space in former

    • Art should not be tailored to certain type of healing

  • Reclaim/reimagine spaces – third spaces – that can create healing while also creating new or strengthening existing social networks

    • Art can allow people to feel ownership over their space

  • Partnerships/collaborations critical in conceiving of/designing healing initiatives

    • Incorporate the community: “My voice is there; I’m part of what’s been created.”

    • For true community engagement, relinquish control, give ownership to community players

    • Lots of different players need to be involved to create healing spaces

    • “Our Self,” project from New American Public Art: “the voices protected it: the community kept it safe.”

    • The artist creates context – space, structure – for contributions by/from the community

  • Building a portal to an oasis

    • People crossing boundaries, going to places they wouldn’t normally go

    • Kinds of oases? Gardens?

Follow-up workshop: Designing the “oasis”: process...product...results, including longer-term impact