San Francisco unveils Murmur Wall data-driven public art by Future Cities Lab

Jul 07, 2015, 10:00 ET from Future Cities Lab

SAN FRANCISCO, July 7, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Faith in the potential of emerging technologies and the internet of things to make cities more livable has a lot of people talking these days. Take Google's recent launch of Sidewalk Labs as an example. The new company will focus on "developing and incubating urban technologies." Google's co-founder Larry Page explained that "as more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving our urban environments are endless."

For Future Cities Lab, an experimental design studio and think tank based in San Francisco, Google's focus on urban innovation only validates their own long term interest in exploring the intersections of digital technologies and urban space. Murmur Wall, a new interactive art installation in downtown San Francisco, does just that.

By harvesting local online activity - via search engines and social media - Murmur Wall transforms data into real-time streams of light and text. The outdoor public installation, commissioned by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and located adjacent to the Moscone Center, is a striking sculptural lattice woven out of steel, LED tubes and large 3D printed data displays. Murmur Wall straddles the line between digital art and architecture by harvesting what the neighborhood is searching for on the internet, then using these search terms to activate public spaces around the artwork.

Whereas most electronic artworks are limited to gallery settings, Future Cities Lab's founding designers Jason Kelly Johnson and Nataly Gattegno created the 70-foot-long Murmur Wall for the outdoors, allowing it to be accessible 24 hours a day. "We are interested in exploring how data can become a visceral, tangible, and poetic urban experience," Johnson explained. "Making living in cities less predictable and perhaps more playful and interactive."

In a recent Pew poll, 74% of Americans found it "very important" to be in control of who has access to their data while only 34% felt the same about being able to get around in public without being identified. The poll also highlighted how few Americans know whether their everyday online activities are secure or how their data is being used.

"There is a lot of debate these days about how the internet of things will make the city less private, but also more intelligent and productive," said Gattegno. "Our lab is particularly interested in its potential to challenge and inspire the public to engage cities in new and unexpected ways."



SOURCE Future Cities Lab