As cities are transformed into networked publics though the installation of digital communication technologies, will they be able to accommodate and support the plurality of needs and desires of the people who live there? This project looks at urban screens through a critical lens by applying queer theory through an autobiographical design process. A metaphor of ‘going feral’ is used to design and build ambiguous prototypes that are then temporarily installed in public spaces. The resulting ‘Feral Screens’ are used to imagine alternative communication devices and networks and a prompt for self-reflection.
The warm bright screen slows your pace. The desire to look overcomes your fear of dark isolated places. You pause to read the message that scrolls across the screen (who would write such a thing?) before hurrying on to your business. It is a route that parents avoid taking their children, there in no filter between the anonymous writer and the rest of the public. This does not stop adolescents making illicit pilgrimage in hope of salacious gossip or innovative foul language but often find only the mark left by some stranger’s lowest self.
You see them everywhere, once you know to look. Little blue beacons, a talisman to keep the voyeurs and the thieves at bay. By day they make no sense, a bundle of wire encased in plastic and nothing but garbled text on the screen. By night it is a different matter, the screens illuminate dreams, memories and desires sacrificed in hope of protection from further intrusion. Some think assembling scraps of gossip or mere facts can keep the thieves but beaconsmiths in the marketplace know that only something deeper will sate their appetite. “I’ll sell you a good one, protection guaranteed” they tell you as you wonder how a professional confessor can have any secrets left to give.