social connectivity

A Room with a (Digital) View

I attended a tour of Victoria Square, Adelaide on the 5th of June. The project has been the subject of ongoing collaboration between many stakeholders, of which Adelaide City Council and TCL have ongoing pivotal roles. What was evident, even without delving into any one of the 4 volumes of documentation, was the level of commitment required it to achieve the design intent thus far.

As TCL director Damian Schultz elaborated on the design process it became clear that the Victoria Square is a design that will never cease to be active. ACC employ no less than 14 staff who program the space with events that keep it activated, continually drawing people into the space. The idea that space has to be programmed, that this is perpetual and integral to the ongoing success of the space is fundamental.

Space of this nature doesn’t happen by accident. It requires collaboration by both those who design spaces and those who manage it. This might seem obvious to a landscape architect, but in the digital design of space the concept of programming space brings with it a host of new applications.

In Victoria Square you can sit around and watch the world go by. It isn’t an irrational thing to do. Our level of interaction with the surrounding world can be minimal. Fleeting. Unremarkable. But would I spend time in a digital space for the same purpose? Would I watch a seemingly haphazard, world of polygons recreate such a scenario and feel the same connection with it? More explicitly, what would be the measure of such an experience? The oneness of self and environment?


Digital space in computer games already offers the opportunity to explore, mingle with other digital personas, some real people, some programmes. Like physical spaces such as city squares, MMOGs (massive multiplayer online games) become activated when people start to inhabit them and interact. The context of these spaces isn’t always about ‘winning’ either. They are about exploring. Deserted alleyways. Empty rooms. Rolling landscapes. Wilderness. The sublime.

Perhaps the digital layer of information shouldn’t try to compete with nature but work with it.

Digital gaming in particular, seems to be an almost exclusively domesticated pursuit.

Seldom is there the opportunity to hybridise this experience and utilise the public realm.

If the measure of a successful space is in part down to the number of people that are drawn to the space, facilitating those people digitally is as important as it is physically. Victoria Square, it should be noted, has free wi-fi.

With man’s presence no longer only registered as a physical presence, but a digital presence too, our connectivity to space and attention are divided like never before. We’re forever distracted by our alter-egos, our digital microcosms. Social connectivity isn’t what it used to be. It’s a running social commentary, a hash tag, a trend. For digital information to be a successful branch of the public realm it has to be utilised more effectively. There is more potential in activating space than arching over to a mate to show your flappy bird high score.