Toronto Metropolitan University
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Massive media: theories and practices of large-scale projections and public data visualizations

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posted on 2023-01-24, 17:11 authored by David ColangeloDavid Colangelo
This dissertation describes, historicizes, theorizes, and deploys “massive media,” an emerging subset of technical assemblages that include large outdoor projections, programmable architectural façades, and urban screens. Massive media are massive in their size and subsequent visibility, but are also an agglomeration of media in their expressive screen and cinema-like qualities and their associated audio, interactive, and network capabilities. This dissertation finds that massive media enable and necessitate the development of new practices of expanded cinema, public data visualization, and new media art and curation that blend the logics of urban space, monumentality, and the public sphere with the aesthetics and affordances of digital information and the moving image to support a more participatory public culture in which we identify and engage with collective presence, memory, and action through information, architecture, and the moving image. Through historical research, case studies, conversations with cultural producers, participant observation, and creation-as-research projects, large-scale public projections are shown to represent a new monumentality that can be better understood and evaluated using analytical tools from cinema studies, namely superimposition, montage, and apparatus/dispositif. Low-resolution LED façades, while sharing some of the functional and theoretical characteristics of projection, are shown to uniquely support an emerging practice of public data visualization and represent a more consistent embodiment of a hybrid and relational public sphere through a tighter coupling of information, architecture, and context. Programmable architectural façades, more than projections, embody the development of supermodernism in architecture where data-rich public spaces of identity, congregation, and contestation seek and find appropriate and consistent outlets in highly visible spatial assemblages of architecture and media. Finally, a curatorial approach to massive media is crucial in order to create suitable spaces and opportunities for the development of massive media as a legitimate art form. This requires the sustained provision of technical support and coordination as well as an ongoing negotiation with corporate, institutional, and civic owners and operators. While massive media exists primarily as a highly commercialized phenomenon, it can also be pressed into service, through coordinated curatorial and artistic efforts, to critique or co-opt commercialization, and to re-envision the role of urban media environments in shaping collective identity, historical consciousness, and public display culture.





  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Communication and Culture

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • Dissertation



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