TAG: Scripting Presence

“Moving elements in a city, and in particular the people and their activities, are as important as the stationary physical parts. We are not simply observers of this spectacle, but are ourselves a part of it, on the stage with the other participants. Most often, our perception of the city is not sustained, but rather partial, fragmentary, mixed with other concerns. Nearly every sense is in operation, and the image is the composite of them all.” -Kevin Lynch, "The Image of the City"

The recent success in Times Square’s redevelopment has revitalized tourism and business while establishing a strong corporate presence. Concurrently, its public life as defined by its inhabitants has been reduced with a space outlined primarily by commercial interests and expression. Moreover, the public experiences of participant and spectator has been further emphasized towards the latter as this public arena increasingly becomes an audience for broadcasted content. Therefore, in choosing Times Square as my project site, I am interested in reinforcing its sense of “place”, particularly to the individuals who roam within by creating a street-level activity. My thesis project, <TAG> Scripting Presence, intends to create a momentary place along the path of the individual’s navigation through this public space providing a platform for self-expression while connecting to a wider network of similar-like portals. In exchange for their personal inscription, individuals will be able to participate with each other by “claiming” these “nodes”, and contribute to the accumulative process of place making through (1) communicating elements of her/his identity, (2) altering the physical form of a space, and (3) constructing a new interpretation of a place either in the mind of the participant and/or its overall inhabitants through a ritualistic activity. By initiating a sense of belonging and, thus, ownership to a public space, both the individual’s experience and the place itself becomes enriched.

TAG: Assertion of Presence
The inundation of consumer and mass media advertisements has eroded the presence of the individual within the city. In my thesis, I will explore how we can reclaim our physical landscape by reinserting the individual through visual representation into her/his urban environment. My intent is to create a momentary place to communicate messages of self-expression contributing to a network in which the next user can connect and experience. As it is important to see representation of one’s identity within mass media and culture, likewise, it is important to see representation of self within one’s physical arena. Graffiti created a medium of self-expression affecting the city’s spaces with the announcement of the existence of urban youths. In Matt Locke’s and Jaap de Joonge’s project, “Speaker’s Corner”, messages from the public are displayed on an LED screen in the town center. I will investigate other means of self-expression integrated with technology within the context of the city. I will research how mobile and broadcast technology can increase access to and enable communication within the public space. Lastly, I will examine how mass media and culture affects the individual’s perception of self within one’s physical and cultural settings.


How can we reclaim the physical landscape by reinserting the presence of the individual through visual representation to create a momentary place to relay and display our messages of self-expression contributing to a structure/network in which the next user can connect and experience?

How can we reclaim our physical landscape from commercial expression and create a momentary place to communicate messages (visual, audio) of self-expression to contribute to a structure/network in which future users can connect and experience?

To create a momentary base/point/place that will allow users to leave a piece of themselves-a trace, remnant, marking, message contributing to a structure/space in which future users can partake, discover, and experience.



"How many people can walk through a city and prove they were there? It's a sign I was here. My hand made this mark. I'm fucking alive!"-Omar, New York [1]  

My concept stems from the idea of graffiti, a visual self-expression, carried forth and displayed in public spaces, initially by urban youths, often in an effort to be seen, heard, and remembered in their non-inclusive environment. The allure of this medium of art is not just the mark, trace, or message that the writer imparts but also the acknowledgement and response the viewer delivers upon discovering someone's "tag". Thus, a new form of communication emerged from the streets of New York City. Graffiti allowed for a marginalized segment of the population that lacked consumer, political, and social power to acquire the access and ability to influence their physical and cultural surroundings. By broadcasting their voice through visual representation, these urban youths asserted and established the power of both their presence and identity within the city environs.  

Presently, accessibility to public terrain, physical and digital, is shrinking from our daily grasps. Our tangible landscape has become an overgrowth of billboards, advertisements, and flyers incessantly declaring the existence of corporate America and our consumer culture. "Commercial expression" has multiplied, flourished, and outweighed human self-expression. Our space has become more determined for us rather than created by us; and along with that a loss in our means, mode, and opportunities for diverse self-expression. Furthermore, as technology embeds into culture, one's purchasing power increasingly defines one's involvement within society and its development. Likewise, in the digital arena, the massive influence and ubiquity of the Internet has generated interest and movement to gain control of the production and distribution of information from the hands of the individual to the board of the private organization. Therefore, the ability to become and remain a part of the physical and digital panorama depends on one's power to consume, possess, and commercialize.

For my thesis, I am interested in exploring other methods, forms, and behavior that we apply and display in our public space to reach the people around us. How does technology shape and engage the individual's ability to assert his/her identity? How can it be used to equalize our accessibility to self-expression within our physical and digital environments? How can it enrich our experience with each other? I am concerned with our present and future opportunities to remain a part of our physical and virtual landscapes, and, also with our ability to continually contribute to it. I would like to create either a site or an application that would allow users a means and an opportunity to be seen, heard, and remembered by leaving a piece of themselves - a trace, remnant, marking, or message contributing to a structure or space in which future users can partake, discover, and respond; and thus, for connections to follow.  

[1] "Urban Expression...Urban Assault...Urban Wildstyle...New York City Graffiti", Pamela Dennant,, 1997.



1| Sense of place:
Virtual + Physical: Bridging the two spaces. Virtual Input + Physical Output
Momentary + Permanent: Momentary Place/Experience/Message + Permanent Structure/Network/Memory
To give a space a sense of place.
Creation of place through user interaction.

2| Public Self-Expression:
Audio: Boomboxes
Visual: Graffiti, Sidewalk Art, Bathroom Writing, Stickers
Orally: Original Speaker’s Corner
Movement: Gestures

Determine medium/method/mode

Advertising: Appropriating “advertising” for the broadcasting of one’s self-expression, as a non-commodity.

3| Social interaction:
Connections made between users through creating a message, responding to a message, and then becoming the creator of a new message.

4| Design:
To design an interface to engage users to want to leave a message, visual/audio, and for users to discover the message/self-expression and then also leave a message themselves.

5| Technology:
To enable for connections between users to occur. To create a network between users. To translate digital input into the physical realm.
Cellphones/sms messaging: mobile, ubiquitous, momentary, network
Video Screens, LCD Screens: visual representation, broadcast, live capture, time-lapse, etc.

6| Content:
idea 1: Response to commercial expression/corporate advertising.
idea 2: Response to physical location.