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This week I found Scott McQuire’s piece “The Politics of Public Space in the Media City” particularly interesting. I was partial to his concise execution of a broad historical overview of the urban space and the shifting limits of the public domain. One part of the piece that I thought worth expounding was his brief reference to Holzer’s work on the issues at stake with large screens in public spaces. He asserts that Holzer’s, “work suggest that a key issue for large screens in public space remains the traditional issue for all media forms: control, access, filtering of content, etc.”

This remark reminded me of the discourse surrounding memory culture that arose with great intensity in Germany during the 1990s in their many attempts to erect commemorative sites to the victims of the Holocaust. James Young, Art Historian and Judaic Studies professor, suggests that the traditional monumental form was rejected by many commemorative site initiatives, given the propensity of the monumental form toward authoritarian gestures (i.e. to assert, by way of the form’s material fixity, a sort of rigid historiographical account of the past, tainted by the biases of a political power that commissions the work and has quite a bit at stake in formulating, and perhaps fabricating, a narrative of shared national/cultural heritage). These stolid attempts to render the monument’s significance fixed (particularly pertinent in monument built following WWI all across Europe and the US) are, though, always undermined by the tendency for history to exist in a malleable state, subject to the transient socio-political conditions of the present. That is to say, the sculpted stone figures were not able to adapt and react to the shifting socio-politic-cultural frame through which the conditions of the present rendered their fixity purely superficial—purely material—purely a matter of lexis and not a matter of logos.

What I find interesting about McQuire’s discussion of the large screen in a public space is that it seems to be the authoritarian monument’s updated form. That is to say, the physical materiality of the screen serves only as platform for content, which is fluid, transient, and adaptable to the conditions of the present in which it exists. The big screen allows those in control (of its broadcast) to respond to the dynamism of the present condition through a new dynamic materiality. In this sense there is a certain danger involved in the advent of these new medias– an issue which McQuire attends to in a cursory manner. With that said, I agree with the apparent optimism with which his essay concludes. That is to say, in a very broad sense, I don’t view this new technology as a singular instrument of control or liberation, but rather as a novel form (although not novel anymore really), which can be employed toward various ends.