Digital Publics Symposium

This 4th Digital Publics Symposium is to be presented by UTV as part of the Media Architecture Biennale 2018 ( hosted by CAFA, Beijing. Digital Publics is a one-day symposium focused on Digital Placemaking – the impact and potential of Urban Screens and media tools as the engine for community building and placemaking in the digital age.

The symposium takes place on the 14th November 2018, 8.30am – 12.30pm. More detailed information about Digital Publics and registration can be found at

Public space and how people use it changes as urban patterns evolve, this Digital Publics symposium has two key sessions;
• The Urban Screen – a platform of engagement
• Digital Placemaking – shaping public landscapes.

Through a curated panel of practitioners, producers and academics, the role of the Cultural Urban Screen in current and emergent public spaces will be discussed and exampled. With a focus on how community can be developed through screens as a platform for engagement, our panel will present case studies and openly discuss the journey of challenges and possibilities that the Urban Screen Platform represents.

Our second session will frame the Urban Screen within the broader context of Digital Placemaking; the use of technology to mediate culture and place, and as a mechanism to enhance public space usage. This panel discussion coalesces around the digital placemaking approach that is interested in layers of connection, engagement and cultural experience that are introduced by media technologies. This second panel will unpack the policy framework, technical landscape, ethical considerations, and indeed articulate how success is being measured and understood within this emergent field.

This half-day symposium brings timely voices together from across creative practices, institutions and research projects that make new spaces for curious publics. Digital Publics is produced by UTV, presented in partnership MAB and CAFA and curated by Lubi Thomas.


Presented by:



Opening Remarks – 9.00 – 9.30am
Symposium Introduction – Lubi Thomas – Artisitic Director, Urban Screen Productions Introduction: Public space – does it really matter? This symposium comes at a time when an urgent debate about the value and indeed purpose of public space is at the fore of Australian discussion. This discussion has been triggered by the recent saga of the Opera House as ‘big billboard’ Scott Morrison (Australia’s Prime Minister), and Morrison’s failure to understand why anyone would care about the commercial use of an iconic heritage site – a cultural site – a public space. The idea of the civic, of public spaces and public engagement is important because they bring us together and bind us as citizens rather than individuals or simply consumers. The work of practitioners, producers, site managers and policy makers in the field of digital placemaking is not about the decorative or entertaining, but rather about the stitching together of many communities into a society – into a public of cohesive diversity. If these spaces and programs do not exist then “Without public spaces – without public forums – eventually there can be no public” (Aly, W. 2018).
Reference: Aly, W (2018, October, 11). Why the Opera House backlash was so fierce: we’ve just had enough. Sydney Morning Herald.

Opening Keynote – Matt Jones – General Manager, Urban Screen Productions
The contemporary “urban screen” – digital assets that preference community and cultural outcomes in public places – has been in existence for nearly two decades. Australia has been a pioneer of development in this field, with many individual public precincts harnessing its potential to be an innovative catalyst for community engagement. However, as the integrity and ownership of public space is increasingly challenged and contested in Australia, how can such screens be used more effectively to engage audiences in public places in the future?

Keynote speaker Matt Jones has over a decade of experience managing the public spaces and digital assets at Federation Square, Melbourne – internationally renowned as a “jewel in the crown” of urban screens and community placemaking. However, considering the various pressures facing that precinct, is this the best trajectory for public spaces in the digital age? What are the alternatives being adopted by local government and private development? How can urban screen operators exploit the inherent contestability of public space, rather than be consumed by it? Matt will chart a potted history of digital and physical activation in the public realm, and suggest a new model of sustainable public engagement for the future.

Panel One – Urban Screens – Community building in our public spaces:
9.30 – 10.30am

Morning Break: 10.30 – 10.50am

Panel Two: Digital Placemaking – Changing public landscapes through technology
10.50am – 11.50am

Closing Remarks
Panel Reflections – 11.50am – 12.15pm
Review from chairs and keynote and including brief introduction to afternoon symposium by Susa Pop

Presentation from Mr Ye Jun – 12:15pm – 12.30pm