Infostructures – Embedding Media Facades in Public Transport

This article, co-authored by Encircle members M. Hank Haeusler and Martin Tomitsch, describes two design studies that were completed in preparation of the ARC grant application. It is included in our project publications, since it outlines some of the ideas that form the foundation of the grant proposal.

The article investigated the idea of using new screen technologies – such as media facades – to improve public transport environments. Our main premise revolved around the idea that transport infrastructure was difficult, time-consuming to improve, and resource intensive. With this in mind we wanted to focus on developing intelligent, responsive digital technologies – in other words, an ‘infostructure’ that could improve the customer transport experience.

Digital technologies are often easier and cheaper to implement in existing transport environments and can provide benefits in a range of areas – including better wayfinding to ease congestion, personalised travel information and an improved customer experience.

Our research hypothesis was tested in an architecture graduate studio, co-ordinated by M. Hank Haeusler. Sydney’s busy Central Station was selected as the location for our research and two of the projects were presented and analysed in the article.

The intelligent tunnel

A key part of Central Station is the well-known Devonshire Street tunnel, connecting Ultimo with Central’s underground and used by thousands of commuters each day. The first of our projects re-envisioned this tunnel, keeping in mind the fact that public transport patronage is set to significantly increase in coming years.

The students who developed this concept found that at times the tunnel experienced extreme patronage, and at others significant downtime. They considered two ideas as part of the solution to this – firstly, the inclusion of a travelator in the tunnel. Widely used in airports, travelators are able to control the direction and flow of customers, getting a greater number of people through the tunnel at a more rapid rate.

Coupled with the travelator would be digital screens placed along the walls of the tunnel. The screens could give customers information or entertainment, psychologically reducing the distance of the tunnel further.

Dare to be aware

Public transport environments are under constant surveillance – typically through large CCTV systems. But the flaw in such systems lies in the fact they are there to record and react to what occurs.
Dare to be aware aims to modify the mono-directional nature of surveillance. The concept proposed turning sections of Central’s underground tunnels into interactive screens by which different areas of the station would be simultaneously broadcast on different screens. Customers could communicate much like a Skype call – playing games, conversing, or simply keeping an eye on each other through passive surveillance.

The article was presented at the CHI 2011 Workshop on Large Urban Displays in Public Life:
Barker, T; Gardner, N; Haeusler, H; Tomitsch, M (2011): Infostructures – Embedding Media Facades in Public Transport. CHI 2011 Workshop on Large Urban Displays in Public Life, Vancouver, Canada, 4 pages.