“Art, of course, does not produce grand revolutions, but as an event that opens up a new narrative about reality it provides the conditions of possibility for a nascent political consciousness, one born from conviviality, a being-together as a coming-into-being of community: the realization of shared existence.”
Jean Fisher, on Francis Alÿs’ When Faith Moves Mountains, 2007
Today, planning’s esteem for the arts relates primarily to the latter’s capacity as economic engine. Of course, planners admire arts and culture for its notable impact on social and human capital, as well, but the majority of programs bespeak economic development’s continued primacy. I propose planning broaden its creative agenda to include media arts for community development. For one, media arts engage with each of the following crucial planning phenomena: time and space, identity, participation, and process, and uphold context as a decisive factor in all. For another, communication technologies have fast become the basic infrastructure of daily experience for millions. For many millions others, who reside on the other side of the digital divide, I consider this need and opportunity to be even more pressing.
The following literature review, comprising works from two of the last forty years’ most influential planners, and an array of media artists, art historians, computer scientists, philosophers, and sociologists, articulate the myriad benefits media arts can bring to community development in urban planning. In the first section, I introduce what I consider to be Kevin Lynch’s and Manuel Castells’ unwitting championing of media arts for community development. I then use Boris Groys’ 2011 Going Public to introduce context, time-place, identity, participation, and process through a philosophical lens before delving deeper into each of conditions. These literatures and case studies show media arts’ practices, blessings, and cautions are well taken in planning. I conclude by acknowledging there are constraints, but that the opposing benefits merit media arts’ application in community development.