Hybrid Space: Streetlights in Germany

(I haven’t been able to come up with any interesting example of hybrid space from my daily life in Århus and have therefore chosen to describe a relevant case from abroad.)

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Showing environmental responsibility is becoming a gesture of increasing importance in the world of today. In Germany a couple of small towns have actively made an effort to eliminate some of their CO2-pollution by turning off the streetlights in the evenings and at night.
However, the inhabitants still have to be able to move about the town, even during the late hours, and to ensure that this can happen in a safe manner the councils of these towns have applied a rather clever solution: they have developed a system through which you as an individual can turn the streetlights on via your mobile phone. All you have to do is register at a web-page and thereafter you can text your request to a specific number and have your path enlightened so to speak…
In the little town Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz which only has 900 inhabitants you turn on all streetlights in the town with your text message, while in Dörentrup, a town of 8.517 inhabitants, only the particular route that you plan to follow will be lit.

A short video about the system can be found here: dial4lightbbcnews
The official registration page can be found here (German speakers only…): www.dial4light.de

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I find this case exceptionally fit for being labelled with the term hybrid space, or to use Manovich’s expression, augmented space. The geometric/geographical space has in deed been digitally expanded or overlaid with information thus rendering it a dataspace. To follow Manovich’s definitions more specifically, I would characterise the phenomenon that is created in these German towns as cellspace;

“physical space that is ‘filled’ with data, which can be retrieved by a user via a personal communication device” (Manovich, The Poetics of Augmented Space, p. 4).

This type of augmented reality is to a high extent location specific as these applications make no sense outside of the towns.
This system can also be categorised as being some form of intelligent architecture seeing as the streetlights, being important parts of the hard-space environment (a term from Haque, Invisible Topographies), are suddenly available to manipulation by the public through the use of soft-space, the digital “layer” added to the scenario. Somehow it bears a great resemblance to the work of Mexican artist Rafael Lozano Hemmer: “Vectorial Elevation, Relational Architecture #4” (which is also described by Manovich in Poetics of Augmented Space, p.16).
Both provide the possibility for the individual to shape the physical space around them through digital communication devices, the only difference being that Lozano Hemmer’s work holds symbolic meaning and artistic intentions while the streetlight-by-request in Germany is based on pragmatic, practical concerns.

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By sandra-n-saabye

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