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Electric Signs
Directed by Alice Arnold
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New screen-based sign systems are putting TV-style advertising into the public domain in cities around the globe. These electronic signs are re-shaping urban environments and re-defining areas of public space by intensifying the commercialization of the public sphere.

In addition to the explosion of screens in public spaces, screens are ubiquitous in work spaces and in people's daily life activities. These seamless, illuminated electronic surfaces are becoming the devices through which we frame our experiences. ELECTRIC SIGNS explores this new screen culture as it unfolds in the global city.

The film's narrator, an observer modeled on the critic Walter Benjamin, takes us on a journey through a variety of urban landscapes, examining public spaces and making connections between light, perception and the culture of attractions in today's consumer society.

film still

Structured as a documentary essay in the spirit of city symphony films, ELECTRIC SIGNS features footage in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York, and other cities around the world. Also featured are interviews with prominent lighting designers; advertising and marketing professionals; urban sociologists and visual culture experts; and community activists.

The filmmakers traveled around the world to collect footage of electronic signs and media facades from cities on four continents. The film captures the beauty and excitement of these illuminated signs while examining their messages, and looks at city life from many perspectives, so as to capture the intensification of urban life amidst the vast spaces beneath the skyscrapers.

film still

"Mixes striking footage of screens large and small with the voices of diverse stakeholders  advertisers, artists, designers, citizens, consumers, activists  and invites us to rethink how we manage public space in contemporary media cities." —Scott McQuire, author of "The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space" (2008)

“An excellent exploration of the reigning empire of commercial design and the dynamics of an interdisciplinary issue.” —Yves Laberge, Anthropology Database

“Striking! ELECTRIC SIGNS inspires a critical re-examination of our urban environment.” —Kurt Iveson, Antipode Journal of Geography

“Lyrical and timely." —Susan Awe, Educational Media Reviews Online

World Premiere, 2013 Media Architecture Biennale
Global Peace Festival 2013
Digital Cities Symposium, New York City 2013
World Film Festival, Estonia, 2014
The Factory, Hong Kong 2014
Mediated Cities Conference, London & Los Angeles 2014
2012 Aarhus Film Festival (Denmark)
2013 American Library Association Annual Conference
2013 National Conference of Teachers of English Film Festival

58 minutes / Color
Release: 2013
Copyright: 2012

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Subject areas:
Advertising & Marketing, Architecture, China, Communications, Cultural Studies, Environment, Environmental Film Festivals, Geography, Science and Technology, Science/Technology, Urban Planning & Design, Urban Studies

Related Links:
The Films of Alice Arnold

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