This presentation shall consider Futuresonic as a model of practice, and will explore an emerging area of artistic interest to do with social technologies and the city, that has emerged from the festival's early engagements in locative media. Futuresonic, established 1995, was an early event to explore mobile and locative arts. This created an opportunity to look anew at public art and other spatial practices, and also has energised an interdisciplinary thinking of the city. The outcome today is a focus in the festival on social and participatory artworks which seek to reimagine, free and make strange lived city spaces.
Futuresonic's involvement in locative media grew out of a series of workshops in 2003, and culminated in the Mobile Connections exhibition at the Urbis Museum Manchester during Futuresonic, the first major exhibition worldwide on mobile, wireless and locative arts to feature an exhibition, conference and call for submissions. It sought to explore forms of expression that are intrinsic or unique to mobile and wireless media, and led to the proposition that, just as net art is the art of the Internet, so locative art can be understood to be the art of mobile and wireless systems. Following this a taxonomy of locative media arts was written, which distinguished between mapping, ambulatory and geoannotation projects that were primarily documentary, figurative or social. Locative media contains a strongly social moment, and much early interest focused on the notion of 'social interfaces to places' (Russell). However, criticisms of locative media have highlighted how much of the field works with a very narrow, technologically deterministic understanding of location and with little or no engagement in lived spaces and social context. The legacy of this period for the author was a focus on social arts and social technologies.