Visual Pollution: The Pixel Invasion of the 21st Century

Austrian statistician Otto Neurath wrote in 1925, “words divide, pictures unite”.

Historically, media was once consumed in private, note television and radio, however our consumerist society is now forced feed media by corporations causing visual pollution of our public spaces. Our contemporary culture has a fascination with ‘big things’, locally think The Big Banana, globally think Times Square.

McQuire (2006) states that from the initial experiments in cities such as Tokyo and New York, the migration of electronic screens into the external cityscape has become one of the most visible tendencies of contemporary urbanism.

Cities like, New York, Tokyo and Las Vegas never switch off, with screens and lights bombarding you visually. Initially screens were a novelty, however as technology developed, innovations were made, resulting in mass LEDs populating our cities. Tourist attractions have shifted from historical monuments filling the viewer with knowledge and culture, to 21st century electronic screens, note Time Square, resulting in the dematerialization of architecture (McQuire 2006).

Our contemporary culture is driven by technology and global media giants have now turned to screens to advertise their brand. Nevaraez (2006) sees screens as digital public spaces, like windows which offer the potential for broadening use and participation, urban screens have the purpose of displaying products for consumption with a cultural logic designed to address consumer audiences.

The Unification of the world is literally in front of our eyes. Negative connotations often surround the over use of screens, however Coca Cola have used screens for the good, connecting culturally disadvantage and war torn countries, India and Pakistan. Coca-Cola placed interactive vending kiosks in both countries as a way to reconnect civilians of the hostile neighbours. Christopher Hall (2013) writes, each vending kiosk featured a touchscreen front showing people at the corresponding kiosk in the other country and invited the people at each kiosk to interact and even complete a small shared task – drawing a circle, doing a little dance- with someone on the other-side. Once the task is complete and the two participants have reconnected the kiosk dispenses a can of Coke. Coca-Cola state that the “Small Worlds Machines” provided a live communications portal linking strangers in two nations divided by more than just boarders, with the hope of provoking happiness and promotion cultural understanding around the world.

This blog post has conveyed both the advantages and disadvantage of what we now call visual pollution. A spectacle, tourist attraction, advertising and now cultural bonding. I’m intrigued to see what the future will be for the big screens.


McQuire, S 2006, The politics of public spaces in the media city, First Monday, viewed 12/08/2013,

Lester, P M 2006, Urban Screens: The beginning of a universal visual culture. First Monday, viewed 18/09/2013,

Nevarez, J 2006, Art and social displays in the branding of the city: Token screens or opportunities for difference? , First Monday, viwed 18/09/2013,

Hall, C 2013, Coca-Cola connects India with Pakistan through interactive kiosk, viewed 20/09/2013,


About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
This entry was posted in BCM310, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s