[REFLECTION] Visual Pollution | A Story of Contrast

As citizens of a technology driven society, digital screens and advertisements visually bombard us daily. Visual pollution struck me when I travelled to New York in September 2013 and I decided that this was the perfect setting to produce my digital storytelling project.

Before travelling to New York I had a vague idea of the city, with a perception shaped primarily by the media. Times Square is such an iconic tourist attraction where visual media space and market practice collide. By experience the space in person, I was able to grasp how large and impacting the digital signage is on an audience.

When I first arrived in New York I was struck by the immense greatness the city held over me. Everywhere I looked I was in ore. It took me a few days to settle down and absorb it all and then I realised it was because everything was so different to home. When people asked how was NY my first reply was always “It’s so different to home”. Therefore I decided to not only convey the Visual Pollution of New York City but also my personal contrast between the media I am exposed to at home in Sydney.

By knowing that I was to capture the visual pollution of New York before I left, I felt that when I arrived I was viewing the city from an unusual perspective. I wasn’t there as a tourist, I was there to analyse the media scape, whether it be the digital signage, advertisements or even the audience. I was noticing every intricate detail of the city.

Multiple elements have been used to convey this contrast. Colour has been used to symbolise the juxtaposition of each city, black is used to convey home (Sydney) as there is always somewhere to escape; it’s quiet and calm, whilst white has been used to convey the light of the digital signage of NY and the visual pollution of advertisements. I have also included a black and white image when I introduce New York as it ads an element of suspicion to the image, making the audience intrigued to follow on. I have also accompanied images with sounds to enhance the story giving it another dimension and emotionally connecting to the audience.

Interviewing techniques taught in BCM240 proved to be helpful as I conducted two interviews, impromptu style. This proved to be successful as the interviewees offered another perception of New York, which I had not considered earlier. Interviewee 1 talks about the contrast of Sydney and New York, adding a humorous touch when she states “the Coca Cola sign in Kings Cross doesn’t come close to the digital signage of Times Square”. Interviewee 2 talks about place, where the digital signage in Times Square is appropriate, however it would be inappropriate to have digital signage to that degree in the suburbs of Sydney. The interviewee also makes a great point stating that whilst advertising in Times Square will give great exposure, however the audiences’ ability to process and retain information is lost due to the vast amount to content displayed, thus the value of advertising on the digital screens is undermined.

In my digital story I propose the question whether Times Square would still be a spectacle if there were no screens, what if technology hadn’t developed and they were in black and white, or what If there were regulations to the playing time of the advertisements and the screens were switched off? Would that mean the city that never sleeps…would in fact sleep, have time to switch off and take a break?

By asking these questions I’m attempting to engage the viewer and let them define their own understanding of the impact of digital signage in public places. It’s interesting to note that cities across the world turned en masse to large-scale screens as a popular strategy for reinvigorating public space (Scott McQuire 2006). Personally, I believe it has given life to Times Square, however as interviewee 2 states, place becomes a factor and ultimately we are over populating our cities with digital signage.

It’s a spectacle, and every detail of the setting plays an important part, whether it’s the thousands of people that swam the Square daily, the digital signage, the crazy freak shows, the bustling traffic or the local New Yorker just trying to get by. As Otto Neurath states, “words divide, pictures untie” (Lester 2006). I truly believe New York is united by digital signage and it wouldn’t be the city it is today without visual pollution.

Every images sound and voice over used in the production of my digital story have all been taken and recorded by myself, making it an extremely personal and engaging experience which I’m happy to share with you all.

Please make sure when you are viewing the Prezi that you use the play function in the lower left hand corner of the screen.

My digital story can be viewed here


Lester, P M 2006, Urban Screens: The beginning of a universal visual culture. First Monday, viewed 18/09/2013, http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1543/1458

McQuire, S 2006, The politics of public spaces in the media city, First Monday, viewed 12/08/2013, http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1544/1459


About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
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