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University of Melbourne

1. DIAS, MARCOS. Rethinking urban space through mediated performance.

Degree: 2015, University of Melbourne

This thesis explores the contemporary mediated city, in which everyday social and spatial exchanges are mediated by pervasive communication technologies. Centred on a detailed ethnographic account of Blast Theory’s participatory art performance A Machine To See With during the Brighton Digital Festival 2011, the thesis investigates the changed status of embodied encounters in the city. Employing a theoretical approach based on Deleuze and Guattari’s framework of machinic assemblages, participatory art in public space is conceptualised as a collection of machines where agency is distributed and where the outcome is always emergent and unpredictable. The analysis of A Machine To See With as a collection of machines is extended towards reflecting on the technological apparatus that mediates our everyday lives in the contemporary mediated city and some of its pressing issues: the misinterpretation of communication failures; the normalisation of surveillance; the ethics of remote data storage; and our increasing dependence on technology to navigate urban space and negotiate embodied encounters. The field research is conducted through a close observation of Blast Theory’s performance. It is based on a methodological approach that assembles a ‘performative account of performance’ by combining Actor-network theory, multi-sited ethnography and mobile methods of research. The thesis proposes that emerging patterns of social interaction and reconfiguration of public space are mediated by an assemblage of narrative, technology and urban space in contemporary society. Forms of encounter mediated through biotechnological systems of trust displace older forms of social engagement. The field research conducted on A Machine To See With identified three overlapping modes of participation: playful, exploratory and critical. These modes are indicative of the process of artistic narration and participant translation that is triggered by the performance and its interpretation as an ‘open work’ despite its prescriptive narrative. The field research also revealed how perceived ‘failure’ of participants to follow the narrative prompts and their unexpected encounters with both human and non-human actants in urban space could potentially become affordances.

Subjects/Keywords: media studies; performance studies; urban studies; social interaction; participatory art; public space; pervasive technologies; trust; narrative; machinic assemblages; Deleuze and Guattari; Actor-network theory; Bruno Latour; multi-sited ethnography; George Marcus; mobile methods; performative account; performative city; machinic city; mixed reality; cinema; mobile phone; avant-garde art movements; Neo-Concretism; performative turn; aesthetic machines; spectator-participant; actant; dissensus; cosmopolitanism; posthumanism; trajectories; media city; Blast Theory; Rimini Protokoll; Graffiti Research Lab; Brasilia; Vertov; Umberto Eco

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APA (6th Edition):

DIAS, M. (2015). Rethinking urban space through mediated performance. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Melbourne. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

DIAS, MARCOS. “Rethinking urban space through mediated performance.” 2015. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Melbourne. Accessed November 28, 2020.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

DIAS, MARCOS. “Rethinking urban space through mediated performance.” 2015. Web. 28 Nov 2020.


DIAS M. Rethinking urban space through mediated performance. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Melbourne; 2015. [cited 2020 Nov 28]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

DIAS M. Rethinking urban space through mediated performance. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Melbourne; 2015. Available from: