By Susanne Seitinger, researcher, and Pol Pla I Conesa, graduate student in the Program in Media Arts and Sciences
May 7–8, 2011
Harvard Bridge

In 1916, MIT crossed the river from its original location in Boston’s Back Bay to Cambridge, taking up residence on the banks of the Charles. Since then, generations of students have trekked across the bridge, including Oliver Smoot and his fraternity brothers, leaving their indelible mark along the way. LightBridge is a dynamic display symbolic of MIT’s historical and contemporary connections between people and places on both sides of the river. This participatory installation allows people to use a website to design their own interactive light effects in advance and then experience their designs on-site on May 7 and 8.

The 10,000 pixel display was activated by sensors (proximity sensors, cameras, buttons, microphones, mobile phones) that responded to the movement and activities of viewers in the area. By combining sensors and programmable lighting, the project illustrated the potential for user-driven urban screens and new configurations of low-resolution displays to blur the boundaries between traditional city lighting and the responsive infrastructures of tomorrow.

LightBridge is by Susanne Seitinger, researcher in the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, and Pol Pla, graduate student in the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, with the software team: Russell Cohen, Eugene Sun, Andrew Chen, Dave Lawrence, Daniel Taub and David Xiao.

We gratefully thank Philips ColorKinetics for donating the LED (light-emitting diodes) light strips; CISCO for providing the network hardware; and SparkFun Electronics for donating additional electronics for the sensor network. The project is funded in part by a grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT.





A researcher at the MIT Media Lab, Susanne Seitinger completed her PhD in 2010 in the Smart Cities Group at the Media Lab. Her work focuses on architecture, urban planning and human-computer interaction. Her dissertation – Liberated Pixels: Alternative Narratives for Lighting Future Cities – explores the aesthetic and interactive potentials for future lighting and display infrastructures. In collaboration with Philips ColorKinetics, Seitinger is continuing her research by developing other applications for programmable urban lighting and by conducting theoretical and socio-technical analyses of its role in the city. She also has worked on interactive playground environments and props for children that take advantage of full-body interaction. At MIT, Seitinger has participated in numerous research and design projects on digital city environments including the Digital Mile in Zaragoza and the Digital Media City in Seoul. Prior to MIT, Seitinger worked as a Princeton Project 55 Fellow for an affordable housing developer in New York.



Pol Pla i Conesa is a graduate research assistant at the MIT Media Lab completing his master in Media, Arts and Sciences. He graduated from Universitat Ramon Llull (Barcelona) in computer science and he earned a Masters in Science from Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona). He cofounded Multitouch Barcelona an interactive design collective where he worked in massive interactive installations such as the Multitouch Space Invader and the HI Human Interface.