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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Zachi Melzer, Film and Moving Image Studies

Screen Clusters: Urban Renewal, Architectural Preservation, and the Infrastructures of Urban Media

Date & time

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.


This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Room LB 362

Wheelchair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


As screen technologies proliferate in everyday and quotidian urban contexts, studies of screens placed on façades of buildings have largely focused on understanding how these media can contribute to the formations of responsive, immersive, interactive, and open publics. With these considerations, this thesis historicizes so-called urban screens, public screens, media façades and media architectures as products that are shaped, on the one hand, by the politics of urban renewal and gentrification, and on the other hand, by discourses of architectural and urban preservation. Each chapter focuses on the history of a key site prominently characterized by the presence of screen technologies: Piccadilly Circus in London between 1960-1980 (Chapter 2), Times Square in New York City between 1980-1995 (Chapter 3), Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto between 1998-2018 (Chapter 4), and Quartier des Spectacles in Montréal between 2000-2018 (Chapter 5). Examining the histories of each site’s development, the thesis comparatively highlights the ways LED screens and digital projections become part of the material infrastructures and legal frameworks of each respective city. Under considerations are the conditions that bring about and the regulations that maintain the infrastructures of urban screen technologies and cultures. Particular focus is given to the ways the placement, size, brightness, cleanliness, spectatorial spaces, maintenance, and contents of urban screens have been both variably as well as similarly articulated. Certain commonalities in the governing and discourses surrounding the four sites — such as, the formation of public-private partnerships, the privatization of public spaces, and the roles that architectural and urban preservation play in contributing to the symbolic capital associated with each site — indicate the presence of key fundamental conditions that shape the geographies, economies, regulations, and cultures of urban screens. Instead of a proliferation of screens in public spaces, it is demonstrated that a rather systemic and uneven organization of screen technologies into select economically and culturally promising clusters in cities exists.

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