Voices Episode 5: Rebecca Ross on Postcodes, Communication Design and Urban Media

A red and white Road Ahead Closed sign, next to a yellow and black Diversion sign, on a UK street.
Photo: Narain Jashanmal, "Road Ahead Closed".
In the latest episode of our Voices podcast series, Rebecca Ross discusses with Scott Rodgers her exploration of postcodes as spatial media, and the paradoxical disciplinary distance between communication design and media studies.

In this episode of the Mediapolis Now Voices series, we speak with Rebecca Ross, director of the graphic communication design programme at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. Her writing and practice are both interdisciplinary, extending from graphic and communication design to media studies, urban studies, the history of technology and creative computing. She is the co-founder and co-editor of Urban Pamphleteer, a publication which explores contemporary urbanism in the tradition of radical pamphleteering. Her work has also been seen in London’s public spaces, notably her 2015 digital billboard installation, London is Changing.

That installation is discussed in the podcast, but before we get there, we begin with a fascinating discussion of postcodes, as a form of spatial media. We dive into this with some detailed definitional and historical discussion initially, but then open out into a conversion about on the everyday life of postcodes, as a kind of social and cultural innovation, not to mention a shared spatial language between humans and machines.

Midway through our chat, we switched gears to talk about graphic design and communication as a practice and way of thinking, and the paradoxical distance that discipline oftentimes seems to have from academic media and cultural studies. This is unfortunate, since, as we discussed, the former provides ways of thinking about urban media in everyday life (for instance in the fine-grained ways typography shows up in urban environments), as well as how we come to know ‘the city’ as a larger entity (here Rebecca talks about the periodic London Plan, and in particular its public consultation processes).

We end by discussing Rebecca’s recent writing on how academic publishing could become more public, by working with media as much as writing about it.

Rodgers, Scott, and Rebecca Ross. "Voices Episode 5: Rebecca Ross on Postcodes, Communication Design and Urban Media." Mediapolis: A Journal of Cities and Culture 9, no. 1 (April 2024).
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