Why Are Thousands Of Billboards Telling Us To Look Up?

You may have seen one of the 7000 signs that have popped up around the country in recent weeks with two words: Look Up.

If you've missed it, it's precisely the reason they exist.

Look Up is a public movement inviting Australians to get their heads out of their phones to better connect with the world around them and with each other.

"It seems counter-intuitive to our modern culture that looking up and out and seemingly doing nothing could be the most beneficial state for optimising our thinking."

The signs can be found in regional centres and capital cities across the country. IMAGE: supplied

"In fact, doing nothing is not doing, nothing," Neural and Systems Complexity Specialist at the University of Adelaide,  Dr Fiona Kerr said.

The Look Up movement is part of a campaign driven by the world-leading neuroscience expert, a research agency specialising in human behaviour and the companies behind billboards and other outdoor media.

A series of photographs on outdoor signs in capital cities and regional centres will be on display until the end of the month.

The signs have been devised, designed and rolled out by the Outdoor Media Association’s members and are encouraging people to look up and out.

The billboards include digital signage too.

It coincides with the release of Kerr's report The Art & Science of Looking Up, which explores the multitude of physical, psychological and social benefits to simply looking up and out.

The report details that abstraction or ‘daydreaming’ is important for complex problem-solving.

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"The brain does this by changing the problem-solving path and outcome time frame when confronted by a complex problem whilst emotionally engaged, predominantly through direct human interaction."

Kerr says the connection you make by looking up and out -- at your streets, the sky, horizon, and at each other with a glance, smile or short conversation -- is more than a way to pass the time.

"It meets a fundamental human need in our hardwiring for connection."

The outdoor media industry has united to bring the largest-ever industry campaign to Australia in our 80-year history, inspired by Dr Fiona Kerr’s research, said Outdoor Media Association (OMA) CEO Charmaine Moldrich.

Australians are big users of the web, spending on average nearly seven hours each day on tablets, phones and computers. Moldrich told 10 daily, at a personal level, our technology obsession is one of her biggest gripes.

"I often walk to work and I  regularly walk into people who have just stopped on the street and are looking down at their phones," she said.

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In a move that's perhaps counter-intuitive. Australians are also being encouraged to share on social media what they see when they look up.

The campaign's digital and fixed signs are being funded by OMA's industry members and are about giving something back.

Moldrich told 10 daily it's about using its platform to deliver an important social message.

"The flip side... is that when you look up, you look up at one of our signs, so it's also good for us," she said.

Kerr says that her research isn't just another reason why we shouldn't look down, and she acknowledges technology has a valuable and integral place in modern lives.

But looking up has the ability to ‘light up’ our brains in a way no connection on a device can.

Finnish research reviewed as part of the study found that when humans look at a face on a screen, a different part of the brain lights up than when we see that face in the real world.

“This is why a phone call or Skype is different once we have connected directly, as there is an immediate network available in the brain to fire up and connect," Kerr said.

"So in looking up and out at each other, that first encounter has created something we as a species value above all else -- an enduring physical connection with another human being."

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