February 29, 2004

Summary of the 'Social Research Report' available online

Check it out - a summary of the social research report is available online:


Very generally, this research aimed to accomplish two things: first, to propose a set of methodological tools useful for looking at emerging technologies; and second to understand how 9 socially, economically and culturally diverse individuals engaged an early Urban Tapestries demonstration prototype (from June 2003). Findings suggest that UT successfully augmented our respondents' relationship with Bloomsbury, but the demo failed to convince many of them that this was a valuable or worthy asset.

The report situates these findings in the context of respondents' relationships with media (ranging from television to PDA's), their relationship to Bloomsbury and the ways in which UT opens up pathways for the exchange of social knowledge. The report concludes by asking how UT can or will facilitate social relationships and social cohesion.

Any thoughts? Let us know what you think?

Posted by zoe at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2004

Open Discussion on Public Authoring

Throughout the process of developing Urban Tapestries we have been exploring the many social and cultural aspects of public authoring and location-based information. Having had an opportunity to test some of our ideas in the public trial we have teased out a selection of five themes to start of with that seem to have struck a chord with the participants, and which we believe could be the basis of a stimulating public debate. We have posted these themes here for people to comment on as part of a discussion forum.

We invite people to post comments as part of a public discussion, and welcome suggestions for additional themes. We are open to requests for author accounts to enable more active participants to post themes of their own.

Posted by Giles Lane at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

Collaborative Cartography and Location Sensing

Mapping is a fundamentally human trait. As a metaphor for how we construct our sense of identity in relation to others it is becoming a more and more overt activity in everyday life. More and more technologies are being designed with inbuilt tracking and positioning sensors, such as GPS transceivers.

Whilst these technologies bring new abilities within the reach of ordinary people – for such benign activities as collaborative cartography and geocaching - they do pose more problematic considerations when issues of surveillance and personal privacy arise. It is not just surveillance by big government, nor even by corporations greedy to learn more about consumer habits the better to target them with offers. It is also the potential for everyday surveillance of each other by each other – from that of parents watching over their children, to friends and lovers checking up on each other.

As we find new ways to focus our mapping technologies onto the everyday we need to consider the social and cultural, the political and economic implications – how are we to strike the appropriate balances between public and private, between place and space, between our desires to mark and delineate public space and our need to preserve private boundaries?

Posted by Giles Lane at 05:36 PM | Comments (3)

Citizenship and the Public Commons

A key insight into public authoring that both the trial and our bodystorming experiences have provided was that this technology need not simply be an individual experience, but sharing the experience with other people rather seemed a powerful motivation. The action of public authoring prompted serendipitous interactions with strangers on the street, connecting people both via the UT application, in real and virtual space.

In working with intergenerational groups we found that unlocking older people's memories and stories of the places they know with teenagers and authoring them in places familiar to the younger generation, new points of contact between generations emerged.

These social and cultural implications offer intriguing possibilities for reflecting on what it means to be a citizen: how our interactions with others help create the social context in which we live, and what we share with our friends, neighbours, colleagues and the strangers we pass daily.

Public authoring could add a whole new layer to the public commons, provoke new categorisations of informal knowledges. It could be a platform for people to build their own applications, their own categorisations of place and knowledge.

What benefits to civil society and cultural life can we bring with these technologies?

What costs can we foresee, and where might we intervene to ameliorate their effects?

Posted by Giles Lane at 05:35 PM | Comments (2)

Mobile & Pervasive; Spatial & Temporal

As we move through the city we engage in an evolving dialogue with time and space. Our techniques of annotating these places and moments should not be defined by the limitations of technologies, nor by the constraints of current metaphors.

How do we retain an essential 'mobility' to the way we mark and move through the city, or are we simply creating a network of static places?

In the rush to be more and more 'accurate' in our annotations, are we perhaps missing the point about place – that is is not so easily defined by a set of coordinates, but floats free encompassing time as well as space?

Can we design systems that incorporate temporal annotations of space – such as the length of time an experience lasts as we walk through a park, along a street?

How will these experiences pervade our sense of movement and how we occupy spaces?

What sort of granularities of annotation will we want that scale between points of interest and zones and attention?

Posted by Giles Lane at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

Sensory Stimulation

A common criticism of location-based mobile services is that they could as easily take away from the urban experience as enhance it. But rather than inhibiting people's sensory awareness of the urban landscape the activity of public authoring actually stimulated it.

Many of the trial participants reported that using Urban Tapestries triggered a new engagement with their environment, “It changed my experience of my environment - without consciously trying, I became much more aware of things around me.”

What kinds of applications of public authoring can be created that promote and develop this augmentation of spatial awareness?

What kinds of personal devices and interfaces can be created that play with and respond to this sensory stimulation?

What kinds of architectonic devices and interfaces can be embedded into our future environments that allow us to devise additional ways of engaging with our environments?

Posted by Giles Lane at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

Filtering out the Noise

With just 100 participants in the public trial, each using the system for no more than 2 hours each, the UT prototype map quickly became covered with 'pockets' and 'threads'.

How can we imagine and design filtering systems that reflect the complexity of our moods, of our social and cultural interactions, of our emotions and feelings about place and identity?

Filtering is often structured around inclusion and exclusion lists, yet how do we retain an essential spark of serendipity: one of the signal properties of city life? Preferences, too, focus on the individual and notions of choice. Can this be too limiting – only showing what we think we want, rather than what we might be interested in if only we knew of its existence?

What kind of trust or reputation systems can be created, adopted or combined which are not self-serving, but reflect the dynamic process of how individuals and communities

Posted by Giles Lane at 05:30 PM | Comments (3)

February 07, 2004

Ordnance Survey

On Thursday Nick and I presented our work on Urban Tapestries to a group of researchers and geographers at the Ordnance Survey. We had some very encouraging conversations and discussions with them about the future potential for public authoring and collaborative cartography systems, and how the Research and Innovation group at OS are keen to find ways to interact with researchers and developers working in this area.

Their enthusiasm for finding new collaborative research models and ways to devise prototypes and tests that engage with the public is very inspiring and helps shift the traditional perception of the OS as a monolithic and impenetrable organisation that is only interested in licensing their data to large corporations. We are looking forward to an ongoing and fruitful collaboration with them on Urban Tapestries.

Posted by Giles Lane at 03:15 PM | Comments (2)