Monday, March 31, 2003

Digital Cities

I'm working on a new course syllabus right now, and want to include something on digital cities, mobility and augmented spaces. A few examples spring to mind:

Next Memory City (Canada)
Three works - a very large-scale photograph of Toronto, video images of Venice, and sound recordings from both cities - form a triptych, and in its folds we encounter a place which is neither Venice nor Toronto. By displacing our experience of time and location, Next Memory City reveals previously invisible aspects of our shared urban existence. The fabric of emergent urban forms is here made momentarily real.

David Rokeby's contribution, Seen, traces the movement of people through the Piazza San Marco in Venice. His presentation at Doors 7 looked at flow and control, humans and machines:

When feedback loops exist between humans and machines, interesting factors come into play. It has been determined that consciousness tends to operate at a delay of about 1/10 of a second. Computers tend to respond in much less than 1/30th of a second. As a result, the feedback between human and machine can creep under the level of consciousness, invisibly reinforcing and attenuating various aspects of the complex stream flowing through the loop. Such feedback systems have their own synergetic characteristics. And because the fastest responding element of the system is usually the computer, what is most reinforced through the loop is often defined more by the computer than the human ... As we move into a scenario where more-and-more less-and-less conspicuous computing devices populate our lives, we need to pay careful attention to what is being reinforced and what is being discouraged in our relationships with these devices. The prospect of pervasive computing poses the difficult challenge of guaranteeing a pervasive humanity flowing through these systems.

Amsterdam Real Time (Netherlands)
During two months all of Amsterdam's citizens [were] invited to be equipped with a tracer-unit. This is a portable device developed by Waag Society which is equipped with GPS: Global Positioning System. Using satellite data the tracer calculates its geographical position. These tracers' data are sent in realtime to a central point. By visualizing this data against a black background traces, lines, appear. From these lines a (partial) map of Amsterdam constructs itself. This map does not register streets or blocks of houses, but consists of the sheer movements of real people.

The beauty, as I saw it, was in the question: "What/Where/When/Who is Amsterdam? Amsterdam is the ever-changing - personal and collective - movements of the people. These movements are traced in real-time, and projected into the past and future. Add the ability for users to simultaneously create/witness/collect memories and myths - of the lived city - and we're good to go!"

New York Songlines: Walking Tours of Manhattan Streets (USA)
New York has its own giants, heroes and monsters who left their marks and their names on the land around us. If we learn their stories which are written on our streets and avenues, we'll have a much better chance of knowing where we've been, and where we're going. To this end I offer these as the New York Songlines. An oral cultures uses songs as the most efficient way to remember and transmit large amounts of information; the Web is our technological society's closest equivalent. Each Songline will follow a single pathway ... Don't feel you need to travel in a straight line, however; at most intersections you can click on one of the arrows to turn the corner and explore a new Songline.

Intelligent Street (UK/Sweden)
We shall install the intelligent street in the entrances of the University of Westminster Harrow Campus and the Interactive Institute, Sweden, from May 2003. The intelligent street will enhance the experience of users in both locations by creating a gentle sonic playground that reflects the cultures of its users, entertain and act as a talking point. Users will be able to interract by sending SMS messages from their mobile phone. A display in each location and on the web will give optional information about how users are engaging. Over time, 'intelligent' algorithms will build up a picture or memory of the culture and behaviour of users. Users (students) at Harrow and in Sweden will have the opportunity to design and contribute elements of sound to be incorporated.

I'd love to learn of similar projects - know of any?


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