Monday, April 7, 2003

Ambient Interludes from the Dublin Cityscape

A collaborative project of the Media Lab Europe Story Networks group, Texting Glances was designed with the NTRG in Trinity College. This ambient "waiting" game establishes a symbiotic relationship between a transient audience, a waiting place, and a story engine that matches SMS inputs to image output. By incorporating culturally current messaging norms, the audience becomes an active collaborating author in a layered exploration of social familiarity and public space.

Texting Glances has a network of sites in the City Zone. The moving audience interacts with the sites as they go about their daily lives. Audience can become author by adding to the image content of the system. Images 'live' in the system and are triggered into making an appearance, at any time and at any place by other users. An image can go undiscovered for months unless exposed by the audience. Audience can also become collector and download passing images. The city becomes a hiding place for images to be uncovered and collected. Texting Glances effects change behaviour as people move to different city spaces to find new images and stories. This ambient "waiting" game establishes a symbiotic relationship between a transient audience, a waiting place, and a story engine that matches SMS inputs to image output. By incorporating culturally current messaging norms, the audience becomes an active collaborating author in a layered exploration of social familiarity and public space.

ambient interludes on a bus / media lab europe ambient interludes on a parking meter / media lab europe ambient interludes on the side of a building / media lab europe

Wow. Between developing a new course and reading Benjamin's Arcades Project, I've become rather smitten lately with the idea of annotated city spaces. This project is very much along the lines of what I envisioned for Amsterdam RealTime, and together with other projects I have recently noted, one of the more appealing shapes of emerging social computing applications.

But the pictures got me thinking that none of these spaces are entirely public. What I mean is that the public (masse) are not entirely free to interact with buses or parking meters that belong to municipal government, or buildings that belong to private citizens - there are existing restrictions for such social spaces. I'm curious how we might negotiate the actual use of this type of technology, short of as public art projects. I also immediately cringed when I thought about this technology being used for advertising and other propaganda - because even though I imagined being able to talk back, it takes far less effort to delete digital grafitti than it does to whitewash a wall, and I don't imagine a great deal of dissent marking the landscape. Still, the potential is incredible.

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