Saturday, October 23, 2004

What I read online today

Molly Steenson on suburban computing:

"With all the discussion about mobile technology and the urban context, we forgot something big: the suburbs. In 1999, almost half of the United States' total housing was located in the suburbs. Mostly, it's the isolated smart home that gets attention. Yet teens with Frappuccinos and commuting parents in minivans heavily use mobile technology. So what needs to go into a study of suburban computing? Where do we need to start, what should we consider, and why haven't we gotten around to it sooner?"

I don't think it's been forgotten - it just assumes a fundamental distinction between city and suburb that is, in my mind, overstated and not as important as particular mixes of people, objects and practices in each space. A micro-level focus should slide between both realms.

Terra Nova asks about the responsibilities of game developers (and players) in creating the worlds in which we dwell:

"How socially edgy (vs. neutral) should our virtual worlds be, and [should] those sharp edges be mutable against player social norms and player actions? Should 'official' world actions (e.g. GM orchestrated ones) be evaluated differently than player ones when it comes to measurement against real world norms? When should real world sensibilities pre-empt in-world, fictional assumptions?"

I often think of designers and developers as stage-builders. As such, they provide a space for play. Whether we choose to do good or bad on that stage is, in part, limited by its potential.

Future Now looks at why people will annotate physical space and what we need to make it work:

"People will take the time to compose a message and tag that message to a place because they want you to know that they were there, or because they have information that will be relevant to you later when you're in the same location, or some combination of both ... Ultimately, these types of annotations are still meant for other people -- what is the sound of an unread geo-annotation? -- but the value for the viewer will largely be to participate in someone else's experience and get a sense of the unrecorded history of a place ... What's most crucial for this future to thrive? Interface. Simple, convenient interfaces for inputting annotations, and uncluttered, filtered interfaces for receiving annotations. Trust systems, social networks, and personal profiles & preferences will be necessary tools for survival when every urban street corner may have hundreds of annotations."

While I see these desires and needs being partially true, I cannot help but see cultural and class biases here. Uncritical assumptions and buzzwords like these can lead to dodgy design.

UPDATE - Peter writes:

"I would argue that if people are annotating space only to serve others, it will never, or only rarely, happen. What do I care what some stranger 8 months from now thinks about what I wrote at the corner of New Montgomery and Market in San Francisco? What on earth could I possibly say that's meaningful to them? What benefit do I derive by acting as a tour guide to a stranger? But I will note things that are important to me, much the same way I do in del.icio.us, so that it helps me remember."

Indeed!

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