Graphic language for touch

This work explores the visual link between information and physical things, specifically around the emerging use of the mobile phone to interact with RFID or NFC. It was a presentation and poster at Design Engaged, Berlin on the 11th November 2005.

Download the icons (PDF, 721KB, Gif preview).

As mobile phones are increasingly able to read and write to RFID tags embedded in the physical world, I am wondering how we will appropriate this for personal and social uses.

I’m interested in the visual link between information and physical things. How do we represent an object that has digital function, information or history beyond it’s physical form? What are the visual clues for this interaction? We shouldn’t rely on a kind of mystery meat navigation (the scourge of the web-design world) where we have to touch everything to find out it’s meaning.

This work doesn’t attempt to be a definitive system for marking physical things, it is an exploratory process to find out how digital/physical interactions might work. It uncovers interesting directions while the technology is still largely out of the hands of everyday users.

h3. Reference to existing work

Visual references

p(caption). Click for larger version.

The inspiration for this is in the marking of public space and existing iconography for interactions with objects: push buttons on pedestrian crossings, contactless cards, signage and instructional diagrams.

This draws heavily on the substantial body of images of visual marking in public space. One of the key findings of this research was that visibility and placement of stickers in public space is an essential part of their use. Current research in ubicomp and ‘locative media’ is not addressing these visibility issues.

There is also a growing collection of existing iconography in contactless payment systems, with a number of interesting graphic treatments in a technology-led, vernacular form. In Japan there are also instances of touch-based interactions being represented by characters, colours and iconography that are abstracted from the action itself.

I have also had great discussions with Ulla-Maaria Mutanen and Jyri Engestr�m who have been doing interesting work with thinglinks and the intricate weaving of RFID into craft products.

h3. Development


Sketching and development revealed five initial directions: circles, wireless, card-based, mobile-based and arrows (see the poster for more details). The icons range from being generic (abstracted circles or arrows to indicate function) to specific (mobile phones or cards touching tags).

Arrows might be suitable for specific functions or actions in combinations with other illustrative material. Icons with mobile phones or cards might be helpful in situations where basic usability for a wide range of users is required. Although the ‘wireless’ icons are often found in current card readers, they do not successfully indicate the touch-based interactions inherent in the technology, and may be confused with WiFi or Bluetooth. The circular icons work at the highest level, and might be most suitable for generic labelling.


For further investigation I have selected a simple circle, surrounded by an ‘aura’ described by a dashed line. I think this successfully communicates the near field nature of the technology, while describing that the physical object contains something beyond its physical form.


In most current NFC implementations, such as the 3220 from Nokia and many iMode phones, the RFID reader is in the bottom of the phone. This means that the area of ‘activation’ is obscured in many cases by the phone and hand. The circular iconography allows for a space to be marked as ‘active’ by the size of the circle, and we might see it used to mark areas rather than points. Usability may improve when these icons are around the same size as the phone, rather than being a specific point to touch.

h3. Work in progress

This is early days for this technology, and this is work-in-progress. There is more to be done in looking at specific applications, finding suitable uses and extending the language to cover other functions and content.

Until now I have been concerned with generic iconography for a digitally augmented object. But this should develop into a richer language, as the applications for this type of interaction become more specific, and related to the types of objects and information being used. For example it would be interesting to find a graphic treatment that could be applied to a Pokemon sticker offering power-ups as well as a bus stop offering timetable downloads.

I’m also interested in the physical placement of these icons. How large or visible should they be? Are there places that should not be ‘active’? And how will this fit with the natural, centres of gravity of the mobile phone in public and private space.

I’ll expand on these things in a few upcoming projects that explore touch-based interactions in personal spaces.

Feel free to use and modify the icons, I would be very interested to see how they can be applied and extended.

h3. Visual references

Oyster Card, Transport for London.
eNFC, Inside Contactless.
Paypass, Mastercard.
ExpressPay, American Express.
FeliCa, Sony.
MiFare, various vendors.
Suica, JR, East Japan Railway Company.
RFID Field Force Solutions, Nokia.
NFC shell for 3220, Nokia.
ERG Transit Systems payment, Dubai.
Various generic contactless vendors.
Contactless payment symbol, Mastercard.
Open Here, Paul Mijksenaar, Piet Westendorp, Thames and Hudson, 1999.
Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud, Harper, 1994

Design Engaged 2005

Posted on Nov 20, 2005 in Conferences, Interaction design, Place, Travel, Ubicomp

h3. Intro by Andrew Otwell

Restorative feeling of getting together.
The architecture of participation.
Experience design is participation design.

h3. Adam Greenfield

Ethical and social implications of ubicomp
Has been reading far afield “Out of gas” “Dark age ahead” “Collapse
Growth and decline
Models of growth:
1. Health of economy is based on growth
2. Continuous growth: technological singularity: going off the charts
3. Cancer,
Decline: cyclical decline, populations, rise and fall of the nile
But sometime it’s not cyclical: the global production of oil.
Growth and terminal decline: global oil production. Industrial civilisation becomes very hard to maintain.
There is a contingency that designers probably ought to be thinking about.
An implication: things get intensely local
Power sources, reclamation, working and forging
Textiles dyes colorings
Methods practices and standards: knowledge: resident in the minds and things around us.
Deployment of finished items
Value: ie copper may be worth more locally as a metal to be worked, than as wiring in an inert grid.
A new suite of design gestures
Our near-instantaneous google+wikipedia
Lose Apple-Z
Flexibility and unquestioned connectivity (the social, fluid, soft meeting space)
digital visualization and rapid prototyping
Petrochemical or dependent derived material properties
Precision fabrication
Low material costs
The global community

Will become important
Adaptive re-use
Modularity, interoperability
Mash-up ethos
Sense of possibility and play
Reclamation of old industrialisation
Re-densification: new urban centres
Urban core may be untenable: bulding higher than 6 floors may be difficult
KH Kunstler: the long emergency

h3. Matt Ward

Has design lost its way.
Design is always ideological, influenced by specific world views, responds to cultural context, design is a product (of the society it originates from).
It’s also world shaping, future oriented, not yet, soon to be, one day, wouldn’t it be cool if. Imagination and production. Cannot claim autonomy from social change.
Utopia, Outopia: no place. Eutopia: good place
The desire to be somewhere different, not about this place not now, free of the problems of this world.
No problem to link utopianism with the act of designing.
Many see design as a key to changing the world. Corbusier.
Design is also linked to control and power.
Archigram: a move away from conservatism. Anti-utopianism, learning from the mistakes of their forefathers.
Inbetween the space of freedom and control: metamorphosis
Utopia of difference: terroristic meta-narratives (Tom Moylan)
Superstudio: allows for different uses and actions to define the architecture of the studio. A critique of the modernists.
Critical utopia: asks questions: asks towards change, towards critical design.
Problem with critical design: forgets to question the position that the designer has
Locative media: a lot of technology removes us from everyday life, we need to remember the dogshit and the chewing gum.
Malcolm: the avant garde is now 2 minutes.
Digital design: change in space and place: information acts within the production of space.

h3. Joshua Kaufman

Book: The Whale and the Reactor (A search for limits in an age of high technology)
Social consequences of design from a historical perspective
Artefacts have political properties: invention, design or arrangement of artifact becomes a way of settling an issue in the affaris of a community. Some articles are inherently political (weaponry)
Political design can be found in architecture and urban planning
Robert Moses low overpasses: discouraged lower-class travel
Barron Haussmann’s thoroughfares: large roads and parks.
Concrete buildings and plazas at universities, to discourage demonstrations
Cyrus McCorrmick II’s molding machines
How design choices affect the relative distribution of power.
Fabio: Relationship between artefact and culture is complex. You can put the baby out into the world, but can’t take responsibility for all it’s actions.

h3. Anne Galloway

Design and the parliament of things
Making the work of a social scientist applicable
Philosophy of science
The difference between an assemblage and an assembly
“To assemble is one thing; to represent to the eyes and ears of those assembled what is at stake is another” Bruno Latour, How to Make Things Public.
The different between objects and things
In design, things are objects: stable and neutral. Even users are objects.
Things: an assembly: to come together
A coming together precicely because we have differences.
From Realpolitics to Thingpolitics.
“Walking is controlled falling” Laurie Andersen.
Representative democracy: body-politic: unifying difference, stabilising and reducing difference.
From representation to re-presentation: all the constituent parts
Re-presenting design: invention and capitalism, speed and mobilisation.
Going from an assemblage of different parts to an assembly.
Speed and competition, focusing on the novel: ideas and materials and practices are being mobilised, getting rid of the obstacles that will slow it down.
This doesn”t help us ‘assemble’. A constant space of speed, not encouraged to slow down and think things through. We don’t have an assembly.
We can’t afford to keep ignoring each other.
“Your concerns are not relevant to our task at hand, you are not enabling my efficiency, etc.”
What is it going to take to design in this parliament of things?
We can start by slowing down.
“That’s where slowing down comes in you can create new habits only by slowing down, because new habits also mean new feelings, new interests, new possibilities” Isabelle Stengers
Matt: voting is a last resort, consensus is reached in different ways.
Anne: not interested in consensus, interested in convergence.
Malcolm: taking into account, not accounting the bottom line: Latour
Matt: strategies and tactics in moving towards slowness? A: get outside, get into the ground.

h3. Michelle Chang

Public by design
Interested in the issue of privacy
Privacy / Publicness
Public library
How the library became a microcosm of the city: a number of services and interfaces to the city
Practices: activities.
What technologies are public goods? Electricity, wireless, etc.
Which technologies must be individually wrought? Laptops, mobiles.
“A public institution must bear the burden of public demands”
Anne: a public space or a commons? A convergence
Use of the internet problematic: an increasing use of “adult terminals” versus “children’s terminals”.
The library becomes a sort of pitstop: getting out of the rain or using the toilet.

h3. Thomas Vander Wal

Clouds, space and black boxes
Information is found and created, but there is little distinction between the two.
Personal info cloud, local infocloud, global infocloud
A clearing house of filters from the flood of information that flows down.
Filtering based on trust and value: aggregation
A ‘firewall’ that filters what information we give to people
A ‘smart’ black box
Some people keep all different bits of their personal data stored underneath different usernames: so as to not keep all data aggregated in one place.

h3. Louise Klinker

Guilty consciences
Using environmental issues. Using P2P software
Linking music download to criminal activity, but also tracking music downloads according to the amount of money owed to industry and artists.

h3. Malcolm McCullough

Taking into account the notion of civic space: architecture.
Closed laptop, notebook…

h3. Fabio Sergio

The skin of objects
No definitions of interaction design!
Where is the material of interaction design?
Joy Mountfort: “We are designing the skin of objects” reacted strongly against this.
Industrial design: from Olivetti cash register to Apple G5.
Ben: models are the substance of interaction design. The act of creating constraints and systemic understandings.
The visualisation of complexity: making new materials from the mass of information.
Conceptual models affecting the physical models.
Liz: what are models? Fundamentals of interaction design are stories.

h3. Stefan Smagula

Open source media
Project Lightspeed: AT&T, Yahoo and Microsoft.
Big players: Apple, IPTV, Yahoo, Google
Bootstrappers: Open Media Network, DTV (Bittorrent & RSS), Open Source Radio
RSS provides metadata and triggers downloads
Matt Jones: Jerry Cornelius: an open source character: giving away plots and stories.

h3. Chris Heathcote

Panasonic gets personalisation.
Barcodes on skins.
Websites for cover creation.
Harajuku store for expensive personal covers.
Korea: metal depicting war scenes, cloth.
A spectrum of engagement, consume, buy, customise, accessorize, alter, make, design.
Find out how, make stuff, sell stuff. cyworld (half population of Korea?), habbo, myspace, neopets.
Peer production: flips traditional production economics.
physical peer production: toolmakers, manufacturer, designer, aggregator, printer, user.
Internet fabrication: electronic, materials
Home fabrication: 3d scanners, milling and printing, 2d printing and cutting
Local fabrication: access to machine shops, equipment
Is physical better than digital?
Is this sustainable?
How do we design for casual craft?
Malcolm: biggest criticism of digital ground is the longevity of the tools, the tools are not consistent or stable enough.
Mike: people don’t like to do something they do for a living in their spare time: this might be a reaction away digital work environments.
John: scrapbooking industry is huge in the States: manifesting a collection of pieces: in Target is a whole section for scrapbooking.
Slowness is the point of craft. The process is key.
Anne: when you work in a sweatshop you don’t knit for relaxation.
Liz: … as long as it’s pink. Modern idea of design is strongly opposed to the Victorian ‘crafted’ fussy environments.

h3. Jyri Engstrm & Ulla-maaria Mutanen

Social objects, invisible tail and free product codes.
A map of relationships, with nodes as individuals.
But look at interactions from an ethnographic pov, we see interaction through social objects.
Michael Tomasello: children learn about intentional affordances based on understanding the intentional relations to other people.
Online these things are links, photos, etc.
Developing novel kinds of interactions through objects.
Photos, bookmarks, blogs, products.
Tim O’Reilly: Amazon also introduced their own proprietary identifier: the ASIN: works for objects that don’t have ISBN. A basic necessity for anything to become a social object online.
UPC, EPC, ISBN, ASIN for artefacts of mass production.
What might be a for physical things?
History, present, makers, materials. Making those relations visible: indicating social value.
Using RFID as a personal tool.
To-do list
Recommendation-based markets
Free thing identifiers
Available wireless access
Simple terminal devices

h3. Matt Webb

Forms of address: how we talk to computers, and how we should.
URLs and point and click are bad.
Desktop search and recent items: help a lot
Global URLs: they are portable, excellent.
They let you see ideas within their structure, not other ideas.
Doug Engelbart: online system
Delicious encodes a certain type of behaviour with more persistence and history.
Recent call lists on mobile phone
Using the Ning database is more like a conversation than Spotlight, it makes assumptions around structured data.
Patterns of behaviour: ‘the things I’ve done in the last 30 seconds can be referenced as an object”.
Bookmarking a conversation.
Mr Messy
“I’m only a first time user once”
Mike: Predictive shell.

h3. Nurri Kim

Tokyo Blues: The city as seen through one material
Blue tarpaulen: used in many different ways across different cities.
Most extensive use of blue tarps in Japan: anything that is passing into or out of existence.
Blue tarps with a modular system: model number is higher with durability
Most popular model number 3000, conforms to the tatami mat size.
Aerial photo: everything is being built, or rebuilt, historical renovation.
Used as shelter for homeless, mat for picnics, covers for temporary objects, street vendors, covering floors, spreading tarps to indicate zones: becomes an indoor space: taking off shoes to enter an ‘indoor zone’. Concealing / covering. Stack of things.

h3. Jack Schulze

Screen based button.
Working with manufacturing engineers
Physical buddies
The Invisibles
Desolation Jones
Will Burtin
What we can get away with in domestic manufacture.
Phones: manufacture, style/form: self reinforcement
Manufacture: iterating this relationship towards cheaper, assume this is better.
Manufacture: Worskshops : craft, local, milling, rfp
Style: malice, opportunism, dissassembly, individual, cults, play, luxury
Metal: Lens 117, casting metal in wax.
Casting phones in metal.

h3. Rgine Debatty

Artists or designers using RFID technology.
RFID was initially frightening.
Some consumer focused uses
RFID sushi: underneath each plate is a tag, conveyer belt. RFID reader scans a stack of plates.
For tracking cows.
In toys: a doll that gets sick, each accessory is a tag, in the toy is a reader.
Zapped: a machine that lets you know about readers in the space. Gave a cockroach with RFIDs to every participant: release in the nearest walmart to taint the database.
How artists and designers are using it
A1 lounge: re-materialisation, prada store.
Digital wardrobe: making sure she uses things that people don’t see more than once.
RFID habitat: tables in two parts of the world, shows presence
RFID bootleg objects: mp3 player based on a vinyl turntable, using the old covers as interface to mp3s.
Deal me in: cards for poker: blackjack mat that plugs into the computer: seeing and printing pictures using playing cards, a traditional interface.
With hidden numbers: traditional fashion objects, by passing these objects through a reader you can play music and play samples
Junkie helper: medicine linked to a chatroom: where people in a chatroom can see your action.
Go-dance: projecting videos in nightclubs, but can DJ using embodied interactions, with RFIDs connected to clothing
Peripheral needs: Velcro is used to turn appliances in the home on and off. The paper tags can be used to keep track of what’s going on in the home.
Urban eyes.
The living room: Telling stories with rfid

h3. Liz Goodman

Physical fitness
Ecosystem enabling.
Dance Dance revolution incorporating fitness into gaming.
The ‘Pay per play’ model
Arcades are designed to be really fun.

h3. Eric Rodenbeck, Michal Migurski, Stamen

Dumb Gestures
Vito Acconci: our work has to sound exciting over the phone
Dumb: easy explanations: eg. Flickr
Meet the audience more than halfway
Dumb is difficult
Map of the market: martin wattenburg, babyname voyager, visualising the way we use language
Vox Delicii
Acconci studio: website based on tags: can build dynamic presentations on the fly.
Cabspotting: live taxi visualisation
Molly: data fetishism: what types of things can be done with this as a tool?
Thomas: difficulty with time on the web, nothing that deals with it well: everything stuck on a calendar.
David Gelertner: lifestreams
How can we make this more ugly: graphic ugliness is equated with truth, if anything is to be taken seriously.
Malcolm: too much visualisation as wallpaper

h3. Molly Steenson

With re-unification, an entire class of everyday markers was wiped out.

h3. John Poisson

Seeking nirvana in design for the tiny
Four mobile truths
The mobile world is in a mess: earliest days of the PC.
Intense and competing constraints.
How to design for a form factor that is so limited.
Implementation is so limited by standards. Onerous restrictions and suffering with dealing with carriers. Onerous business models.
But it’s a tremendous opportunity, billions of potential users.
To assuage anxieties over all this: constraints can lead to a level of purity. A mobile app is a bit like a haiku.
A zen approach to the design and implementation of these things.
Refinement towards a very specific set of constraints.

h3. Ben Cerveny

Hyperdimensional hopscotch
Ideas put forward around the possibilites of dystopian futures.
Structure and architecture loom large in our minds (even though our titles are not that enymore)
Information structures are starting to play out in the spaces we inhabit: in the construction of the community.
In the process of game design: commodification of play, play creates interfaces in a richer interface than the traditional process of interface design. (through play finding the boundaries of the self and the other).
Use of symbolic systems and projection of language onto the world.
Game vs play: game is projecting a model into play. Language formalises meaning, games formalise play.
Hopskotch has no real ingredients, apart from a method of making marks and a space (plus an agreement to play the game)
This agreement is where the power is.
Consensual modelling capabilities: emergent social properties.
People have a growing literacy of what is possible.
Chess: a sculpture of behaviour of the pieces.
Aware of the tools to make this kind of models.
Goal directed learning: role-playing is more like improvisation: the roles involved are not defined in silos, but interwoven. Multiplications of capabilities. Certain tasks can only be achieved through a sequence of collaborative actions. Cumulative actions.
The techniques of role-play have made it into the workplace.
Neverendingness: a distributed conversation about the building of ‘what can happen’. Submitting ideas into a collaborative space.
The hopskotch that we are playing, is a directed but temporary structure.
The smooth space that we are standing on, that we demarcate with some markings.
Building models that have a linkable state.
The game we are playing is re-projectable onto different circumstances. (in case of dire future possibilities).
Games gone native: in specific environments.
Temporary autonomous games (tag). Chalk on sidewalk, but chalk is washed away. Temporary collaborative structures of meaning: playing out actions in that space, the product is meaningful. Focus taxonomy onto a specific process, that has traction, but can then discard the rule-set, once we have a product.
In betweening (Aldo van Eyck). Became uncomfortable with the top-down projections of authority (high modernism). Built 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam.
Projecting the possibility of play onto the environment. Filled all of the gaps in Amsterdam with play. A sandbox here, a pole there, etc.
A divergence from the monolithic flows of high modernism.
Collaborative making of urban experience.
‘We are all here now’, feeling. Take different roles in the game that is more empowering towards our ability to make things in the city.
Beaurau of spatial organisational.
Before we can activate a city (with a platform) we need to begin to compose our personal, fragmented understandings, how things can be represented, things that we can broadcast to each other.
These things can be connected to the city, a living model of the city. Building the hopscotch squares from one to the other.
The game model has the flexibility to support the kind of collaborative activity that will support these things.
Matt: how to manage the politicization of artefacts. What are the political consequences of these ideologies, structures, games. A game about the making of the game.
Adam: John Zorn’s cobra: improvisational combat jazz. Disruptor.
Mike: open ended, play-based perspective: changing and following rules is very complex, and leads down paths that are very damaging. But by sticking to one set of rules might end with a better result.
Collaborative idealism is a constant flow of articulation and re-articulation. Laminar flow and turbulence. Turn up the flow of collaboration we also get ‘stop and go’ effects.
Game: flex: so many rulecards have been played that it’s impossible.

Graffiti as conversation

Posted on Feb 28, 2005 in Photography, Place, Urbanism

Phone conversation

I’ve been photographing layers of conversation in graffiti, and tagging the pictures with “conversation”: Prior art for “spatial annotation”:

Spatial memory at Design Engaged 2004

Notes on two related projects:

h2. 1. Time that land forgot

* A “project”: in collaboration with Even Westvang
* Made in 10 days at the Icelandic locative media workshop, summer 2004
* Had the intention of making photo archives and gps trails more useful/expressive
* Looked at patterns in my photography: 5 months, 8000 photos, visualised them by date / time of day. Fantastic resource for me: late night parties, early morning flights, holidays and the effect of midnight sun is visible.
* Looking now to make it useful as part of more pragmatic interface, to try other approaches less about the abstracted visualisation

* “prototype”:
* “info, details, research and source code”:
* “time visualisation”:

h2. 2. Marking in urban public space

I’ve also been mapping stickering, stencilling and flyposting: walking around with the camera+gps and “photographing examples of marking”: (not painted graffiti).


This research looks at the marking of public space by investigating the physical annotation of the city: stickering, stencilling, tagging and flyposting. It attempts to find patterns in this marking practice, looking at visibility, techniques, process, location, content and audience. It proposes ways in which this marking could be a layer between the physical city and digital spatial annotation.

h3. Some attributes of sticker design

* *Visibility*: contrast, monochromatic, patterns, bold shapes, repetition
* *Patina*: history, time, decay, degredation, relevance, filtering, social effects
* *Physicality*: residue of physical objects: interesting because these could easily contain digital info
* *Adaptation and layout*: layout is usually respectful, innovative use of dtp and photocopiers, adaptive use of sticker patina to make new messages on top of old


Layers of information build on top of each other, as with graffiti, stickers show their age through fading and patina, flyposters become unstuck, torn and covered in fresh material. Viewed from a distance the patina is evident, new work tends to respect old, and even commercial flyposting respects existing graffiti work.


Techniques vary from strapping zip-ties through cardboard and around lampposts for large posters, to simple hand-written notes stapled to trees, and short-run printed stickers. One of the most fascinating and interactive techniques is the poster offering strips of tear-off information. These are widely used, even in remote areas.


Initial findings show that stickers don’t relate to local space, that they are less about specific locations than about finding popular locations, “cool neighbourhoods” or just ensuring repeat exposure. This is opposite to my expectations, and perhaps sheds some light on current success/failure of spatial annotation projects.

I am particularly interested in the urban environment as an interface to information and an interaction layer for functionality, using our spatial and navigational senses to access local and situated information.

There is concern that in a dense spatially annotated city we might have an overload of information, what about filtering and fore-grounding of relevant, important information? Given that current technologies have very short ranges (10-30mm), we might be able to use our existing spatial skills to navigate overlapping information. We could shift some of the burden of information retrieval from information architecture to physical space.

I finished by showing this animation by Kriss Salmanis, a young Latvian artist. Amazing re-mediation of urban space through stencilling, animation and photography. (“Un ar reizi naks tas bridis” roughly translates as “And in time the moment will come”.

h2. Footnotes/references

p(footnote). Graffiti Archaeology, Cassidy Curtis

p(footnote). Street Memes, collaborative project

p(footnote). Spatial annotation projects list

p(footnote). Nokia RFID kit for 5140,,55739,00.html

p(footnote). Spotcodes, High Energy Magic

p(footnote). ?Mystery Meat navigation?, Vincent Flanders

p(footnote). RDF as barcodes, Chris Heathcote

p(footnote). Implementation: spatial literature

p(footnote). Yellow Arrow

Design Engaged 2004

We are all sat around a table in Amsterdam, at Design Engaged 2004. There are lots of photos going up to Flickr, and here are my notes.

h2. Ben Cerveny
* The growth of the soil
* How do we comprehend complexity
* How do we build structures around complex information
* Accreting meta-data: GPS data, descriptive information

h3. Decomposition
* Break down of material as it hits the soil
* Soup, tags, condensed and distilled meta objects

h3. Self organisation
* sorting mechanisms, affinity browsers, related, filtering, emergent relationships, interrelationships
* How do we conceive a metaphor for building these processes? A structure that is meaningful for the users.
* Application design: movement through states of application: to tending to a flow of processes
* Tending to meta-data is a growth process
* DLA diffusion limited aggregation, natural process model
* The relationships between metadata can be visualised as this * Should model metadata using plant models: plant models have existed for eons, basic structures for material

h3. Rules for expression
* L-systems growth, mimics biological rulesets
* Map rule-sets in metadata onto L-systems, affinity rules
* Branching tree structures could be used to make metadata more useful

h3. Roots and Feeds
* RSS feeds, a root system, aggregator has roots, to the surface of a newsreader

h3. Structural information
* After applying rules of expression (algorithms, l-systems) we could see differences in the way that the plant has evolved
* A “botany” of these different structures: smaller, larger clusters, structures.

h3. Cultivation as culture
* From a user perspective the idea of cultivation: users can actually affect change: can breed your own searches, using searches generationally, using own adapted metaphors for new contexts
* Mix and match mechanisms or instruments (specific rule-sets) move expressions and apply them to different rule-sets
* Don’t have to understand genetics, but we have found use for plants for generations
* User doesn’t need to know mechanisms, just ability to make changes and view outcomes

h3. Tending the garden
* Incredible complexity, incredible diversity
* Not intimidated by the complexity of the garden
* Present similar tools to tend to data

h3. Discussion
* Casey Reas: organic information design
* Thinkmap, physical simulation systems
* Mitchell Resnick: Turtles Termites, Traffic Jams
* Matt J: Does it rely on visual metaphors: how do we get people to cultivate rather than consume?

h2. Thomas Van Der Wal
* Synching feeling

h3. Everything fit in our brain
* then libraries
* then digital bits
* then putting everything in one place
* Our information on our pdas, cellphones, somewhere
* The dream is that we have accurate information at our disposal when we need it
* Personal info-cloud
* Local info-cloud: should it be located?
* External info-cloud: things you don’t know about
* How do users use information?
* Device versus network?
* Our networked space, that exists out in space
* Usable: syncing between two devices: calendar, address book, to do list
* Dodgy: documents, media maps, web-based info, multiple devices
* Personal version control: different devices have different versions
* Personal categorisation:

h3. Standard metadata for personal info-cloud
* content description
* creator
* privacy
* context
* use type (eg)
* instruction: destroy, revise in 6 months
* object type:
* categories: not a structured system, but hackable flat data

h3. Actual solutions
* Spotlight (Apple Tiger)
* MIT Project Oxygen

h3. Possible/partial solutions
* Script aggregation by metadata tag
* Publish to private/public location in RSS
* Rsynk and CVS
* Groove (Windows)
* Quicksilver (Mac)

h2. Adam Greenfield
* All watched over by machines of loving grace
* Some ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous computing environments
* Ubicomp is coming: IPV6 6.5×10 to the 23 addresses for every square metre on the planet
* Moving from describing to prescribing
* Technological artefacts are too dismissive of people
* Someone to watch over me: attractive as well as scary

h3. Default to harmlessness
* must ensure user’s physical psychic and financial safety
* must go well beyond graceful degredation
* faults must result in safety

h3. Be self disclosing
* Contain provisions for immediate, transparent querying of ownership, use, capabilities, etc.
* Seamlessness is optional
* Analogue of broadcast station identification or military IFF
* Web derived model for user-consent: cannot carry over to ubicomp, would be too intrusive to have to approve each and every disclosure of information in four space

h3. Be conservative of face
* ubiquitous systems are always already social systems: they must not unnecessarily embarras, himiliate or shame
* Goes beyond formal information-privacy concerns
* Prospect of being nakedly accountable to an inseen omipresent network

h3. Be conservative of time
* Must not introduce undue complications into ordinary operations
* Adult, competent users understand adequately what they want, shouldn’t introduce barriers
* Potential conflict with principle 1

h3. Be deniable
* Should be able to opt-out, anytime, anywhere, any process
* Critically: the ability to say no, without sacrificing anything but the ability to use whatever usage
* The “safe word” concept may find an application here

h3. Discussion
* Fabio: what about gossip
* Chris: surely there’s human responsibility
* Tom C: Social control includes humiliation and embarrasment
* Molly: systems for shaming: can be institutionalised and applied in problem places: difference between smart and smartass. Haven’t got good enough at modelling situations in order to get this right.

h2. Stefan Smagula
* Teaching and writing about interaction design

h2. Mike Kuniavsky
* Writing about ubicomp, society and social
* Material products areform from social values
* Products affect how we think
* The pattern is “a recognition of the complexity, unpredictability, confusion of the world”
* The framework of thought of the last 600 years is coming to an end
* “by dividing the world into smaller pieces, ways can be found to explain it”: this method is waning
* Communication and transportation has been the key driver of this change
* Shown people (designers?) how complex life is
* Most people don’t know what to do about this complexity
* At the end of the prescriptive rationalist vision of the world
* It is our job as designers to recognise these ideas: “design is a projection of people’s ideals onto product”
* Past the confusion of postmodernism: the complexity hasn’t been branded yet, hasn’t been given a core set of ideas
* Book: Human built world
* The complexity of the world is an uncomfortably bright light, people turn away: designers can make it manageable
* Go to the light of compexity!

h3. Discussion
* Adam: are we up against biological limits: are we wired to deal with things in a linear way? Yes: physiological limits: 7 +-2.
* Ben: we conceive as a subtractive process: a mental scene out of an excess of input: we have a body of linear tools to process. There is a realisation that we are non-linear systems: technology is becoming us, and the other way around.
* Matt: we can learn complexity way more than we realise: tests show that we subconsciously learn complexity beyond language and rational thought
* Magical thinking is not wrong: all our models are wrong
* Tom C: Looking at people as shearing layers of perception and cognition

h2. Remon Tijssen
* Behaviours, tactility and graphics
* Tensionfield between playfulness and functionality

h2. David Erwin
* The funnel
* Serial, parallel and optional interfaces

h2. Peter Boersma
* Transactional interfaces
* ezGov uses IBMs RUP
* RUP is weak in user-experience
* Added StUX, definitions of deliverables for user experience

h2. Dan Hill
* Self centred design
* Not selfish design
* Background: adaptive design, design as social process, inspiration from vernacular architecture, hackability, allowing and encouraging people to make technology what they want to be
* Inspiration from trip to US
* Assumption that UCD is generally a good thing
* The focus on usability has distracted people: it has become an end in itself
* UCD manifests itself in usability, at the expense of usefulness
* Cultural and social products: massive variation of use across the globe
* Products most innovative at BBC/music: audioscrobbler/lastFM: intense meaning in the patterns it generates. More innovative than iTunes music store. Steam: setting reminders for radio stations: hacked third party product, BBC is trying to support this innovation.
* This innovation is coming from non-designers
* Veen: Amateurised design: the most interesting design on the web: Shirky: Situated software
* Always consider a thing in it’s next larger context: Eliel Saarinen: useful piece of design process. Chair, room, house, city.
* A lot of information about the self, coming out of these systems
* Audioscrobbler: looking at ones music, bookmarks, photos, lunches, weblog posts, gps co-ordinates: how does this affect habits?
* Pace of development: what can be done on the web.
* Self-knowledge and enlightenment: how does it affect one’s life
* The practice and focus of design is moving towards behaviour

h3. Limitations
* This is early adopter activity, this is geeky, high barrier to entry, it requires code to make these things. It’s self limiting: only certain kind of people can make these products.
* Scaleability problems: resilience: lack of reliability of iterative development, when will we be at the stage when we can rely on things working?
* BBC, radio broadcasting needs to be resilient: public service
* Database design and scaleability: Flickr doesn’t need to be normalised
* Common appeal of these things is self-limiting: too much systems level thinking.
* Moving into a space where products are social, and can have social meaning, and thus be socially harmful
* People’s assumption and experiences are based on context
* Need to be more rigourous about understanding social patterns
* audioscrobbler is not good at classical music
* Designers and researchers need better understanding of each other
* Designers are at their most useful when they are enabling adaptive design
* Using ethnography within a design process, look at long-term ethnographic process: hooking it into the rapid prototyping of the adaptive design world
* There is the value of sociology here. Ethno-methodology, Heidegger
* Book: Where the action is, Dourish.
* Social systems work well when there is accountability
* Building things where this also builds an account of the building
* Place and space: place being about social structures
* Embodiment: Appropriating products, building social meanings into products
* Accountability: part of the action is a documentation of the action (Dourish). Is ‘view source’ accountability?
* Book: Presentation of self: Irvine Goffman

h2. Matt Webb
* Neuroscience and interaction design
* This is really mostly psychology
* Game: remembering animals
* Light comes from top left
* Easier to react in the direction that things approach you from
* Dialogue boxes, work with natural directions
* We follow human eye direction, not robot eye direction, pulling a lever is faster when eyes point in that direction
* We respond the same to arrows as we do to gaze
* All that neuroscience has done is to confirm what we know from psychology
* 3 types of object, animate, inanimate and tool
* 3 zones: graspable, peripersonal The schema of the body is extended by the held tools
* Our body space is quite mutable: space on a screen becomes the space represented by the body, anything which moves as part of your hand becomes part of your grasp, there’s an amount of time that this takes to understand this, learning process and experience
* Grasping has as much primacy as a cup itself: so “sit down” or “chair” are equivalent in the brain
* If we see or say grasping, or looking at coffee cup shows
* “What to do with too much information is the great riddle of our time” a* Mapping observed phenomena to the science of jetstreams, same thing will happen to neuroscience.

h2. John Poisson
* The stretch time conundrum
* Sony is a huge force: vaunted to villified in three short decades
* Loss of brand value: products are not meeting user expectations
* Sony founders have changed, directions have changed
* One of the problem is in the fact that it’s japanese: basic simple cultural processes
* Hikaru dorodango: process refinement as creative expression: successively sculpting and crafting mud balls into spheres
* 3 interconnected languages are undocumentably mixed
* Languages are connected to neurological development: learning japanese at an early age increases the threshold of tolerance of the pain of complexity: Kanji pain begets user pain.
* At first thought that it was a problem of language, but then realised this increased tolerance of complexity pain.
* Sony “iPod killer” is a user-experience nightmare, but for japanese it’s not too complex
* There’s an overall acceptance of complexity in Japan
* Pattern based learning: origami: 48 steps of process, more complex than interfaces
* Stretch time: at 3o’clock on the Sony campus everyone stops, music plays and everyone is encouraged to stretch.
* Process is good: start with rice cookers and end up with transistors: releasing lots of stuff and then seeing what works. But there are a lot more misses than hits at the moment

h2. Sanjay Khanna
* Kurt Vonnegut in “Cold Turkey”
* Mike: intended effects are insignificant compared with the emergent effects, just noise compared to the overall outcomes

h2. Niels Wolf
* Intro to JXTA
* Works on every network device
* Allows control over your data, sharing, peer to peer backup
* Implemented in many languages: including python
* Assigned a unique number, which works across IP, bluetooth, mobile rendezvous, etc.
* Everybody becomes a server if no other can be found

h2. Molly Wright Steenson
* All hail the vast comforting suburb of the soul
* Lots of research into garden cities
* Worried that the future is going to be boring
* Closing off some avenues for development by focusing on urban environments
* What are the constraints that define a suburb?

h2. Jack Schulze
* Mapping and looking
* Lots of cool stuff: no notes.

h2. Matthew Ward
* Questioning the commodification of space
* We are social, spatial, temporal beings

h3. What were the conditions for the rise of these spatial technologies
* 2001 descrambling of GPS
* FCC policy to make sure 911 callers can be located
* Ubiquity of mobile phones
* If we don’t move away from the “where’s my nearest pizza” we are going to get really bored really soon
* Differential space: socio-spatial differences are emphasised and celebrated
* Iain Borden: Skateboarding
* “social space is a social product.” “Our task now is to construct everyday life, to produce it, consciously to create it, boredom is pregnant with desires, frustrated desires” Lefebvre.

h2. Chris Heathcote
* Nuts and bolts, how to use location
* Location is co-ordinates
* Location is names and titles
* Location is also near Matt Webb, or near my iBook: relative position might be more useful way of thinking
* Physical augmentation: using, abusing, changing where they live
* Visual design: Buddy finder on mobile phones: spatially false, chart junk
* Context awareness is really hard:
* What happens when you get rid of the maps?
* Lots more cool stuff that I didn’t take notes on…

h2. Matt Jones
* Nokia: Insight and foresight
* A hard problem: “Ubicomp is hard, understanding people, context and the world is hard, getting computers to handle everyday situations is hard, and expectations are set way too high.” Gene Becker,
* Next-gen mobile: big screens, more whizzy features, but we still have the same old messy world
* A modest start: being in the world instead of in front of the screen
* 3220: 5140: power up covers with new capabilities
* 3220: LED displays with accelerometers and thus motion capture
* Where the action is: This ignores 99% of our daily lives
* dance dance revolution and eyetoy: new world
* 5140: first RFID reader phone
* New ways of using mobiles with touch based tech
* easy and concrete access to services and repeat functions
* transfer of digital items between devices as simple as a gesture of giving
* in the future also fast and convenient local payment and ticketing: fast, easy way of getting settings and services
* When you count all the steps to make simple actions are about 100 actions: to find settings, set up the human modem thing
* Touch actions are potentially two orders of complexity less: into 1 action
* LAunched active cover with NFC: near field communication: philips, sony, visa, samsung:
* Pairing things up, putting things together (how is this different from BT? passive chips)
* Prototype things!
* NFC is a touch based RFID technology
* Putting the information into the tag: can contain more than an ID
* Close mapping to physical objects: Dourish
* NFC active objects will have mixed spirit world of objects having magic behind them: permitted moves for games, origins of objects, spime like stuff,
* One to one mapping: multiple digital meanings on objects
* it’s not a one-way world: these things are re-writeable: secular isn’t the dominant way of thinking
* Now that we can give objects spirit world, semiotic, actions
* Into fetish objects: auspicious computing, unique wooden balls (minority report)
* Friendster: a game of how many connections. Turning into an info-fetish physical game
* – phones are precious, tags are not
* – throwaway, data detritus, spime spume
* + programmatic product life-cycle
* + audit trails for trash
* + automation of recycling
* Techno-optimism
* WWF: sustainability at the speed of light

h3. Long now, (Stewart Brand)
* Fashion
* Commerce
* Infrastructure
* Governance
* Culture
* Nature
* Sometimes technology can disrupt these layers

h2. Fabio Sergio
* From collision to convergence
* How I learned to stop worrying and watch tv on my mobile phone
* 2001: who the hell would want to watch tv on a mobile?
* 2003: using mobile to watch big brother from the car
* consultants: timeliness, context sensitivity, self-expression, immediacy, relevance
* People rely on their connected devices to fill-in interstitial time slots
* Armed with this notion outlets aquired content and chopped it into 3-5 minute videos
* The end result is too much navigation and not enough content, undermines the concept of “snacking”. The navigation has become the experience
* Navigation is not bad per-se, the web is arguably built on it
* Flow: where the consumer is completely engaged with interaction
* Mobile content experiences happen in contexts that basically negate the ability to focus
* How do you access video: at the moment through a browser
* Big Brother: lessons learnt
* Always on-ness: there is aways something new happening: marshall mcluhan meets orwell
* Something might happen at any time
* Action can be just a video call away
* Easy to get into the flow of what’s happening
* Cut to measure: as little or as long as you want
* Conversation-based: you can keep hearing when you can’t watch: don’t need to look at the screen
* Why should the browser and media player be two different applications? should probably be one.
* People need context medium content, probably in this order
* The handset should be a remote control: as much as possible make navigation resident on teh device
* Content should be snackish: but should be grouped
* The experience should be around the on/off switch

h2. Timo Arnall

* “Presentation and notes”:

h2. Sunday discussion

* Brief: design a ticket machine that also allows city navigation and takes care of tourists and busy commuters equally, that doesn’t have a screen
* Alternative brief: A permanent tag large enough to contain digital info, that could be unobtrusively attached to anything in public space
* Mechanisms for friendly denial

h3. I’m lost: design a physical pathway which
* includes the idea of signs to explain features of teh environment to the unmediated
* which could serve as a compensation or apology for people denied in the ubiquitous sense
* which was distinctively local and amsterdamish
* includes infrastructure
* poetics and emotional enhancements required

Overheard somewhere at the bar: anthropology/ethnography is this year’s library science: another new/old juxtaposition. Not that I agree.

Public marking photographs

Posted on Sep 9, 2004 in Place, Social

There is an ever-updated selection of photos under the “marking” tag at Flickr. See the design engaged presentation for more.

ISEA 2004 conference

Posted on Aug 13, 2004 in Art, Conferences, Mapping, Media, Place, Travel

There’s a really good “writeup of the installations and artwork at Grandtextauto”:

h3. Photos


Time that land forgot

There are two versions: a “low-bandwidth”:/timeland/noimages.html no-image version and a “high-bandwidth”:/timeland/ version with images. There is also a “Quicktime movie”: for people that can’t run Flash at a reasonable frame rate.

We have made the “source code”: (.zip file) available for people that want to play with it, under a General Public License (GPL).

h2. Background: Narrative images and GPS tracks

Over the last five years Timo has been photographing daily experience using a digital camera and archiving thousands of images by date and time. Transient, ephemeral and numerous; these images have become a sequential narrative beyond the photographic frame. They sit somewhere between photography and film, with less emphasis on the single image in re-presenting experience.

For the duration of the workshop Timo used a GPS receiver to record tracklogs, capturing geographic co-ordinates for every part of the journey. It is this data that we explore here, using it to provide a history and context to the images.

This project is particularly relevant as mobile phones start to integrate location-aware technology and as cameraphone image-making becomes ubiquitous.

h2. Scenarios

We discussed the context in which we were creating an application: who would use it, and what would they be using it for? In our case, Timo is using the photographs as a personal diary, and this is the first scenario: a personal life-log, where visualisations help to recollect events, time-periods and patterns.

Then there is the close network of friends and family, or participants in the same journey, who are likely to invest time looking at the system and finding their own perspective within it. Beyond that there is a wider audience interested in images and information about places, that might want a richer understanding of places they have never been, or places that they have experienced from a different perspective.

Images are immediately useful and communicative for all sorts of audiences, it was less clear how we should use the geographic information, the GPS tracks might only be interesting to people that actually participated in that particular journey or event.

h2. Research

We looked at existing photo-mapping work, discovering a lot of projects that attempted to give images context by placing them within a map. But these visualisations and interfaces seemed to foreground the map over the images and photos embedded in maps get lost by layering. The problem was most dramatic with topographic or street maps full of superfluous detail, detracting from the immediate experience of the image.

Even the exhaustive and useful research from Microsoft’s “World Wide Media Index (WWMX)”: arrives at a somewhat unsatisfactory visual interface. The paper details five interesting mapping alternatives, and settles on a solution that averages the number of photos in any particular area, giving it a representatively scaled ‘blob’ on a street map (see below). Although this might solve some problems with massive data-sets, it seems a rather clunky interface solution, overlooking something that is potentially beautiful and communicative in itself.


p(caption). See “”: page 8

Other examples (below) show other mapping solutions; Geophotoblog pins images to locations, but staggers them in time to avoid layering, an architectural map from Pariser Platz, Berlin gives an indication of direction, and an aerial photo is used as context for user-submitted photos at Tokyo-picturesque. There are more examples of prior work, papers and technologies “here”:


p(caption). Image from “Pariser Platz Berlin”:


p(caption). Image from “geophotoblog”:


p(caption). Image from “Tokyo Picturesque”:

By shifting the emphasis to location the aspect most clearly lacking in these representations is _time_ and thereby also the context in which the images can most easily form narrative to the viewer. These images are subordinate to the map, thereby removing the instant expressivity of the image.

We feel that these orderings make spatially annotated images a weaker proposition than simple sequential images in terms of telling the story of the photographer. This is very much a problem of the seemingly objective space as contained by the GPS coordinates versus the subjective place of actual experience.

h2. Using GPS Data

We started our technical research by looking at the data that is available to us, discovering data implicit in the GPS tracks that could be useful in terms of context, many of which are seldom exposed:

* location
* heading
* speed in 3 dimensions
* elevation
* time of day
* time of year

With a little processing, and a little extra data we can find:

* acceleration in 3 dimensions
* change in heading
* mode of transportation (roughly)
* nearest landmark or town
* actual (recorded) temperature and weather
* many other possibilities based on local, syndicated data

Would it be interesting to use acceleration as a way of looking at photos? We would be able to select arrivals and departures by choosing images that were taken at moments of greatest acceleration or deceleration. Would these images be the equivalent of ‘establishing’, ‘resolution’ or ‘transition’ shots in film, generating a good narrative frame for a story?

Would looking at photos by a specific time of day give good indication of patterns and habits of daily life? The superimposition of daily unfolding trails of an habitual office dwelling creature might show interesting departures from rote behaviour.

h2. Using photo data

By analysing and visualising image metadata we wanted to look for ways of increasing the expressive qualities of a image library. Almost all digital images are saved with the date and time of capture but we also found unexplored tags in the EXIF data that accompany digital images:

* exposure
* aperture
* focus distance
* focal length
* white balance

We analysed metadata from almost 7000 photographs taken between 18 February – 26 July 2004 to see patterns that we might be able to exploit for new interfaces. We specifically looked for patterns that helped identify changes over the course of the day.


p(caption). Shutter, Aperture, Focal length and File size against time of day (click for larger version)

This shows an increase in shutter speed and aperture during the middle of the day. The images also become sharper during daylight hours, indicated by an increased file-size.


p(caption). Date against time of day (click for larger version)

This shows definite patterns: holidays and travels are clearly visible (three horizontal clusters towards the top) as are late night parties and early morning flights. This gives us huge potential for navigation and interface. Image-based ‘life-log’ applications like “Flickr”: and “Lifeblog”: are appearing, the visualisation of this light-weight metadata will be invaluable for re-presenting and navigating large photographic archives like these.

Matias Arje – also at the Iceland workshop – has done “valuable work”: in this direction.

h2. Technicalities

Getting at the GPS and EXIF data was fairly trivial though it did demand some testing and swearing.

We are both based on Apple OS X systems, and we had to borrow a PC to get the tracklogs reliably out of the Timo’s GPS and into Garmin’s Mapsource. We decided to use GPX as our format for the GPS tracks, GPSBabel happily created this data from the original Garmin files.

The EXIF was parsed out of the images by a few lines of Python using the module and turned into another XML file containing image file name and timestamp.

We chose Flash as the container for the front end, it is ubiquitous and Even’s programming poison of choice for visualisation. Flash reads both the GPX and EXIF XML files and generates the display in real-time.

More on our choices of technologies “here”:

h2. First prototype


“View prototype”:

Mirroring Timo’s photography and documentation effort, Even has invested serious time and thought in “dynamic continous interfaces”: The first prototype is a linear experience of a journey, suitable for a gallery or screening, where images are overlaid into textural clusters of experience. It shows a scaling representation of the travel route based on the distance covered the last 20-30 minutes. Images recede in scale and importance as they move back in time. Each tick represents 1 minute, every red tick represents an hour.

We chose to create a balance of representation in the interface around a set of prerogatives: first image (for expressivity), then time (for narrative), then location (for spatialising, and commenting on, image and time).

In making these interfaces there is the problem of scale. The GPS data itself has a resolution down to a few meters, but the range of speeds a person can travel at varies wildly through different modes of transportation. The interface therefore had to take into account the temporo-spatial scope of the data and scale the resolution of display accordingly.

This was solved by creating a ‘camera’ connected to a spring system that attempts to center the image on the advancing ‘now’ while keeping a recent history of 20 points points in view. The parser for the GPS tracks discards the positional data between the minutes and the animation is driven forward by every new ‘minute’ we find in the track and that is inserted into the view of the camera. This animation system can both be used to generate animations and interactive views of the data set.

There are some issues with this strategy. There will be discontinuities in the tracklogs as the GPS is switched off during standstill and nights. Currently the system smoothes tracklog time to make breaks seem more like quick transitions.

The system should ideally maintain a ‘subjective feeling’ of time adjusted to picture taking and movement; a temporal scaling as well as a spatial scaling. This would be an analog to our own remembering of events: minute memories from double loop roller-coasters, smudged holes of memory from sleepy nights.

Most of the tweaking in the animation system went into refining the extents system around the camera history & zoom, acceleration and friction of spring systems and the ratio between insertion of new points and animation ticks.

In terms of processing speed this interface should ideally have been built in Java or as a stand alone application, though tests have shown that Flash is able to parse a 6000 point tracklog, and draw it on screen along with 400 medium resolution images. Once the images and points have been drawn on the canvas they animate with reasonable speed on mid-spec hardware.

h2. Conclusions

This prototype has proved that many technical challenges are solvable, and given us a working space to develop more visualisations, and interactive environments, using this as a tool for thinking about wider design issues in geo-referenced photography. We are really excited by the sense of ‘groundedness’ the visualisation gives over the images, and the way in which spatial relationships develop between images.

For Timo it has given a new sense of spatiality to image making, the images are no longer locked into a simple sequential narrative, but affected by spatial differences like location and speed. He is now experimenting with more ambient recording: taking a photo exactly every 20 minutes for example, in an effort to affect the presentation.

h2. Extensions

Another strand of ideas we explored was using the metaphor of a 16mm “Steenbeck”: edit deck: scrubbing 16mm film through the playhead and watching the resulting sound and image come together: we could use the scrubbing of an image timeline, to control all of the other metadata, and give real control to the user. It would be exciting to explore a spatial timeline of images, correlated with contextual data like the GPS tracks.

We need to overcome the difficulty obtaining quality data, especially if we expect this to work in an urban environment. GPS is not passive, and “requires a lot of attention to record tracks”: Overall our representation doesn’t require location accuracy, just consistency and ubiquity of data; we hope that something like cell-based tracking on a mobile phone becomes more ubiquitous and usable.

We would like to experiment further with the extracted image metadata. For large-scale overviews, images could be replaced by a simple rectangular proxy, coloured by the average hue of the original picture and taking brightness (EV) from exposure and aperture readings. This would show the actual brightness recorded by the camera’s light meter, instead of the brightness of the image.

Imagine a series of images from bright green vacation days, dark grey winter mornings or blue Icelandic glaciers, combined with the clusters and patterns that time-based visualisation offers.

We would like to extend the data sets to include other people: from teenagers using gps camera phones in Japan to photojournalists. How would visualisations differ, and are there variables that we can pre-set for different uses? And how would the map look with multiple trails to follow, as a collaboration between multiple people and multiple perspectives?

At a technical level it would be good to have more integration with developing standards: we would like to use “Locative packets”:, just need more time and reference material. This would make it useful as a visualisation tool for other projects, “Aware”: for example.

We hope that the system will be used to present work from other workshops, and that an interactive installation of the piece can be set up at “Art+Communication”:

h2. Biographies

Even Westvang works between interaction design, research and artistic practice. Recent work includes a slowly growing digital organism that roams the LAN of a Norwegian secondary school and an interactive installation for the University of Oslo looking at immersion, interaction and narrative. Even lives and works in Oslo. His musings live on “”: and some of his work can be seen at “”:

Timo Arnall is an interaction designer and researcher working in London, Oslo and Helsinki. Recent design projects include a social networking application, an MMS based interactive television show and a large media archiving project. Current research directions explore mapping, photography and marking in public places. Work and research can be seen at “”:

h2. Screenshots









Photography and mapping from Afar

Posted on Jul 28, 2004 in Art, Conferences, Mapping, Narrative, Photography, Place, Project, Travel

h3. Synopsis

Exploring the space of narrative, images and personal geography. For three months I recorded every walk, drive, train journey and flight I took, while photographing spaces and places from daily life.

The project is the first step towards a visual language for spatially located imagery, looking at ways in which personal travelogues can become useful as communication and artefacts of personal memory.

h3. Description

Nine boards, four images each, sit above maps that provide spatial context. Each image is captioned with location information and a key linking it to a point on the map below. The images show spatial transition from one country to another, and a change of season.

The maps are GPS tracks, visualised as simple lines. The scale of the map is decided by the extents of the image locations. This effectively shows a transition from London to Oslo, over the period of a few months. The maps give an interesting sense of transition, scale and movement are emphasised.


p(caption). All maps in sequence (click for full size image)


p(caption). All images in sequence


p(caption). Images (detail)


p(caption). Maps (detail)

h3. About the exhibition

AFAR is an exhibition where 25 international artists have been asked to produce work in accordance with the word ‘afar’. The initial intention was to establish a connection between diverse artistic and creative forms that the invited originate from: architecture, dance, street art, design, audio, photography, VJing, video art, fashion design, painting and creative writing.

The exhibition was in Rhuset, Copenhagen, Denmark, from 8 – 23 July 2004.

Geo-referenced photography

Posted on Jul 6, 2004 in Photography, Place, Research, Technology

The easiest way of linking photos to locations is to combine the time-stamps from both a digital camera and GPS receiver or other location-aware device. If this data is available (over the same period of time) it’s possible to process a series of images and location tracks to stamp each image with location metadata.

Here are a few resources, papers, projects, guidelines and other geo-reference issues.

h3. Papers

* “Position-annotated Photographs: The Geotemporal Web”:
* “GEOREP: Digital Library for Spatial Data”:
* “Geographic location tags on digital images, Microsoft [pdf]“:
* “Portable digital photo album [time based interface]“:

h3. Prior work

* “Tokyo Picturesque”: “[Details]“:
* “Habitat Perspectives”:
* “Photo Location”: “[Details]“:
* “Geo Snapper”:
* “WWMX web demo”:
* “Good list of other photo mapping projects”:

h3. Geo-referencing Photos

These are some commercial applications and scripts that link photographs to geographic information.

* “Robophoto”:
* “93 Photo Street”:
* “Photofusion”:
* “Media Mapper”:
* “OziPhotoTool”:
* “GPS photo link”:
* “GPS TrackMaker”:
* “QuakeMap”:
* “WWMX Travelogue application “:
* “AkuAku: GPS tagged jpegs”:
* “Adding GPS Information to EXIF Images with Photostudio”:
* “GPS Photo Linking in iViewMedia Pro [Mac]“:
* “GPS plotting in Flash”:

h3. GPS track and waypoint extraction

Transferring data from GPS devices can be problematic. If this is going to work in a wider, collaborative context there is a need to make guidelines for this process. It is also really important to make sure units and timezones are correctly set up on all software, so that no translation happens as the data is converted. Exported data also tends to be messy, with mixed tracklogs and waypoints, which for us meant a lot of hand-tweaking.

* “Garmin Mapsource”:
* “MacGPS Pro”:
* “GPS Babel”:
* “GPSylon tool for downloading/viewing GPS data”:
* “GPS to GEO-RDF”:
* “Some notes on coordinate translation”:

h3. Extracting EXIF data

To get a handle on the photographic data we need to look at the embedded EXIF information, which contains things like capture date, time, exposure and aperture.

* “Python Exif Parser”:
* “Media Metadata for Python”:
* “Extracting EXIF data with Python”:
* “Geo tagging images: Exif GPS with python and java”:
* “EXIF metadata extraction in java”:

h3. Content metadata guidelines

In order to standardise the sharing of geographic information (tracklogs and waypoints) we need to think carefully about the formats used. We initially intended to use locative packets, but have ended up using GPX format alongside some custom XML for time and photo information.

* “Locative packets”:
* “Other recommended vocabularies”:
* “GPX namespace manual”:
* “JPEG RDF strategy for storing location info”:
* “W3 RDF geo-vocabulary”:
* “Describing and retrieving photos using RDF and HTTP”:
* “Exif vocabulary workspace – RDF Schema”:
* “Vocabularies for w3photo project”:

Loop city workshop

Posted on Jun 20, 2004 in Conferences, Mapping, Mobility, Place, Social, Travel, Urbanism

h3. Bill Hillier: Cities are movement economies


h3. In the city there are

* space explorers: children, homeless, vendors, skateboarders,
* space utilisers: commuters, workers,

h3. Two ways of looking at the city

* exocentric: external, connected
* egocentric: centred, point of view,

h3. Spatial organisation

* Large, diverse research field.
* Abler, Ronald Adams: ‘Spatial organisation: the geographer’s view
of the world’

h3. Relative space

* Expressing thematic data through spatial differentiation

h3. Scaling areas according to non-geographic data

* Political maps based on size of army
* Map of USA based on Elvis concerts

h3. Time space

* Irina Vasiliev: ‘Design issues for mapping time’
* Time as a way of measuring space (one conclusion: world is

h3. Taxicab geography

* Grid systems make diagonal movement problematic
* There is study of movement in grid spaces, showing multiple optimum routes: a big L shape is the same distance as a zig-zag.
* The grid is no longer in Euclidian space

h3. Social space

* Philip Thiel: Spatial annotation methods

h3. John S. Adams:

* Human geographer

h3. mapped human interaction over 1 day

* vertical axis: time
* horizontal axis: distance
* made 3D diagrams of this multi-dimensional space, showing relative
distances travelled and communicated with over 1 day.
* Social network maps

h3. Mental mapping

* spatial representations of the brain or memory
* In some ways the analysis by Lynch and others has failed, because
they focused on trying to know everything about people’s mental
maps of the city.
* Richard Long: walking project

h3. Imagined cities

* Norman Klein: History of forgetting
* Fictional writers form mental models of cities
* Calvino

h3. Textmaps

* Dietmar recreated the shape of LA by phoning people and asking
* PML maps

h3. Single parameter mapping

* Boylan height maps: Denis Wood
* Maps of Halloween lanterns in an area

h3. Multiple parameter mapping

* Correlating space
* Chernoff faces: iconographic representations of faces, with
expressions that map to different social conditions
* Eugene Turner
* Correlating socio-economic factors is common

h3. Mapping as a game

* Raoul Bunschoten

h3. Narrowed the analysis of space down to very simple
p rocedures

* erasure
* origination
* transformation
* migration
* Mapped results as a synthesis?

h3. Photographic / media mapping

* Tokyo Nobody
* Images with text removed, replaced with a textmap
* Text / image project… ?
* Graffiti archaeology project
* Time lapse as a tool: mapping crowds
* Threshold linear key as a tool: RCA project…

h3. Diagrammatic / information mapping

* Tufte
* Information diagrams representing time, space, actions, events,
people, cause/effect etc.

h3. Collaborative mapping

* multiple authorship over shared themes

h3. Sarah

* Presented her NY Green space project, in which access to green
space is correlated with socio-economic factors. Refer to Social
design notes weblog.

h3. Some ideas for mapping

* Children’s tactile book: sandpaper for Asphalt, felt for grass.
* Litter, sky cover, text, colours, people, edges, boundaries, nodes
* Use gps and digital camera. Use a compass to always orient the
camera to North, or relevant reference. Then map the space with
textures or sky cover (down or up). Could make a great map.
* A method for collaborative presentation might be to use a projector
to trace physical space onto a wall or large open space, then to
layer drawn annotations. A public presentation could be achieved by
projecting digital data (photos, textures, movement) onto this
annotated area, for interesting layered correlations.
* Everyone has their own agenda when approaching a space: personal
ways of looking, awareness, attractions and unnatractions. Could
try to map what a space makes you think instantly, from one vantage
point, or multiple, correlated vantage points.
* Bluetooth mapping of devices. Our personal ‘Auras’ are becoming
public and this might be useful for mapping.
h3. What kind of data can we collect about the city and it’s usage,
that is really reliable and plentiful? The audioscrobbler mapping
example shows how really simple data can be mapped into
extraordinary useful spatial representations, just because it’s
high quality and plentiful.
* Geographic data is potentially plentiful, because there is a lot of
effort put into mapping space.
* What other things are mapped with effort, or easily?

Mobile outskirts workshop

Posted on Jun 20, 2004 in Art, General, Mapping, Media, Mobility, Place, Technology, Travel

There is a “workshop wiki”: and “media archive”: that we are attempting to keep updated via fairly limited wireless coverage.

A painless and creative 15 hour bus drive took us from Trondheim up to the islands of Lofoten, in a bus full of GPS receivers, cameras and “impromptu artworks”:

Outside In

Outside In is a forum for involving new voices, media and practices in a discourse about the use and design of public space. It took place from 14 – 15 June 2004.

Roda Sten is amazing, below a suspension bridge, with huge concrete creations. Really windy, but calm inside the lecture space. Here are my notes and a few pictures.


h2. Day 1

h3. Session 2: Hacking the streets (I missed the 1st workshop)

h3. Space Hijackers

* Putting memories in spaces: spaces arent the same after having been disrupted. after ‘reclaim the streets’ or a ‘circle line party’ you can’t see the space in the same way.
* Distinction between public and private. What is it?
* Public space doesn’t exist anymore.
* Ken’s new city hall is half private half public (private investment was involved in the building, so protests cannot happen outside)
* Do we need institutions in order to do events, is that the only way to do it legally?
* What’s stopping people from doing these things is not necessarily capitalism, but the fear of looking like a pillock: self-regulation is a big factor. Can spark things to let down inhibitions or shackles. Uses example of the scooter, became a kids toy and then it wasn’t cool anymore.
* What’s the connection between anarchism and these spontaneous events. Emergent order is interesting, so much control over actions, and the ways people move through the city. How does this relate to anarchy? Is this anarchy?

h3. Zevs

* The city is a workshop: not just walls to tag
* Shadows of urban furniture: really good
* Visual kidknapping: Lavazza woman gets cut out of the frame
* Big poster with bleeding eyes
* Uses a high pressure water jet to clean the city, but also write at the same time.
* Digs at the notion of authorship, a site where people find work on the streets
* The work is anonymous, but there is the projection of authorial control behind it, its individual and definitely authored
* Would be interesting to explore more about Graffiti authorship: how do public artists want to be recognised?
* Managing the mystique around the work and the author.
* Difference between author/instigator
* “Interview”:
* “Visual kidknapping”:

h3. 3D bombing: Akim

* Polystyrene models, matched to fit specific city spaces
* City of names: what if the writers are the ones who build the houses?

h2. Day 2

h3. Session 3: Network experience

h3. “Jonah Brucker Cohen”:

* Wants to deconstruct network context
* Context: physical and social situation in which computation sits
* How does the network affect the output and experience
* Companies are claiming ownership of space because of signal
strength: strengthening signals to drown out free competion
* WiFihog: saps out all wifi bandwidth
* LAN party versus Flash Mob
* Simpletext: collaborative sms image searching on large screens
* re-mapping and changing the context of interfaces: what about
shifting consequences: changing the input/output relationship.
* Simpletext project: assigns an image search to inputted text
messages, and displays via jitter/max on a large screen.
* Steven Levy quote on hackers

h3. “Katherine Moriwaki”:

* Altering space by altering the body
* character of a space
* remnants of things, people, individuals
* put magnets on wrists and fingers and bodies to reveal the proximity of electronic devices: unexpected connections to other people and lampposts. Nice.

h3. Data Climates: Pedro Seplveda Sandoval

* Living in a scanscape city
* electronic space, synthetic city
* Congestion charge as walled city, in electronic space
* London: highest density of cctv in the world
* will we decide to travel to areas based on the quality of electronic space
* A new architectural language for electronic space
* Houses without windows, just cameras. Can start to control life inside. Can also choose to use the weather channel as windows
* Pay a fee for personal surveillance: ask them to watch you all the way to the supermarket.
* The city of Yokohama was brought down by the coming of age party for 40,000 teenagers: the networks were overloaded with messages, because the teenagers didn’t want to talk face to face.
* Palm trees as cell towers (seen in south africa)
* Looked at a community in Hackney that were campaigning to not have a cell phone tower.
* Designed a house for them that would shield them from the signals, but they would have to give up cell phone connectivity. Designed it so that windows would open and close based on calls being made, or would give them 10 minute windows in which to make calls every 2 hours.
* Digital shelter: stand inside the line

h3. Round up

* These presentations all use the strategy of showing ‘hypothetical products’ that are really non-products. They are doing this, rather than providing platforms or design methodologies, or distributing resources and infrastructures for people to design their own systems. I understand the need for designers as visionaries, but this could be made more valuable and useful.
* specialists in electronic space could be similar to lighting design specialists in the ’70s. Will grow into a general field of understanding.
* Platforms and inftrastructure for technology is beyond architects, but understanding of the use and consequences is really important.

h3. Session 4

h3. Jocko Weyland

* Skateboarding as adaptive design: difference between skate parks and the street, skate parks become designed over time to mimic certain aspects of streets, but also according to innate, human skaters needs. A combination of factors go into making a good skateboarding space: free, alcohol, quality, location.

h3. Swoon

* New to NY: wanted to work outside gallery space, was inspired by collage of city streets. Not from a graffiti background, being a female, can do certain things outside the norms of graffiti.
* Changes billboards during the day, looks official.
* Open democratic visual space
* a visual direct democracy…
* Cuba used to have street art as a means of free expression, but outlawed by dictatorship
* Makes lightboxes with imagined cities, and mounts on the reverse side of construction site walls, with peepholes ‘peer here’
* Interesting mix of opportunism and ‘designed intervention’
* Sometimes driven purely by visual interest.

h3. “Michael Rakowitz”:

* Mike Davis: Public is phantom
* Bedouin as a model of sustainable nomadic communities
* Homeless use waste air from air conditioning (airvac exhaust ports) to stay warm and dry
* Homeless have receded to the peripheral vision of the public. Want to see and be seen.
* Seeing is important for living nomadically in the city.
* Started to map the heat and the power of the exhaust fans in the city. Found a high one at MIT plasma lab.
* Re-routed smell from from a bakery to an art gallery, to subvert a ‘high art’ re-appropriation of space

h2. Workshop ‘Loop City’

* “Dietmar Offenhuber”: & Sara Hodges
* Showed Rybczynski’s film “New Book”: using 9 frames: a good way of mapping space in the city. Starts off and the viewer is not sure if each frame is occurring synchronously, or in the same space, but a bus passes between all of the frames and the spatial link is made immediately. There is also a point where a plane flies overhead and all the actors look up: showing time synchronicity too.

h3. Looking at the city

* as a set of repeated actions
* as a playground: situationists
* as a balance of social as well as physical architectures

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