Brief history of interaction
(Based on Dourish, see reading recommendations, below)
Each successive development in computer history has made greater use of human skills:
- electrical: required a thorough understanding of electrical design
- symbolic: required a thorough understanding of the manipulation of abstract languages
- textual: text dialogue with the computer: set the standards of interaction we still we live with today
- graphic: graphical dialogue with the computer, using our spatial skills, pattern recognition, and motion memory with a mouse and keyboard
We have become stuck in this last model.
Interaction with computers has remained largely the same: desk, screen, input devices, etc. Even entirely new fields like mobile and iTV have followed these interaction patterns.
- Tangible: physical: having substance or material existence; perceptible to the senses
- Social: human and collaborative abilities, or ‘software that’s better because there’s people there’ (Definition from Matt Jones and Matt Webb)
Dourish notes in the first few chapters of his book that as interaction with computers moves out into the world, it becomes part of our social world too. The social and the tangible are intricately linked as part of “being in the world”.
What follows are examples of products or services we can use or buy right now. I’m specifically interested in the ways that these theories of ubiquitous computing and tangible interaction are moving out into the world, and the way that we can see the trends in currently available products.
I’m aware that there are also terrifically interesting things happening in research (eg the Tangible Media Group) but right now I’m interested in the emergent things that start to happen effects of millions of people using things (like Flickr, weblogs, Nintendo DS, and mobile social software).
Social trends on the web
On the web the current trend is building simple platforms that support complex social/human behaviour
- Weblogs, newsreaders and RSS: simple platform that has changed the way the web works, and supported simple social interaction (the basic building blocks of dialogue, or conversation)
- Flickr: a simple platform for media/photo sharing: turned into a thriving community: works well with the web by allowing syndicated photos, bases the social network on top of a defined funciton
- Others include del.icio.us, world of warcraft, etc.
Social mobile computing
On mobile platforms most of the exciting stuff is happening around presence, context and location
- Familiar strangers: stores a list of all the phones that you have been near in places that you inhabit, and then visualises the space around you according to who you have met before. More mobile social software
- Mogi: location based game, but most interestingly supports different contexts of use: both at home in front of a big screen, and out on a small mobile screen.
Interesting that games are moving away from pure immersive 3D worlds, and starting to devote equal attention to their situated, social context
- Nintendo DS: PictoChat, local wireless networks that can be adapted for gameplay or communication (picture chatting included as standard)
- Sissyfight: very simple social game structure, encourages human behaviour, insults
- Habbohotel: simple interaction structures, (and fantastic attention to detail in iconic representations) support human desires. Now a very large company, in over 12 countries, based on the sales of virtual furniture
- Singstar: entirely social game, about breaking social barriers and mutual humiliation: realtime analysis/visualisation of your voice actually makes you sing worse!
- Eyetoy: Brings the viewer into the screen, creates a performative and social space, and allows communication via PS2
- Dance Dance Revolution: taking the television into physical space
- Nokia wave-messaging: puts information back into space, and creates social and performative opportunities (Photo thanks to Matt Webb)
- Yellow Arrow: puts digital information into city space, gives us a glimpse of the way that we might have more interaction with situated information in the future
There are also very interesting aspects of gender in all of this: this move towards the social implies a move towards the type of games/play that is seen more often in girls.
Where the Action Is, Paul Dourish (Read the first 3 chapters for a great introduction)
Digital Ground, Malcolm McCullough (Exploring the relationship between architectural and digital spaces)
Physical Computing, O’Sullivan, Igoe (Practical book on making physical computing devices)
Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold (Exploring wider social aspects of mobile technology)
The Humane Interface, Jef Raskin (Covers screen based interaction, but has the best discussion on ‘modes’ of any book)
Mind Hacks, Matt Webb and Tom Stafford (Looks at our interaction with the world from the perspective of neuroscience, great introduction to ‘affordances’)
- 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
- Soup, tags, condensed and distilled meta objects
- 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
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
Roots and Feeds
- RSS feeds, a root system, aggregator has roots, to the surface of a newsreader
- 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.
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
Tending the garden
- Incredible complexity, incredible diversity
- Not intimidated by the complexity of the garden
- Present similar tools to tend to data
- 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?
Thomas Van Der Wal
- Synching feeling
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:
Standard metadata for personal info-cloud
- content description
- use type (eg)
- instruction: destroy, revise in 6 months
- object type:
- categories: not a structured system, but hackable flat data
- Spotlight (Apple Tiger)
- MIT Project Oxygen
- Script aggregation by metadata tag
- Publish to private/public location in RSS
- Rsynk and CVS
- Groove (Windows)
- Quicksilver (Mac)
- 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
Default to harmlessness
- must ensure user’s physical psychic and financial safety
- must go well beyond graceful degredation
- faults must result in safety
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
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
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
- 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
- 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.
- Teaching and writing about interaction design
- 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!
- 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
- Behaviours, tactility and graphics
- Tensionfield between playfulness and functionality
- The funnel
- Serial, parallel and optional interfaces
- Transactional interfaces
- ezGov uses IBMs RUP
- RUP is weak in user-experience
- Added StUX, definitions of deliverables for user experience
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Kurt Vonnegut in “Cold Turkey”
- Mike: intended effects are insignificant compared with the emergent effects, just noise compared to the overall outcomes
- 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
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?
- Mapping and looking
- Lots of cool stuff: no notes.
- Questioning the commodification of space
- We are social, spatial, temporal beings
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.
- 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…
- 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, Fredshouse.net
- 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: nfcforum.org
- 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
- WWF: sustainability at the speed of light
Long now, (Stewart Brand)
- Sometimes technology can disrupt these layers
- 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
- Presentation and notes
- 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
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.
Yayhooray re-launched with new features and functions, and what looks like a rich environment for writing, browsing and discussion. As far as I know it’s the first forum built to use the buddy list as a form of content filtering: to increase the signal to noise ratio in the content.
Here’s a bit of Yayhooray history:
Built by skinnyCorp in 2001 as an experiment in online community. Along with o8 it soaked up some of the users from Dreamless, the ‘design forum’ that reached critical mass and became its own worst enemy at the end of 2000.
Originally it was built to manage itself through a levels system; allowing users to earn administration responsibilities (similar to implicit moderation systems employed by other forums like metafilter). It worked well at a small scale but led to cliques forming around the early adopter’s own social networks.
The levels system evolved into a points system, allowing anyone to award points to anyone, on a limited (one a day, one person a week) basis, similar to karma systems adopted at slashdot and kuro5hin. This briefly led to multiple account scams, and ended up in the ‘point orgy’ where ‘points were swapped rather than STDs’.
In the end, both systems were abused, subverted and widely discussed, often taking over from normal discussions and swamping the site with controversy. Many regulars left to other places, some seeing closed, invite only communities (like humhum) as the only option left for humane, creative discussion.
Yayhooray, in this latest version, is setting itself up to deal with these problems by globally filtering the content through a buddy system, rather than explicitly administering the content and user reputations. This applies to the entire site including the categorised discussions, blogging interface, links database, buddy lists and search.
The most obvious feature is a meter on the left hand side, which allows 4 different filtering settings:
- you and only you
- you and your buddies
- you, your buddies, and their buddies
- every user on Yay Hooray!
This applies a filter to the entire site, including user lists and search, which took me a little by suprise. The site is effectively meshing off into small, interlinked communities of interest, based on individual social networks and collaborative filtering.
In my case, buddies are mostly people that I have met, talked to, or seen invest time into making things: initiating photographic threads, dealing with social issues, administering creative collaborations, giving good design critique…
Logging in now (using ‘you, your buddies, and their buddies’) I see a small subset of the overall forum, focused on these parts of the discussion. Given that the filter is so prominent and usable, it is also possible to jump out into the chaos of the full site.
There is also a useful, if somewhat harsh, system that censors posts and links based on a list of people that you class as ‘enemies’! Being based on proper XHTML, CSS and DOM technologies means that censored posts are easily toggled on and off.
On the downside there will most likely be confusion and clashes when different groups that don’t mesh with each other, but have completely different experiences of the place, come together in a single thread. There will also be more repetition, or double posts of content gets repeated amongst different groups that are out of sync by virtue of the filters.
To fully appreciate this you need to invest time in it, and to build up a network of trusted buddies. YH can be hyperactive and annoying, it must be difficult for a new user to become engaged. The filters are perhaps most useful for long-time users looking for relief from ‘worst enemy’ problems.
Because it has become an adaptive social platform, and has the potential to be subverted and shaped into many different kinds of system, I will reserve judgement for now, and make a new report soon.
Bill Hillier: Cities are movement economies
In the city there are
- space explorers: children, homeless, vendors, skateboarders,
- space utilisers: commuters, workers,
Two ways of looking at the city
- exocentric: external, connected
- egocentric: centred, point of view,
- Large, diverse research field.
- Abler, Ronald Adams: ‘Spatial organisation: the geographer’s view
of the world’
- Expressing thematic data through spatial differentiation
Scaling areas according to non-geographic data
- Political maps based on size of army
- Map of USA based on Elvis concerts
- Irina Vasiliev: ‘Design issues for mapping time’
- Time as a way of measuring space (one conclusion: world is
- 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
- Philip Thiel: Spatial annotation methods
John S. Adams:
- Human geographer
mapped human interaction over 1 day
- vertical axis: time
- horizontal axis: distance
- made 3D diagrams of this multi-dimensional space, showing relative
- Social network maps
- 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
- Norman Klein: History of forgetting
- Fictional writers form mental models of cities
distances travelled and communicated with over 1 day.
- Dietmar recreated the shape of LA by phoning people and asking
- PML maps
Single parameter mapping
- Boylan height maps: Denis Wood
- Maps of Halloween lanterns in an area
Multiple parameter mapping
- Correlating space
- Chernoff faces: iconographic representations of faces, with
- Eugene Turner
expressions that map to different social conditions
- Correlating socio-economic factors is common
Mapping as a game
- Raoul Bunschoten
Narrowed the analysis of space down to very simple
- Mapped results as a synthesis?
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…
Diagrammatic / information mapping
- Information diagrams representing time, space, actions, events,
people, cause/effect etc.
- multiple authorship over shared themes
- Presented her NY Green space project, in which access to green
space is correlated with socio-economic factors. Refer to Social
design notes weblog.
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
- What other things are mapped with effort, or easily?——-
effort put into mapping space.
This research project explores our often ignored yet real relationships with Familiar Strangers. We describe several experiments and studies that lead to a design for a personal, body-worn, wireless device that extends the Familiar Stranger relationship while respecting the delicate, yet important, constraints of our feelings and relationships with strangers in pubic places.
A visualization tool based on Mobster that enables users to explore their social encounters in new ways. Designed to be an open framework on which locative (meaning location-based) networking applications can be built.
A social network tracking and visualization project. The project distributes a set of small stickpins, each of which uses limited-rage infrared data exchange to remember every other pin that it encounters. When pin wearers come to a central location to view the accreting network, they see a thousand circles on a plasma display panel, each representing a pin.
The first of these services is aimed at public transport users in Turin. While on the move, travellers can find dynamic information on mobile screen-based devices while at home or at the office, people can find the same information on physical display units. The other service is a personalised and flexible scheduling system to help Interaction-Ivrea students organise shared laundry facilities; mobile and stationary tools give them constant updates about the progress of their laundry cycle.
Affords the social creation and excavation of proximity history. At its core is a simple question: Who was near who when? Software on users’ mobile devices (laptops, cell phones, PDAs) monitors the presence of nearby devices (Wi-Fi hotspots, cell towers, Bluetooth devices), from which Mobster infers historical proximity models. We call these sociospatial histories.
Expanding the possible meaning and metaphors about access, proximity, wireless and WiFi. This access point is not the web without wires. Instead, it is its own web, an apparatus that forces one to reconsider and question notions of virtuality, materiality, displacement, proximity and community.
A mobile wireless application that allows users to share their music locally through handheld devices.
An interactive MP3 Jukebox device designed to allow a group of people in a public space to democratically choose the music being played. A public display is used to nominate songs which are subsequently voted on by people in the bar using networked wireless handheld devices.
One of the first location-based instant messaging platform for mobile phones. Asks the user to input location, and then creates links to others in the same space. (Case study here)
Tell us where you are and we’ll tell you who and what is around you. We’ll ping your friends with your whereabouts, let you know when friends-of-friends are within 10 blocks, allow you to broadcast content to anyone within 10 blocks of you or blast messages to your groups of friends.
A Bluetooth-enabled mobile social medium that allows people to meet, interact and communicate.
Using Bluetooth-enabled laptops and PDAs to find new contacts, communicate over small distances, and share information related to their business.
A service that lets you quickly and easily share txt messages with friends, comrades, and total strangers. The format is similar to an email b-board system. You can sign up to send and receive messages from various groups, which are organized around a range of different topics.
Uses Bluetooth to detect the proximity of other devices and determine whether there is a match between users’ entertainment profiles. The application can be used as a platform for personal area network music discovery, file exchange and/or sampling, as well as for social networking based on similar entertainment interests.
Enables users to connect with others with a similar interest that meet your filter criteria using user-definable groups tied to a specific location.
Using bluetooth technology, ProxiDating allows you to meet people with common interests.
Plazes is a web service offering information on people and places based on your location. It enables you to tag your location and announce it to your friends or the world. You can find other Plazes in your vicinity or see where your friends are at the moment. It also allows you to see other people you do not know yet at the same Place.
A ‘people search engine’ and social networking application. You can search for friends, see who they know and who knows them, find people with shared interests. Can use an SMS interface in the UK.
Saw-You allows u 2 chat 2 people who go to the same social venues you do on your mobile phone. U don’t see their number and they don’t see yours.
An application for mobile phones that can instigate interactions between you and people you don’t know. A profile, along with your mobile phone provide a connection a community of people around you.
Lets you find dates and friends anywhere, anytime. Tell WhoAt where you are and we tell you who’s nearby – all from your mobile phone, PDA, or PC.
We have performed an ethnographic study that reveals the importance of social interaction, and especially traffic encounters, for the enjoyment of biking. We summarized these findings into a set of design requirements for a service supporting mobile interaction among motorcyclists.
The Japanese expression for “are you free now?”. A mobile, location-integrated, community and instant messaging service allowing users to share their current personal status (location, activity, mood) publicly and privately with their buddies and send picture and instant messages to them.
A location-aware mobile social networking platform that allows people to connect with their friends and friends of friends in new, expressive ways.
A distributed, peer-to-peer platform that connects a person to people and services in the same location. An open, extensible platform. New features can be developed and propagated by an open-source community running on wired as well as wireless networks.
A flexible platform that operates a spatio-temporal moblog (mobile log) allowing collective contribution and distribution of media. Considering scalable systems, comprehensive and inclusive models for participation, the project has focused upon how to communicate context-awareness, mobile experience, and its narrative potential.
A technology platform and global network of local venues that helps people self-organize local group gatherings on the same day everywhere.
Music in a venue should reflect the taste of the people in that space, not the owner of the jukebox or the people working behind the bar. What if a jukebox allowed people to add their own music or could help you remember what was played at a particular time? What if the box was aware of who was in the room and could queue up your favorite songs as you walked through the door?
Transmitters, embedded in cigarette lighters deliberately lost in carefully chosen pubs, illuminate the social relationships underlying daily habits of travel, entertainment and (nicotine) gifting.
An Internet-enhanced street game in which players stage and document small interventions or “stunts” on the street corners of New York in order to claim turf on a virtual map of the city. The game is an experiment in collectively reimagining commonplace views of New York. By providing an online counterpart to the urban environment, it allows players to share their visions of the city with others.
Enables a user to surf for other Bluetooth devices and get in contact with them, primarily designed for a campus environment.
A web server for the Pocket PC that advertises itself to other Pocket PCs in the neighbourhood wirelessly using ad-hoc WiFi networks and Rendezvous.
A contact/messaging application using Bluetooth wireless technology. Runs on Smartphones/PDA or PC and helps people to meet in mobile situations.
Enables users to find their ‘ideal partner’ on the spot (unity of time and venue). Works in any GPRS network and on all mobile phones with Symbian OS and Nokia’s Series 60 platform.
Cell phone software that enables Members to communicate with others, blog, chat in forums, file share, publish events, locate others, buy & sell, geo-tag locations and play games.
An event communications system using wearable computers that improve networking among event participants while streamlining event management.
A mobile location based friendship and flirting network. Built with a mobile messaging engine, it offers full web integration and dating, flirting and friends networking capabilities, including six degrees of seperation, all mobile enabled.
A social networking multi-user game “Cell Phone” is based on the popular Chinese movie of the same name. This comedy movie was directed by one of China’s best known directors, Feng Xiaogang. Customers play this multi-combining romance and SMS and MMS.
Download pictures, wallpapers, screensavers and avatars to use for Bluejacking.
Uses bluetooth enabled devices (mobile phones, PDA’s, laptop computers) to create moments of ad-hoc solidarity for people opposed to George W. Bush.
A suite that can turn a mobile phone user into an on-location broadcaster. You can add information and commentary about restaurant reviews to safety tips. You can find a buddy, or track a truck, inspect a neighborhood for real estate or child safety. It’s good for both social and business and it puts the power of blogging technology into the hands of the masses.
An archival audio project that has collected stories set in specific locations throughout Vancouver’s Chinatown. At each of these locations, a murmur sign marks the availability of a story with a telephone number and location code. By using a mobile phone, people can listen to the story of that place while engaging in the full physical experience of being there. Some stories suggest that the listener walk around, following a certain path through a place, while others allow a person to wander with both their feet and their gaze.
Invites you to collect and reflect upon your immediate environment, and enables new forms of engagement and information exchange between person and place. Areacode aims to inspire comments about the affect of urban regeneration in the city.
A physical sticker allows people to mark places of interest, then tell a story about it using a photographic record.
Grafedia is hyperlinked text, written by hand onto physical surfaces and linking to rich media content – images, video, sound files, and so forth. It can be written anywhere – on walls, in the streets, or in bathroom stalls. Grafedia can also be written in letters or postcards, on the body as tattoos, or anywhere you feel like putting it. Viewers “click” on these grafedia hyperlinks with their cell phones by sending a message addressed to the word + ”@grafedia.net” to get the content behind the link.
Collect all of the plaques in London, and then to put the people and events they commemorate in context – with their time, their contemporaries, and location.
Implementation begins as sheets of stickers, with a different text on each sticker. We will distribute these sheets to individuals, both personally and via post. Instructions, asking people to peel the stickers off and place them in an area viewable by the public, will accompany the sheets.
Using everyday technologies, like your own cell phone, Talking Street offers new ways to explore a destination. It’s having an ultra-savvy resident show you around—a guide who can reveal what a place is really like, and how it got that way.
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.
Group message boards on wireless nodes, placed in residential areas and open to the public. These nodes transmit signal for around 300 feet, so everyone within that range has access to the board and can read and post to it.
The inundation of consumer and mass media advertisements has eroded the presence of the individual within the city. In my thesis, I will explore how we can reclaim our physical landscape by reinserting the individual through visual representation into her/his urban environment. My intent is to create a momentary place to communicate messages of self-expression contributing to a network in which the next user can connect and experience.
An area-information service from NTT DoCoMo incorporating mobile phones and a “wireless tag” device. A small, handheld RFID device will enable users to receive a wide variety of area information as they walk around the new metropolitan cultural complex of shops, restaurants, entertainment facilities, residences and hotels (Roppongi Hills).
A platform for creative work exploring the playful, emotional and appropriate incorporation of technology into everyday public life. Drawing on our combined background in art, architecture, game and interaction design, the work focuses on developing both innovative design methods and experimental prototypes for social interventions in public space.
A computer-mediated communication tool for supporting a virtual community. It attempts to integrate aspects of physical activity by community members in the real world into the virtual environment and to provide a structure for discourse around those activities.
Lets the user uncover samples of Los Angeles’s hidden history as s/he navigates through the multi-layered depths of downtown’s most poetic and surreal space. The result is a new kind of ‘scripted space’…
A user-driven experience that responds to participant’s amble through the city streets. Factors such as the distance traveled by the listener, time of day and proximity to fictive events, determine how the narrative unfolds.
Location based narrative. Texts read by actors are the voices of the characters you hear as you walk through a space. A double headed arrow on the screen of your pocket computer (PDA) indicates the narrative direction – the future in one direction and the past another
Visitors discover a soundscape of messages left for them by both the artists and the public via voice and email. This interactive installation calls attention to how advances in cellular and wireless technologies contribute to the ubiquity of personal communications in public spaces, while illuminating the relationship between the built environment and the invisible networks that make these fleeting exchanges possible.
Geoloq.us is a service that lets users leave behind memories, comments and digital artefacts in a physical location, for others to discover and enjoy. A cameraphone with a web browser is all you need to use geoloq.us; browse pictures from the place you’re at, comment a location or a picture and find out what’s nearby. Tag your items and surf those tags for similar items from other people in other places.
Based on positioning technology, allows people to attach virtual notes to real world locations. When other people pass the location, they will be notified about the note and will be able to read it. GeoNotes allows mass-annotations with no or little restrictions on accessing others’ GeoNotes. It is also social in the way it incorporates social filtering techniques to sort out unwanted GeoNotes.
An interactive public art project that enables us to make and access to collective of personal memory that could have been overlaid on to urban space. The project puts some “tags” of small events onto geographical fields so that the audience can feel correspondence between “Information space” and “Urban space”. The audience will find tiny electronic memorials for tiny events. But those are only visible or able to be experienced through mobile phones.
To demonstrate the concept of waypoint sharing we have been developing a number of waypoint sharing applications. These applications access the waypoint lists for retrieval and storage of waypoint data and other accessory information, such as text, images, audio, video, or links to other information.
The application allows mobile phone owners to send a message, similar to an SMS (Short Message Service), to a geographical point where it appears on the screens of other users passing through the defined location. Unlike an SMS, the message is not sent to a person but rather to a location, and can be received by a number of mobile phone users entering the defined radius.
An outdoor playful learning experience. Pervasive technologies are used to digitally augment a woodland in a contextually relevant way, enhancing the ‘usual’ physical experience available to children exploring the outdoor world. Studies show this to be a highly engaging novel experience for learners, that effectively supports collaborative learning, as well as providing preliminary guidelines for designing different ways of delivering digital information for learning.
Lets you publish information about places. You can use thingster to discover things in your own neighborhood that might be interesting to you – and you can use thingster to publish information about things that you find interesting. Thingster also provides signalling and discovery services for discovering other nearby folks with interests similar to your own.
The project explores possibilities with digital photographs and geographic location. The location where a photo was taken provides clues about its semantic context and offers an intuitive way to index it, even in a very large collection. The combination is powerful, but still not supported well by either the photo-software or camera-hardware industries.
Leverages the spatio-temporal context and social community of media capture to infer media content.
An experimental project to explore how physical and electronic spaces can be designed in conjunction with each other to provide new kinds of experience in the city.
A mobile mapping and recording system built for the PocketPC platform. It integrates GPS tracking technology with a set of diary-like recording features. mStory assign a variety of attributes to recorded locations, including photos, audio recordings, narrative descriptions and icons.
Personal local stories for public listening using mobile phones & billboard notices.
An interactive digital narrative application providing multimedia content to individuals and to groups, which is relevant to them at a particular point in time and space.
A database video project, currently under development, that examines the embedded syntax of our routes through the city and challenges the mediated experiences of the urban environment through methods of collecting, editing and compositing video.
A memorial environmental sound installation that is site-specific to the network of hiking trails near the Burgess Shale fossil beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia.
MapHub is a web-based, multi-user, group managed information storage system and map. Collecting information about people, places, events, and notes, can help to document unseen narratives and histories in public or private theme-based Hubs.
Offers a range of resources to help organizations get started with standards-based online mapping. The main initial focus is creating an open source framework to allow communities to jointly build geographic databases and share them over the web.
This how-to will show you how to make your own annotated Google map from your own GPS data. Plus, you’ll be able to tie in images and video to create an interactive multimedia map.
A narrative map of New York City that allows visitors to create a collective memory by submitting stories. Visitors link stories together by theme, creating new “neighborhoods” of narrative that can be explored by others. Stories can be recommended, giving new visitors a sense of the narrative created by the populace.
A site-specific media art exhibition in a taxicab. The taxi is outfitted with an interactive touch screen that displays video, animations, music, and information triggered by an onboard GPS receiver which allows the displayed artwork to change depending on where the taxi is in the city.
By relying on maps, signs and Manhattan’s perpendicular geography, New Yorkers have given up something important: a sense of place. If you can get from your starting place to your destination without knowing anything about the points in between, chances are you won’t pay much attention to them.
Delivers tour guides of popular landmarks, museums, attractions and the unusual to wireless devices. More info.
Sound recordings as guides to specific locations. Available as audio for sale or as downloaded format from Audible or iTunes.
A street activity proposed for the site of Times Square, NYC. Employing mobile phone text messaging, it focuses on increasing personal contribution and interaction to the experience of this public space. Individuals will participate with one another as they tag designated areas or “nodes?? by displaying their inscription.
A collecting game ‘item hunt’. The game provides a data-layer over the city of Tokyo. As you move through the city, if you check a map on your mobile phone screen, you’ll see nearby items you can pick up and nearby players you can meet or trade with.
Allows you to visualize your location on a map, use a GPS unit (I use a GPS-based GPS device) to mark your coordinates (or just navigate the map to find your location – especially useful in cavernous cities like Manhattan), annotate that location by titling it and giving it a description, optionally adding an icon or snapping a digital picture with the attached camera.
A research project exploring social and cultural uses of the convergence of place and mobile technologies.
HyCon is a framework and infrastructure for context aware hypermedia systems developed primarily by the hypermedia group at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. The HyCon framework encompasses annotations, links, and guided tours associating locations and RFID- or Bluetooth-tagged objects with maps, Web pages, and collections of resources. The HyCon architecture extends upon earlier location based hypermedia systems by supporting authoring in the field and by providing access to browsing and searching information through a novel geo-based search (GBS) interface for the Web.
Provides location-based services on a WiFi device. At its simplest level, it can tell you where you are. More advanced services can use your location to enhance information lookups, publish presence information and create games.
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.
Creating and performing artworks in a public alley in Boston, MA, with work selected by participants in the space and online.
Psychogeographic survey of one block in New York, building a multi-layered portrait of a particular part of the city.
A project to develop experiential forms of journalism and nonfiction storytelling for use at specific locations. Stories are presented through text, images and audio files that participants can download from the Web to their handheld computers and take with them to the place of interest.
The goal of AnnotatedEarth is to create a user-driven community of quality location and spatial information, a infrastructure for accessing that information, and software that uses that information to provide location-aware information.
A system for creating immersive narrative experiences where location is an actor. It is the result of an intensive research and design project addressing how interactive narrative can be successfully realized through mobile technology.
London-based locational application and service for mobile telephones. The technology allows users to “tag” a physical locations, placing them into meaningful context. Tags can be private or public. Other TagandScan users can scan their environment for public tags left by others. TagandScan essentially enables the community to annotate its physical features.
Each Spot is a circular symbol that holds data like a two dimensional bar code. Users of the latest camera phones point their phone at the Bango Spot circular symbol, click and the mobile site opens on their phone in a matter of seconds.
A mapping application that transforms everyday activities and urban experiences into a dynamic city that you write. Engages the user through a visual transformation that is meant to highlight the way technologies that locate and orient are often static and without reference to the lively nature of urban cultural environments.
Context-sensitive technology based on the use of context tags. These small electronic tags are a means of capturing and communicating information about the surroundings.
A commercial service allowing access to info and content on a mobile phone directly from objects like adverts and signs. It works by allowing infra-red mobile phones, and PDAs (e.g. Palm Pilots or Pocket PCs) to interact with a small electronic tag which is attached to the advert or sign.
Exploring the ability of a path-based publishing system, based upon GPS tracking technologies, to foster new relationships between communities of users and their environments.
Three commercial platforms for location based services. You can add information and commentary about restaurant reviews to safety tips. Waveblog lets users upload blog-like information with geographic metadata.
Rabble enables a new kind of self-expression that informs, entertains and connects people through the media they create. Create your channel and post location-based media – your favorite places, photos or an up-to-the-minute newsworthy event. It’s like putting virtual sticky notes on the world around you.
Lets you connect with customers in a timely, efficient and positive way. By providing a direct match between a user’s favorite and something you offer, Earthcomber brings you to the customer’s attention. In multiple information screens, they can see what you offer and where you are on the map.
Offers ‘location-based services’ on mobile devices (PocketPC/phones) enabling new uses of traditional travel and tourism services. We overcome current limitations (in reach of and access to information and services) by combining information and navigation services with communication services on one device.
HP research labs. Using a handheld computer, cellular phone or other device, users can get information on the Web related to physical structures and objects in the immediate vicinity.
The Advanced User Resource Annotation system (A.U.R.A.) is designed to provide the ability to access and author annotations on objects and places using machine readable tags. In our system, a user can associate text, threaded conversations, audio, images, video or other data with specific tags. Users can also review the tags and descriptions of the objects they have encountered and annotated in a custom web portal.
Community-oriented ubiquitous computing, exploring the problem and opportunity of sustaining community through mobile wireless technology. The two principal applications in operation are: ActiveCampus Explorer, which uses students’ locations to help engage them in campus life; and ActiveClass, a client-server application for enhancing participation in the classroom setting via small mobile wireless devices.
Exploring the synergy of two promising fields of user interface research: Augmented reality, in which 3D displays are used to overlay a synthesized world on top of the real world, and mobile computing, in which increasingly small and inexpensive computing devices, linked by wireless networks, allow us to to use computing facilities while roaming the real world.
A network of augmented places within the local community which support the creation and meaningful distribution of informal content within that community. LiMe provides low-threshold interfaces in natural meeting and crossing points within that community, such as cafés and bus stops.
LLI is similar to augmented reality systems which overlay digital information on top of the physical world. Whereas augmented reality systems typically concentrate on solving the user interface problem, LLI attempts to solve the data access and search infrastructure issues. In LLI users navigate the physical world with a variety of XML-speaking devices, discovering and leaving “handles” to information nuggets.
A kind of collaborative mapping project. it consists of geographical models which are represented as RDF graphs. you can wander round them, like a MUD or MOO, with a bot interface which you can use to create and connect new places.
A protocol that can be used to capture meaningful psychogeographical [meta]data about urban space. PML is a unified system of classification that lurks behind the psychogeogram: the diagrammatic representation of psychogeographically experienced space.
An attempt to fuse powerful concepts of existential declaration (I am here experiencing this!) with networked social communication media. By mixing together a set of terms about space, time, description, social relationship, and media, the locative packet project has described a unique ether over which one form of collaborative map can travel.
Huge archive of street artists work, techniques, interviews, and guides.
Here I am only including projects that mark space, not mobile social software or dynamic gaming, smart-mobs, friend-finders or GPS drawing projects, although I have included a couple of spatial platforms, that aim to standardise the way we mark-up space.
Notes on the Synthesis of Form
The Nature of Order
The Oregon Experiment
A Pattern Language
The Timeless Way of Building
How Buildings Learn
Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
The Tipping Point
Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Adventures in Modeling: Exploring Complex, Dynamic Systems with StarLogo
A New Kind of Science
The Control Revolution
Society of Mind
The Electric Meme
Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet
The Virtual Community
Design for Community
Community Building on the Web
Pollen Mobile develops location-based services for the consumer and business markets. Mamjam is their first product: a location based, social entertainment service based on Short Messaging Service (SMS) messages. It enables people in the same venue to chat with each other by sending text messages from their mobile phones.
Pollen approached us with a very broad intention to use SMS to drive social interaction and entertainment in new ways.
We initially developed three quirky ideas based on playground games, internet chat, and community storytelling that we presented as the basis for discovering business goals and user-needs.
After our initial brainstorm, we initiated a more rigorous user-centred, interaction design process that is detailed in this case-study.
Handsets & Networks
We found several pivotal issues we needed to resolve: SMS has extremely limited functions; with few opportunities to create rich, engaging, extended interactions.
Mobile phone handsets provide no navigation between multiple messages, no indication of user status or location, and have no practical means of viewing session history. Users are accustomed to using SMS for quick functional communication, and extended contact with friends. They certainly do not rely on messages for any kind of complex interaction.
Every transaction between user and server on a mobile phone is a sessionless operation. Each message contains only the time it was sent, the number it was sent from and the content of the message .
Unlike http systems, the server cannot rely on location and session information being stored in the message address. This is complex from a user experience perspective because people are used to responses exhibited by systems that do carry session information and behave quite differently .
SMS messages are managed by the networks with cells, each cell carries messages particular to that region. Cells are notoriously unreliable, and we found that it was common for messages to hang in the system for over ten minutes. This presented some serious problems. Satisfying communications rely on a high level of continuity, and the timing between messages is a critical indicator of the emotional state of your chatting partner.
Mamjam’s service is location based: users are in contact with other users in the same area. However the existing (second generation) handsets cannot determine location, and although locations are triangulated by the network, this information is not publicly available. The location thus had to be manually provided by the user; in a way that then could be usefully interpreted by the server.
Researching and developing a reliable language for users to identify their location became central to the interaction design problem.
Many competing SMS services are currently internet-based: requiring a signup for services from a web site, rather than directly from handsets.
A system like this could conceivably be built without the use of modes . From the users perspective a modeless system could be overly complex and exhausting: every message must somehow include exact commands and instructions for the server. But a modeless system is very attractive from a technical perspective: the server is more likely to correctly interpret instructions.
We consulted with Pollen and selected SMS users to draw up several personas and scenarios. This included contextual enquiry, business goals and user-requirements gathering. We identified the following requirements:
- Users must be able to join the service immediately, not just from a website prior to use.
- The service should accommodate both new and returning users.
- Users are likely to be exposed to the service through all sorts of channels, and therefore signing up should accommodate all points of entry.
- The structure should be designed to accommodate expansion of the service.
- The basic structure of the handshake should carry to other SMS systems Pollen may choose to develop.
The initial interaction architecture outlines our first intentions for the system. (For legal reasons we can’t include the full size diagram.)
The system works in a similar way to internet based chat rooms, connecting users who are ‘online’ at the same time, with the extra dimension that they are in the same physical place. Mamjam supports private, one-to-one communications only: users can’t shout to groups or broadcast messages. Once a user has found a chatting partner the system simply directs the text traffic between them until one party decides to pursue some one else, or signs off.
This structure required users to enter a lot of information about themselves before they could initiate contact with one another. We felt this was valuable in order to reduce the interaction load while chatting. This also resulted from a (perhaps misguided) adherence to the ‘internet chat room’ model.
This system was implemented on Pollen’s test servers, and we organised user-testing sessions. This revealed several problems:
The sign up process was off putting. Users motivation for this product is for entertainment and social contact: they weren’t happy to tolerate a lengthy sign-up process. This architecture required four messages for a new user to sign up. In some cases the user would be spending the equivalent of a 10 minute voice-call before they had connected with someone to chat. It was clear that the service needed to offer a quick method of signing up, perhaps at the expense of more advanced features.
In trying to optimise the system for both new and advanced users; signing up for the first time required a different interaction process from signing up for a second time. There were also several different methods of identifying your location to anticipate every possible user-interaction. There were thus four or five possible entry points into the system. This caused more modal problems than anybody anticipated; the SMS server had to process language and match patterns in an almost infinite realm of possibilities.
It became clear that the three biggest problems for the social interaction process were:
- Aligning the systems perception of user-context with actual user-context.
- Ensuring users have an accurate perception of the system state.
- Maintaining a rich connection between users, allowing them to interpret and react to one another accurately.
This discrepancy between user perception and system perception can be referred to as ‘slippage’. Slippage is most problematic during the initial handshake when the user is most insecure about their request and about the system itself.
Text messages to and from SMS servers rarely arrive as punctually as they seem to in normal use. This meant it was possible for one of two users, both having agreed to start chatting, to reject the other on the basis that they had failed to reply to their confirmation. In fact the rejected user had replied with confirmation, but their message had been delayed. The message would then arrive with the first user who had since moved to a new part of the interaction process. Their reply could potentially interrupt another process or get lost in the system, confusing and infuriating both users. Serious slippage!
We also found, as predicted, that users did not read back through their old messages. Some phones have a very limited capacity for storing messages and no phone facilitates simple navigation of previous messages, so the current message was the only one through which we could usefully rely upon for users to react to.
The second interaction architecture was developed with the problems described above in mind. Some changes have been made to the system since, mostly around modal issues, and the commands through which users communicate with the server. Although there are still issues regarding slippage, the second iteration makes this much less of a problem. The system is basically modeless, except for the first transaction. All users (new and existing) enter the system in the same way, new users are chatting within two messages, and existing users are potentially chatting after their first message.
Mamjam is now fully operational, spinning off other services based on the basic interaction architectures we designed for the initial chat service.
In a recent, typical promotion, at the Mood Bar in Carlisle, Mamjam sent a message to people who had Mamjamed there, offering them a discounted drink if they showed their mobile at the bar. The conversion rate from message sent to offer redeemed was 30%.
Building relationships, Community and Storytelling
Having heard that a large number of people were texting their ex-partners late at night; under the influence, Mamjam sent a message asking for their own dating disasters. 13% of people responded with their own story by SMS; 50% of those responding within the first hour.
These users were not given incentives like promotional offers, the call to action was not a simple generic mechanic like reply YES or NO; it was much more involved. Users were required to read and understand the message received, then conceive and craft a response to fit into 160 characters. Yet the response was high and the quality of response excellent.
By reminding BT users of a free messaging offer, the objectives are to stimulate Mamjaming outside of the locations in which they first Mamjamed.
Message: Spice up your text life for FREE! Mamjam is still FREE to receive for BT users. To chat now just reply with mamjam and your location eg MAMJAM LONDON.
7% of the database of BT users read the message, and then decided to log on to Mamjam. Between them on that day they sent 3,400 chat messages.
Some usage statistics
- First time Mamjam users begin chatting by sending only 2 SMS messages.
- Users are matched with someone within 120 seconds of logging onto the service for the first time.
- The average Mamjam user sends and receives 24 SMS messages per session.
- The top 10% of users send 60 SMS per month and generate an additional 72 outbound messages. Generating an additional £18 for the network operators.
- The top 50% of users send 20 SMS per month and generate an additional 24 outbound messages, generating £6.30 of revenue for the network operator.
- Repeat usage: 30% of daily users are repeat users.
We think that the best solution to this particular service has been found, given the limitations detailed above.
There are obvious and not-so-obvious limitations to SMS communications. The most notable limitations are the handsets continuing to rely on short messaging rather than a more advanced chat service, and the network operators inability to develop services and platforms outside of their own internal structures.
This research and product development has generated a lot of further ideas for asynchronous communication structures, and communication solutions for packet switched networks for mobile devices.
 Some phones support greater functionality than others, Mamjam needed to support a broad demographic so only the most bottom-line functionality was available to us.
When sending a message from a server it can be set to “Flash” mode, causing the message to open in the users phone immediately. Some cells also support a “broadcast to cell” function, whereby a single message can be sent to all phones within that cell. This function is expensive and only available to phones on a given network. back
 Information transferred with HTTP is also sessionless, but browsers and servers are afforded with functionality to help them overcome modal issues, like cookies, history bars and links for example. There are other interface restrictions to consider regarding the manipulation of text like the absence of cutting and pasting for example. back
References and Links
At the time of writing the Mamjam numbers are 82888 (BT/Vodafone) or 07970 158 158 (all other networks). Just send any text message to sign up and test it for yourself.
- Mamjam website
- Pollen Mobile
- Mamjam reviewed at The Guardian
In 1999 a team of six (including myself and Jack Schulze) won the London Institute Award for Innovation for a collaboration around narrative and interactive television. We researched existing web-based projects dealing with community, gaming, multi-user space, and interactive narrative.
The project aquired an extensive archive of research material and proposed a number of design patterns that could be used for future development of collaborative television software.
We presented our findings to the public at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2000.