Three films on communication and networks

Posted on Nov 5, 2011 in Film, Media, Narrative, Technology, Television

In the last two weeks I’ve seen three documentaries dealing with communication and networks.

Firstly, a broad and ambitious film from Ericsson, taking on the ‘networked society’ including interviews with David Weinberger, Catarina Fake and Eric Wahlforss.

Each of the interviewees discusses the emerging opportunities being enabled by technology as we enter the Networked Society. Concepts such as borderless opportunities and creativity, new open business models, and today’s ‘dumb society’ are brought up and discussed.

The next film from Nokia brings daily life around networked communication technologies to the forefront, and does it through lovely experiential sequences. However it does come across much more as a branding exercise or promotional piece, and doesn’t offer to explain or explore the practices it shows.

Third is a film by Ben Mendelsohn and Alex Chohlas-Wood about the physical, geographic and material infrastructure that goes into running the internet.

Lower Manhattan’s 60 Hudson Street is one of the world’s most concentrated hubs of Internet connectivity. This short documentary peeks inside, offering a glimpse of the massive material infrastructure that makes the Internet possible.

There is clearly a need to unpack the increasingly technology-inflected geography, and social and cultural practices of the world we inhabit, so it is good to see films like this being made.

CCD and computational photography

Posted on Mar 18, 2010 in Media, Photography, Technology, Ubicomp

A few links on imaging and computation:

I’ve concluded that the promise of RFID was eclipsed by another technology out there that’s poised to become more and more disruptive, not only to RFID, but to a host of technologies, and that’s the CCD.

from CCD by Joe Gregorio. Via BERG.

Cameras might allow a photographer to record a scene and then alter the lighting or shift the point of view, or even insert fictitious objects.

from Computational Photography, American Scientist

The camera as a device you carry has completely disappeared. Image sensors have become part of the literal fabric of everyday life.

from What Photography Will Look Like By 2060


Posted on Feb 2, 2010 in Interaction design, Media, Technology, Ubicomp

Anselm lays out the emerging issues with Augmented Reality (AR). In doing so he relates it to a whole host of known and unknown problems associated with ubiquitous computing, semantic publishing and data platforms.

Below are some clippings of bits that seem particularly insightful:

It puts own embodiment at risk. And whomsoever can mitigate that risk while providing reward will probably do well. I believe that organizations such as Apple and Google see this and are pursuing not merely real-time, or hyper-local or crowd-sourced apps but ownership of the “view”.

Everybody wants a part of the lens of reality, the zero-click base layer beneath the beneath. As Gene Becker puts it “The World is the Platform”. And an ecosystem is starting to emerge.

Suddenly game developers are arguing with GIS experts and having to unify their very different ways of describing mirror worlds.

[I]nterfaces move from being heavy and solid with big heavy buttons and knobs and rotary dials to becoming liquid and effortless like the dynamic UI of the iPhone to becoming like air itself.

By making hidden things visible, and visible things cheap, it will make other things possible that we don’t entirely realize yet.

There will be user interface interaction issues. What will be the conventions for hand-swipes, grabs, drags, pulls and other operations to manipulate objects in our field of view.

[AR] is not simply “memory” – it isn’t just a mnemonic that helps bring understanding closer to the surface of consciousness. Clearly we are surrounded by our own memories, signage, advertising, radio, friends voices and an already rich complicated teeming natural landscape loaded with signifiers and cues. But it is another bridge between personal lived experience and the experience of others. It seems to lower costs of knowing, and it seems to provide stronger subjective filters.

Augmented Reality seems to at least offer the possibility that we can punch some holes in the boxes. It seems to offer a bridge between structure and chaos rather than just structure.


Posted on Sep 4, 2006 in Mobility, Project, Research, Technology, Ubicomp

Tangible and social interaction

Posted on Mar 18, 2005 in Interaction design, Research, Social, Technology, Ubicomp

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, 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.

    Social games

    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!

    Tangible games

  • 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)

Sound objects

Posted on Feb 25, 2005 in Interaction design, Research, Sound, Technology, Ubicomp

These are some of my notes from Mikael Fernström’s lecture at AHO.

The aim of the Soundobject research is to liberate interaction design from visual dominance, to free up our eyes, and to do what small displays don’t do well.

Reasons for focusing on sound:

  • Sound is currently under-utilised in interaction design
  • Vision is overloaded and our auditory senses are seldom engaged
  • In the world we are used to hearing a lot
  • Adding sound to existing, optimised visual interfaces does not add much to usability

    Sound is very good at attracting our attention, so we have alarms and notification systems that successfully use sound in communication and interaction. We talked about using ‘caller groups’ on mobile phones where people in an address book can be assigned different ringtones, and how effective it was in changing our relationship with our phones. In fact it’s possible to sleep through unimportant calls: our brains are processing and evaluating sound while we sleep.

    One fascinating thing that I hadn’t considered is that sound is our fastest sense: it has an extremely high temporal resolution (ten times faster than vision), so for instance our ears can hear pulses at a much higher rate than our eyes can watch a flashing light.

    Disadvantages of sound objects

    Sound is not good for continuous representation because we cannot shut out sound in the way we can divert our visual attention. It’s also not good for absolute display: pitch, loudness and timbre are relative to most people, even people that have absolute pitch can be affected by contextual sounds. And context is a big issue: loud or quiet environments affect the way that sound must be used in interfaces: libraries and airplanes for example.

    There are also big problems with spatial representation in sound, techniques that mimic the position of sound based on binaural differences are inaccessible by about a fifth of the population. This perception of space in sound is also intricately linked with the position and movement of the head. Some Google searches on spatial representation of sound. See also Psychophysical Scaling of Sonification Mappings [pdf]


    ‘Filling a bottle with water’ is a sound that could work as part of an interface, representing actions such as downloading, uploading or in replacement of progress bars. The sound can be abstracted into a ‘cartoonification’ that works more effectively: the abstraction separates simulated sounds from everyday sounds.

    Mikael cites inspiration from foley artists working on film sound design, that are experienced in emphasising and simplifying sound actions, and in creating dynamic sound environments, especially in animation.

    A side effect of this ‘cartoonification’ is that sounds can be generated in simpler ways: reducing processing and memory overhead in mobile devices. In fact all of the soundobject experiments rely on parametric sound synthesis using PureData: generated on the fly rather than using sampled sound files, resulting in small, fast, adaptive interface environments (sound files and the PD files used to generate the sounds can be found at the Soundobject site).

    One exciting and pragmatic idea that Mikael mentioned was simulating ‘peas in a tin’ to hear how much battery is left in a mobile device. Something that seems quite possible, reduced to mere software, with the accelerometer in the Nokia 3220. Imagine one ‘pea’ rattling about, instead of one ‘bar’ on a visual display…

    Research conclusions

    The most advanced prototype of a working sound interface was a box that responded to touch, and had invisible soft-buttons on it’s surface that could only be heard through sound. The synthesised sounds responded to the movement of the fingertips across a large touchpad like device (I think it was a tactex device). These soft-buttons used a simplified sound model that synthesised impact, friction and deformation. See Human-Computer Interaction Design based on Interactive Sonification [pdf]

    The testing involved asking users to feel and hear their way around a number of different patterns of soft-buttons, and to draw the objects they found. See these slides for some of the results.

    The conclusions were that users were almost as good at using sound interfaces as with normal soft-button interfaces and that auditory displays are certainly a viable option for ubiquitous, especially wearable, computing.

    More reading

    Gesture Controlled Audio Systems

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.

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


  • Break down of material as it hits the soil
    • Soup, tags, condensed and distilled meta objects

    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

    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
  • 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.

    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
  • creator
  • privacy
  • context
  • use type (eg)
  • instruction: destroy, revise in 6 months
  • object type:
    • categories: not a structured system, but hackable flat data

    Actual solutions

  • Spotlight (Apple Tiger)
    • MIT Project Oxygen

    Possible/partial solutions

  • Script aggregation by metadata tag
  • Publish to private/public location in RSS
  • Rsynk and CVS
  • Groove (Windows)
    • Quicksilver (Mac)

    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

    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

    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


  • 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.

    Stefan Smagula

  • Teaching and writing about interaction design
  • 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!


  • 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

    Remon Tijssen

  • Behaviours, tactility and graphics
    • Tensionfield between playfulness and functionality

    David Erwin

  • The funnel
    • Serial, parallel and optional interfaces

    Peter Boersma

  • Transactional interfaces
  • ezGov uses IBMs RUP
  • RUP is weak in user-experience
    • Added StUX, definitions of deliverables for user experience

    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


  • 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

    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.

    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

    Sanjay Khanna

  • Kurt Vonnegut in “Cold Turkey”
    • Mike: intended effects are insignificant compared with the emergent effects, just noise compared to the overall outcomes

    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

    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?

    Jack Schulze

  • Mapping and looking
    • Lots of cool stuff: no notes.

    Matthew Ward

  • 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.

    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…

    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

    Long now, (Stewart Brand)

  • Fashion
  • Commerce
  • Infrastructure
  • Governance
  • Culture
  • Nature
    • Sometimes technology can disrupt these layers

    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

    Timo Arnall

  • Presentation and notes

    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

      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.

    Physical computing workshop

    The workshop was organised by Erich Berger (of 7 Mile Boots fame) who brought in Helen Evans & Heiko Hansen of HeHe to give context and direction to the technical process.

    My intention was to avoid the screen for the duration of the workshop, to concentrate on simple interactions between sensors and outputs entirely independent of a desktop computer. But I ended up staring at microprocessor programming languages like PBasic and JAL while making lots of LEDs blink.

    A lot of it brought back memories of school; circuit diagrams, resistance calculations, it was great to refresh the memory. We spent a lot of time translating circuit diagrams onto breadboards, and programming both PIC and Basic Stamp microprocessors.

    Erich is now setting up a Physcomp lab at Atelier Nord to support art/design projects in Oslo, maybe alongside some regular meetings (entitled Atelier Nerd :). There are many projects that I would like to pursue, this should be a great resource.

    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.


    • GPS plotting in Flash

      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

    Social filtering for online forums

    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.

    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.

    Notcon 04

    Posted on Jun 7, 2004 in Art, Conferences, Media, Technology

    Barcodes for spatial markup and control

    Spotcodes use a very simple circular barcode, to mark objects for interaction with a camera equipped phone.

    • Requires a small application running on a Series 60 phone to scan barcodes with the built in camera
    • Each barcode can currently store 42 bits of data using technology modified from iris tracking and wavelet technologies (as far as I understood)
    • Potential for more data by increasing the number of rings, but current setup is a compromise for low quality cameraphone cameras
    • The mobile phone application can determine position of phone relative to barcode by the elliptical distortion of the circle, could perhaps be used for quite accurate tracking with multiple spots
    • The phone application communicates via bluetooth or gprs, using the barcodes as triggers for interactions
    • It’s coded ‘close to the hardware’ to use the video input to do barcode calculation in realtime: Java/Symbian apps don’t have an API to realtime video input
    • In use commercially via Bango

      Bluetooth mapping

      Reverend Rat demoed his 10 Watt bluetooth receiver, 10 times more powerful than a 35 mile 802.11b receiver, and 100 times more powerful than a Bluetooth dongle.

      Not particularly interesting in itself, but using it from a high vantage point he might be able to map out usage patterns in urban areas, or track the flow of people and devices.

      Some photos

      Nice impromptu public markup



      Anil demonstrates test barcodes for spotcode

      Reverend Rat discovers Bluetooth devices

      Celia and Rod


    Mobile social software applications

    Jabberwocky / Familiar Strangers

    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.

    Encounter bubbles

    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.

    WiFi Bedouin

    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.

    Plink mobile

    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

    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.

    Mobule serendipity

    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.

    Who at

    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?

    Traces of fire

    Transmitters, embedded in cigarette lighters deliberately lost in carefully chosen pubs, illuminate the social relationships underlying daily habits of travel, entertainment and (nicotine) gifting.

    Ashphalt games

    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.

    Crowd surfer

    Enables a user to surf for other Bluetooth devices and get in contact with them, primarily designed for a campus environment.

    Pocket rendezvous

    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.

    Urban Plexus

    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.

    nTag (Research)

    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.

    Bluetooth against Bush

    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.

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