Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] hybrid city as interface

Dear Yasminers,

After thanking again all of you who are contributing to this discussion, I would like to share with you some general thoughts and ideas, before responding more precisely to some more specific very interesting arguments that you have put forward so far.

Firstly, I would like to say that the subject of: "the hybrid city as an interface" is a rather wide subject that relates to many areas/fields and therefore can be discussed from many perspectives. And indeed we could have proposed a title like: "the hybrid space as an interface", not limiting the context of the discussion to the urban environment.

The activity of creating maps of spaces and integrating data visualisations within them is one of the aspects of creating an environmental representation which could be a part of a hybrid spatial experience like the one that a mobile location-based application user may have. This process relates to cartography, geography and the politics underlying the creation of such representations. and I very much agree with Roger and the "data is power" statement which stresses the need for providing access to data for all and not for the few who want to maintain power.

Another perspective that we may approach this subject from is the social interaction aspect. This refers to the use of location – based systems which support synchronous multi-user access to the activity taking place in the hybrid context of the representation. I will mention a few things about our experience of researching this issue in a next message.

Now, coming back to Martin's very relevant suggestions about map making, which I paste below:

" limited by the mapping concept-Googlemaps and even OpenStreetMap offer a one size fits all view of the
world and users have not choice but to follow what appears to be an "objective" standard, which is of course
no such thing"

Indeed our research group's experience from creating maps to support particular location – based (game) activities was that google maps were too abstract and also included too many inconsistencies (in the detail at a small scale) for them to be adequate in supporting an activity taking place at the scale of a neighbourhood. We felt we needed more precise but most importantly more expressive (in the way they deal with visualisation) and inclusive-of-detail maps, which contained elements essential for this particular activity. These environmental elements had to be identified, visualised and included after a scrutinising process of studying the specific area, in relation to the activity, taking into account the activity's requirements and accordingly DESIGNING VISUALLY these elements.

A thought that comes to mind then is that: if the map is a representation of an environment that supports an activity, a creation of a map relates a lot to the activity that it supports. On the other hand, when a map is a spatial representation as the main end result of the process, then the process of generating the map and the manner through which elements are visualised and aspects of life are being represented becomes more important.

Martin also suggests that:
"unless the driver for a collaborative map rests in the imagination and captures motivations beyond the
merely informational, it very quickly ceases to have any right to be called art"

Irrespective of whether a location-based system/activity may be called art or not, I feel that in creating such systems/activities/interventions, we have two main approaches which are fundamentally different:
• The driver of the map determines pretty much the rules of the game according to which the map is generated or (a more closed process scenario) even creates their own predesigned map, on which an activity is going to take place
• The driver of the map considers the generation of the map as being the main focus of the process and creates a relatively open system within which participants of the process may move in order to create their "own" relatively subjective interpretation and accordingly representation of an environment. In this case, properties, patterns or characteristics of the environment and of activities taking place within it (involving humans and any other living organisms) may emerge as a part of the spatial representation.

In this second case, I find Martin's metaphor of "creating an architecture that people feel comfortable about inhabiting" as very appropriate indeed, and this habitation occurs through interpretation and appropriation, I would add.

More responses to other very interesting messages soon
Best wishes

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