Thursday, October 14, 2010

[Yasmin_discussions] Hybrid Space - Hybrid Cities discussion

Dear YASMINers,

Firstly, I would like to thank those who have so far contributed to the
discussion for their very fruitful ideas and critical approach. I will
respond below to some of the points made and also add a few more thoughts of
mine on the discussion topic.

Katharine suggests that "we are finding it difficult to move beyond
the rhetoric and to really respond to the challenge of how to engage
with these hybrid cities as designers and how to understand the new
behaviours that are emerging in these layered spaces".

I very much agree. Indeed, we have not yet seen many systematic studies
and/or models of designing such hybrid spaces for supporting the hybrid
spatial experiences of those who will act within them and inhabit them.
Some very relevant references on the subject are:
. Adriana de Souza Silva's earlier work as well as her new book: Souza
e Silva, Α. & Sutko, D., (eds.), «Digital Cityscapes: Merging Digital and
Urban Playspaces (Digital Formations)», Peter Lang Pub Inc,
. Yianna Vogiazou's "Citi Tag" project (Knowledge Media Institute, The
Open University, UK) and her "Designing for Emergence" book
. "Shared Encounters" (edited by Willis, K.S., Roussos, G. Struppek,
M., Chorianopoulos, K., Computer Supported Collaborative Work series,
These publications attempt to tackle the issue of designing hybrid spaces
and experiences and I am looking forward to reading Richard Coyne's new book
which I hope will shed some more light onto this issue too.

Katharine also suggests that "...For sure I carry a device with me
that augments the space. But the screen is still my interface; it
rarely spills out into the city."
But when we are using a location - based system/application, is the
interface limited just within the context of the screen? When we are
interacting we may move around in physical space in order to trigger events
or read/write information onto space. In this sense, physical space is a
part of the context within which we interact and which is supporting
navigation and interacting with geo-located information. So in my mind it
may also be considered as an aspect of the interface that we experience. As
J.L Gassee's suggests: the interface is "the cognitive locus of interaction"
(if I remember his words correctly).

Indeed, I agree with Katharine that we are yet a bit far from a situation
where a significant part of the built elements that comprise our physical
environment may be movable and may respond to our actions. This is of course
feasible but yet very complicated and expensive, but it is a matter of time
until these systems become more affordable and are implemented within our
everyday environments. And as Martin suggests, the lag in having these
changes being implemented in the urban everyday context is normal. But when
these technologies will become widely available and we will be accustomed to
their use, it will be in a ubiquitous manner and Martin suggests (like
lobsters in the pot.....) and this is exactly why we need a more critical
approach to the matter and a more through understanding of the impact of the
use of these socio-technical systems before they become a part of our
everyday reality. This is where Tobias', Molly's and Katharine's thoughts
are very useful into shedding some light onto the social and political
impact of hybridizing the urban environment. (Tobias very rightly suggests
that "You can achieve the most effective control, if there is an illusion of
no control: If you create a dispositive, where participants / citizens have
the illusion to be authors / explorers of reality, it is much easier to
control the space and the people within.")

Recently I have been a member of the evaluation committee for the PhD of
Socrates Yannoudes the subject of which is very interesting and very
relevant to this issue. Socrates, if you follow the discussion I would urge
you to post your view on the subject.

> In the discussion on hybrid spaces, an earlier post from Martin and
> Dimitiris (20 July) talked about 'The synchronous experience of a
> mobile spatial interface and of the non-mediated physical environment,
> a hybrid spatial experience, material (space determined by material
> elements) and immaterial space (determined by digitally produced
> representations) are merging'.

Molly askes here if "we can we isolate specific examples of where they
actually have merged? Off handheld devices?"

I believe that augmented reality systems are close to what this merging will
be. The exact mapping of digitally produced and updated content onto
physical space in a manner that the user can intuitively experience is
closer to a "merging" of spatial elements which determine the spatial
experience than a location-based system where the user needs some cognitive
effort to mentally join the spatial representations in a "hybrid" spatial
experience. Even in the last case though, some experiments we have conducted
(at the NT Lab of our department) have shown that users do experience a
"hybrid" sense of space.

Some very interesting examples presented by Martin, Molly and Tobias have
been very useful at illustrating the points made, thanks very much for
these. These examples illustrate very well the need for a less disjointed
hybridity, connecting the inside with the outside, the tangible object
(bench) with the ethereal, immaterial network (wi-fi connection) etc. This
reminds me of a very relevant point made by Dimitris Papalexopoulos in a
message he send in this discussion (30th of July) where he stresses the
significance of BRIDGES being made between the physical and the digital:
"BRIDGES between the physical and the digital are discrete elements
disposing of certain autonomy in their conception and internal structure".
These bridges are indeed a very important element of designing hybrid
spatial experiences. More soon.....

Best wishes


Dr. Dimitrios Charitos
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication and Media Studies
National and Kapodistrian University of
e-mail: vedesign at otenet dot gr

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