Monday, October 4, 2010

[Yasmin_discussions] of flashmobs, foursquare and facades.....

Dear list members,
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'.
This is a useful starting point and there is no doubt that the
physical spaces we inhabit and move through are now mediated with
technologies; they are hybrid spaces. Yet it seems to me 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. Below I introduce some of my own thoughts
and questions on this topic.

of flashmobs, foursquare and facades....

It puzzles me that when I look and move around I notice very few
obvious changes in the physical nature of urban space (maybe I expect
too much?). 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. In fact the city and the built space itself remains
surprisingly neutral and passive. I may look at the city through a
digital lens, but the physical world rarely responds to my passing or
presence. When I try to grasp how space has been changed, it is
summed up in these three areas:

flash mobs.
These highly choreographed performances in public space show how
media and technology can inform new ways of behaving in public space
that's moved way beyond rheingolds smartmobs. They come into being
through a whole plethora of media platforms, twitter, facebook and
sms and demonstrate a temporality that the physical space of the city
cannot (will not?) respond to. It can only be a passive observer or
stage. How can the static nature of out built environment and space
start to respond to these forms of serendipity and micro-coordination
of social behaviour? Can hybrid space start to perform, to come
together and disperse when its use is over?

love it or hate it the use of foursquare represents a new practice of
recognising and naming presence in space on technology's terms. Take
a look at foursquare listings at any place and you will find as
diverse a set of descriptions for places as you could imagine. It
documents the sociality and mobility of places we are present in,
where people pass through and encounter others; train stations,
airports, sandwich bars, stores and nightclubs. These are places of
shared experience, not addresses or locations, and our presence our
physical environment is a presence in this hybrid space. So as
locative media re-values the sociality of presence with strangers in
urban public space how can the spaces start to allow for these
passing encounters? Do we simply need a few more places to be 'slow'
and to stop (without having to pay for a coffee), where we can be
present in both digital space and the physical space without causing
disruption due to our civil inattention. Is it as simple as more
benches, more meeting points with wifi and a power supply?

As I move through transit spaces there is a growing number of screens
showing digital images, sometimes they respond to my input. Whole
facades are superimposed with images and sometimes projections or
even screens. Do we need windows in public buildings any more?
probably not. So how do we design for spaces that need not look out,
but that offer other ways of both enclosing and making interfaces
between one space and the next? Mirjam Struppek's work on
highlighting the important issue of urban screens starts to reclaim
the screens as a creative design problem. But on a broader level how
do we connect our physical spaces with our digital spaces. How do we
make a less diss-jointed hybridity, drawing together the physical
requirements of the built space to connect outside and inside, and
the media spaces which demand a different kind of accessibility; one
which is only concerned with non-visual, unbroken links to the network?

Although this is my personal perspective on some of the issues
facing us in the design of hybrid spaces I also introduce them in the
context of the 2010 Mediacity conference in Weimar, Germany (http:// which will take place at the end of October. This
will also provide the opportunity to consider and discuss some of the
challenges of the hybrid city in a co-located panel discussion, which
I will be moderating.
It would be great if list members were also able to contribute to
this discussion in some way either by responding to some of the
topics or above or by introducing their own questions and comments. I
will do my best to include these in the debate.


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