Visualization from ‘You are here Museu’

GPS coordinates: Acquired: 1 Sept. 1995, in nine separate sequences, 09:48:13- 15:30:13 GPS time, and 2 Sept. 1995, in seven separate sequences, 09:10:36 - 10:30:14 GPS time. NAVSTAR satellites seen: 04, 07, 14, 18, 15, 28, 21, 01, 23, 22, 31

PRESENCE
Sumona Chakravarty Faculty: Nashid Nabian

Case Studies in Urban Cybernetics

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Presence
Living in the cybernetic city changes our perspective about our presence in the world. On one hand locative technology makes it possible for us to be acutely aware of our presence in the city not only in relation to its physical environment but also to its emotional, ecological, social, political landscape. The little blue dot on the screen proclaiming ‘you are here’ binds us solidly with the city. On the other hand we are completely dislocated, our presence is trans-located within a fraction of a second to any part of the world. This paradox is represented by a project titled ‘You are here Museu’ by Laura Kurgan at the Museu D’Art Contemporani, Barcelona in 1995 at a time when GPS had only recently been made available to the public. The artist placed a series of GPS devices at fixed locations within the gallery. The coordinates of each device were saved every few minutes and visualized on a map, revealing that although the GPS device was stationary its presence was constantly shifting. More than highlighting a flaw in the GPS technology the project created a metaphor that represented the constantly shifting notion of our presence that is created as we try to exist between the virtual and physical worlds. The projects in this paper also similarly represent this paradox. Amble time, Amsterdam Realtime, Taxi, Yellow Arrow, Fix my Street, Net Dérive, Pigeon Blog and Augmented Reality Flash Mob use locative media to reinforce the link between our presence and the urban psychogeography. Locative media references Merleau-Ponty’s ‘Phenomology of Perception’ by emphasizing the notion that our presence, the location of the ‘body proper’, is the site for experiencing the environment and creating new meaning. Our location and our movement through the urban landscape allows us to access a layer of digital information that blankets the city, enabling us to perceive new spatial patterns and embedded narratives. These narratives present diverse perspectives and conflicting meanings within the same space, creating a public domain where multiple identities converge; where we encounter the ‘other’ and connect with the larger community of the city. The projects are also influenced by Baudelaire’s idea of a flâneur, or the Situationist’s experience of a dérive, emphasizing how our presence not only allows us to perceive the urban landscape, but also enables us alter it by using the city. These projects empower us with a sense of being able to affect change by claiming the city, and create a significance for our collective roles, and individual presence in society. But there is also a presence that is displaced or lost; and some of the projects like Remote and Can you see me now? articulate an alienation between the physical and virtual worlds. These projects are based on the idea of ‘telepresence’ where presence in one location is remotely actuated in another physical or virtual space. Commercial applications of telepresence, like the conference technology developed by Cisco, try to create a seamlessness between these two remote locations. However these artistic explorations try to reveal the overlaps and anomalies that occur when our presence between the physical and the virtual world.

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Presence: Amble Time (2002-05)
Project Credits: Brendan Donovan, Stephen Lewis, Carol Strohecker at Media Lab Europe Amble Time stems from the idea that the shortcoming of a standard map is its inability to convey a sense of temporal scale. Amble Time is a prototype map with a sense of time that was created as an application that can be incorporated into any handheld device. By using a GPS system and calculating the users average walking speed, it creates a bubble that indicates everywhere the user could walk in an hour. Alternatively, given a final destination, Amble Time can show where one could roam along the way and still arrive on time. As the user’s position changes and time ticks by, the bubble slowly shrinks and morphs until eventually it highlights the shortest path to the destination. By imbuing a map with a temporal quality, Amble Time aims to create a shift in how we relate to our environment, allowing us to travel through the city not just as passengers in transit but instead as travelers, engaging with the landscape. The application is used on a handheld GPS enabled PDA and uses the user’s location, destination and the amount of time the user has to get to the destination, to map the different routes the user can take to reach his or her destination on time. It also factors in the average speed of walking into the http://www.carolstrohecker.info/ProjectPages/ambletime.html http://medialabeurope.org/research/group.

Amble time visualization

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Presence: Amble Time
computation. The visualization of the data is really the interesting part. Instead of showing clearly demarcated routes, the area that can be covered between the starting point and destination within the given time is highlighted. This visualization implies a certain lack of preciseness, and flexibility that relates to the idea of ambling. The user is presented with information that suggests possibilities, not solutions. As the time reduces, the highlighted area shrinks helping the user keep track of time. The project was executed a few years before Google Maps on smart phones became commonplace. Today, with instantaneous access to such technology, many critics of ubiquitous media lament the loss of serendipity and chance that has been brought about by an over-coded, super-efficient city . However, the creators of Amble Time seemed to have anticipated this emerging concern. Unlike regular Map applications, Amble Time enabled the user to do more than just reach the destination. It showed how ubiquitous technology can add information and value, as well create a poetic interaction, facilitating serendipitous interactions with the city that improve the experience of urban life. In one experiment, the researchers chose evocative passages from James Joyce’s famous Dublin novel Ulysses to help guide Amble Time users through this Irish city. Rather than navigating directly from a http://www.carolstrohecker.info/ProjectPages/ambletime.html http://medialabeurope.org/research/group.

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Presence: Amble Time
place of departure to a destination, users were invited to amble through parts of the city for an hour, choosing locations referenced in Joyce’s text. Upon arrival at a common destination, users were invited to reflect upon their journeys using another piece of interactive software called “Polymorphic Letters”, linking their commentaries to the locations they had visited, creating what the researchers call “neighborhoods of narrative.” Although the Media Lab Europe was discontinued in 2005, the Amble Time project, and the experiments based around it, created a powerful imagination of using locative media to create more meaningful interactions between people and the urban spaces they inhabit, by creating an awareness about their presence within the social, cultural, historical and aesthetic geography of the city. These projects framed the urban experience within the experience of a flâneur, by empowering the pedestrian to expand the scope of everyday experiences. Amble Time contextualized this 19th century concept, also addressing a need for efficiency, a discomfort with the unknown and a certain fear of the city, by giving enough information to create a sense of comfort and security, enabling even those who are unfamiliar with the city to engage with the it in new ways each time. With this balance of information and ambiguity, Amble Time puts forward some key questions for ubiquitous, locative technology today. How can we create opportunities for users to mediate the amount http://www.carolstrohecker.info/ProjectPages/ambletime.html http://medialabeurope.org/research/group.

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Presence: Amble Time
of information they want to access? Can users today choose a degree of ambiguity, selecting only what they need to make efficient, informed choices without being overloaded with useless information? And how can we use information to create a meaningful source of knowledge by enhancing everyday living? http://www.carolstrohecker.info/ProjectPages/ambletime.html http://medialabeurope.org/research/group.

1 Project website http://medialabeurope.org/research/ group.php?id=4 2 Mark Shepard, Sentient City Survival Kit: Archaeology of the Near Future (University of California, Irvine, 2009) 3 Amy Lavender Harris, January 7, 2007 (10:22 p.m.), Space, Place & Scale, http://geog3300.blogspot. com/2007/01/amble-time.html

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