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— urbantick

Tag "narrative"

Visions and ideas are ephemeral and can be occasionally tightly connected to a location. A specific spot that triggers a vision, something connecting a thought and a place. This trigger very often carries emotions and is loaded with specific feelings that can bring a physical reaction, for example goos bumps in a ghostly sort of way.

Making this phenomena a working tool the environment can become once more a big playground with rather detailed and complex options and possibilities. This is interesting especially in an architecture context or even on a n urban level with, where space can be the media augmented by visions.

Image taken from mob-ility / A screen shot of the envisioned app grabbing the contextual information for inserting the vision.

Architecture student Sahar Fikouhi from the Bartlett has developed a augmented reality concept based around this notion of spatial narrative for the development of architecture visions. The idea is to use the AR layer to detect the context specification and develop directly in 3D a fitting structure. The Achi-Maton tool is not fully developed app, but a great sketch in it self creating this sense of goose bumps.

Sahar explains “It allows for real-time scanning and sketch design of architectural structures. The application consists of 4 main functions, including site analysis, programme analysis, design library and material library”.

Image taken from mob-ility / A series of screen shots documenting the development steps.

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Many different location based apps have surfaced recently making excellent use of the localising capacity of the latest generation of smart phones. However the trend is going through phases. everything from transport app to news feed now wants to use the current location for whatever. In the beginning there was a lot of excitement that it actually works and apps where pars. The check-ins came along and made it big with Brightkite and Latitude, then Foursquare and finally Facebook pushing the train. Now we’re in a sort of location bubble with every app inside. This is not going anywhere, so better getting into a niche as things are still rolig.

Wanderlust is such a tool for the smart phone developed for a niche, however closely related to other specialised fields. Wanderlust (the making of) is a mobile story telling platform integrating with the cohort of Foursquare, making use of their massive database of check-ins. Via these location the narratives unfold. The clever concept of the Wandelust stories is, that they play at generic type locations instead of actual unique locations. The narrative relates to the type ‘Bar‘ and this is not a specific bar, but just any bar you can find.

If the story starts at a ‘Shop‘, off you go, into the next shop and the narrative unfolds. The location plays an important role in so far that it is used to determine the type of location you are in. In some sense this is location type hopping according to storyboard. The narrative will tell you where to go next to find the next part of the story and hear how this bloody mess is resolved (in the story obviously).

The platform is very helpful in finding the right place as it ties in with the Goole Maps routing service and finds the quickest way to get there. So it is hard to get lost, but it is especially hard to find an excuse not to play or listen in this case. Not even the platform provides an escape, it runs across platforms. Quite cleverly it is built as a webpage, using JQuerry, any browser capable mobile phone can load. No complaints, out you go, pull these stories in!

Tourism by Naomi Alderman: A chilling urban fantasy, beginning in a bar. Tech by Tom Chatfield: A thousand words of science fiction in one act, beginning in a restaurant. Ivy by Andrea Phillips: A dark and dreamlike fairytale, beginning in a nightclub or music venue. In The Shadow Of Her Tail by Matt Wieteska: An urban fantasy, beginning in a shop. South by Southwest by Adrian Hon: A homage to Hitchcock’s spy thriller North by Northwest set during SXSW 2011, beginning (of course) in a convention center.

If you have an ide for a story get in touch with the guys at @wanderlustapp.

Image taken from narrativenow / Wanderlust graphic.

Via roomthly

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I will be giving a lecture today at the Bartlett School of Architecture to the MA Urban Design course students. The course is directed by Professor Colin Fournier.
My talk will focus on the spatial dimension of narratives and time in everyday urban live. The different topics discussed are Repetition, with an introduction to the machine city and different types of cycles to create an identity of the place, Time as a framework of organisation, Space as a result of body physicality and experience, Pattern as a combination of time and space and a conception of place as mental maps to Morphology as the physical result of the narrative created.
As illustration material serves the data collected via the twitter microblogging site, the New City Landscape maps, as well as urbanDiary GPS tracking data.

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The internet has become this wast virtual pile of linked information snippets, data streams are poring out of every button, code is behind every pixel, it is everything and nothing. Finding something is what it takes, even if your not looking for something. Navigating and orientating is what we spend our time doing as we dash through cables globally.

A Google Search promisses wonders and this doesn’t need much promotion, since everybody is in the boat and captain G has got his hat on. It is not about the course we are sailing but about the fact somebody is taking care of things, somebody is watching, steering and comes up with a destination.

This is not far from were we have started from and things might just be around the corner. Why wait there is another term with an underline, another one, one more. And now we are lost, going nowhere, just clinging on to links and bold type titles. No worries since we are not going places we have time to go down this alleyway. Lets explore his topic or this wiki. This is what we know, its collaborative just strolling.

There is much to this getting lost and more it is related to la derive than Situationists ever had dreamed of, getting lost is practice 50 odd years on. Maybe its the naked internet that tells the story, or the joy of losing touch to reconnect on 140 characters a second this is short. I have to go I’m late got lost, but sure I’ll be back, an sailer at heart.

Not with promotion but with engagement the search giant bring the narrative as method and make your own. The link is HERE and instructions can be found on the Google Blog. It comes in seven steps with sound, great fun. An the new urbanTick trailer:

The ultimate ‘click urbanTick’ promotion video, more read urbanTick and ‘urbanTick on Time‘.

The Google Version was played during the Superbowl and inspired this simple editing tool to be made available, every little clip, home made, is an ad more.

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dolphiners is a Korean movie and animation company who produces brilliant stuff. One of the lates works is the series Small Earth, a loose sequence of everyday stories focusing on the little pleasures in urban live. It does however also include the drama and twist of a real thriller, amazing.

The series is produces as stop motion animations using a tilt-shift effect to guide the focus.

Have a look at the most recent one ‘The Race’ and watch out for the blue and the yellow racers, they will take you on a journey with a rather dramatic finish. Catch up on the previeous three and a bit prequels HERE.

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I will be giving a presentation tonight in Moscow at the Strelka Institute for Architecture, Media and Design.
We will have some special guest linking in via Skype. This will be Ralph Barthel to talk about the chalenges of the Tales of Things project and later on Steven Gray explaining more about Tweet-O-Meter, twitter mining and the brand new Survey Mapper tool.

The presentation is organised into parts, first looking at technology and urban sensing using virtual media data and in the second part will be focusing on the experiential part of the city and every day narratives.

Most of the examples you can find scattered across the urbanTick blog, but are here collected.
One additional feature for tonight is the New City Landscape map for Moscow. For the occasion we have generated a new tweetography map for the capital of Russia. We will put it live in the style of London, Paris, New York and Munich tomorrow.

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After having missed the official start of the workshop yesterday I joined the workshop team. Today was not only very hot but also very productive. Moscow is some 39C, maybe more depending on the source. So the water spender machines are in constan use and the cartridges have to be changed frequently.

Topics for today were processing, processing and processing. In between we had some short exercises concerning the interactions between virtual and real spaces. With this we want the students to start investigating in many directions and from the beginning to mix both worlds. YOu can follow the progress either on the workshop facebook page anOtherWorkshop, or on twitter @anOtherWorkshop with the #vvsr tag.

In a simple string of actions parameters for twitter mining were extracted from virtual user generated online information that was recreated and reinterpreted and put back online. The resulting stories of object and place produced a list of key search terms. Surprisingly there were many very successful search terms found in this way maybe no one would have thought of otherwise. It turned out that cleaning and smoke and pipe are actually very popular words in the world of Russian twitter users.

In a simple processing query, the terms were requested through the twitter api and visualised according to the day of the week, in columns and time of the day, in rows.

keyword "труба" ("pipe")
Image taken from the flickr account of anOtherWorkshop, generated by Yulia and Masha / This is using the Russian search term “труба” (“pipe”). Basically through out the week people are talking about pipe.

The tool that offers the most direct interface between the real world and the virtual literally is the Tales of Things. The platform to link memories, stories and thought via virtual content to any real world object. Obviously the students liked this hands on and easy accessible tool and started to log their stories.

There is the wonder full tale of the ghost of the house, who lives on in one of the buildings on the island and sort of leads it in to a positive future (from his seat in the rain pipes). Or there is the sad-sweet description of the girl/young lady who’s face is printed on the chocolate bar that used to be produced on site on the island, or the confusion created by words if they are used in the same sense in a different context.

Image taken from the flickr account of anOtherWorkshop, generated by Zvezdnii and his colleague / The “object” – chocolate bar, sportig the girl on the cover. It is actually a rather disturbing facial expression if you think about it for a moment.

The day was rounded off with a late night lecture at Strelka by Hans Ulrich Obrist starting only after 10 pm local time. The talk is covered by urbanTick on twitter.

Just for the records the input presentation given today.

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Tales of Things, the new service to link digital memories and physical objects has gone online recently. It was covered widely in the media, from the New Scientist, to WIRED and the Guardian, as well as of course on urbanTick HERE and HERE. The internet of things has come to life. It is now in your pocket on your iPhone and ready to interact 24/7. How and why this is happening now with this new project out of the ToTeM labs is the question put at the initiators. In this interview Ralph Barthel, from the developer team behind the service, explains the context and the details of this project.

urbanTick: Tell us something about your background and your role in the project and of course tell us about your most precious tale!

Ralph: My research and work background is in the areas of social computing, design research and new media system development with specific applications for learning and knowledge building. In this first phase of the project I was responsible for the development of the backend web application of the Tales of Things service and some aspects of the Interaction Design. In the next few months I will start to explore additional interactions and novel user interfaces to engage with the Tales of Things service.
My first tale on Tales of Things was about an old audio tape recorder (Grundig TK 23) that my grandfather owned. It was built in 1963 and is extremely heavy by today’s standards. Interacting with this thing brings back joyful memories from my youth.

Grundig TK 23 Advertisement
Image taken from TalesOfTings website / The Grundig TK23 documentation from the 60’s. Find out more about the Grandfather tale on TalesOfThings.

urbanTick: Can you describe the development process of this project.

Ralph: In October 2009 Andy Hudson-Smith, the project leader here at CASA, brought Martin De Jode, Benjamin Blundell and me together to work on the TOTeM (Tales of Things and Electronic Memory) project. The TOTeM project is funded through a £1.39 million research grant from the EPSRC to explore social memory in the emerging culture of the Internet of Things. Five universities in the UK (Edinburgh College of Art, University College London, Brunel University, The University of Salford and The University of Dundee) are collaborating in this project. The scope of our initial work up to the launch in April 2010 was very much predetermined and detailed by the TOTeM project plan. Consequently we soon started building and evaluating prototypes of our web application and mobile clients with the aim to refine them through formative evaluation with project partners, advisors and selected user groups. In the next phase of this project the Tales of Things service will enable us and our partner institutions to study the relationship of personal memories and old objects when mediated through tagging technologies.

urbanTick: Technical difficulties and special solutions?

Ralph: From a technical point of view the main difficulty in an applied project like TOTeM is to leverage the capabilities of broadly available tagging and ubiquitous computing technologies while making them accessible for a large number of people. In this context it is important to go beyond the step of providing a proof of concept (which is the purpose of many research projects) but to create a sustainable and maintainable technological infrastructure for years to come. Within the constraints of a research project with a small technical core team it can be difficult to balance innovation with providing basic support services. This tension cannot readily be resolved and in the next few months also depending on the uptake of the service we will see how this will develop.

urbanTick: In this sense Tales of Things is not a pure research project. What are the aims and who are you working together for the development and for the application (service)?

Ralph: The core development team does currently all development work and hosting in-house. Our project partners in Salford are exploring the possibilities of commercialisation. We are planning to collaborate with libraries and museums and to be present Tales of Things technologies at events and festivals. TOTeM will for example be in May in Manchester at the Future Evertything Festival.

urbanTick: Describe the basic steps to take part in the tales of things project.

Ralph: To start people can go to www.talesofthings.com and browse around and have a look at some of the tales that have been already added. They can register on the site for a free account and can download the iPhone application that reads Tales of Things QR Codes and enables people to create new tales when they interact with a tagged object. After loging in to our web services people can create a new things. To do this they would typically provide some information about the thing such as description and title and a photo of the object if available. In the process of creating a thing they will also be asked to provide a first tale for the thing they are adding. People can then generate and print the QR Codes of their things and comment on other peoples tales of things. The website provides further map views that display where in the world the tales have been created.

urbanTick: The tale is refering to the memory someone has of a thing. As we all know these memories are variable and can be difficult to pin down. Can you describe the strategy you developed to can ephemeral thoughts, what does a tale consist of?

Ralph: A tale starts with a brief textual description and a title of the tale. References to any addressable media for example from services like YouTube, Flickr, Audioboo can be added to a tale. Currently files from the three mentioned services are displayed in an integrated media player interface. All other URL’s are linked as additional resources. Finally a geolocation can be added to a tale.

Image taken from TalesOfThings / The tale of the Banksy maid in Camden, long gone but still here.

urbanTick: The project has only launched two weeks back on the 17 of April. How was it received and how will you develop the platform in the coming weeks?

Ralph: It was receiving quiet a bit of media coverage for example in the Guardian Technology blog or BBC Radio 4. The media feedback was largely positive. There were also some critical voices that doubt that people will socialize around tagged objects. Obviously this is something that time will tell. The media coverage brought some attention to the project and many people visited the website and several hundred already signed up for user accounts.
At this stage we will closely follow how people engage with the Tales of Things service. At this point we are looking for different uses and the values and meaning that people assign to Tales of Things in several pilot studies with different communities. The results from this piloting stage will inform further development efforts. We also aim to support additional mobile platforms such as Android and to develop an API so that other services can connect to Tales of Things.

urbanTick: There are a number of specific terms frequently used to describe aspects of this project. Some are borrowed, some are newly defined and other are everyday words. Can you explain the “thing”, the “tale” and the “tag”?

Ralph: A thing refers to any object (e.g. industrial objects, tools, architecture) people would like to link an individual memory to. A tale is story of a personal memory that someone associates with this thing. A tale is told on the platform using different digital media (text, video, images, audio). Video, Image and Audio media can be taken from the web and users can create textual content through our web service. Consequently people can link any addressable digital media file in the creative storytelling process. The thing and the tale(s) are then linked via the tag. This is a unique identifier in the form of an QR Code. This tag is machine readable and can be attached to the thing. The Tales of Things service generates QR Codes for each thing automatically. We also have the option to use RFID identifiers to mark an object. This emerging technology is known for example from the Oystercards. We are curently developing an Tales of Things RFID reader to further explore the possibilities of this technology. For now any existing RFID tags can be linked to the things in our database.

urbanTick: The project could be classified as being another social networking site. Is it, and if so what is different, or how would you characterize it instead?

Ralph: In the concept of Tales of Things the physical interaction with tagged objects is important. People can only add new tales about things if they physically interact with an object through reading its tag. Certain permissions can only be shared and passed along through the interaction with the object which changes the configuration of the server. While people can view tales of things on our website they can only add new tales when interacting with the tags. Consequently the website, that has elements of social networking sites, is only a part of the entire service experience of Tales of Things. The project aims broader to explore implications of a service space in which enabled through ubiquitous forms of computing physical world and cyberspace are interlinked. The project is interdisciplinary so that the research inquiry includes aspects of Human-Computer Interaction, Art Practise, Anthropology and Commerce.

Image taken from talesofthings.com / The World of Things, map on the project site showing the location of the objects and tales. It is also possible to track objects as it loggs each location it was scanned.

urbanTick: Potential of the internet of things?

Ralph: There is a certain anticipation that the Internet of Things will eventually lead to a technical and cultural shift as societies orient towards ubiquitous forms of computing. The development of technology and practises are often co-evolving so that it is important to understand possible implications. Internet Of Things applications can be complex services that evolve in space and time. The experience of using an Internet of Things service spans several user interfaces and the design space encompasses physical artifacts in the real world as well as conceptual artifacts. Personally I am interested in exploring human-computer interaction (HCI) in this design space as it poses specific methodological, ethical and philosophical challenges that need to be addressed when design IoT applications.

urbanTick: The Internet of Things is not new, why do you think it is emerging just now again?

Ralph: The idea of tagging of things and networked objects is by no means new. What has changed in recent years is that enabling technologies such as internet-enabled smartphones have become more affordable, usable and widespread. More and more people carry powerful small computational devices with them. This has led recently to a renaissance of Internet of Things applications used in a non-industrial context which can be witnessed by services like Foursquare or Pachube.

urbanTick: Critical mass for the internet of things to enter as a important player?

Ralph: Internet of Things applications are already important and wide-spread in many industries such a logistics. The TOTeM project is concerned with a different application of the Internet of Things outside industry practise. I can’t say what the critical mass for our project is. The critical mass is not necessarily the most important aspect of the project. It might very well be that the technologies that are developed as part of this project have the potential to add value to the social practises of specific communities. Such findings would be equally important. Tales of Things is after all a research project albeit an applied one.

urbanTick: What is your vision for this project?

Ralph: The partners in TOTeM are from five universities and have different backgrounds and might therefore have different visions. From a research perspective I am mainly interested in studying and exploring the Internet of Things as hybrid interaction design space and how IoT applications can be used for learning and knowledge building in everyday activities. From a long-term perspective it would be great to see a sustained engagement of many people with the Tales of Things service.

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Twitter is all around and now it has center stage at the theater. Two weeks ago a play has launched on twitter, a sort of digital age Romeo and Juliet. It is a Royal Shakespeare Company RSC production in colaboration with Mudlark. Over five weeks five characters tweet their role through thir twitter account. You can follow and read as the event unfold on the urbanTick list.
Even though the action happens on twitter, involving the audience, there are some backup pages to tell the more contextual bit of the story. An important part is the blog at kleptojago, here the invisible Jago talks on his blog abou the events referring to the tweets of the protagonists. This is a very helpful element since the tweets are very spars.

Image taken from urbanTick/RomJul / The Romeo and Juliet play on twitter.

This is, for a number of points an interesting experiment, exploring the narrative capacity of the media probably being the most important one. Twitter is a social networking platform, based on short messages published in sequence. This provides a perfect platform for narratives. All you need are characters and a message. Well actually narratives can be a bit more complicated than that, but since most people have heard of Romeo and Juliet before an overal framework is given.
If you want Romeo and Juliet scenes are happing everyday al over the word on this platform and this new production being just one of them. You could create your own play by choosing a couple of your friends put them in a list and read as the action unfolds. And if using mobile gadgets to tweet from you even get a real location with it. A play in your town.
Surprisingly the RSC production is not using the location features. This would have been quite nice to have it unfolding in a real context. I suppose the producers were worried this would limit the range. For now it is a worldwide play with every reader imagining the events in her or his neighborhood. In this sense it is more sort of reading a book in real time.
Never before a production has followed you on the daily comute, directly come to your workplace, or entertained you as you wait for your date. The narrative gets completely entangled with your personal story and this is the truly exciting bit.
Full context on SuchTweetSurrow and read reviews on ThisIsLondon or the Guardian.


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Linking thoughts, visions and memory to real object has so far been surprisingly difficult and complicated. Only when you start thinking about recording a message related to an object and making it available in relation, you realize how impossible this currently is. A number of projects are under way storing and making memories accessible such as the BBC Memoryshare. But it is not related to actual objects or locations.
Well actually not any longer this changes and the web of things becomes reality. Online projects are under development. Here at CASA we have just launched today a project specifically focused on the relationship on the object and the related memory: Tales of Things.
This project comes out of the Totem Labs funded by the Digital Economy and is developed in a collaboration between Brunel University, Edinburgh College of Art, University College London, University of Dundee, University of Salford. CASA is involved in the development of the technical elements of this project.
Tales of Things allows you to link any object with the internet as a place to store memory and thoughts. This link is established via an unique tag, a 2D barcode. This tag is machine readable and specific software can read it via built in cam or web cam and direct you to the linked content. The link can be any content from info and text to multimedia files.
This could become very interesting for trading, e.g. ebay and libraries or museums. The underlying concept is not new and visionairs have fantasised about it for long, but only now the technology and the practice is available to make it happen.
It is one of these ideas that could potentially change the way we interact and process data and information, in a very practical sense brings the virtual and the real world closer together.

Image taken from taesofthings.com / Project logo.

It is currently a bit hard to get at these tags, I mean to find taged objects, until a number of stuff has been taged. So unless you start making your own, HERE, you can only follow other’s tales.
It is simple to create your own. Take an picture of the Thing, upload it, give it a name and keywords so that others can find it. You can then write a blurb about your memory or paste the URL of anything from a video clip to a normal website to link it. So your all set! If someone scans the code, automatically the provided information and links will be shown. Your visions and thoughts or memories will be accessible to others.

The most important bit really is the iPhone app! It is available in the app store, in time for the launch, that was lucky guys!

The project has been presented at the CASA conference by Andy from DigitalUrban, it has a twitter account as well as a blog and first reviews and comments were published by the NewScientist, Wired and the Guardian.

So how does it work? Here is a first example, I created a note for one of my everyday objects and linked it to a clip on youtube. Get the iPhone app, scan the barcode and see where it takes you!


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