Monday, June 27, 2005


Found this a few weeks ago-- a good example of the Internet being put to one of its best uses: bringing together people who have something and people who want that something. Like ebay-- but free! It's called FreeCycle and its mission is to:
build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.
It's a mailing list so you subscribe and then receive lots of messages from people offering stuff. Anything from a five foot stuffed killer whale to a galvanised steel bin and 5 sacks of bay leaves. And some useful stuff too (desks, old computers). There was an article in the Sunday Telegraph on it yesterday, so no doubt there are many more members from the Home Counties, offering old garden heaters and hoping to get new mahogany gearsticks for the Land Rover.
Perhaps a little unfair.

I think MySociety has a similar idea but the difference is that it would be an ebay-style application rather than a mailing list. Might be more scalable, but the mailing list seems to work ok for FreeCycle at the moment.

Anyway, an interesting example of what could be achieved towards reducing waste... and use of ICT in helping to address sustainability... (more on this another time).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hanging around outside Tube stations

Very interesting article from the ever-relevant telecoms-cities mailing list...
from the International Herald Tribune, an account of a research project to look at how users of mobile phones in Madrid, London and Paris use their phones in public spaces. The study was conducted by a Spanish sociologist, Amparo Lasén, for the Digital World Research Center at the University of Surrey. One particularly interesting finding was how mobile phone users in London cluster together in confined spaces when using mobile phones-- often opposite the entrance to an Underground station* or somewhere similar that people don't normally stand. The reason being that Londoners tend to walk away to speak on the phone. Of course now people don't use Underground stations as meeting places as much (unverified assumption!) because they use their phones as the colocation mechanism. I was going to write my MSc dissertation on something like this but never quite got it together! oh well.

It's a good illustration of how the use of public space is and will change due to use of phones (and other mobile devices)-- previously unused space becoming usable. Now if only architects would build in Lean Backs on the sides of buildings...

*I bet the researcher wasn't observing Camden Town tube.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Play! but is it Fun?

Reading a lot about play at the moment... conferences and articles everywhere. This from the New Scientist: an account of various urban games including Uncle Roy is All Around You (I think this was played at the ICA a couple of years ago).
Uncle Roy All Around You is one such game, developed by interactive technology researcher Steve Benford at the University of Nottingham, UK, as part of a European effort called the Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming, or iPerG. Matt has just an hour to find the eponymous Uncle Roy by following instructions or clues fed to him via cellphone text messages. But every time he moves, the positioning technology on his phone transmits his exact location onto a virtual map of London, allowing other players in the game to track his movements and hunt him down. Meanwhile a small band of performance artists called Blast Theory shadow Matt like spies, interacting and manipulating him in his quest to find Uncle Roy.
Lots going on at the University of Nottingham, I came across them again today reading about Ubiquitous Computing, and of course they run the PLAN mailing list and events.

I also like the sound of Pac-Manhattan, in which New Yorkers dress up as Pac-Man and flee other gamers dressed up as ghosts (showing my age). Interesting intersections of the physical city and location based technology. And it gets you fit. Which is more than can be said for most ICT related activity.

A couple of conferences... one which has already happened at the Banff centre called Bodies in Play: Shaping and Mapping Mobile Applications. They were to consider the use of the location based and experiential technologies not just for gaming but also for tourism, recreation, and learning. Tourism again.

Another conference to happen at the ICA called Playtime! The Cultures of Play, Gaming and Sport, organised by the London Consortium. There's to be a treasure hunt through London using mobile phones...

And finally (for the moment- this seems to be a hot topic) from the Guardian, a mention of Human PacMan (again! nostalgia). In this one you wear augmented reality headsets so you actually see cookies and sugar pills... I think I prefer the Manhattan version.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Anarchitecture Week

It's Anarchist Architecture Week in the UK: 17th-26th of June. I particularly like the sound of this event:

The A-Z of Retail Trickery
2.00pm Friday 18th June

Meet outside Centre Point London

A tour along the UK’s most famous high street, stopping to look at all of the tricks that shops use to get people to spend more. Shops are designed to maximise profit and shop designers have developed dozens of tricks to ensure you spend the maximum amount of time and money in their store. Ever wondered why there are escalators up but only stairs down? Ever wondered why supermarkets smell of freshly cooked bread when they only bake in the mornings?
All this and more…

Not sure when it's on though, as the 18th of June is Saturday not Friday. All part of the mystery I guess... Lots of other good stuff too, including a tunnel walk, the Lambeth Ladies Open and the Tube Train Trapeze.

It's also Official Architecture Week (the website is remarkably similar), again lots on but really doesn't sound quite as inventive. Full programme is here.

Mixed bag: jargon, planning micro-management, NYC broadband

A couple of interesting articles from Planning Resource...
A lexicon of regeneration to explain the language/ jargon used by Built Environment Professionals (a piece of jargon in itself).

John Gummer on planning-- advising a move away from micro-management. His approach is not a million miles away from Jo Walsh's ideas in this field-- the idea of having isolatable subsystems with rules on how the edges interact.

And finally...

Web based tourism

what a terrible vision of the future... using google to go on holidays on the Internet. dear oh dear. Would it be like the holideck of Star Trek fame? Read all about it in the New Scientist here.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Growth and decline of cities and regions

A new piece of research by Ruth Lupton and Anne Power of the LSE: larger cities and metropolitan conurbations in Britain (except London) are almost all declining. The strongest growers according to the 2001 census were more rural and mixed rural and urban areas, as well as London. Smaller cities also tended to gain population.

I guess this could be a problem for the delivery of services (health, telecommunications, utilities etc. etc.) as it tends to be more cost-effective to provide services in areas which are more densely populated. I was reading a paper by Anthony Townsend yesterday on broadband usage in South Korea. South Korea has the highest broadband take-up in the world at the moment. One of the factors for this is the fact that most cities are very densely populated and so it was possible to serve many people with the same infrastructure. I wonder what are the implications for the UK if the trend is towards decentralisation?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Music blogger... and sharing

Just read about this new application-- Mercora-- described by Matt Maier in Om Malik's blog as 'blogger for radio'. I'm becoming more and more interested in collaborative applications online-- it seems that content is no longer (or was it ever?) the 'killer app' for driving people to particular sites... now it's the promise of interaction and finding out what other people are doing/saying/listening to etc.

Audioscrobbler is a good example of a site that aggregates data about what people are interested in (in this instance, listening to) and serves it back as packaged information. Amazon was a pioneer with its 'people who bought what you bought also bought... X'.

Blogs, online photo sharing (e.g. Flickr), bookmark sharing through del.ic.ious, allow people to share their own content. Social networking sites (e.g. Friendster, LinkedIn) allow people to share information about themselves in order to connect with others. (I do wonder how many people use them to connect to people they don't know already though. There is a numbers game of collecting connections at play.) Google is also a social networking site-- probably the most used-- now that 'to google someone' is a common pastime.

What is the spatial dimension? How might one map these networks? Or to come at it from another angle, what will people use wireless networks for in the Future? (near future). So what kind of applications might be built for local spaces and local communities?
It looks like people will be using the web in a more dynamic way to find out about other people-- what they're thinking, where they are as well as ideas. But the model will likely not be sitting down to read loads and loads of content-- not a newspaper model.

Some projects seem to point the way to locating blogging and social networking in physical space. Social Tapestries allows mobile annotation of spaces-- kind of mobile blogging-- so there is a clear spatial dimension there. There are various attempts to introduce mobile social networking applications using mobile phones-- I linked to one in MIT a while ago.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

pledgebank open

well nearly... Quite a few pledges up there already. I like the community type ones-- I will start a walking train if 4 other people do too sort of thing... but this one is my favourite-- this woman has started a campaign to get 400 people (or more) to give 1% of salary to charity. Her blog describing her campaign is here.
FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from