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Networked City – Reading Summaries

Due to some technical reasons, we are not able to get the reading summaries in time this week. I would like you to refer to the summary of the same materials from last semester (sans the Bleeker text) and comment here on this post. I hope we can make the Bleeker text summary available for your commenting pleasure later today.


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  1. ElzbthMllr 10:27, Mar 8th, 10

    I really enjoyed Adam Greenfield’s talk from PICNIC08. Although I thought the talk was fascinating, I have to admit that I may be bit naïve in understanding how some of the technology works that sets this up. I also think it’s interesting that so many of his examples were from international cities, makes me wonder how far behind the US is on many of these issues. Anyway, I think one of the key points he mentions briefly towards the end, and that is the issues related to regulation. How are we to regulate this space? What kind of regulation is possible, necessary, and achievable? He concludes by saying that it’s up to us as citizens, designers, etc to figure out the way in which this kind of public space will be networked, but in light of our conversation about the digital elite that we had last week in class, I’m a little skeptical. Also, how does this relate to the issues of personal privacy, access etc, would be interesting to discuss. Greenfield mentions briefly that he has also taken a negative view of these issues but doesn’t go into to much detail. I’d be curious to read the book and find out what exactly he means by that.

    I also found Dan Hill’s piece thought provoking on a number of issues. First, he discusses both government and public/private partnerships. I think it’s really important to look at how this data is being produced, who has control over it, and who has access. Do we have some inherent bias towards the way this data is capture, distributed, etc? What should the role of all these entities be, and where is the responsibility of citizens as we educate ourselves about these networked and public spaces. Because this is so public, there are infinite issues related to privacy, civil liberties, etc. I think there are also larger questions about the value of this kind of information. Does it lead us to lead more effective, more engaged lives? What are the negatives of this kind of networked public? When Hill describes the two possible futures, I think he hits on several interesting points, and that is individuals willingness to publicize their norms of behavior via social network sites (this goes back to danah boyds discussion about the public/private continuum). With respect to the locked-down space, I wonder if people (outside of this class) are away of the repercussions of this, and if so, do they care? Should they care? I’m not entirely sure if I believe that either one of the possible futures are ideal. In the open source street, although the openness may not be as ambiguous, many of the same questions still are unanswered. There are also further questions of ownership and manageability. I think there are also larger questions about the effect that this will have on our society. Are we better because of this transition that we are in (and the readings this week only further convinced me that we are marching into this space full steam ahead), or worse?

    Lastly, when the readings talk about the ability of objects to blog, tweet, etc, I think it raises questions related to artificial intelligence. Are we replacing human functions with that of machines? I think at the end of his piece when Bleecker questions “How can the Internet of Things become a framework for creating more habitable worlds, rather than a technical framework for a television talking to an reading lamp?” is the key point for me. Yeah, it may be cool that my toaster is connected to the internet, and can read my all kinds of data, but really who cares? How can we harness the power of this networked capacity for society. I think we are so inundated by data, that we are exploring different ways to use it, and have it play into our lives, but I’m interested in the larger questions of how this plays out in a society. I’m also interested to hear if people had positive or negative reactions to the issues discussed in the reading, because I found myself very torn (as usual!)

  2. Alexandra 11:49, Mar 8th, 10

    Maybe it’s just me, but I really felt like Adam Greenfield was just not speaking English. By that I mean that I think he used unnecessarily complicated terms and jargon to describe everyday activities. The example of the women in the Hong Kong subway who swipe their transit cards through their purses… come on. Anyone who has ever worked in or visited an office building with a similar system knows how the sensor works. I fail to see the significance of that action, and I feel like both Greenfield and Hill were either conflating quotidian actions into something bigger than they were, or talking about things that seem to me to be so unrealistic that they are hardly worth talking about. The reference to the scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise is walking through the mall and all the signs are talking to him, or the reference to the same thing happening in Times Square – I mean, of the zillion people who are in Times Square at any given moment, how would a billboard “decide” which individual to target? How could that be valuable or generate revenue, when the targeted person probably wouldn’t even bother to look up and see it?

    Am I just completely missing the point?

  3. Jimena 14:43, Mar 8th, 10

    This week’s material makes me consider, once again, the potential that the flow of information coming from the spaces and objects (longer and bigger than what we can perceive with our five senses) have of creating tighter communities, cities that are more interlinked; or generating exactly the opposite–populations that are more divided by the capacity to read and use this inforamtion.

    “Networked mechanisms intended to actively deny, delay or degrade the free use of space.”

    When, as Greenfield puts it, “data is pouring out of the city”, that data is certainly not readable by all. So the urban landscape, which by itself has very different layers more or less accessible depending on the person’s circumstances: social and economical status, cultural and academic level, etc, is in danger of becoming more segregated. When “it rains on Oxford street”, and information is pouring on us, it is not “all” of us that are getting wet–it rains for some but not for all. So when considering how does it “feel like” to live in a heavily networked city, I think we have to consider that now more than ever, there are many cities and many streets coexisting, overlapped, at the same time. And if the intention is to generate an engaged civic community, then we should take into consideration the alienating effect of the networked spaces.

    This is not to say that the benefits and possibilities of the networked reality are huge, but in order to be able to really “compose the city to your liking” you need to be able to read it, and a long time will pass before the majority of a city’s population has comparable literacy levels.

  4. Leslie 09:15, Mar 9th, 10

    I have to say, I never really thought of the way my cell phone determines how I interact with the space around me, as Greenfield mentioned in his one example with placemaking. It’s definitely true, though. Thinking back to my habits, when I walk around NYC, if I’m on my cell phone, I’m more inclined to take my time. I’ll walk in and out of stores and have a larger sense of curiosity to go look at random things. But, if I’m not on my cell phone, I tend to be more focused on my destination. With smart phones, it’s especially cool how apps can help you connect with a city, allowing you to quickly and efficiently look up specific information. I love how while walking around the city, not having anything specific to do in mind, you can just tap into various apps to quickly look up something to do, rather than going home and calling it “quits” for the day. I also enjoyed his example of passengers attempting to “escape” the reality of being in a subway, where many people feel uncomfortable because of the unnatural physical closeness to complete strangers, by using various technological devices, such as a cell phone or mp3 player. Another example that reminded me of this is having headphones on and visible while walking around outside. I know some people (and admittedly, me) use this “image” sometimes to create a reason to ignore those around them. It gives people a reason to “check out” from strangers and “check into” their own world as they traverse the city streets. So, as Jimena noted, this can make for a more ‘alienated’ experience of a city. While you’re ‘connecting’ to the city in one way, there’s a ‘disconnection’ in another way, much to the same experience that is talked about concerning the virtual world of the computer and social media vs. the physical world of interacting with others. Greenfield’s talk of “The Big & Now” & Twittering reminded me of Foursquare a lot and when you get messages from friends of where they are at a given moment. It’s yet again a whole list of possibilities one could be doing at any particular moment. You can even directly text/email/call the friend who sent out information on where they are. Greenfield’s Time Square example was particularly scary to me. But, it did remind me of a couple ad campaigns in Times Square where people could text in to specific companies, and then have their text displayed on the company’s Times Square billboard. I felt like they were in a way a step towards what Greenfield was discussing. Prius did it by letting people download a special app that let them draw around a Prius car. This drawing was then uploaded to their billboard in times square: http://www.mobilebehavior.com/2009/10/29/prius-experience-lets-users-draw-on-times-square-billboard-via-iphone/ And, Vans Shoes did a similar thing by letting viewers upload their New Year’s Eve pictures to the company’s Times Square billboard: http://www.vans.com/vans/news.asp?id=1635205 Another example that reminded me of the direction Greenfield discusses that I thought was really cool, while not in a metropolitan city, was Nike’s Live Strong campaign that let people text in inspirational messages to Tour de France riders. The messages were then “chalked” onto the road. http://www.nike.com/nikeos/p/livestrong/en_US/chalk_messages I thought Hill’s mention of how people flock or group in certain areas are sometimes a result of open WiFi networks was a good point to make. It’s something that people never really think twice about, but is done quite often in a city atmosphere. This shows his point of how under the radar the technology that surrounds and is part of the streets is often just taken for granted or not even realized. I agree with him- I think a city/society would get more use out of all this technology if it was more out in the open and talked about. As he mentioned, while I feel like eventually there will be more trust and use that would come out of being more open with this information, I think first might come backlash and fear at the amount of information available. Just like some people are scared of companies/the government getting too much information about them online, this same fear could stem from this “open source street.” But, then again, by walking the streets we are by definition in a public setting…so maybe people wouldn’t be as alarmed?

  5. HoniehLayla 11:52, Mar 9th, 10

    I thought Greenfield’s talk was very intriguing. I think he brings up a lot of points that many of us subconsciously think about.

    For example, he mentions that other than the 5 senses we have, we also have a digital sense, which is an extension of our natural sense, references to location, time, space.

    He puts forth an example of a girl walking around in a mall and is unaffected by her environment (ie mall). Why? Because she is in “mobile” space or type of environment where she is engaging in activity that puts her in a different mind frame and no longer do her 5 senses react to her surroundings.

    Also, when people are in a subway or a bus, 99 percent of them are fiddling with their mobile phones to block out the environment and space they are forced to be placed in and to enter a “mobile” space.

    One comment which I really enjoyed – is his reference to twitter and how he can keep up with all his friends in this “digital city” – but not can people twitter – “things” can twitter (I’m personally thinking machines) which shows how we are all interconnected and how this creates… a contemporary networked city.

  6. Ryan 12:58, Mar 9th, 10

    Greenfield’s video was quite nice. I thought that it was seemingly ironic that he experienced technical problems in the beginning which made it seem like even as our technology and media create this sensational interactive environment, at the end of the day these things can fail us, and then we succumb to the limitations of our very own success. In other words, we realize that even our greatest technological innovations can fail us at any given moment and that we will need to adapt to “it” not working. In Greenfield’s case, he did a commendable job trying to keep the audience engaged while the av guide worked things out.
    Ok, so his video was definitely a little easier to wrap my mind around than having to parse through the extremely long monologue of Hill. However, Greenfield argues a solid case that we are becoming more in-tune, and are interacting more with our environment as he articulates his points using various examples. Personally, I think of my Chase card how it has the built in chip which let’s me hold it up to the pay-thingy’ and go. Even as I realize how I talk on my cell phone or listen to my iPod as I travel, I wonder whether I am less in tune or more in tune or in/out of sync with what’s really going on. Even if I wasn’t using those, I think that it would still be hard to take in everything that is going on. There is a sensory overload of data and information which we are constantly engrossed in. Yet, we are learning to keep up with the buildings and the ‘rain’ that is falling at the same time.

    I believe that we are having to “multi-task” more and more and are learning how to utilize technology and our mediated environments to the best or even worst of our advantage or disadvantage. It could go either way, I think of a worse case scenario where a person is talking on their cell phone and crosses the street and gets hit by a car. How would Greenfield respond to that? I think it becomes harder to really focus or hone in on something when we are bombarded and encapsulated in this type of media environment (which we are already in).

    It sounds so convincing and believable on both parts with a bit of a romantic twist given the infinite possibilities supported by various examples. However, neither of them talked about the role of government, institutions, or the relationship between the consumer/citizen and others. It was more just touching off of the relationship between our mediated environment and the individual.

    I thought one of the coolest examples was the Tokyo one where the women have created this gesture for swiping their cards through the turnstyles.

    I hear a lot of references to minority report as an futuristic sci-fi example of something along this nature. Camille was right how cities have become ‘metrotechnical’ rather than ‘metropolitan’. Even though it seems overwhelmingly convincing that the way interact, I still strongly believe that we are losing a very innate form of human interaction and sensory perception that is being replaced to a certain degree by this façade of connectivity. Sometimes, less is more. Simplicity can often be the viable and even traditional alternative to something so complex and complicated as these new ways of ubiquity and interactivity between us and our environment. But then again, this latter statement reflects a notion of mine that implies that I fear the complicated or complex because I do not understand it or know how to engage it. Call me a lil’ old school if you will, but at the end of the day, technology can’t replace humans, it can only help. Not that, the environments are trying to replace humans, my point is that our interactivity between our technologically increasing environment and ourselves has its pros and cons. One of the biggest cons is that we forget how to do some of the simplest of things. For example, if the GPS failed or if we trusted in it (like those people who got lost) would we have the common sense or even know-how to navigate or use a traditional map to find directions? It sounds easy, but you might be surprised how difficult it might be for someone to do it themselves when they don’t have someone or some technological device – telling them or doing something for them like they do all the time. And I digress.

    Lastly, I think with a topic such as this one, how digital media is ubiquitous, it makes me really reflect on the boundaries, security, and privacy that we have.

  7. nadine 13:36, Mar 9th, 10

    Wow, I loved this weeks readings!!! Thought-provoking and poetic! My question:

    Do we exist if we aren’t in the digital city?

    @Alexandra: this scenario is real, our digital sense hase tangible effect on our other senses!
    What preoccupies me is the digital divide. Not only between non digital networked city (they are networked in other ways!), but also within the city.

    I found both tales riveting; however, the moments that were most revealing were the moments of failures, break-downs and clashes. The elderly women versus the tech savy youngster, the loophole that isn’t fixed because nobody calls the city hall, moments of perplexity when the cafe is closed for restauration! Or just think of the moment of dispair when your wifi doesn’t work, or your computer crashes!!! We are building the networked city to deal more effectively with reality, and the same time we shun it.

    @Jimena: great question about how to build civic community in a coexisting, overlapping, and simultaneous cities.

    @Leslie: I would love to have an “intelligent” toaster that prepares my breakfast!!! A friend of mine from Tokyo has an “intelligent” fridge- as soon as the milk is up or there aren’t any tomatoes anymore, the fridge automatically makes an order that is home-delivered. Great!!

  8. Harris 16:20, Mar 9th, 10

    Nadine, I was thinking of the digital divide issue throughout the readings. Most of the world is still ‘foggy’.

    Jimena, I’m sorry if I misunderstood your point, but doesn’t the network, as an additional layer(s) of reality, make overlapping and co-existence more possible?

    Leslie: “I love how while walking around the city, not having anything specific to do in mind, you can just tap into various apps to quickly look up something to do, rather than going home and calling it “quits” for the day.”
    As someone new in nyc who knew no one and explored the city only through Google Maps, Sherpa and Wertago, I can’t agree more.