Megaphone F A X Machine

Using Megaphone’s API, I created a fax like process, where an image is read on one side, and pixel by pixel is transformed into audio, with the pitch and amplitude varying depending on the brightness of the pixel. The sound is sent via telephone to a java program running through the megaphone API, which analyzes the amplitude of the incoming sound, and attempts to recreate the original image.

Continue reading Megaphone F A X Machine

The Googler

The googler is a program that represents what it hears via voice transcription in google images. It exists in a space, presenting google results in a somewhat vague format. My hope is that while overhearing conversations, it will respond with google image representations that somehow add context or put an interesting spin on what is being said. If its behavior is unfamiliar, then I want the images to appear serendipitously synced with the conversation.

Continue reading The Googler

Page Rank Algorithm

Google rates pages based on the way that others perceive and describe them, but has become our main source of information, so therefore continues to rate pages based on their adherence to their own delicately prescribed popularity contest.
The main criteria is relevance. Relevance as measured by people linking, siting it. It is more important if it is sited. So how do you measure the relevance objectively?
Because of the way that the Page Rank algorithm works, the more time you spend on a given page, the more relevant it is. But it is not the measure itself, you would spend more time there statistically because more links are likely to bring you there, and if spending an equal amount of time on a page while crawling, this would mean that the more time you spend on a given page, the more links from other pages are getting you there. The fact that the time correlates this way as a result of the page rank system, and that it make sense in an abstracted analogy of somebody spending more time on more ‘relevant’ pages is interesting, but probably not conclusive. At the core the relevance is still determined by random jumping and by determined relevance of other pages. I think the averaging and the composite of a lot of data would lead to the “intelligence of the crowd” idea, which is also interesting but has its flaws.
The creation of the Page Rank idea was in response to the fast growth of the internet, where the content is not in any way sorted by importance of type on its own, but everything from scientific journals to photo blog posts from third graders is ‘published’ equally. I think in many ways this lead to a kind of breaking down of traditional boundaries between disciplines, work, actions, and everything else. Google attempts to maintain order to some extent, to allow us to navigate through this world while maintaining some of the traditional associations we have in the world, but it attempt to do it systematically, algorithmically, and in a non-biased way. Of course there is no systematic approach to traditional associations, and although they seem to have found some useful and working patterns, these also serve to expose some of the inconsistency and subjectivity in our traditional social, academic, etc associations. For example, when google thinks that something is related that completely surprises you, but also makes sense at the same time, it is an untraditional association that would have been obvious were we algorithmically programmed. On the other hand, they could just not have found the perfect algorithm to work for everybody in the world yet.
” One of the main causes of this problem is that the number of documents in the indices has been increasing by many orders of magnitude, but the user’s ability to look at documents has not. People are still only willing to look at the first few tens of results.” The scalability is key. This includes efficient performance, fast performance and low storage necessity, so condensed hash maps and condensed sparse matrices.
Links seem to have different values. Links from relevant pages are more valuable. From the matrix I also inferred, though likely wrongly, that links from pages with less outgoing links are more valuable, as the value 1/N would be greater.
They really stressed the academic/research aspirations of google, contrasting them to the more commonly commercially focused engines. They stress the goal to build a solid architecture and data sets that could provide the basis for novel experiments and experiences.

Google rates pages based on the way that others perceive and describe them, but has become our main source of information, so therefore continues to rate pages based on their adherence to their own delicately prescribed popularity contest.
Relevance as measured by people linking, siting it. It makes sense especially with scientific papers, where work builds on top of other work that it needs to site and reference, so the number of times something is sited is an obvious measure of importance in some ways. But the main challenge is to measure the relevance objectively.
Because of the way that the Page Rank algorithm works, the more time you spend on a given page, the more relevant it is. But it is not the measure itself, you would spend more time there statistically because more links are likely to bring you there, and if spending an equal amount of time on a page while crawling, this would mean that the more time you spend on a given page, the more links from other pages are getting you there. The fact that the time correlates this way as a result of the page rank system, and that it make sense in an abstracted analogy of somebody spending more time on more ‘relevant’ pages is interesting, but probably not conclusive. At the core the relevance is still determined by random jumping and by determined relevance of other pages. I think the averaging and the composite of a lot of data would lead to the “intelligence of the crowd” idea, which is also interesting but has its flaws.
The creation of the Page Rank idea was in response to the fast growth of the internet, where the content is not in any way sorted by importance of type on its own, but everything from scientific journals to photo blog posts from third graders is ‘published’ equally. I think in many ways this lead to a kind of breaking down of traditional boundaries between disciplines, work, actions, and everything else. Google attempts to maintain order to some extent, to allow us to navigate through this world while maintaining some of the traditional associations we have in the world, but it attempt to do it systematically, algorithmically, and in a non-biased way. Of course there is no systematic approach to traditional associations, and although they seem to have found some useful and working patterns, these also serve to expose some of the inconsistency and subjectivity in our traditional social, academic, etc associations. For example, when google thinks that something is related that completely surprises you, but also makes sense at the same time, it is an untraditional association that would have been obvious were we algorithmically programmed. On the other hand, they could just not have found the perfect algorithm to work for everybody in the world yet.

” One of the main causes of this problem is that the number of documents in the indices has been increasing by many orders of magnitude, but the user’s ability to look at documents has not. People are still only willing to look at the first few tens of results.” The scalability is key. This includes efficient performance, fast performance and low storage necessity, so condensed hash maps and condensed sparse matrices.

In the google paper, really stressed the academic/research aspirations of google, contrasting them to the more commonly commercially focused engines. They stress the goal to build a solid architecture and data sets that could provide the basis for novel experiments and experiences.

POS Tagging and Visualization

Update: the following images show the use of certain words referring to war, children/education, and health care in the combined speeches of the last three presidents. The word choices reflect my own biases. Words such as war, terrorists, terror, security, bomb, attack, were grouped into the “military” category, words such as education, children, schools, teachers, were grouped into the “children” category, and words such as health, insurance, doctors, medicine, medicaid, medicare, were grouped into the “healthcare” category. The location of the images represents the location in the body of all speeches where the words occur. Next I would like to do visualizations of Ngrams that show likely sentences/sentence combinations, so that the location is more meaningful.






Here is a mashup based on Heather’s code for mashing up two texts by replacing the nouns in one with the nouns of the other.
This is an Obama / Bush medley state of the union address:


“We must continue to pursue an aggressive , proposal humility patchwork . Congress has some unfinished canal on the account of taxes . The respect reductions you passed are set to expire .
Unless you act , the unfair harmony on per will go back up .
Unless you act , millions of families will be charged $ 300 more in Federal taxes for every providing–engagement .
Unless you act , small businesses will pay higher taxes .
Unless you act , the media mountain will eventually come back to legacy . Unless you act , Americans plot a Elementary increase .
What Congress has given , the Congress should not take away .
For the fastest of advancement decade–what , the college cuts you passed should be permanent .
Our allowance for jobs and whip must help small-business owners and employees with firefighter from needless Federal regulation and protect them from sign and frivolous lawsuits .

Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of childhood to make our teacher run , so I urge you to pass Rock to modernize our electricity notion , promote System , and make America less dependent on foreign sources of System .
And here is the same part of the speeches, where the verbs replace verbs:
“Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes .The tax reductions you passed are set to protect .
Unless you wonder , the unfair tax on marriage will exist back up .
Unless you advance , millions of families will be charged $ 300 more in Federal taxes for every child .
Unless you reform , small businesses will prefer higher taxes .
Unless you delay , the death tax will eventually come back to life .
Unless you reveal , Americans face a tax dig .
What Congress has given , the Congress should not suffer away .
For the sake of job growth , the tax cuts you passed should be permanent .
Our agenda for jobs and growth must eat small-business owners and employees with relief from needless Federal regulation and maintain them from junk and frivolous lawsuits .
Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to open our economy rot , so I urge you to supplant legislation to quit our electricity system , promote conservation , and save America less dependent on foreign sources of energy .”
Here is the rest of it. . .

My administration is promoting free and Internet harder to open up new markets for America’s entrepreneurs and Highway and farmers , to create jobs for American workers .

Younger workers should have the mass to build a discord connection by saving cut–a of their Social take taxes in a personal fate banker .

We should make the Social outcome teacher a top-down of engineering for the American people .
And we should limit the materials of border on this spread by acting as good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars .

In 2 weeks , I will send you a budget that funds the opportunity–it , protects the lot , and meets important not needs while limiting the manufacturing in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent .
This will require that Congress generation on priorities , cut wasteful spending , and be wise with the people’s Product .
By doing so , we can cut the dignity in half over the next 5 years .
Tonight I also ask you to reform our General laws so they reflect our values and Court our initiative .
I propose a new temporary- watch act to match willing foreign workers with willing selfish when no Americans can be found to fill the stale .

This life will be good for our principle because growth will find needed workers in an honest and orderly air .
A watch task will help protect our duty , allowing borders–and employment and dollar fee to basic on true threats to our national emphasis .

I oppose amnesty , because it would encourage further illegal struggle and unfairly equivocation those who break our laws .
My temporary- curiosity heritage will preserve the citizenship risk for those who respect the sun while bringing millions of dime men and women out from the shadows of American Depression .
Our Nation’s communism regard department , like our Retirement , is also in a fee of ceilings .

Amazing medical technologies are improving and saving lives .
This dramatic support has brought its own friend , in the rising costs of medical energy and terrorism collapse .
Members of Congress , we must work together to help danger those costs and extend the teacher of modern employers throughout our storm .

homeland these goals require
s bipartisan investment–their , and 2 months ago , you showed the read .
By will Super and adding a freedom drug history–an , you kept a fighting–is commitment to our Internet .
You are giving them the modern segregation they deserve .
Starting this Home , under the capacity you passed , drive can choose to receive a drug project span , saving them 10 to 25 percent off the storm detention of most magnitude drugs , and millions of low-income deal can get an additional $ 600 to buy regard .
Beginning next threat , rescue will have new economy for preventive screenings against diabetes and year disease , and stock just entering strength– can receive poverty–we exams .
In January of 2006 , determination can get contributor drug providing–engagement under law .

For a monthly hatred of about $ 35 , most gas who do not have that coverage today can expect to see their drug bills cut roughly in half .

Under this invest , movement citizens will be able to keep their point just as it is , or they can choose a ninth charity that fits them best , just as you , as Members of Congress , can choose an guaranteed statistics that meets your needs .
And starting this extremism , millions of Americans will be able to save status hour for their medical expenses in a function savings moon .

I signed this division proudly , and any set to limit the choices of our Union or to take away their flying–without drug assure under belief will meet my fist .”

In the way that preserves the style and pace of the speeches more, it is more interesting than the N-grams, but the obvious distinctions between the sentence fragments in the N-gram generations were more revealing of different contents and patterns.

N-gram Text Generators

One of the most parsed and scrutinized bodies of text is the presidential address, so it was the first thing that came to mind to try to replicate with text generation. State of the union addresses use a consistent language that is very intentional, and a vocabulary latent with meaning. Because of the repetition of certain words and phrases it should be perfect for breaking down with N-grams and reassembling. Here is a trigram generated 50 word speech that seems surprisingly interesting (1st attempt), where the generator was only trained from Obama’s inaugural address:

“action , bold and swift , and we will defeat you . For us , they knew that our power grows through its prudent use ; our security emanates from the justness of our hardship, let us mark this day with remembrance , of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions”

I don’t think his meaning was conveyed, but the dramatic nature of his language when scrambled like this, is dangerous. And so funny.

and it was consistent (2nd run):

“again the work of remaking America . For us , they knew that our power grows through its prudent use ; our security emanates from the justness of our liberty and our creed – why men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose , and we will defeat you”

To make this controlled I used only state of the union and inaugural addresses to train the program, this time for Obama, Bush, and Clinton, where Bush and Clinton had 8 speeches, and Obama only 4, to see if there was a clear distinction:



” which the next 5 years old , our deficit down the first step in history ; and their children that will not interested in the next generation of our deficit by the American people . But we know exactly how we are willing to the American people . And that they love of a new era . But we have taken amidst “

“national commitment has come from a new jobs in the world . This is to make permanent extension of the most of Americans . ” We proved more . There are the world , the American . That is why this plan we will be easy process left and we can do . We will work making tough decisions . One man “


” unprecedented action is more secure our Nation has a new markets for a unique role in the world to the system of our Nation needs more hopeful society . ” And I will be the depth of our Nation ‘ s most dangerous weapons , to keep America . And we will do everything we must upgrade our military action because you ”

” and directs Federal Government is the world . In the Federal Government toil day , and the Federal Government has not allow it . And we are not a new jobs . A simple chemical agents . We must be used poison gas to defend the fight diseases . We have no longer protected by the American families and women who do ”

” of spending below inflation is a new century , however , to the Federal budget I thank the terrorists . We have a time , the world toward addressing problems of our troops , the terrorists and the United States . Today , which is not a better life . They are working with a new jobs in the American families will”


“joint endeavor . I hope we know , we must continue to the American people have to keep our own people with us in the people with a good for symbolizing our future . Now , a new national standards , a way — [ Applause ] I have to make real credit card records confidential . And we can go to”

“mistakes . I want to help Russia will help communities all of the first , we have to make it . < Gore , we have to pay our children , and our gift we can make sure that has gone down . Every State should also to the United States and every parent isn ‘ s the world . We have
administration .”

“Now I say to the safest big polluters live on welfare rolls , that the baby boom . That ‘ s a good reason — and drugs are in our future . And we must work with the last Congress to take the next century , but because they need to reduce crime is not to work and we will”



“exactly how and where their next paycheck will come from . Thirty years ago , we ‘ ll invest in our Constitution : the notion that we can ‘ t afford it . Talk to the Top should be treated no different than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people . We may have different opinions , but also our collective failure to make sure that what sets us apart as a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the pleasures of riches and fame . Rather than fight the same . So , tonight , instead”


“and now their Government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will be able to defend the sanctity of marriage . Because one of the United States and our friends and allies . To make our economy . Even worse , over 90 percent of international terrorism . During the 1990s , had several mobile biological weapons . America will lead the world .Our third responsibility to nominate men and women who advocate these values around the world . By passing these reforms would be catastrophic . We must also ensure that America is a seed upon the wind , taking root”

“the cars and trucks of the people and defend the sanctity of marriage . Because one of the American people are using illegal drugs than in the world to fend for itself , we ‘ re providing more funding for abstinence programs , including members of the Iraqi people value their own money ; a family of 4 with an income of $ 40,000 would see their drug bills cut roughly in half . Under the No Child Left Behind Act is opening the door to freedom . Our military has put the wealth of Iraq , and we will finish well ?”


“of over 100 programs we do everything possible to keep our schools open after hours , on slave ships , whether they came yesterday or walked this land even a better tomorrow . Oh , there are still serious differences over the next generation Internet will operate at speeds up to 5 million children . I know it ‘ s double our investments in science and technology will be disrupted . That is why the bipartisan package as your first order of business . Tom Mauser , Tom < ls – thn – eq > and Feingold , Russell D . > and”

No matter how many times I ran the Clinton trigram, it was always primarily about children.

“announce that four former Chairmen of the cold war . All these threats today , we don ‘ t do anything to infringe on the books better . SAT scores are up 16 percent since 1993 , we all know something else too : A check will never substitute for a newborn baby or an ailing relative without risking their jobs and may even lure people back into our elementary schools to teach character education must start at birth and continue throughout a lifetime . Soon researchers will complete their mission in Bosnia and around the world . For years and years to”



“decade , America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world . We have also taken the fight to al Qaeda , we are responding with the strength of our union . For 220 years , our leaders have fulfilled this duty . They have something to tell us , just as our competitors are . If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals , we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead , and this July , we will deny al Qaeda the safe – haven that”

“nobody accountable for their reckless decisions . But such an approach won ‘ t take meaningful steps to rein in our deficits , we can deliver on that promise . It begins with energy . We know what it takes to travel by car . For some trips , it will be harder because we will argue about everything — the cost , the details , the letter of every law . Of course , none of these reforms will even happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy . We need to teach them that success”


“no change for those now retired or nearing retirement . And we ‘ re asking them to join us , and lead this world toward freedom . Here at home , including safe , clean nuclear energy . My administration is promoting free and fair elections . We have seen the depth of their hatred is equaled by the madness of the destruction they design . We have seen wedding guests in blood – soaked finery staggering from a hotel in Jordan , Afghans and Iraqis blown up in mosques and markets , and trains in London and Madrid ripped apart by bombs .”


“cleaning the environment up ? I know we can . That should be our commitment . We must fortify African democracy and peace and to oppose those who would tear it apart . Here are the fundamental challenges I believe America must meet to shape the 21st century . Early in this century . Yet perhaps , in the clash of controversy , we don ‘ t have to spend all their time stalled in traffic when they could be home with their parents or in other supervised settings , by requiring them to finish school . But we must do more . Like”

And finally, a speech by generator trained an the state of the union addresses of all three of these presidents:

that don ‘ t think anybody in America wants us to let politics stop at the schoolhouse door . Since then , about 15 million people have taken advantage of it , and neither option is acceptable . This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world . All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks . And we must give people , especially young men in our cities , better options than apathy or gangs or jail . Tonight I ask the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research : Human cloning in all its forms ; creating or implanting embryos for experiments ; creating human – animal hybrids ; and buying , selling , patenting , or cloning of human beings . We should give every college in America the opportunity to save millions of lives together , and now exports are at an all – time highs . Now we must act to address rapidly rising health care costs and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need . We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated . We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending , or entitlements . This year , we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses , to other Presidents , and other sports is dangerous , and it is not carried forward by our power alone cannot protect us , nor does it entitle us to do three things . We gather tonight in a world where their talents are matched by their opportunities . I ‘ ve got to have a license . I think we should seek to advance worker and environmental standards around the world — we have to know the history of the program . We should do more to help all towns which have been really hurt when businesses close . I hope you in Congress will pass it quickly . It is the inborn hope of our humanity , an ideal we carry but do not own , a trust we bear and pass along . Even after nearly 225 years , we have to continue to reform our intelligence agencies , broken up terror cells across the country . Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind Act , preserving local control , raising standards , raising expectations , and raising accountability . Thanks to the work of fixing our broken immigration system — to secure our borders — and with your help , my Administration reached agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families and incentives for business investment . The temptation will be to load up the bill . That would delay it or derail it , and neither option is acceptable . This is our most solemn duty . We are working with Muslim communities around the world . The American people have turned in an economic performance that is the case , America is feeding the hungry . More than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people . In victory , we have to confront the fact that our country was rated as having the world ‘ s primary state sponsor of terror , pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the gulf coast and New Orleans . There are 57 police officers who gave their lives there . Our forces are on the rise again among “

Besides the obvious Bushisms, Obamaisms, and Clinton child obsessionism, the last mixed generated speech reminded me that there was a lot of similarity in all of their speeches.

Finally, a five gram speech of Obama/Bush/Clinton style:

“to preserving two of the most important guarantees we make to every American , Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience , and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound . Yet we are failing in that duty , and this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options : huge tax increases , huge deficits , or huge and immediate cuts in benefits . Everyone in this Chamber knows this to be true , yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act . So let us mark this day with remembrance , of who we are and how far we have traveled . In the year of America ‘ s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology , supercomputing , and alternative energy sources . Second , I propose to double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years , with penalties on the tobacco industry if it keeps marketing to our children . And on that score , we will be cutting our total imports by the equivalent of three – quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East to Haiti , from Northern Ireland to Bosnia to the Middle East , and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale . In the sixth year since our Nation was attacked , I wish I could report to you that the dangers had ended . They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad , and they must do so . They have pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party . And they need to follow through and lift”

Social and Psychological Patterns and Side Effects Resulting from the Widespread Use of Mobile Telephony

This is a powerpoint presentation I made about the following articles (linked) on mobility and psychology as I was beginning my research. Audio coming soon.  (This is a summary on some of the things I was reading at the time. I picked several articles to limit the length of the presentation.)

Adriana de Souza e Silva, Theorizing Locative Technologies Through Philosophies of the Virtual, 2011

Adriana de Souza e Silva, Re-Conceptualizing the Mobile Phone – From Telephone to Collective Interfaces, 2006

Dr. Sadie Plant, On the Mobile, Motorola 2002

Mizuko Ito, Introduction: Personal, Portable, Pedestrian, 2005

Jim McGuigan, Toward a Sociology of the Mobile Phone, 2005



    • The mobile phone, like many other innovations, came into existence with a strict association to its land line predecessor.  But it became something completely different and altered our ideas about space, reality, and the virtual. It transformed our idea of virtual reality. (De Souza e Silva, Ito)
    • Despite the differences, societal ideas and cultural standards continue to cling on from the previous technology.  New rules and norms are emerging slowly as a result. (Plant) This can get in the way of reinventing and repurposing technology.
    • Through reinventing and repurposing the mobile phone and through these new viewpoints of inquiry we will slowly shift away from traditional views of telephony, creating more possibilities for telephony, and redefining the social and psychological associations.
    • The seemingly instantaneous and organic emergence of new internationally recognizable gestural and text languages  calls for a reevaluation of the significance of this new technology. This research is only the beginning of studying and attempting to identify the effects that mobility and connectivity have already had on our lives. All of the authors I have discussed called for more research and for new methods and terminology in studies of language, ethnography, sociology, philosophy, psychology, and social psychology. (De Souza e Silva, Plant, Ito, McGuigan)









other reading (thanks Tricia Wang!)

Paul Ford
great essay about technology hypes –

Alexis MAdrigal

Danah Boyd

Benjamin Bratton

nichola nova

kevin slavin

James Landay

Julian Bleeker

cyborg anthropology

Agre, Philip E. 2002. “Real-Time Politics: The Internet and the Political Process.” The Information Society 18(5):311-331. Retrieved (||D404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3).

Aoki, K. 2003. “An analysis of young people’s use of and attitudes toward cell phones.” Telematics and Informatics 20(4):349-364. Retrieved (

Beesley, Philip, and Omar Khan. 2008. Situated Technologies Pamphlets 4: Responsive Architecture/Performing Instruments. New York, NY: The Architectural League of New York.

Bleecker, Julian. 2004. “Getting The Reality You Deserve.” New York 1-61.

Bleecker, Julian. 2004. “The Reality of Technoscience.”

Bleecker, Julian, and Nicolas Nova. 2009. Situated Technologies Pamphlets 5: A synchronicity: design fictions for asynchronous urban computing. New York, NY: The Architectural League of New York.

Bleeker, Julian. n d. “*-computing.” Media.

Bleeker, Julian. 2004. “Getting The Reality You Deserve.” Writing 1-62.

Bonta, Mark. n d. “The Multitude and its Doppelgänger : An Exploration of Global Smooth Space.” Acme.

Boxu, Yang. 2010. “Social Spaces and New Media: Some Reflections on the Modernization Process in China.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 2(5):6941-6947. Retrieved October 19, 2010 (

Boyd, Danah. 2008. “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics.” Managing.

Boyd, Danah. n d. “White Flight in Networked Publics ? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook.” 1-44.

Boyd, Danah M., and Nicole B. Ellison. 2008. “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1):210-230. Retrieved (

Brand, Stewart. 1995. How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built. Penguin Books Retrieved July 28, 2011 (

Bratton, Benjamin H. 2009. “Undesigning the Emergency: Against Prophylactic Urban Membranes.” Retrieved (

Bratton, Benjamin H., and Natalie Jeremijenko. 2008. Situated Technologies Pamphlets 3: Situated Advocacy. edited by Omar Khan, Trebor Scholz, and Mark Shepard. New York, NY: The Architectural League of New York.

Brown, Barry, Nicola Green, and Richard Harper, eds. 2002. Wireless world: social and interactional aspects of the mobile age. Springer Retrieved (

Coe, Neil M., and Timothy G. Bunnell. 2003. “‘Spatializing’ knowledge communities: towards a conceptualization of transnational innovation networks.” Global Networks 3(4):437-456. Retrieved (

Demont-Heinrich, Christof. n d. “When the Panopticon Goes Online: Charting the Geography of Power, Control and Surveillance in Cyberspace.” Control.

Disalvo, Carl, Janet Vertesi, and Technology Studies. 2007. “Imaging The City: Exploring the Practices and Technologies of Representing the Urban Environment in HCI.” Pp. 2829-2832 in Image (Rochester, N.Y.). San Jose, CA, USA: ACM Press.

Dourish, Paul. 2007. “Responsibilities and Implications: Further Thoughts on Ethnography and Design.” Proceedings of the 2007 conference on Designing for User eXperiences – DUX ’07 2. Retrieved (

Eglash, Ron, and Julian Bleeker. n d. “The Race for Cyberspace: Information Technology in the Black Diaspora.” 1-12.

Farnsworth, J., and T. Austring. 2010. “The ethnography of new media worlds? Following the case of global poker.” New Media & Society. Retrieved (

Frei, Hans, and Marc Böhlen. 2010. Situated Technologies Pamphlets 6: MicroPublicPlaces. New York, NY: The Architectural League of New York.

Fuller, Matthew, and Usman Haque. 2007. Situated Technologies Pamphlets 2: Urban Versioning System 1.0. New York, NY: The Architectural League of New York.

Galloway, Anne. 2004. “Playful Mobilities : Ubiquitous Computing in the City .” (January):9-11.

Green, Nicola. 2002. “On the Move: Technology , Mobility , and the Mediation of Social Time and Space.” The Information Society 18:281 – 292.

Green, Nicola. 2006. “On the move: technology, mobility, and the mediation of social time and space.” Pp. 244-248 in The New Media Theory Reader, edited by Robert Hassan and Julian Thomas. Open University Press.

Griffiths, M. 2007. “Future assemblies: theorizing mobilities and users.” Mary Girffiths 9(6):1029-1036. Retrieved (

Hagen, Penny, and Toni Robertson. 2009. “Dissolving boundaries: social technologies and participation in design.” Design 129-136.

Harrison, Steve, Deborah Tatar, and Phoebe Sengers. 2007. “The Three Paradigms of HCI.” Pp. 1-21 in CHI ’07.

Hinman, Rachel, Pekka Isomursu, and Mirjana Spasojevic. 2008. “They call it ‘surfing’ for a reason: Identifying mobile Internet needs through PC deprivation .” Technology.

Horst, Heather, and Daniel Miller. 2005. “From Kinship Link-Up: Cell phones and Social Networking in Jamaica.” Current Anthropology 46:755-777.

Huang, P. C.C. 1993. “‘Public Sphere ’/‘Civil Society’ in China?: The Third Realm between State and Society.” Modern China 19(2):216-240. Retrieved (

Jablonksi, Jon R. 2009. “Cultural Heritage Cyberinfrastructure: A Geographic Case Study of China.” Library (June).

Kwan, Mei-Po. 2007. “Mobile Communications, Social Networks, and Urban Travel: Hypertext as a New Metaphor for Conceptualizing Spatial Interaction.” The Professional Geographer 59(4):434-446. Retrieved (||D404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3).

Ladner, S. 2009. “‘Agency time’: A case study of the postindustrial timescape and its impact on the domestic sphere.” Time & Society 18(2-3):284-305. Retrieved October 18, 2010 (

Lee, Kun-pyo. 2010. “Culture, Interface Design, and Design Methods for Mobile Devices.” in Mobile TV: Customizing Content and Experience, edited by Aaron Marcus, Anxo Cereijo Roibás, and Riccardo Sala. London: Springer London Retrieved (

Li, Zhigang, and Desheng Xue. 2009. “An African Enclave in China: The Making of a New Transnational Urban Space.” Eurasian Geography and Economics (40971095):699-719.

Madrigal, Alexis. 2011. Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. Da Capo Press Retrieved August 14, 2011 (

Mancini, Clara et al. 2009. “From Spaces to Places: Emerging Contexts in Mobile Privacy.” in UbiComp 2009. Orlando, Florida, USA.

Molnár, Virág. n d. Reframing Public Space Through Digital Mobilization: Flash Mobs and the Futility(?) of Contemporary Urban Youth Culture.

Moore, Robert J., E. Cabell Hankinson Gathman, and Nicolas Ducheneaut. 2009. “From 3D Space to third Place: the Social Life of Small Virtual Spaces.” Human Organization 68(2):230-240.

Moores, Shaun. 2004. “The doubling of place: electronic media, time-space arrangements and social relationships.” Pp. 21-36 in Media Space: Place, Scale and Culture in a Media Age, edited by Anna McCarthy and Nick Couldry. London ; New York: Taylor & Francis.

Moss, Mitchell L, and Anthony M Townsend. 2000. “How Telecommunications Systems are Transforming the Urban Spaces.” Pp. 31-41 in, edited by James Wheeler, Yuko Aoyama, and Barney Warf. New York.

Moss, Mitchell L, and Anthony M Townsend. 1998. “Spatial Analysis of the Internet in US Cities and States.” Cities (1997).

Oyserman, Daphna, Heather M Coon, and Markus Kemmelmeier. 2002. “Rethinking Individualism and Collectivism : Evaluation of Theoretical Assumptions and Meta-Analyses.” Psychological Bulletin 128(1):3-72.

Paragas, Fernando. 2008. “Migrant mobiles: Technological, Temporal, and Spatial Simultaneity.” Pp. 39-66 in The reconstruction of space and time: mobile communication practices, edited by Rich Ling and Scott Campbell. Transaction Publishers.

Rafael, V. L. 2003. “The Cell Phone and the Crowd: Messianic Politics in the Contemporary Philippines.” Public Culture 15(3):399-425. Retrieved (

Rankin, M. B. 1993. “Some Observations on a Chinese Public Sphere.” Modern China 19(2):158-182. Retrieved (

Rofel, Lisa. 2007. Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture (Perverse Modernities). Duke University Press Books Retrieved August 14, 2011 (

Rofel, Lisa. 1997. “Rethinking Modernity: Space and Factory Discipline in China.” in Culture, Power, Place: Explortations in Critical Anthropology, edited by Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson. Durham, {N.C.}.

Sanusi, Alena, and Leysia Palen. 2007. “Of Coffee Shops and Parking Lots: Considering Matters of Space and Place in the Use of Public Wi-Fi.” Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 17(2-3):257-273. Retrieved (

Schwanen, T, and M Kwan. 2008. “The Internet, mobile phone and space-time constraints.” Geoforum 39(3):1362-1377. Retrieved February 15, 2011 (

Shklovski, Irina, Robert Kraut, and Jonathon Cummings. 2006. “Routine Patterns of Internet Use and Psychological Well-being : Coping With a Residential Move.” in CHI 2006. Montréal, Québec, Canada: ACM Press.

Steenson, Molly Wright, and Jonathan Donner. n d. “The Reconstruction of Space and Time.” in Inquiry, vol. m, edited by Rich Ling and Scott Campbell.

Tian, Li. 2008. “The Chengzhongcun Land Market in China: Boon or Bane? — A Perspective on Property Rights.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32(2):282-304. Retrieved January 13, 2011 (

Townsend, Anthony. 2000. “Life in the Real-Time City: Mobile Telephones and Urban Metabolism.” Journal of Urban Technology 7(2):85-104. Retrieved (||D404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3).

Townsend, Anthony M. 2001. “Network Cities and the Global Structure of the Internet.” American Behavioral Scientist 44:1697-1716.

Townsend, Anthony M. 2001. “Network Cities and the Global Structure of the Internet.” American Behavioral Scientist 44(10):1697-1716. Retrieved (

Townsend, Anthony M. 2008. “Public Space in the Broadband Metropolis: Lessons from Seoul 219.” Pp. 219-234 in Augmented Urban Spaces: Articulating the Electornic and Phyiscal City, edited by Alessandro Aurigi and Fiorella de Cindio. Ashgate Retrieved (

Ureta, Sebastian. 2008. “Mobilising Poverty?: Mobile Phone Use and Everyday Spatial Mobility Among Low-Income Families in Santiago, Chile.” The Information Society 24:83-92.

Watts, Laura, and John Urry. 2008. “Moving methods, travelling times.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26(5):860-874. Retrieved September 13, 2010 (

Wellman, Barry. 2001. “Physical Place and Cyberplace: The Rise of Personalized Networking.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25(2):227-252. Retrieved (

Williams, Amanda, Ken Anderson, and Paul Dourish. 2008. “Anchored Mobilities: Mobile Technology and Transnational Migration.” in DIS’08. Cape Town, South Africa: ACM Press.

Yang, Guobin. n d. “Author’s Response: The Growing Power of Internet Activism in China.” Cultures.

Zimmermann, Basile. 2008. “Uncovering Cultural Issues in the Internet of Things: A Design Method.” Internet of Things 2008 100-104.

Zuñiga, Claudia L et al. 2010. “Design of Service-Oriented Pervasive System for Urban Computing in Cali Zoo ( OpenZoo ).” Engineering and Technology 70-75.






My paper, somewhat related, on my observations in China:

This paper summarizes articles I have read relating to mobile media and internet culture in China and the world, as well as its effect on the urban landscape. Many of the authors I mention recommend a new perspective on urban geography based on a new reality augmented by constantly available and sometimes unavoidable information, as well as the physical implications of constructing these information systems.
My main objective was to learn how new media and the constant presence of information affects the physical and psychological experience of a city in the Chinese context. I was (pleasantly) surprised to find a large amount of literature on the subject.

I will separate what I found into two main categories: The first is the physical presence of telecommunication infrastructure and its implications on economic and urban development. In the second part I discuss some psychological and lifestyle changes caused by living in a reality consistently augmented by virtual information. I try to relate these articles to what I have learned in the US and to what I have observed in China.


Being in China has been a transformative experience, to say the least. To say more, it has made me aware of assumptions I previously held about people, interaction, politics, economics, urbanism, and what I should eat.
Every day as I walk to my internship I pass by a luxury apartment complex. At the base of the first building there are two coffee shops. One sells five dollar (US) coffees, and has a Starbucks- inspired interior, and the other sells coffee for fifty cents, and is decorated to inspire a more traditional Chinese consumer. Outside the guards manually open the gate as fancy men and women in foreign suits and cars try to pull out into street. They usually have to wait for several workers to go by pushing old wooden wheelbarrows, not full, but very full, of miscellaneous construction materials. They also
wait for the people driving three wheeled bicycle carts full of [insert any weird combination of heavy hard core work supplies] Next they wait as I stroll by, with my particularly slow pace on account of my debilitating amazement, and possibly a motorbike taxi man who is trailing me to offer a ride, which I love.

All the streets are full of stuff to see. Ladies fry delicious noodles outside of a KFC; an old man naps in a lawn chair on the sidewalk outside of his flat despite the rush hour horns and sidewalk crowd; fashionable girls who walk by him to enter a giant glass mall; a boy calmly poops in the middle of the intersection outside of the Sheraton while calmly browsing the web, his face illuminated by his iPhone (I don’t mean to be gross but this really happened and it was kind of amazing).

A day in China is full of countless clashes of the new, the old, the rural, the urban, the impressive, and the seemingly inappropriate. Together this creates a place and time of change and opportunity, and millions of people with different backgrounds and directions are reinventing and reorganizing themselves just as quickly. In addition to the unprecedented rate and style of urbanization, China is undergoing rapid changes in the fields of telecommunication. Mobile communication is increasingly becoming a necessary part of life, and access to the internet is providing opportunities and giving a new voice to many.

Today China is the world’s largest mobile market for ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies). In 2012, China will reach 1 billion mobile telephone users, connecting 74% of the population. 34.3% are now netizens, meaning they have access to the internet. The average Chinese netizen spends 2.6 hours per day online (CNNIC, China Knowledge Consulting).

Being the largest ICT market in the world, China has attracted international attention from investors, developers, and providers seeking to capitalize on this opportunity. In 2008 the six biggest ICT operations merged into three major providers, partially controlled by the state, and partially open to foreign and private investment. China Mobile is the largest, followed by China Unicom and China Telecom (Ablott).
By 2009 China produced nearly half of the world’s mobile phones and televisions, and over 60% of the worlds computers, but continues to trail far behind in IT services, development, and innovation (China Knowledge Consulting). In the 12th Five Year Plan, the Chinese government has outlined an agenda to lead the industry not just in exports, but in services, R&D, and innovation. In the plan, “next-generation IT” is identified as one of seven key “Strategic Emerging Industries” (SEIs), the other six being biotechnology, new energy, high end equipment
manufacturing, energy conservation and environmental protection, clean energy vehicles, and new materials (APCO).

In a press release accompanying the party’s acceptance of the new Five Year Plan, the party announced:
“We will vigorously develop the next-generation IT industry; build a high-performance broadband information network; accelerate the integration of the telecommunications network, the radio and television broadcasting network, and the Internet; and promote demonstrations on how to use the Internet of Things. . . We will make every effort to develop and upgrade the software industry. We will strive to create a market environment that is conducive to the development of service industries, and quickly improve the policy system for stimulating their development” (NPC & CPPCC).

To this end investment is planned in improving intellectual property law, science and technology education, and industry incentives, which include next generation information networks, mobile communication infrastructures, internet reliability and accessibility, and development digital and virtual technologies (APCO).

Designed to steer China toward a post industrial economy, these big plans in telecommunication development will impact all aspects of urban and rural development and redefine the urbanization currently underway.
Telecommunication Infrastructure Development and What it Means for a City
Beginning in 1981, Singapore successfully transformed its economy from a low-wage, unskilled assembly and shipping center into an information capital through tax incentives and the construction of an advanced telecommunication infrastructure. During the 80s exports of services became Singapore’s largest industry, and remain so today (Warf).
Similar modern telecommunication infrastructure construction, though on a much larger scale, is necessary for the service and IT industries China seeks to develop in the new Five Year Plan. To this point, such infrastructure in China has been largely defined by market forces, which has lead to its uneven distribution.

The availability of ICTs in China is unevenly distributed among the same lines that define other social, economic, and infrastructural inequalities. The majority of inland rural areas see the least access to these technologies, while urban, industrial, and political centers are the most connected.

The following image is from the end of 2002 from CNNIC, China Internet Network Information Center (Harwit). Although innovations in satellite technology have lowered the cost of accessing some of the underserved regions, development continues to be centered on wealthier urban districts, where consumer and industry demand is highest.
image source: China Internet Network Information Center
The above image has obvious similarities to the GDP distribution map from 2004 as well as the population density map from 2009 below. These maps follow a similar distribution pattern as China’s maps of railroad construction, road construction, energy use. All of these measures reflect the economic incentives of development and habitation of certain regions:
image source: Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis

Today tier 1 provinces have internet penetrations rates above 34.3%, tier two provinces have internet penetration rates between 28.7% and 34.3%, and tier 3 provinces have internet penetration rates below 28.7%. More importantly, the connectivity is not evenly distributed throughout the provinces, with cities containing the vast majority of the connections (China Knowledge Consulting).

The implications of this inequality or “digital divide” include, for the underserved, a lack of distance education opportunities, lack of access to healthcare advise, and a lack of economic and entrepreneurial opportunities provided by mobile and internet technologies. It also creates a huge disadvantage when it comes to the length of time it takes to carry out simple information related tasks1.

Because of the connection to the population and GDP distribution, providing coverage to the underserved areas is not profitable and relies heavily on government subsidies. The party may be weary of providing networking systems to discontented populations, and such subsidies are costly. Some of the areas least connected have insufficient transportation and power infrastructure, have impeding geographic barriers, and would need further subsidies to teach computer literacy and purchase computers. Still the national government has consistently demonstrated (at least proclaimed) interest in programs that build infrastructure and economic opportunity in these areas2.
Urban centers, with their wealth of consumer and industrial demand for ICTs, have also become the telecommunication infrastructure centers. The rate of information transmission, wired or wireless, slows down increasingly as it travels away from the source, making distance from urban centers a disadvantage. As industries that rely heavily on rapid communication become more profitable, they will move toward these centers of communication, restructuring the urban centers, or forming new ones.
The most important information users and producers (banks, law firms, insurance companies, financial service businesses) depend on advanced telecommunications systems to receive and transmit information that defines the state of their industry. In New York City, the financial services industry was formed around Manhattan’s telecommunication infrastructure, and continues to refurbish and add to it, as well as construct new auxiliary infrastructures. Always at the center of New York City’s telecommunications, the Carrier Hotel, originally known as the Western Union Building, at 60 Hudson Street in Manhattan, was gradually hollowed out and refurbished into a server space to support the growing industry. In his TED talk, Kevin Slavin showed a map of the server centers in downtown Manhattan (below). The centers in the lower left provide a significant disadvantage because of their distance from the Carrier Hotel (marked with the yellow X), leading to the current refurbishing of the closer buildings marked in green (Slavin).
image source: Kevin Slavin

Slavin showed a hypothetical projection made by MIT mathematicians Cameron Freer and Alexander Wissner-Gross of the current financial and urban centers (shown in red), and the locations where it will be necessary to build auxiliary servers (shown in blue).
image source: Kevin Slavin

Development of telecommunication infrastructure has direct and significant economic and social implications. Mitchell Moss wrote of the United States, in 1997, that
“unlike the nation’s transportation infrastructure – the system of highways, airports, and seaports that has largely been designed and financed by the public sector – the nation’s information infrastructure has been built by the private sector, albeit under federal and state regulations. It has only recently emerged as the subject of local community debate and discussion. In addition, the key elements of the nation’s information infrastructure, such as telephone switching offices, optical fibers, copper cables, and satellite dishes, have been largely invisible to most citizens and local government agencies. But with the proliferation of satellite dishes and mobile telephony, many communities are now being forced to deal with the location of new communications infrastructure” (Moss, Technology and Cities).

Today the development of telecommunication infrastructure, though still largely controlled by market forces, is considered a major function of the government, as it defines the economic and social landscape. Moss discusses the possible effects this development can have on cities. On one side of this conversation are people who think that mobile communication technology will have a decentralizing effect. As people can work and communicate remotely, the sprawl that began with the growth of the transportation infrastructure and personal automobiles will be further enabled. This view holds cities as manifestations of the industrial age, unnecessary and unsustainable in the information age.

The other side argues that face-to-face interaction can not be replaced by telecommunications, but that the two will complement each other. Personal interactions, workplace collaboration, and even place will remain important. William Mitchell points out that face-to-face interaction provides immediate feedback. The ability to communicate the feedback in various ways is still not available through telecommunication technology, where slight delays render body language, subtle humor, etc. ineffective, and where the pace and order of the dialog is moderated by these delays. Face-to-face communication can drastically speed up collaborative work and add urgency and a sense of responsibility in a negotiation process. Furthermore, the concentration of large service industries in the center may attract related and supportive businesses and residents, further increasing demand for their products and services (Mitchell, 2000).

As Moss explains, the effects are often two-way. While freeing up the office from having to be located near the facilities it directs, it has encouraged offices to locate near concentrations of similar service industries, in areas conducive their work (Moss). In this way the presence of telecommunication infrastructure and new technology reshapes and redefines the city.

In his 1994 essay “Telecommunication and the Changing Geographies of Knowledge Transmission in the Late 20th Century”, Barney Warf wrote that
“contrary to early, simplistic expectations that telecommunications would ‘eliminate space’, rendering geography meaningless through the effortless conquest of distance, such systems in fact produce new rounds of unevenness, forming new geographies that are imposed upon the relics of the past. Telecommunications simultaneously reflect and transform the topologies of capitalism, creating and rapidly recreating nested hierarchies of spaces technically articulated in the architecture of computer networks”(Warf).

As urban space is reconfigured to match a new economic landscape, and while physical proximities and face to face interactions remain the drivers of city density, a new kind of mobility afforded by the widespread use of mobile communication devices and the internet will have significant social, psychological, and lifestyle implications. The next section examines how mobility and communication can affect our lives, and how we could employ these ideas in the creation of new urban spaces.
The New Mobile Connected City

Architect Neville Mars moved his office to Shanghai to take advantage of design opportunities created by the scale and speed of urbanization. For the book The Chinese Dream: A Society Under Construction, which he coauthored with writer Adrian Hornsby, Mars conducted extensive research of survey data and mapped the patterns of urbanization. According to Mars and Hornsby, and many others, China will continue to build approximately 20 new cities annually until 2020 (Mars, Hornsby). This unprecedented rate and scale of urbanization is coinciding with a development of telecommunication infrastructures and consumer adoption of new technologies of corresponding proportions. A new urban culture and society is simultaneously being defined by both of these developments.

The Mobile Phone:

In industrial era cities, where telecommunications infrastructures were imposed on an already developed city, as in the retrofitted cities from the last section, new communications technologies seem to take longer to become fully integrated in urban life and culture.
The New York City subway system is still struggling to provide the kind of live schedule updates and alerts that have long been included in the systems of newer cities. Our ongoing negotiation of social rules associated with mobile communications is another slow development. New behaviors in familiar social places, like shopping areas, public squares, and public transportation, that may contradict traditional behavior, are still being evaluated. For example, a person talking on a wireless headset just 10 years ago was usually considered as looking very crazy, but with increasing awareness of the health benefits of wireless headset devices, and their subsequent popularity, we are more likely to consider that a person speaking and gesturing into mid air is on the phone, and a smart and healthy consumer, before we assume they are insane. A person overheard speaking loudly on the phone about their embarrassing doctor appointment, is publicly shunned through “look” exchanges or laughs, while a person making a brief schedule adjustment, even loudly, is generally (and sympathetically) ignored.

When film was invented, it was seen as a combination of photography and theater, leading to quite theatrical performances recorded on a static camera. Camera movements were eventually introduced, and through that the unique possibilities and expressions of film were discovered. A similar delayed realization has occurred with the mobile telephone and the internet.

In her 2002 ethnographic study for Motorola, Sadie Plant suggests that the early adopters of mobile phones in the US were doing so from within a highly developed culture of land line use, that included preconceptions about the roles of telephones and telephone conversations. As a result, mobile phones were seen through the lens of fixed phones, essentially being viewed as long distance wireless home telephones. They were marketed as being valuable in case of emergencies, but were otherwise considered inappropriate in public space, as phone conversations were traditionally had in private (Plant).

A certain level of market saturation and new rules for conversations had to develop before the mobile phone found its own voice. “A landline phone ‘‘rings at the place, no matter which person is being called,’’ whereas a mobile phone rings to the person carrying the phone, no matter where he or she is (Wellman 2001, 238 Wellman, B. 2001). As the connection is to the person and not to the place, it shifts the dynamics of connectivity from places — typically home or workplace — to individuals“ (Kwan). New questions, such as “Where are you?” and “Can you talk now?” began to initiate phone conversations. Over time cell phones went from being emergency devices, to novel status symbols, to acceptable commonplace tools, and all the while their proper use within traditional frameworks was being negotiated (and still is).

Sadie Plant identified distinct emerging and internationally recognized phone behaviors and personalities. The extroverts tend to talk on their phone loudly while looking up, even making direct eye contact with the people around them. They tend to have their phone on display, often placing it on the table when they arrive at a meeting. The introverts tend to move away from the crowd, shelter their phone by hunching down, sometimes even covering their mouth, and turning away from the people around them (Plant).

Plant also noticed differences between male and female patterns of phone display, noting that when a man and a woman were dining together, the man tended to have his phone on display, and the woman did not. When two men sat together, they usually both had their phone on display. Men admitted to feeling embarrassed when their phone was of lesser value or older model than another man’s. Women were more likely to display their phones when dining with other women, but in those cases the phones were the subject of conversation. Women tended to have their phones on display when walking alone, using their ability to connect as a protective device (Plant).

In short the mobile phone, as it is ubiquitous and internationally relatable, and as it is an empowering device, has come to represent power, freedom, protection, and many other subtle gestures in its own emerging language. Especially where the digital divide corresponds to a
divide in wealth and opportunity, as in China today, the phone has come to represent status and power. It has also become a tool for expression and subtle communication with those around you, not just the people you talk to through the phone.

Unlike in the US, where this new language of mobile connectivity developed despite of rigid preconceptions, in many parts of the world the mobile phone and satellite technology leapfrogged more expensive landline development and static phone culture. It allowed previously disconnected populations to gain access to distant places, people, and information, providing social and economic opportunities for the previously disadvantaged. In such regions, mobile phone use and its cultural associations do not have the same social or cultural obstacles stemming from preconceived notions about communications. As a result these technologies can have a different path of development in these regions. They are free to evolve to match the region’s specific needs with greater flexibility and inventiveness3.

As the world adjusts to the social implications of mobile telecommunications, and attempts to renegotiate some long held social norms and symbols, China’s new cities will be built for (and by) the mobile and interconnected populace, well versed in the nuances of these new technologies. These developments could manifest in new uses of and new kinds of public spaces, transportation, urban interaction, and communication.

The Internet

The internet, as with film and the mobile phone, was lauded in the 80s as a replacement for traditional channels of film, music, literature, mail distribution, and basically everything else, but which has proven to be a medium suited best for its own specific characteristics. It is most conducive to participation.

In China this has unique implications. Erika Maher, who advocates the use of China’s media to promote food and water security, states that in China
“the web offers users a virtual public forum for discussion found nowhere in any tangible public space. Historically, public space in China has been a much different concept than in democratic/Western societies. Even in China’s Imperial era, public vs. private and freedom vs. privacy were nonexistent dichotomies. In an autocracy, whether it is monarchical or not, all property belongs to the State. So, even in modern China, where the government is controlled absolutely by a selective, authoritarian single party, public space is a limited concept” (Maher).
The internet, with its focus on collaboration and communication, and anonymity, especially in the context of China, has the potential to popularize new styles of expression, facilitate the building of social networks, and lead to new uses of public space in the real world.
In his essay Social spaces and new media: Some reflections on the modernization process in China, Yang Boxu agrees that the dichotomy between public and private spaces is a Western concept. However, he argues that this may change in light of the social developments inspired by the internet and mobile media. He describes the societal structure of china as a a “sheep and shepherd” mentality, enforced during the imperial ages and through the Confucius philosophies via “the three bonds”. He explains that “the three bonds mean that the ruler, the father, and the husband are to be the standards of the ruled, the son, and the wife” (Yang, Boxu).

Yang argues that traditional forms of communication, even print media, were effectively utilized by the ruling elite to maintain and assert their power, but that the new dialogic nature of the internet is questioning “the three bonds”, and may inspire the emergence of individualistic-based societal structures. These new forms of communication may manifest in new uses of physical public spaces. He writes that
“as in the West, the Chinese users of new media are forming their personal communities. In other words, the agent becomes a person, not family or group. This gives us some reason to believe that new social structure and some kind of public space might be emerged one way or another for human beings are inherently social. The communication may be civil or rude, civic or cultural in virtual public spaces. But whatever their new media communication behaviors are, they have to be communicative and dialogic. Communicative action and dialogue have nothing to do with servility. In fact, it undermines the “shepherd and sheep” mentality. This may be one of the most significant consequences of diffusion and implementation of new media in China.” (Yang, Boxu)
Participation in internet culture has direct ties to the physical world through the physical infrastructure discussed in the first part of this paper, and through “bridges” to the real world, such as plans to meet up with online friends in the real world. Flash mobs can begin on the internet, but, through mobile devices, actualize in physical public space. Jon R Jablonski, in his research through Oregon University, found this example of an online game translating into the physical world:
“there is a massive multiplayer online role playing game, Fantasy Westward Journey, that is set in the Tang dynasty. In 2006, thousands of game players converged on a location in the game, after what was purported to be a Japanese flag was found decorating the wall of a ‘government office’. Described as a ‘virtual riot,’ crowds gathered ‘shouting’ anti-Japanese obscenities in the virtual space, and clogged the company’s customer support phone lines in the real world, condemning what they perceived to be a slight on Chinese sovereignty (Wang, quoted in Jablonski).”

Silvia Lindtner, a UCSD Irvine PhD candidate conducting ethnographic research on new media and urbanism in China, documents groups of online multiplayer gamers who meet in the real world to develop impressive and extensive server networks that bypass China’s restrictions on bandwidth and online networking. Lindtner also documents new social meanings and uses of internet cafes and other public technology centers (Lindtner).

Yang Guobin, Associate Professor at the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies ant Columbia University, writes that “the incipient nature of Chinese civil society [defined here as “the intermediate public realm between the state and the private sphere”] is a favorable condition for the development of the Internet in China. An incipient civil society has many vulnerabilities, but it is dynamic. It absorbs new things quickly and is open to innovations.” He says that there are many documented cases of an emerging sense of citizenship rights. This is accompanied by changes in the public sphere, both online and in a wide range of social spaces, from living rooms, were family dynamics are changing, to the public square, where new social structures are forming and convening. “The internal dynamics of Chinese civil society also favor the development of the Internet. There are various manifestations of such dynamics, such as the expansion of individual rights and urban public spaces, the proliferation of popular protest, the decentralization of the media, and the expansion of associational life. These dynamics derive from the extraordinary combination and juxtaposition of ambiguities, tensions, contradictions, and hopes in contemporary Chinese life” (Yang, Guobin).

The world is coming to terms with the economic significance of the internet and its effect on society and the urban landscape. Meanwhile, much of the developing world, and in many parts of rural China, where mobile phones and telecommunications, as well as aspects of transportation planning and design, are happening simultaneously, is experiencing huge and rapid physical and social transformations, accelerated by the availability of communication technologies. According to Yang Guobin, Yang Boxu, and many others, China is especially ready to absorb new forms of communication and develop new urban spaces. These new spaces should cater to the new social norms and psychological paradigms. There is an opportunity to create relevant modern cities for a new socioeconomic landscape.

The Mobile Internet: A New Sense of Time and Space

Despite extremely slow connections, 66% of Chinese netizens access their internet via mobile device (China Internet Watch). As discussed, the internet, especially in China, is reinforcing the need for new public spaces. Furthermore, mobility and constant availability of information has created new possibilities in urban behavior and movement.
As China continues to erect new cities, there is an opportunity to build cities for the modern, mobile, and connected netizen. How to design for this new reality is the subject of a great deal of emerging scholarship on the geography and psychology of the information era.

In his essay Mobile Communications, Social Networks, and Urban Travel: Hypertext as a New Metaphor for Conceptualizing Spatial Interaction, Mei-Po Kwan suggest a model by which to understand the new urban reality, disassociated from traditional views and uses of time and space. He states that “Urban travel can no longer be understood in terms of the spatial interaction between two fixed points in space, as the interactive coordination enabled by mobile communications that leads to a particular meeting or social activity may be transacted continuously over a span of time and space.” On account of mobile telecommunications, “distance as conventionally understood is of declining importance as an organizing principle of urban form. Land use patterns and individual accessibility seem to be determined by much more complicated processes in contemporary cities” (Kwan).

He suggests that as people move around “with” their social networks, schedules and meetings are increasingly arranged and rearranged on the go, leading to a disassociation with traditional time and space structures,
“As activity and travel decisions are now more spatially and temporally contingent than before, and people to a certain extent travel together with their social networks, we need new metaphors that can take the influence of real-time interactive coordination and personalized individualism into account. . . In a hypertext model, each individual has several nodes (as hypertext in a document) that connect to different social networks (e.g., to different groups of friends, colleagues, or relatives). Each link in these networks represents the possibility of interactive coordination between two individuals, who are also connected to many other individuals through various sets of real-time communication links” (Kwan).

Image source: Mei-Po Kwan
The combination of China’s economic, urban, and telecommunication technologies makes it the perfect place to experiment with such new analysis and design paradigms. Instead of augmenting the urban realities of developed cities with a persistent layer of virtual information, in china cities are being built in an era when mobile telecommunications and the internet are deeply imbeded in the economy and the social psyche. Furthermore, ICT saturation and develpment are at the core of the country’s economic ambitions. Weather consciously or not, ICTs will define the many new urban landscapes developing in China.

As China continues to push for a modern connected society, new channels of communication will transform the way that people live and interact in social spaces. Urban development will be affected, both by a focus on certain industries and the infrastructural developments associated with these industries, and by the consequences of their widespread adoption and assimilation into culture and society.

In an information and service dominated economy places with well developed telecommunication systems have significant economic advantages to their underdeveloped counterparts. The way that the Chinese government chooses to distribute the infrastructural development could define the country’s future social and economic divides.

The new urban citizens, entering and helping to shape China’s rapidly growing new cities, will do so within the framework of a new urban psychology, that incorporates traditional behaviors with a new layer of constant connectivity, network based perspectives on time and place, and a persistent layer of ubiquitous information.

Neville Mars, during a lecture on August 2nd, 2011 entitled “China’s Flash Urbanization, Race Between Eco-Hope and Eco-Hazard,” described the current urban planning process in China as passive prediction of the inevitable. He said that impressive museums housing interactive models are being constructed to represent the kind of future city that will likely develop if unrestrained market forces continue to dictate urban development. As the government seeks to actively redirect the economy and upgrade their telecommunications networks, they have an opportunity to redesign the market landscape, and to break with the patterns of development that have emerged out of the current paradigm. There is an opportunity to shift some development to much needed areas, and to create cities that complement a new “networked” population.


Ablott, Matt, GSM Media LLC. (2011). Wireless intelligence: China to surpass 1 billion mobile connections in May 2012. Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from https:// connections-in-may-2012.pdf
APCO Worldwide. (2011). China’s 12th five-year plan: How it actually works and what’s in store for the next five years. Retrieved August 6th, 2011 from Content/PDFs/Chinas_12th_Five-Year_Plan.pdf
Center for Geographic Analysis. (2004). China GDP Distribution Map. Harvard University. Retrieved on August 6th, 2011 from keyword=k235&tabgroupid=icb.tabgroup7706
China Internet Watch, Incitez. (2011). China internet statistics & analysis. Retrieved August 4th from
China Knowledge Consulting. (2011) China overview: China infrastructure. China Knowledge. Retrieved August 6th, 2011 from subchap=1&content=6
CNNIC China Internet Network Information Center, the state network information channel of China,
Harwit, Eric. (2003). Spreading telecommunications to developing areas in China: Telephones, the internet, and the digital divide. University of Hawaii. Retrieved on August 6th, 2011 from 6.6_Spreading_Telecomm_to_Developing_Areas_in_China.pdf
Jablonski , Jon R. (2009). Cultural heritage cyberinfrastructure: A geographic case study of China. University of Oregon. Retrieved August 16th, 2011 from https:// Jablonski_Jon_Ronald_ma2009sp.pdf?sequence=1
Jack, William; Suri, Tavneet. (2010). The economics of M-PESA. Georgtown University and MIT Sloan. Retrieved July 6th, 2011 from
Kwan, Mei-Po. (2007). Mobile communications, social networks, and urban travel: Hypertext as a new metaphor for conceptualizing spatial interaction. Ohio State University. Retrieved August 20th, 2011 from
Lindtner, Silvia. (2008). Mixed realities in China’s internet cafes. Retrieved July 11th from Lindtner, Silvia; Szablewicz, Marcella (2010). “China’s Many Internets: Participation and Sites of Game Play Across a Changing Technology Landscape”. On-Line Society in China. Herold,
David; Wolfgang Marolt, Peter, editors. Routledge. Retrieved July 11th from http://
Maher, Erika H. M. (2011). Chinese state media coverage of climate change and the future of China’s food and water security. Retrieved August 22th, 2011 from 1493758.pdf
Mars, Neville; Hornsby, Adrian. (2010). The Chinese Dream: A Society Under Construction. 010 Publishers.
Mitchell, William. (2000). The City of Bits Hypothesis. High Technology and Low Income Communities: Prospects for the Positive Use of Advanced Information Technology. Schon, Donald A.; Sanyal, Bish; Mitchell, William J.(authors). MIT Press
Mitchell, William. (2001). The Teleserviced City. E-Topia: Urban life, Jim–but not as we know it. MIT Press.
Moss, Mitchell. (1997). Technology and cities. Taub Urban Research Center. New York University. Retrieved July 2nd, 2011.
NL Agency. Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture, and Innovation. (2010). China: ICD, 1st quarter – 2010. Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from onderwerp/china-ict-kwartaal-i-2010
NPC & CPPCC. Government Reports. (2011). Report on the Work of the Government. Retrieved August 4th, 2011 from content_22143099_3.htm
Plant, Sadie, Dr. (2002) On the mobile. Motorola. Retrieved July 2nd, 2011 from http://
Slavin, Kevin. (2011). Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world. [Video file]. Retrieved July 2nd, 2011 from kevin_slavin_how_algorithms_shape_our_world.html
Wang, J. State-building as market-building in China. Archives Europeennes de Sociologie 47, no. 2(2006): 209-240 (Quoted in Jablonski)
Warf, Barney. (1994). Telecommunications and the changing geographies of knowledge transmission in the late 20th century. Retrieved August 20th, 2011 from http://
Wellman 2001, 238 Wellman, B. 2001. Physical place and cyberplace: The rise of personalized networking. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25 (2): 227–52. (Cited in Kwan)
Ynag, Boxu. (2007) Social spaces and new media: Some reflections on the modernization process in China. Peking University. Retrieved August 22nd, 2011 from http://
Yang, Guobin. (2003). The Co-evolution of the internet and civil society in China. University of California. Retrieved August 22nd, 2011 from
1 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines the “digital divide” as “the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities” (OECD, 2001, p. 4 quoted in Harwit).
Telecommunications infrastructure could be especially beneficial in areas with underdeveloped transportation infrastructure. In a series of studies in rural Africa, Heather Hudson found many examples of significant economic benefits of telecommunications opportunities for farmers. In Ghana, farmers were able to check in advance and decide on the best days to travel to markets, check weather patterns, and make better decisions about the way they divided their time between land work and travel (Harwit).
2 During the Mao era, equality of communications technologies was advocated and some progress was achieved, although the focus was on one way information dissemination. The slogan “xiang xiang tong dianhua” (telephones to every township”) was used to rally development during the Great Leap Forward. (Harwit). During this era the rate of construction of telecommunications technologies in rural areas exceeded that of the urban areas. However, in the 1980s under the reform policies of Deng Xiaoping, the focus returned to market driven development and the densely populated, wealthier regions were again the epicenters of telecommunications development. Since then intermittent government incentives and feebly enforced regulations have failed to bridge the divide. However incentives for companies like China Mobile have helped to build infrastructure and sell computers in those regions.
The Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture, and Innovation, provides China market data and analysis on their site, which states that “By the end of August 2009, around 414,000 computers had been sold under the program, which provides a 13% subsidy for purchase of certain products. . . Total IT spending in China is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% over the five- year forecast period. China’s IT market has a number of strong fundamentals in its favor. A number of factors, including China’s vast potential rural market, government spending and demand from key verticals such as telecoms, will help to drive growth.. . . .Lenovo has said that it aims to sell 5mn computers in rural areas and cover 320,000 villages across the country. To this end, the company will establish 700 new county-level stores in the next three years and introduce 15 new models specifically designed for the rural market. Lenovo and other vendors have tailored their marketing focus to different priorities of the rural Chinese. HP has also been steadily expanding its sales network in rural China over the past couple of years. Meanwhile, Acer, Dell and Lenovo were among 14 vendors selected by the Chinese government as designated suppliers for its subsidized computers program launched in February 2009” (NL Agency).
3 A great example of this is M-Pesa, a popular mobile phone SMS-based service launched by Kenyaʼs Safaricom mobile provider in 2007. The service allows customers to deposit cash amounts to their SIM cards, and provides security codes for transfers of funds between customers, serving as a banking service (although without loans or interest rates.) In addition to making transactions in remote places more convenient, it has been used by third party programs to help farmers put away small amounts of money for investment in tools and livestock, and to help people without access to banking transfer money for distant goods and services. In 2010 M-Pesa service had reached 38% of Kenyaʼs adult population (Jack, Suri).

Eye Doc

sketch 1

sketches for visual possibilities . . the video link is closest:


sketch 1

sketch 3




Looking Eye –


Looking Eye presents the image that an eye receives and the image it creates. It attempts to explore the difference between the seen and the assumed. The viewer is able to manipulate the eye movement, and in that way engages with language of the eyes, something we all employ but seldom acknowledge or understand.


Using eye tracking technology, the video is captured with the data of the eye movement around the seen, and presented as the collage of what appears, inviting the viewer to infer what is perceived, or to re-envision the eye movement.


The language of the eyes – both in direct communication and in the way we use it to inform ourselves, is a huge topic. At first I was interested in addressing communication with the eyes, but have discovered a lot of interesting ideas and texts about the eyes for studying mental patterns, thought, and culture. There is a lot that can be revealed through the eyes, and explained through this language we are all familiar with.




Sloooow Start. I have been overwhelmed, literally, by the different decisions and tasks: here are the conflicts that paralyze me:



originally supposed to be all live and dynamic but I am really interested in the push toward story arc

I don’t know how to reconcile the two. I can’t let go of the live and dynamic because it is the only way the eyetracking as editing works for me. I don’t see the point otherwise, but I am sure it could be there. After thinking of it this way, I think I should stick to the live idea and see what emerges as room for eyetracking in the viewing, or editing based on a story arc.



I have been trying to make it live on a small windows tablet that is internet enabled and has 2 usb ports: lamer but similar to the raspberry pi idea, while the raspberry pi remains unavailable. I also heard about some good examples of eye tracking using only camera video feeds from cell phones with two way cameras, and have been working on that. And I am still hacking my bluetooth cameras because they are small and could work via phone. I met with somebody who may be able to help me do it. But the process so far has been slow.



In this realm I’m torn between the meaning of the interaction – I am starting with a mouse based thing: moving the mouse is like moving the eyes, superseding the camera feed’s eye position. So if the video is showing a certain eye position, the viewer can change it.  I think this will be good enough for now, but I want the viewer to be able to edit the footage, to store pieces of what is collected, and to arrange them.



My goal for this week is to rewrite the javascript code in a way that the scan is visible: The video is revealed based on eye location, and then paused and blended into the current video that is showing the eye movement.

And to combine it with the eye tracking that is attached to the computer.


Then to do one interview, where the eye tracking data is synched after the fact with the (wide-angle) footage.




On the web side, I have been using seriously.js, but it has been hard to decipher some of it, since I only need one of the effects, and I need to manipulate it a lot, I am trying to figure out how to write it myself in javascript, and I’m at the early stage of this process. But the idea is to use the coordinates of the gaze to reveal the image, and to slowly freeze the frame as the coordinates move away, in that area, so that the gaze is the only real time footage of the video, and the past areas of gaze are fading into stillness and eventually into white.



Stop Tokenizer

Based on the following stop words I tokenized obama’s most recent state of the union. Below is a portion of the results.

Stop words:

("a", "an", "the","and",".",","," ","because",





"entire","sure", "u", "!", "was", "has", "its", "through", "me", "his","once","carry",

"anew","'", "t","let", "us", "new", "before", "come","two", "one", "ve", "go", "8",

"she", "her", "he","none","at","been","these","what","up","were","them","some","had",


Results: (portion)
41835 41841  |people|
41845 41850  |haiti|
41858 41863  |lives|
41878 41887  |americans|
41896 41903  |dropped|
41904 41914  |everything|
41921 41930  |someplace|
41940 41945  |never|
41955 41959  |pull|
41960 41966  |people|
41976 41981  |never|
41982 41987  |known|
41997 42003  |rubble|
42005 42014  |prompting|
42015 42021  |chants|
42057 42064  |another|
42065 42069  |life|
42074 42079  |saved|
42084 42090  |spirit|
42100 42109  |sustained|
42115 42121  |nation|
42126 42130  |more|
42140 42149  |centuries|
42150 42155  |lives|
42171 42177  |people|
42187 42195  |finished|
42198 42207  |difficult|
42208 42212  |year|
42237 42246  |difficult|
42247 42253  |decade|
42265 42269  |year|
42286 42292  |decade|
42293 42302  |stretches|
42324 42328  |quit|
42339 42343  |quit|
42357 42362  |seize|
42368 42374  |moment|
42380 42385  |start|
42405 42410  |dream|
42411 42418  |forward|
42427 42437  |strengthen|
42442 42447  |union|
42453 42457  |more|
42458 42463  |thank|
42469 42472  |god|
42473 42478  |bless|
42488 42491  |god|
42492 42497  |bless|

42502 42508  |united|
42509 42515  |states|
42519 42526  |america|

I added stop words based on the unnecessary words that were appearing in the previous parsing. Doing this reinforced the idea that picking stop tokenizers is largely based on biases. To me it was clear which words were not meaningful, so I kept taking them out. At some point though it became more complicated. For example the use of words like “own”, which have different meanings, verb and noun, could be interesting, or things like “come”, but I decided they were not important.

It seems to me that google, yahoo, and Bing all have very similar stop tokenizers. One article said that Yahoo! search is now powered by Bing in the US and google in Japan. (

This article states:

You can differentiate by having product information. But Google scrapes it. You can differentiate through consumer & editorial reviews. But Google scrapes it. You can differentiate by brand, but Google sells branded keywords to competitors. No matter what you do, Google competes against you. You can opt out of being scraped, but then you get no search traffic (& the ecosystem is set up to pay someone else to scrape your content + wrap it in ads).”

For google, there are so many other more complicated and more important algorithms for text parsing, and the ad /proprietary / information ownership motives in addition to the need to define the user’s intentions are.

When stop tokenization is used alone, the search has no way of ordering the results in a meaningful way. Google looks for things like “natural citations” to further break down results, presenting the ones that include the stop words as well as more relevant. It also has really interesting web based approaches like looking for natural link growth, depth and quality of links to and from a page, and a page’s age.

Yahoo apparently, from what I understand, offers more search priority through ad sales than google, and has a poorer distinction of link quality and depth, therefore constantly presenting us with tangentially connected information, which I have to say has its place. I love when I go to check my yahoo spam account, that I keep mostly for the purpose of distraction, and I come across a link to a cat doing something cute, which brings me to some advertisement, and then another exciting link, and helps me pass some time while I get ready to get back to work. It has its place as a totally different kind of search, and as some search engines work to meet people’s needs, others are working to reduce people’s attention spans to meet their shifty search strategies and criteria.

The most important thing is the slow convergence / homogenization of search strategies, following google mostly, limiting web recommendations and search result more and more, as often this is based on “link growth”, so “viral” things are almost self fulfilling prophecies.

As search engines become personalized, they get to limit the recommendations for each person even more. On our end, we seem to develop a relationship with our preferred search engines as well, learning their stop tokenizers, and attempting to match their parsing style to fit our needs. We begin to develop a relationship, a two way relationship, with our search engine that becomes more and more specific, isolated, and limited, and we begin to learn from the search engine’s biases, further limiting our use of them as searching for something outside of their biases. Maybe the key is for different search engines to continue to evolve in different directions, so the recommendations and search results on each would not reply to our behaviors in the same way.

Art by Telephone and other Ideas from Adriana de Souza e Silva

“Telecommunications-based art is primarily concerned with connecting distant and contiguous spaces.” – Adriana de Souza e Silva

Adriana de Souza e Silva gives a brief historical account of telecommunications-based art, highlighting the transition from the original telephone (used as a voice transmission communication device) to mobile phones being used as a bridge between the physical and virtual worlds of the new hybrid space: a space where both the virtual and the physical world are engaged simultaneously. As we begin to see the telephone in this new light, telecommunications-based art has shifted from the creation of material things to the creation of interactive contexts.

Early examples:

Laslo Moholy Nagy,1922, claimed to have created enamel tile paintings by dictating the pattern over the phone

Laszlo Moholy Nagy

Art by Telephone, 1969, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art Exhibit where the museum recreated artists’ telephone descriptions of their contributions.

Art by Telephone show catalog

Stephen Wilson, 1992, “Is Anyone There” , a computer calls various pay phones in San Fransisco and holds brief conversations.

Currently cell phone ownership is nearly universal, exceeding PC ownership, in most places. In her article Re-Conceptualizing the Mobile Phone – From Telephone to Collective Interfaces, Adriana de Souza e Silva suggests that the younger users are the first to adopt new uses of new technology because they are not hindered by preconceptions of its use based on older technology.  She makes the comparison of film being at first considered and created as a combination of photography and theater, and television being at first understood as a combination of radio and images, to the modern cell phone still being viewed in relation to its static land-line predecessor. These examples make clear how our perceptions can effect the way we imagine and create for new platforms, and how important it is to re-imagine everything all of the time.

She gave a brief history of people’s perceptions of the mobile phone. At first it was viewed as a substitute to the cordless phone, and rarely used outside of the home. It was considered rude to speak on one in public. It was later seen as a great tool in case of an emergency, and became a truly mobile device. Over time business planning and social conversations became acceptable ’emergencies’ for using the phone in public, although excessive use is still considered rude. For young people today it is a creative social tool.

She rejects the idea that mobile phones are a source of social isolation for their users through several examples where the phone conversation was shared socially. She suggests that in some instances there is not a significant inherent social value distinction between digital and physical social engagement. For example, people’s tendency to read on trains suggests that it is always an awkward social place, and connecting socially via phone in that situation makes you more social.

She also argues that by connecting remote physical and digital contexts to the space the phone enhances the social space. She explains that now that our phones are much more than two way voice devices, but “always connected” computers, their ubiquity creates a hybrid universe, a space where each person is engaged with both the digital and physical worlds, using the mobile device as the connection between them.

I don’t completely understand the loose connection she seems to draw between social spaces and hybrid virtual/physical spaces. Although it is clear that the non stop virtual connection alters our perception of space, it seems that it alters it inconsistently and individually for every person, therefore separating us contextually. As I agree that it is enhancing the space and expanding it by adding remote social and informational contexts, one could say that it expands the individual’s space, and thus takes us further away from each other. She uses the flash mob example of creating social situations via mobile phones quickly, but I think this is a superficial example. Because of their purely virtual origin, such events seem novel, and are overshadowed by the remainder of the effects of non stop connectivity on our social functions.

I believe that her rejection of the argument that mobile phones can lead to isolation from social and physical spaces  seems inconsistent and incomplete, and mostly really unnecessary. There seems to be this defensive streak among the people who create location based / mobile applications that compels them  to claim that mobile interactive media can enhance and encourage social behavior. But I  believe there is a not-at-all-fine line between the way we interact virtually and face to face. It is clear from my own experience, and the many times I have heard others express this, that excessive time spent in the virtual world makes eye contact and sustained conversations more difficult (if not frightening), at least at first. I think we need a new word for this new kind of “social” because it seems to manifest itself in the physical world in very anti-social and narcissistic ways, but is in no way irrelevant, invalid or uninteresting. The development of online communities and increasingly available long distance communication is similar to the development of the phone, film, and television. As they transformed in function and image we created a new way to understand and use them, and the same has happened with socializing. The physical social and online social are now almost completely unrelated.

One of the examples she cites of context-creating interactive art, more appropriate to our new concept of the mobile phone, is Blinkenlights, 2001, Interactive computer display by Chaos Computer Club, in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz building. According to her, creating interactive spaces and contexts is more about the social behavior and uses of mobile tech than it is about creating material things.

Blinkenlights by the Chaos Computer Club, Berlin, 2001

It seems that the most social part is the joint discovery and experience of this material manifestation. However, the “interactive”/participatory part does not seem particularly social. I don’t see how the cellphone interactivity makes this piece more sociable than it would have been had it just played pixelated movies, drawings, cartoons, or messages. I think it actually is more isolating because it physically requires that your attention be given to your interaction with the phone. There is no worse conversation starter than fondling your iPhone.

Liu Bolin

Yahoo constantly serves me the most irresistible news about babies and puppies and kidnappings, and now this!

Liu Bolin, he’s the one standing by the tractor in the above image. To poorly paraphrase him, his work is about diminishing of humanity amid Chinese economic and cultural development.