Archive for December, 2008

Some Cities. Our relations with cities are like our relations with people. We love them, hate them, or are indifferent toward them.Victor Burgin.

December 18th, 2008
Copyright Image by Stanza

Copyright Image by Stanza 2004. Shanghai.

Copyright Image by Stanza . Title. The Brilliant City Shanghai 2004

“Our relations with cities are like our relations with people. We love them, hate them, or are indifferent toward them. On our first day in a city that is new to us, we go looking for the city. We go down this street, around that corner. We are aware of the faces of passers-by. But the city eludes us, and we become uncertain whether we are looking for a city, or for a person.”

Victor Burgin recalls some of the cities he has known in a way familiar to all who have traveled, by showing photographs and telling anecdotes. Some Cities gathers places and moments along a life route that the author has taken from the north of England to his present home in northern California. Stops on the way include such disparate sites as London, Berlin and Warsaw; Singapore, Woomera and Tokyo; New York and San Francisco; and the islands of Stromboli and Tobago.

Some Cities is unlike anything Burgin has ever done before, although it explores characteristic themes of his earlier theoretical and visual works, such as the dimensions of politics and sexuality in everyday life.

“Burgin traces his life’s route from the north of England through such metropolises as London, Berlin, Singapore, Tokyo, New York and San Francisco in brilliant black and white photographs and in anecdotes presented in immaculate prose.”—The Guardian

Portsmouth invests money in mother of big brother….

December 11th, 2008
Copyright Image by Stanza

Copyright Image by Stanza. From Stars Of CCTV Series of artworks.

Our social  agenda and relationship to city space is being driven,  “re-designed”; re engineered without thought by local councillors and policemen who are creating a society of mistrust. Haven’t they got something better to  spend money on , ie schools, education, buses  etc etc These guys just don’t seem to know what to  spend the council tax money on  so they keep  buying  and investing in CCTV.

Anti-social behaviour has become a familiar sight in some towns and cities across the country.

Now there’s a new weapon in the fight against it called Smart CCTV. Portsmouth City Council is the first, and so far only, local authority in the UK to try out the new system. It’s a computer programme that has been integrated into the city’s existing network of 152 cameras and has been programmed to spot unusual behaviour in places and at times when it’s not expected. For example, a speeding car being driven around an empty car park could be a joy rider or someone running through a deserted shopping precinct late at night might be a vandal.

When those and similar scenarios are ‘spotted’ by the software, using special parameters from programmers, an alarm is sounded which alerts CCTV operators to that particular camera.

It’s already been used in parts of seven cities across America, in places like New York and Washington DC, where the feedback has been positive. Nick Hewitson helped design the version Portsmouth City Council is using.

He said: “It filters out all the rubbish video that you don’t want and lets you see the stuff that you do want. “So you’re using human beings for doing what they do well, making subjective decisions on incomplete data.

“And using computers to do what they do well, process tonnes and tonnes of boring data.”

But not everyone in Portsmouth is as convinced by the new system as Ray Stead and Nick Hewitson.

Samilia Narcho, 19, told Newsbeat: “They are lurking a bit too much into people’s business. It’s a bit unfair on people who aren’t doing anything wrong. “It’s a bit too much invasion of privacy. Big Brother going a bit too far.”

But 18-year-old Chris isn’t worried about being watched. He said: “It doesn’t really bother me because I’m not doing anything wrong, so I’ve got nothing to worry about.” Berry, who’s 24, and 21-year-old Becky Pearson have different opinions on the new CCTV system. Berry said: “I think it’s pretty good because there are a lot of idiots in Portsmouth and they need to be kept under wraps.”

Becky added: “I can see why people think it’s a bit too much, with people being too watched.” The Smart CCTV technology is on trial in Portsmouth but if it proves successful, other UK cities could set up similar systems.

So after the councils lost your money which was “invested” offshore in icelandic banks…now  they are investing in developing new software  for CCTV cameras. Basically Portsmouth is investing your money in mother of big brother….and the best sort of reporting the BBC  can come up  with is from chris  “But 18-year-old Chris isn’t worried about being watched. He said: “It doesn’t really bother me because I’m not doing anything wrong, so I’ve got nothing to worry about.”……either read a little history  or read a little science fiction  because I think there is plenty here to worry about Chris.

So the question is what sort of society do we want to live in twenty years?

Yes good idea lets go for the one where we don’t trust anyone at all, and have to monitor  everyone, everywhere, all the time…..brilliant idea….I wish I had thought of that.  But then again if I had a software company or CCTV system  I  would send my sales team be straight down to the local council to sell these idiots these systems too.

Dna debate. Invasions of privacy in new spaces.

December 5th, 2008
Copyright Image by Stanza

Copyright Image by Stanza. Stanza DNA on building.

After my genomixer work in 2004 where I  sequenced my DNA and made a series of artworks, I became interested in the ownership and control of data. With dna, data which is used as criminal evidence there has become growing concern of possible misuse and mismanagement of a large collected database. The gathering of individual sets of data seems to  be quite harmless, its the mass collection and weaving of data ( data mining) where possible issues of abuse will arise.

Anyway there are some interesting posts on a BBC forum.

Here are some of the best.

Of course, if we were all electronically tagged and continuously tracked, there would be even less crime; and innocent people would have nothing to fear…(ok within this sarcastic comment lies the future. Do we want this sort of …..I have nothing to hide mentality to get to this extreme. It would be interesting for sure, but why do we have to live in fear and mistrust everybody else).
I, for one, vouch for safety over freedom. If a police state is what it takes in order to bring about basic safety and lawfulness, then so be it. ( But this one isnt sarcastic…someone wants us to  bring on a police state)
I don’t know what people are complaining about! Our society has become infested with criminals and terrorists.

Retaining DNA samples for the innocent, no matter for what reason, is against the law – end of. By doing so, the police and other authorities are implying that we are guilty of some crime yet to be committed!

If State intrusion continues as is then it won’t be long before the data is taken at birth and everyone is ‘chipped’.

The technology to have data transmitters implanted in humans is nearly with us. Presumably those people happy to have an enforced national DNA database will also be happy to have such a device implanted.

My DNA, identity and medical records belong to me. After me, my details belong to my family. The State has no right whatsoever to assert any kind of ownership, storage or access rights to that information.

For those interested you might like Genomixer. A series of online artworks inspired by the human genome sequence and developed from dna profile which are sequenced from my blood. The online artworks are investigations into genetic codes mapped and re assembled online. The series enables a cross reference all the code on the genome sequence allowing you to intermix or breed your own variable; you can look at the new mix of chromosomes in real time; on line. You can also keep and print this pattern from the website. Works are enabled by dna code extracted from my blood. The sounds and images of code make audio visual self portrait versions.


City links and mobile city projects (mainly with phones)

December 3rd, 2008

Here is a selection of city links and mobile city art projects (mainly with phones). Pervasive media in the city.

Public Authoring in the Wireless City Urban Tapestries is the name of a research project and experimental software platform for knowledge mapping and sharing – public authoring – conceived and developed by Proboscis in partnership with collaborators such as the London School of Economics, Birkbeck College, Orange, HP Research labs, France Telecom R&D UK, Ordnance Survey. The Urban Tapestries software platform allows people to author their own virtual annotations of the city, enabling a community’s collective memory to grow organically, allowing ordinary citizens to embed social knowledge in the new wireless landscape of the city. People can add new locations, location content and the ‘threads’ which link individual locations to local contexts, which are accessed via handheld devices such as PDAs and mobile phones.

The Mobile Bristol Centre was a programme investigating how mobile devices and pervasive information technology can be used to enhance the ways in which residents and visitors experience and interact with their physical environment and with each other in urban and public spaces.
Imagine a digital landscape overlaying the physical world. As we walk around this landscape, we can tap into the digital sounds, sights and interactions that are positioned in the landscape and activated by our presence and actions. The digital landscape is formed from a dynamic and overlapping set of mediascapes which are context-sensitive combinations of digital media and interactions created and deployed by various authors. The project has created a toolkit, which provides a digital canvas over the physical landscape onto which digital experiences can be painted and new commercial opportunities can be explored. As people walk through the physical environment, a diverse range of digital media experiences augment the ambiance and bring these spaces alive.

The client software that we are developing for Mobile Bristol is capable of finding, downloading and interpreting the application specifications developed on our authoring tools. It provides a set of built-in capabilities to detect and respond to changes in the sensed environment, to download, cache, render and capture a variety of media types, and to exchange messages with other clients and with services. This led to mscape.

NML: Neighbourhood Markup Language by David Rokeby.ccess is possible from any wireless networked portable computing device with a GPS unit.
The user would be able to configure the device to continuously scan the content attached to the immediate vicinity for the presence of annotations, with customizable filters to reduce local data clutter to those of greatest interest to the user. Things already accessed would be marked as read and filtered out as well, unless intentionally called up. As the aim is not to further fragment public space by encouraging people to walk around with faces glued to small LCD screens, audio would be a preferred format for the annotations.

The device would indicate, perhaps through vibration, when data comes into range. On the other hand, a discrete but distinctive audible indicator (the social calls of crickets or frogs?) might be interesting as a signifier of data reception. Having a sound that is not personalizable might result in a positive confusion: “It was not my device, but then what is here that someone else is interested in…” Browsing or searching the entire set of annotations for one’s current position would be possible through a familiar web-style interface.

The objective of the GiMoDig project is to develop and test methods for delivering geospatial data to a mobile user by means of real-time data-integration and generalisation. The project aims at the creation of a seamless data service providing access, through a common interface, to the primary topographic geo-databases maintained by the National Mapping Agencies (NMAs) in various countries. A special emphasis will be put on providing appropriately generalised map data to the user depending on a mobile terminal with limited display capabilities.

The exhibition explored how mobile and wireless media reconfigure social, cultural and information space? Looking beyond computing in its current form, towards the social and cultural possibilities opened by a new generation of networked, location-aware media. Seeking an art of mobile communications: are there any forms of expression that are intrinsic or unique to mobile and wireless media. It explored how artists are responding to new ways of seeing, sensing and representing: radar, sonar, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, GIS, etc. The exhibition probed new horizons in wireless and mobile media, and looked at the diverse ways in which artists and technical innovators are pushing the limits, and soliciting unexpected or unforeseen results from communication media past and present, from the radio to mobile telephony and wireless LAN. Some are seeking to make visible and audible the signals and transmissions that fill the air around us, exploring the potential of interfaces unfettered by wires and cables for performance or interaction, or the kinds of communication and creative expression that emerge within networks with no fixed centre, but rather multiple, mobile nodes.

CitiTag is a wireless location-based multiplayer game, designed to enhance spontaneous social interaction and novel experiences in city environments by integrating virtual presence with physical. In the first version of CitiTag you roam the city with a GPS- and WiFi-enabled iPaq PocketPC in search for players of the opposite team that you can ‘tag’. You can also get tagged yourself if one of them gets close to you. Then you need to find a friend to free you. Urban space becomes a playground and everyone is a suspect.

In the 21st century, the historically unique epoch of growth that began with industrialization 200 years ago will come to an end. In particular, climate change, dwindling fossil sources of energy, demographic aging, and rationalization in the service industry will lead to new forms of urban shrinking and a marked increase in the number of shrinking cities. To illuminate this, the project Shrinking Cities. Within the next twenty years, the fossil fuels crude oil, natural gas, and coal will reach their maximum production levels, after which they will begin to decline, while global energy demands rise. Mobility and energy supply will become considerably more expensive, which will lead to a change in settlement structures.

SenseWeb is a peer produced sensor network that consists of sensors deployed by contributors across the globe. It allows developing sensing applications that use the shared sensing resources and our sensor querying and tasking mechanisms. SensorMap is one such application that mashes up sensor data from SenseWeb on a map interface, and provides interactive tools to selectively query sensors and visualize data, along with authenticated access to manage sensors.


As mobile phones and computers become more complex, the range of media that affect our experiences of cities has expanded. What makes a city meaningful to us is not just its bricks and mortar, but the texts we read, people we talk to and experiences we have. Maps, conversations and images of a city all influences our activity and enjoyment. City focuses on bridging or blurring the boundaries between these different media. The systems we build mix local interactions and remote collaboration, using ubicomp technology, digital maps, virtual environments and hypermedia.

Air. Participants or “carriers” are able to see pollutant levels in their current locations, as well as simultaneously view measurements from the other AIR devices in the network. An on-board GPS unit and digital compass, combined with a database of known pollution sources such as power plants and heavy industries, allow carriers to see their distance from polluters as well. The AIR devices regularly transmit data to a central database allowing for real time data visualization on this website.

SensorPlanet is a Nokia-initiated cooperation, a global research framework, on mobile device-centric large-scale Wireless Sensor Networks. The results of SensorPlanet are 1) a test platform that enables the collection of sensor data on a never seen scale, and 2) a central repository for sharing the collected sensor data for research purposes.

Manhattan Story Mashup is an urban game, taking place on September 23rd 2006 in Manhattan, New York City. During the event, approximately 250 players will move around Manhattan, taking photos which match a given target.

Unlike scientific applications, the hardware is not owned and managed by a small number of central authorities. Citizens carry sensors and contribute data voluntarily. A single entity does not pose interesting ‘hypotheses,’ design experiments, force participation. Instead, the process of learning from an urban environment can be organic and decentralized, existing more in the realm of social networking software. However, the power of this network still comes from our ability to verify the context of shared data, to actuate (to filter, identify and respond to events); to aggregate data in space and time; and to allow individuals to coordinate activities.

We are interested in applying the people-centric sensing concept to the problem of detecting and tracking mobile events (e.g., a lost child’s voice, a teenager’s disruptive car stereo). There are a number of challenges in building a mobile event tracking system using people-based mobile sensors. First, mobile sensors need to be tasked before sensing can begin and only those mobile sensors near the target event should be tasked for the system to scale effectively

Jabberwocky captures a unique, synergistic moment – expanding urban populations, rapid adoption of Bluetooth mobile devices, and widespread influence of wireless technology across our urban landscapes. The United Nations has recently reported that 48 percent of the world’s population current live in urban areas and that this number is expected to exceed the 50 percent mark by 2007, thus marking the first time in history that the world will have more urban residents than rural residents. abberwocky is a free, device independent software that can be installed on your own mobile phone. Jabberwocky uses the industry standard MIDP 2.0 (Mobile Information Device Profile). MIDP 2.0 provides a flexible standard for developing and deploying applications across a wide range of mobile phones and PDAs.

Sashay is a mobile phone application that leverages the fact that every fixed mobile phone cell tower transmits a unique ID that can be read within the phone’s software. As a user moves throughout an urban landscape this “cell ID” changes. Sashay keeps track of the temporal patterns, history, and adjacencies of these cell encounters to help it build a visualization of connected “places”.

Measuring familiar strangers (bluetooth), friends (bluetooth), distance from “city center” (GPS), air quality (onboard atmospheric sensors), nearby traffic patterns (RSS feeds), etc. a “score” is determined and displayed as a personal steganography visualization. The name comes from steganography which is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one apart from the intended recipient knows of the existence of the message.