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March 2004
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May 2004

April 2004

A Scent of Place

NPR's All Things Considered last night included a story on "Eau de Borough", which reported on Eau de New York, the new Bond No. 9 fragrance collection designed by Laurice Rahme that includes different perfumes for 17 different neighborhoods in New York City. People's connections to places are often displayed, explicitly or implicitly, in the visual and auditory domains, e.g., through the clothing people wear clothing, the accents they speak with, or the music they listen to. This new perfume collection is scheduled to debut this May; it will be interesting to see -- and smell -- how a sense of place can be captured and displayed in the olifactory domain.

[More details can be found in this Canada NewsWire report.]

Music ID

AT&T Wireless recently announced a new music recognition service that will enable customers to use their mobile phones to identify music they are currently listening to. By entering "#ID" on the keypad and placing the phone near the source of the music, the service will send a text message with to the phone with the title & artist of the music playing. It's not clear from the announcement how inclusive the service is with respect to musical genres, but I know that there have been many times I've agonized over my inability to definitively identify a song; I'm just not sure how often I'd be willing to pay US$0.99 to relieve that frustration. If only there were a "#ERASE" service that would allow me to clear my mind of a tune that just won't quit playing on my "internal" speaker ...

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Thackara's "Post-Spectacular City": Close Encounters vs. Mass Marketing

Alex Steffen cites John Thackara's vision for the upcoming era of the post-spectacular city, in which the focus of urban design will shift from "point-to-mass advertising, onanistic art, and big-ticket spectacles" (one-way messages) to creating capabilities for "collaboration, encounter, intimacy, and work" (interactions). Thackara describes the mobile phone as a device for creating new opportunities for interacting with space and community, a tool for dynamic, real-time, resource allocation. While he emphasizes the importance of connecting to people ("the killer app is access to other people"), and rails against consumption (vs. action), most of the examples he uses focus on connecting with [commercial] services, such as taxis, tour-guides and sandwich shops.

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WiFi Bedouin: Proximity-based Wireless Access

Just read Sean Savage's post about Julian Bleeker's WiFi.Bedouin project.

WiFi.Bedouin is a wearable, mobile 802.11b node disconnected from the global Internet. It forms a WiFi "island Internet" challenging conventional assumptions about WiFi and suggesting new architectures for digital networks that are based on physical proximity rather than solely connectivity. Most significantly, WiFi.Bedouin facilitates the creation of a truly mobile web community.

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Wherify Personal Locator for Children: Digital Pacifier for Parents?

Smart Computing has an article about a field test of the Wherify Wireless GPS Personal Locator for Children, a wristwatch-style device with a GPS receiver and PCS transmitter that can be "locked" onto a child's wrist and send periodic updates to a web server about the location of the device (and, presumably, the child). Parents can login to the site and see where the device was last detected. While the reviewer describes the technology as "promising", the testing revealed a number of shortcomings including discomfort and lack of security in the wristband "lock", short battery life, and significant lapses in tracking updates.

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Social Computing @ Social Computing

There has been a great deal of discussion about the use of social computing technologies (primarily IRC chat) to create backchannels -- for discussion -- at the Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium. this past Monday and Tuesday. Given the theme of, and participants at, the symposium, it is both ironic (or at least sweetly self-referential) and opportune: I suggest (in a comment posted in that discussion thread) that we take advantage of the event to better understand the use and impacts of social computing technologies.

(I hope to post more about the event soon.)

Situated Software

Clay Shirky describes social software, applications written for a particular situation -- a small group of people, period of time and, possibly, physical space -- contrasting this with the "Web School" approach where applications have to scale to large groups of people for long periods of time, and usually with out any space boundaries. By situating software within a small group context, application developers can take advantage of the offline social practices of the group and not have to explicitly and extensively code to [try to] ensure "appropriate" use. As more software tools become available, and more people become facile with programming, it may become as easy for many people to write applications for a particular situation as it is to compose a slide deck for a particular presentation.

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