Blogging in Place

Ethereal Cafe

This morning, I was on my way to Lighthouse Roasters in Fremont, when I passed Ethereal Cafe & CDs (note: web site is "under construction" but it can be found in the physical world at 254 NE 45th St, Seattle), which had a banner advertising fair trade Kenyan coffee, organic teas and vegetarian & vegan food. I decided to stop here instead of continuing on (will visit Lighthouse another day). Ethereal has a pair of chairs and a table for outdoor seating, but I ended up hanging out inside, chatting with Kelly, the proprietor, and Nicole, the barista. Ethereal has approximately 500 CD cases displayed in five 10x10 grids on the walls inside, each case labeled with a number that corresponds to its index on a CD jukebox (with headphones) and comfortable seating area nearby. Each grid has a theme -- Pop / Classical, Ambient / Electronica, Darkwave, Psyche / Prog, World / Improv -- and many of the titles were new to me (of course, as someone who just saw Bowling for Columbine, it's probably clear that I'm not exactly ahead of the curve when it comes to media consumption). I listened to -- and then purchased -- The Mirror Reveals: This Infinite Eye, which had an interesting look & sound, while enjoying some French-pressed coffee. I was thinking -- and talking with Kelly -- about how great it would be to create a way for the music playing in the loudspeakers (vs. headphones) to be somehow influenced by the people in the cafe at any given time ... reminiscent of the MusicFX system (which did this in a fitness center rather than cafe). I'll have to bring Trevor, who is thinking about similar possibilities with respect to usage scenarios for the Personal Server, next time I come here (or, actually "there" ... Ethereal does not have WiFi access [yet], so technically speaking, I'm "blogging about place" rather than "blogging in place").

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Fremont Coffee

I'm resuming my practice of blogging in place -- visiting [third] places and blogging about them while there. I'd actually taken some notes at some earlier places, following my initial foray to Cafe Solstice way back in February, and may post those retroactively (retrospectively?). Today, I'm sitting on the porch at Fremont Cafe (in the chair pictured on the right in the photo on their homepage), drinking a cup of Roaster's Blend from Lighthouse Roasters (another coffeehouse I want to visit soon), listening to KEXP 90.3 FM (which the barista, Precious, explains is a truly independent, eclectic, and commercial-free radio station that she often tunes in to while working the morning shift) and enjoying the people and atmosphere here on a cool, sunny morning.

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Cafe Solstice

I'm making an effort to spend more time in different places, especially "third places", beyond home and work (the "first" two places, according to Oldenberg), to situate myself in physical contexts where technology might play a constructive role in creating new opportunities for awareness and interaction among co-inhabitants.


Last week, I visited
Cafe Solstice
, one of several recommended by Jeff Carlson. The cafe has great coffee (from Lighthouse, which also has a cafe I plan to visit soon), interesting eclectic music (Arabian Travels 2, a Six Degrees Collection ), and a variety of types of people, most of whom I presume are somehow associated with the University of Washington (both from their appearances and the types of reading material they have brought with them).

Unfortunately, Cafe Solstice does not have any wireless access; in fact, my PlaceLab "spotter" does not detect any access points nearby. Doug, one of the owners, said he has no plans to provide WiFi: business is doing well, and he feels no need to attract more people ... or provide a service that may cause them to overstay their welcome (reminiscent of some issues raised in Paul Andrews' recent article on free WiFi in The Seattle Times). However, he was very interested in the idea of creating new interaction opportunities among the patrons through the display of digital content associated with them (e.g., a proactive display in the cafe).

Speaking of interaction opportunities: as I was talking about this idea with Doug, Jim Nicholls, from the UW Department of Architecture, happened to be waiting for his coffee, and he, too, expressed interest in this idea and we talked about the prospect of potential collaboration with the department to augment space with technology in appropriate and constructive ways.

While I savor this serendipitous meetup, I can't help wondering how many serendipitous near misses I experience (if that's the right verb), and how a proactive display by the coffee bar might open up new opportunities for positive personal and professional exchanges. Meanwhile, I will continue my efforts to inhabit different places ... looking for serendipitous opportunities, and the potential thereof.

Been There, Blogged That

One of my goals in starting this blog is to blog in and about the places I visit or want to visit. I already started taking notes about some places I visited last week (before I worked up the aforementioned gumption to go "live" with this blog), and will be posting them here, retrospectively.

It seems like more and more people are looking at connecting digital content to physical places, e.g., GeoNotes, ActiveCampus Explorer, e-Graffiti, Urban Tapestries, BlogMapper, TagAndScan and now WaveMarket to name but a few. Many of these efforts seem to have an initial momentum created by varying numbers of people, but none appear to have been available to maintain that momentum.

The PlaceLab project at Intel Research Seattle is aiming to build and maintain momentum for privacy-observant, location-aware computing, and I am hoping that we can use PlaceLab services to support blogging in place, blogging about place and creating new opportunities for awareness and interaction in places. We shall see...