The Figmentum Project: Appropriating Information and Communication Technologies to Animate Our Urban Fabric

The Figmentum Project: Appropriating Information and Communication Technologies to Animate Our Urban Fabric

Colleen Morgan (Australasian Cooperative Research Centre for Interaction Design, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-152-0.ch010
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Abstract

This chapter explores how we may design located information and communication technologies (ICTs) to foster community sentiment. It focuses explicitly on possibilities for ICTs to create new modalities of place through exploring key factors such as shared experiences, shared knowledge and shared authorship. To contextualise this discussion in a real world setting, this chapter presents FIGMENTUM, a situated generative art application that was developed for and installed in a new urban development. FIGMENTUM is a non-service based application that aims to trigger emotional and representational place-based communities. Out of this practice-led research comes a theory and a process for designing creative place-based ICTs to animate our urban communities.
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Introduction

This chapter explores how we may design site specific information and communication technologies (ICTs) to foster community sentiment. It focuses explicitly on possibilities for ICTs to create new modalities of place through exploring key factors such as shared experiences, shared knowledge and shared authorship. Modalities of place refer to the process by which numerous social, cultural, functional and emotional operators shape individual comprehension of place (Sandin, 2003). To contextualise this discussion in a real world setting, this chapter presents Figmentum, a situated generative art application that was developed for and installed in a new urban development. Figmentum aims to trigger emotional and representational imagined communities. Unlike many current community based urban informatics projects that take the form of online community notice boards, user profiles and the like, Figmentum is a non-service based application. Instead of service-based ICT applications, our research focuses on the emotional and highly intangible cognitive processes that contribute to imaginings of community solidarity. It also emphasises the need for community based ICTs to provide motivating factors for social interaction within communities. An evaluation of Figmentum reveals the critical need for place-based ICT applications to be custom designed to suit the social, cultural, spatial, technical and temporal characteristics of individual sites to successfully augment experiences of place. Although this field is in its infancy, it is clear that new ICT applications have the potential to be valuable tools for animating our urban fabric. This chapter works towards a theory for designing creative place-based applications that may provide enriched experiences within a community.

To design applications that may foster urban communities we must first work from within a framework of understanding peoples’ relationships to place. To construct this framework, this chapter explores the notions of place attachment, imagined communities and social capital. This chapter then examines how social, cultural, functional and emotional operators contribute to experiences or ‘modalities’ of place. Understanding how modalities of place are constructed with these operators allows us to embed the knowledge developed from our framework into the process of designing and implementing community based ICTs. As such the chapter moves on to discuss the process of combining the core values derived from this theoretical framework with design principles drawn from existing community based ICT projects to design Figmentum. In conclusion, a summary of how Figmentum was received by the community and an analysis of the research outcomes is presented, followed by recommendations for future research.

Figure 1.

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Background

This study helps to gauge the capacity for ICTs to foster community sentiment and social capital. It approaches the field with the perspective that significant research is still required to explore and define the potentials of ICTs and to establish processes for designing and implementing interventions to satisfy these potentials. The Australian Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts supports this standpoint noting, “There is vast potential to use ICT to build social capital and contribute to community development and formation. However, […] it is largely untapped and unrecognised in many areas. For ICT use to move beyond bonding – to harness its power for bridging and linking to resources that enhance economic and social development – it needs more attention to the type of social capital being developed” (DCITA, 2005, p. 9).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Capital: The capital, actual and potential, that is embedded in social relationships and networks. Pierre Bourdieu defines social capital as “the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition” (1986, p. 243).

Place Attachment: The emotional, functional, and social ties people develop within a community and towards a particular place (Hummon, 1992). Place attachment is a complex and interdisciplinary notion and has been theorised from diverse perspectives ranging from architecture and urban planning to psychology and sociology. In the context of this chapter place attachment consists of three key aspects; community satisfaction, community attachment, and imagined community identity (Hummon, 1992, p. 254).

Imagined Communities: The ontological community solidarity. The notion is best captured in Andersons quote; “all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined…it is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (1983, p.15).

Modalities of Place: The process by which numerous social, cultural, functional and emotional operators shape individual comprehension of place (Sandin, 2003). The capacity for technologies to create new experiences of place is dependent on the way the operators of a location are used or acted upon in order to determine the mode of the place.

The Social Construction of Technology: This is a perspective on the evolution of technology that emphasises human agency. Identified by Graham and Marvin (1996), this perspective views the evolution of technology as a social process by which a collection of individual human decisions shape how technologies will impact upon society.

Generative Art Systems: These consist of an artwork; usually displayed on a digital screen, the appearance of which is governed by a rule set developed by the curator that determines how the system interprets the information it receives. The curator can either predetermine this information, or it can be created through user interaction. Ernest Edmonds defines a generative art system as “an art system that evolves in response to the interpretation of participant interaction with the work by a software agent” (2003, p. 23).

New Urbanism: This is an urban design ideal that returns to planning and architectural traditions for the design of small communities. The ideal focuses on the liveability of suburban areas, emphasising the need for central community hubs and a layout that provides walkable access to everyday needs and services.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Anthony Townsend
Preface
Marcus Foth
Acknowledgment
Marcus Foth
Chapter 1
Amanda Williams, Erica Robles, Paul Dourish
This chapter critically examines the notion of “the city” within urban informatics. Arguing that there is an overarching tendency to construe the... Sample PDF
Urbane-ing the City: Examining and Refining the Assumptions Behind Urban Informatics
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Chapter 2
Jaz Hee-Jeong Choi, Adam Greenfield
Once a city shaped by the boundary conditions of heavy industrialisation and cheap labour, within a few years Seoul has transformed itself to one of... Sample PDF
To Connect and Flow in Seoul: Ubiquitous Technologies, Urban Infrastructure and Everyday Life in the Contemporary Korean City
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Chapter 3
Nancy Odendaal
Recent literature on African cities examines the way in which social networks function as critical livelihood arteries in the ongoing survival... Sample PDF
Creating an Analytical Lens for Understanding Digital Networks in Urban South Africa
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Chapter 4
Wayne Beyea
Community planning is facing many challenges around the world, such as the rapid growth of megacities as well as urban sprawl. The State of Michigan... Sample PDF
Place Making Through Participatory Planning
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Chapter 5
Mike Ananny, Carol Strohecker
In this paper, we describe the design and installation of a new kind of public opinion forum—TexTales, a public, large-scale interactive projection... Sample PDF
TexTales: Creating Interactive Forums with Urban Publics
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Chapter 6
Jenny Preece
This chapter describes a small networked community in which residents of an apartment building in Washington, D.C., USA supplement their... Sample PDF
An Event-Driven Community in Washington, DC: Forces That Influence Participation
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Chapter 7
Fiorella De Cindio
After more than a decade of e-participation initiatives at the urban level, what remains obscure is the alchemy—i.e., the “arcane” combination of... Sample PDF
Moments and Modes for Triggering Civic Participation at the Urban Level
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Chapter 8
Michael Veith
Societies face serious challenges when trying to integrate migrant communities. One-sided solutions do not pay tribute to the complexity of this... Sample PDF
Fostering Communities in Urban Multi-Cultural Neighbourhoods: Some Methodological Reflections
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Chapter 9
Victor M. Gonzalez, Kenneth L. Kraemer, Luis A. Castro
The practical use of information technology devices in domestic and residential contexts often results in radical changes from their envisioned... Sample PDF
Beyond Safety Concerns: On the Practical Applications of Urban Neighbourhood Video Cameras
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Chapter 10
Colleen Morgan
This chapter explores how we may design located information and communication technologies (ICTs) to foster community sentiment. It focuses... Sample PDF
The Figmentum Project: Appropriating Information and Communication Technologies to Animate Our Urban Fabric
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Chapter 11
Barbara Crow, Michael Longford, Kim Sawchuk, Andrea Zeffiro
The Mobile Media Lab (MML) is a Canadian interdisciplinary research team exploring wireless communications, mobile technologies and locative media... Sample PDF
Voices from Beyond: Ephemeral Histories, Locative Media and the Volatile Interface
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Chapter 12
Helen Klaebe
This chapter defines, explores and Illustrates research at the intersection of people, place and technology in cities. First, we theorise the notion... Sample PDF
Embedding an Ecology Notion in the Social Production of Urban Space
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Chapter 13
Vassilis Kostakos, Eamonn O’Neill
In this paper, we describe a platform that enables us to systematically study online social networks alongside their real-world counterparts. Our... Sample PDF
Cityware: Urban Computing to Bridge Online and Real-World Social Networks
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Chapter 14
Katharine S. Willis
In our everyday lives, we are surrounded by information which weaves itself silently into the very fabric of our existence. Much of the time we act... Sample PDF
Information Places: Navigating Interfaces between Physical and Digital Space
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Chapter 15
Viktor Bedö
This chapter contributes to the ongoing effort to understand the nature of locative urban information by proposing that locative urban information... Sample PDF
A Visual Approach to Locative Urban Information
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Chapter 16
Tristan Thielmann
Car navigation systems, based on “augmented reality,” no longer direct the driver through traffic by simply using arrows, but represent the... Sample PDF
Navigation Becomes Travel Scouting: The Augmented Spaces of Car Navigation Systems
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Chapter 17
Daisuke Tamada
A lot of street view services, which present views of urban landscapes, have recently appeared. The conventional method for making street views... Sample PDF
QyoroView: Creating a Large-Scale Street View as User-Generated Content
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Chapter 18
Hideyuki Nakanishi, Toru Ishida, Satoshi Koizumi
Many research projects have studied various aspects of smart environments including smart rooms, home, and offices. Few projects, however, have... Sample PDF
Virtual Cities for Simulating Smart Urban Public Spaces
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Chapter 19
Andrew Hudson-Smith
Digital cities are moving well beyond their original conceptions as entities representing the way computers and communications are hard wired into... Sample PDF
The Neogeography of Virtual Cities: Digital Mirrors into a Recursive World
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Chapter 20
Laura Forlano
This chapter introduces the role of community wireless networks (CWNs) in reconfiguring people, places and information in cities. CWNs are important... Sample PDF
Codespaces: Community Wireless Networks and the Reconfiguration of Cities
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Chapter 21
Katrina Jungnickel, Genevieve Bell
From WiFi (802.11b) with its fixed and mobile high-speed wireless broadband Internet connectivity to WiMAX (802.16e), the newest wireless protocol... Sample PDF
Home is Where the Hub Is? Wireless Infrastructures and the Nature of Domestic Culture in Australia
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Chapter 22
Andres Sevtsuk
This chapter presents the iSPOTS project, which collects and maps data of WiFi usage on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in... Sample PDF
Mapping the MIT Campus in Real Time Using WiFi
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Chapter 23
John M. Carroll
We discuss the vision, plan, and status of a research project investigating community-oriented services and applications, comprising a wireless... Sample PDF
Supporting Community with Location-Sensitive Mobile Applications
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Chapter 24
Christine Satchell
Early 21st century societies are evolving into a hybrid of real and synthetic worlds where everyday activities are mediated by technology. The... Sample PDF
From Social Butterfly to Urban Citizen: The Evolution of Mobile Phone Practice
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Chapter 25
Jong-Sung Hwang
u-City is South Korea’s answer to urban community challenges leveraging ubiquitous computing technology to deliver state-of-the-art urban services.... Sample PDF
u-City: The Next Paradigm of Urban Development
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Chapter 26
Dan Shang, Jean-François Doulet, Michael Keane
This chapter examines the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in urban China, focusing mainly on their impact on social... Sample PDF
Urban Informatics in China: Exploring the Emergence of the Chinese City 2.0
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Chapter 27
Francesco Calabrese
The real-time city is now real! The increasing deployment of sensors and handheld electronic devices in recent years allows for a new approach to... Sample PDF
WikiCity: Real-Time Location-Sensitive Tools for the City
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Chapter 28
Eric Paulos, RJ Honicky, Ben Hooker
In this chapter, we present an important new shift in mobile phone usage—from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement... Sample PDF
Citizen Science: Enabling Participatory Urbanism
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Chapter 29
Mark Shepard
What happens to urban space given a hypothetical future where all information loses its body, that is, when it is offloaded from the material... Sample PDF
Extreme Informatics: Toward the De-Saturated City
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Chapter 30
Roger J. Burrows
Is it still the case that one can symptomatically read the early work of the cyberpunk author William Gibson as a form of prefigurative urban theory... Sample PDF
Urban Informatics and Social Ontology
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