Information Places: Navigating Interfaces between Physical and Digital Space

Information Places: Navigating Interfaces between Physical and Digital Space

Katharine S. Willis (Bauhaus-University Weimar, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-152-0.ch014
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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 in the world based on recognising qualities of information which are relevant to us in the particular situation we are in. These qualities are very often spatial in nature, and in addition to information in the environment itself, we also access representations of space, such as maps and guides. Increasingly, such forms of spatial information are delivered on mobile devices, which enable a different relationship with our spatial world. We will discuss an empirical study which attempts to understand how people acquire and act on digital spatial information. In conclusion, we will draw on the outcomes of the study to discuss how we might better embed and integrate information in place so that it enables a more relational and shared experience in the interaction between people and their spatial setting.
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Telephone calls worldwide on both landlines and mobile phones contained 17.3 exabytes of new information if stored in digital form; this represents 98% of the total of all information transmitted in electronic information flows, most of it person to person.

(Lyman et al 2003)

Information surrounds us. We use information, we create information and information allows us to communicate across time and space. But to make information tangible we need to classify, to categorise, to contextualise and to define it. In organizing data we add the knowledge of the receiver which enables the exchange of meaning. This we call interaction with information. In this way information does not exist as isolated, distinct data, but as a form of communication which is constantly affected by the setting in which it is created, gathered, manipulated and retrieved. When we interact with information we do not act in a vacuum, but based on a background of experience, using memories and qualities of the real world to guide us. Interaction is a continually negotiated two way process, that has been described by Pask in this example “A painting does not move. But our interaction with it is dynamic for we scan it with our eyes, we attend to it selectively and our perceptual processes build up images of parts of it. Of course a painting does not respond to us either […] but our internal representation of the picture, our active perception of it, does respond and does engage in an internal conversation with the part of our mind responsible for immediate awareness.” (Pask, 1971, p. 78). We act so as to simplify cognitive tasks by leaning on the structures in our environment. We rely on the external scaffolding of categorised information formats; such as maps and models, diagrams and traffic signs. We learn to use the world around us to assist us, so that not all thinking is done inside the head and much of it instead takes place within the context of real world situations. To understand how we interact with information we need to include the wider scenario of a person as they act in a real-world environment, but also taking account of the fact that this is a social and spatial environment which includes records and traces of prior actions in the form of communication systems (languages), storage systems (libraries), transport systems (roads), and spatial systems (the built world) (Morville, 2005). In fact the last category is often underrated; that of the spatial quality of information. Information is often understood both in terms of where it is located and consequently how it can be retrieved or found. We navigate through information, both metaphorically and in actuality, constantly deciding on what is useful to us and what we can ignore. In this sense there is always much more information available to us in the environment than we pay attention to. Just imagine a typical street, with a person walking along traveling from one shop to another. A multitude of information is present in the environment, much of it dynamic; passing cars, flashing shop signs, visual landmarks and of course other people. We learn to read subtle messages to enable us to make decisions, whether these are generated from conscious or sub-conscious choices. Spatial categorisation is ubiquitous in our language and how we organise our understanding of the world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Satnav: A satellite navigation system capable of receiving and displaying GPS data.

Bluetooth: A form of digital transmission which enables many devices to be easily interconnected using a short-range wireless connection.

Landmark: A geographic feature or built structure that is easily recognizable, and is often used to assist orientation.

LBS: Location based services are wireless ‘mobile content’ services which are to provide location-specific information to mobile users moving from location to location.

Mobile map: A term for a map application supported by GPS running on a mobile device.

GPS: Global Positioning System a constellation of twenty-four satellites that make it possible for people with ground receivers (satnav) to pinpoint their geographic location.

WiFi: Also known as Wireless fidelity refers to certain kinds of wireless local area networks, or WLAN (as opposed to LAN, or computers that are networked together with wires).

Complete Chapter List

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Anthony Townsend
Marcus Foth
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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