This chapter contributes to the ongoing effort to understand the nature of locative urban information by proposing that locative urban information is a kind of problem that necessitates the use of visual instruments, such as maps integrated into spatial annotation systems. The thesis is that the dynamics of the movement and behavior of messages appearing, disappearing, and spreading on the urban maps provide clues as to what extent a specific type of information is dependent on urban space for context, i.e., its level of location-sensitivity. A parallel is drawn between the interpretation of dynamic patterns appearing on urban maps and scientific discovery supported by the use of visual instruments. In order to illustrate how the question of locativity arises when developing technologies for urban life, a short examination of BlueSpot, a locative media project in Budapest, is provided.
The question, “If most people are only tourists for about two weeks of the year, what location-sensitive services are being devised for the other fifty weeks?” (Giles, & Thelwall, 2006, p. 9) bridges at least two of the larger research fields: Mobile Studies4 and Locative Media. As the research series in Mobile Studies suggests, while networked ICT devices liberate community formation and the flow of knowledge from geographical space (Meyrowitz, 2005), information of a primarily practical nature transmitted by mobile communication remains situation- and location-sensitive (Nyíri, 2003). Locative media projects originating from new media arts, address a very similar concern as:
Locative media may be understood to mean media in which context is crucial, in that the media pertains to specific location and time, the point of spatio-temporal ‘capture’, dissemination or some point in between. The term “locative media” initially appeared (...in 2003...) as a tentative category for new media art that sought to explore the intersection of the virtual space of the Internet with (...) physical space. (...) The term locative media has (...) been associated with mobility, collaborative mapping, and emergent forms of social networking. (Hemment, Evans, Humphries, & Raento, 2006)
Mapping issues in locative media refer on the one hand to tracing people, information and objects (OpenStreetMap5) and on the other hand, to spatial annotation and geotagging (Plazes, denCity, Urban Tapestries)(cf., Tuters, & Varnelis, 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Mobile Studies: is a term coined in 2006 by the Hungarian research team Communications in the 21st Century, who conduct humanities and social science research into the impact of mobile communication on human thinking and social life (Nyíri, 2007, p.11). With the involvement of international academics, research has been pursued since 2001 in Hungary within the framework of the project, conducted jointly by T-Mobile Hungary and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. URL: http://socialscience.t-mobile.hu/
Locative Information: is a term derived from locative media. As locative media pertains to a specific location and time (Hemment, 2006), locative information can be interpreted in the context of a concrete place at a concrete moment in time, or its relevance is a function of the concrete situation.
BlueSpot: is a Budapest-based locative media experiment initiated by the interdisciplinary research team, the Emergent City Action Group. The Bluetooth hotspot-based platform allows users to address messages to places in the city using their Bluetooth and Java enabled mobile phones. URL: http://bluespot.hu/.
Hybrid Urban Space: refers to the condition of urban space where the use of mobile communication technologies merge the borders between physical and digital space and create a hybrid space (De Souza e Silva, 2006). The hybrid urban space also results in a new cartographic paradigm (Kitchin, 2007).
Spatial Annotation Systems: refer to systems which allow users to associate messages or any information with places in geographical space via computers or mobile communication devices such as PDAs or mobiles. Depending on the system used, the location to which a message will be attached can be either selected manually on a map or supported by locating services, for example, based on GPS or mobile cell information.
Urban Self-Organization: is a term derived from the natural sciences. The analogy of biological self-organization applied to urban structures became widely recognized through Jane Jabobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities in the 1960s (Jacobs, 1960). Self-organization means that the entities of a system interact with each other in such a way that order emerges without central control.
Context Awareness,: besides recognizing and taking into account factors defining a situation such as people, roles, activities, times, places, devices, and software, also refers to imbuing meaning, based on these factors (Vian, 2006). Location in urban space, for example, can provide a context that facilitates the interpretation of locative information.