Urban Atmospheres

Urban Atmospheres is a research intiative at Intel Research Berkeley, run by Eric Paulos. From their info page:

“At the intersection of mobile and social computing, we seek to provoke discussion aimed at understanding this emerging space of computing within and across our public urban landscapes – Urban Computing.”

While toting a laptop around a city may seem a like an example of such city computing, Urban Atmospheres research is more deeply concerned with addressing several sub-themes, including (but not limited to):”

Place – What is the meaning of various public places? What cues do we use to interpret place and how will Urban Computing re-inform and alter our perception of various places?”

Community – Who are the people we share our city with? How do they influence our urban landscape? Where do we belong in this social space and how do new technologies enable and disrupt feelings of community and belonging?”

Infrastructure – How will buildings, subways, sidewalks, parking meters, and other conventional, physical artifacts on the urban landscape be used and re-appropriated by emerging technology tools?”

Traversal – What is a path or route through a city using these new urban tools? How will navigation and movement, either throughout an entire city or within a small urban space, be influenced by the introduction of Urban Computing technology?”

The single main research challenge of Urban Atmospheres research is to understand how this future fabric of digital and wireless computing will influence, disrupt, expand, and be integrated into the social patterns existent within our public urban landscapes.”

Street Talk

Urban Atmospheres held a good workshop in the summer of 2004, Street Talk. Links to the speakers’ slides and many people’s notes are available on the site. Of particular interest to me were Ben Hooker’s talk on urban games using cell networks, and Peter Lunenfeld’s closing talk on why everyone interested in social computing should be aware of Jane Jacobs. So many of the others were very energizing too. What made it great was to see work people were doing in urban environments, and to hear the questions they ran across in the process. There are some useful blog reports available on the site as well.

A follow-up workshop, Notes from the Urban Frontier, was held at Ubicomp 2004

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