Like m’colleage Matt Webb, I’m one of the 9 or so participants in the next phase of the Urban Tapestries trial (see earlier notes from the first trial here, and at Urban Tapestries). I’ll be posting some impressions here over the next four weeks.
First impressions are very favourable – the trial’s now running on Sony P800s donated by Orange, and the software has been completely rewritten, in C++ within Symbian (more details here). The map is now a 3km chunk of central London, centred on Oxford Circus (happily, my ‘manor’ exactly!), rendered as a big ol’ GIF with 4 levels of zoom (the earlier trial was a vector-based map running in Flash, which you’d think would be more appropriate but turned out to be very clunky). Data still coming from the Ordnance Survey maps, though with major streetnames overlaid (apparently a mammoth task, surprisingly), with a lookup on addresses as the Post Office see them. Everything runs a lot faster and smoother, and the whole enterprise feels hugely advanced from that freezing cold December morning for the first trial – so well done Giles Lane and the Proboscis crew.
I’ve started marking down a few local landmarks, with text, images, and audio, for others to discover, and am browsing across the ‘data droppings’ of others … Feels like we’re marking out our territory! Something rather primeval about it 😉
On the whole, it’s all looking very promising. The audio input is basic (i.e. via the phone’s standard mic) as are the camera and text entry opportunities. There’s still loads missing, natch (haven’t found a way to delete my mistaken entries, or add to others’, say) but as before, it’s just great to be able take part in something we’ve been thinking about for ages – collaborative authoring of information pinned to space via wireless networks.
I’m still chewing over the whole concept of threads – I think I have a natural tendency to top-down information architecture here i.e. I’d like to browse a collaborative ‘thread’ called ‘architecture’ i.e. navigate the city via that particular facet of the built or imagined environment. However, the UT concept seems geared more towards people weaving their own stories (hence ‘tapestries’, ‘threads’ etc.), and therefore there is no real post-hoc joining up of thread names. This would seem to limit the potential for collaboration in a sense (i.e. it’s difficult to see other thread names, and therefore ‘add’ to them by tying your own entries to them via using the same name). However, I can see the point of enabling people to take you on a journey, as described by themselves. Let’s see how it develops.
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