City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Success! In this week’s Urban Tapestries trial, I actually discovered something of interest.

I discovered that architectural hero Cedric Price’s old office is around the corner from where I live, and opposite the Imagination Building on Store St (about which I’d added a note myself). That is a great discovery!

Here is frustration with the Urban Tapestries concept thus far too, as that ‘pocket’ of data regarding Cedric Price could have been usefully linked to mine regarding the Imagination building – via a tenuous Archigram link. Ron Herron designed the Imagination Building; Ron Herron was a member of Archigram; Archigram were hugely influenced by the work of Cedric Price etc. I’d categorised my pocket regarding Imagination Building under a ‘thread’ called "architecture". The Cedric Price pocket had been filed under the somewhat oblique thread name "species of spaces" (after Perec?). The Urban Tapestries software can make no possible connection between these two potentially related entries; and users can make no possible connections either, due to not being able to sensibly browse other existing thread names before choosing a thread name for their pocket.

To be fair, I haven’t been able to spend much time Urban Tapestrying … I haven’t wound it into my daily life of objects; I just haven’t felt the urge to use it much. I guess I’m struggling with the device’s mixture of latent utility and idle browsing pleasure. The ‘drift’ alluded to (presumably drawn from the Situationist notion of dérive) generally doesn’t fit into a busy multitasked life as a plausible activity – the real drift is more of a side effect of activity than an activity in its own right. Given that we can’t all be Guy Debord. Thankfully. The sense of following someone’s thread doesn’t really equate to the dérive – a true drift is less directed.  Even the elements of chance involved in daily life (I don’t always walk the same way to work, even though it’s exactly the same A-to-B every day) still don’t quite fit with the active concentration required to fire up Urban Tapestries (on the extra P800 – honestly, the amount of personal tech in my bag is getting silly!). It somehow needs to be more seamless (consistent ID and functionality carried across all my devices rather than just one? Upload a simple marker to be re-edited later via a web interface/laptop?).

Though now I’ve found something genuinely interesting, things might change.

Connection time is still just too slow – again preventing frequent seamless interaction. I was loitering outside the British Museum in the middle of the night, trying to take a picture of the wondrous stone lions imperiously guarding its rear entrance, and my data would just not upload. It wasn’t somewhere I particularly wanted to hang around (the private gardens opposite are invisibly marked as some kind of late night drugs exchange). It finally uploaded, after many thwarted attempts at connecting, but it took ages. This happens too often for comfort – but hey, it’s a trial.

It’s often easier to sit at home and enter data – but if that was the point, it’d be a lot easier to sit at home and enter data via my laptop (full size keyboard, reliable connection, bigger screen etc.).

I also discovered an entry I made about Senate House in the previous trial (attributed to "utlt_44" or something) but was unable to edit it and add in a weblink to my post here on same. The map is already getting a bit clogged up with criss-crossing lines of information, with the result that it feels simultaneously impenetrable and compelling. Interesting.

Threads created since last time:

  • "statues" (the aforementioned lions; more to follow – a bit like Smoke magazine’s excellent series ‘London’s Campest Statues’, perhaps)
  • "london on film" (denoting film locations in the area i.e. Batman Begins at Senate House; Peeping Tom on Percy Street/Rathbone Place etc.);
  • "dear ken" (capturing notes I want London mayor Ken Livingstone to read i.e. why the cafe in Russell Square doesn’t have better opening hours, why Bedford Square can’t be made more accessible etc.)
  • Tags

    4 responses to “Urban Tapestries: second trial: update 2”

    1. Giles Lane Avatar

      Dan – good to hear such excellent feedback, and I can only wish that we had the time and resources to have added all the functionality (most of which is enabled on the server but not yet on the client device) which you would like to use. Give us another year of development time, access to better devices and faster mobile data networks and pretty much everything you’ve asked for will be working!
      The key thing for us all to remember that UT is not a service prototype, but a research platform trying to discover all the possible needs and desires that such a public authoring system would need to be truly useful (perhaps even transformative) of our relationships to place, people and local knowledge. What we are trying to do with the trial is to get an impression of what parts of the concept work, and where more work needs to be done.
      Hopefully such insight as you’ve provided (and the other participants) will enable us to continue developing the system and provide a real basis for how future public authoring platforms could emerge.


    2. paul schutze Avatar

      just read your comments re Price and Heron. Curiously I visited both in their offices (Cedric was indeed just around the corner from your current address) and interviewed each for the Deus Ex Machina book I was co editing at the time (1985). They were both extrodinarily generous with their time and brandy with Cedric at ten in the morning was truly memorable.


    3. Avatar

      Urbantapestries, location based public authoring

      La gente de Proboscis acaba de terminar las segunda fase de pruebas de UrbanTapestries, una combinacion de GPRS y notas (NO mensajes) junto a Location Based Services que permite a la gente dejar anotaciones virtuales en un lugar cualquiera siempre…


    4. Avatar

      Urbantapestries, location based public authoring

      La gente de Proboscis acaba de terminar las segunda fase de pruebas de UrbanTapestries, una combinacion de GPRS y notas (NO mensajes) junto a Location Based Services que permite a la gente dejar anotaciones virtuales en un lugar cualquiera siempre…


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