Mobile & Locative Media
Locative Media. Just as online communities are giving us digital posses and homes away from home, locative and mobile media are providing us with a means of joining a group in person at any time.
There’s A Party Somewhere
With locative media, there is always something going on.
For persons traveling to an unfamiliar section of their city, locative media can give them a sense of where to go. Let’s say a person living in the Allston section of Boston takes the wrong Green Line trolley outbound from Park Street. Instead of the B, which would take them along Commonwealth Avenue to home, they get on the E, which goes down Huntington Avenue. Instead of despairing at being lost, or turning around, or getting a bus or cab (or the correct trolley) back home, what if the unintentional explorer looks on FourSquare (or if this scenario took place before 2013, Google Latitude, the successor to Dodgeball)?
Familiar in the Unfamiliar
With locational technology, the traveler finds friends, or recommendations, or even just a bit of tracking thrown out there by people they’re connected to. If the traveler can find his or her friends, the unfamiliar space might become parochialized. As Humphreys, L. (2010). Mobile social networks and urban public space. New Media & Society, 12(5), 763-778. [Library Link | PDF] wrote, “Parochial spaces are territories characterized by ‘a sense of commonality among acquaintances and neighbors who are involved in interpersonal networks that are located within communities’ (Lofland, 1998: 10). Neighborhoods are examples of parochial spaces.” (Page 768)
The act of parochialization lends familiarity and commonality to a public space. Humphreys further stated, “Mobile social networks can help to turn public realms into parochial realms through parochialization. Parochialization can be defined as the process of creating, sharing and exchanging information, social and locational, to contribute to a sense of commonality among a group of people in public space. Sharing information through mobile social networks can help to contribute to a sense of familiarity among users in urban public spaces.” (Page 768, Ibid.)
Humphreys refers to a use of Dodgeball as a means of pre-planning parochialization, and wrote,“People also used Dodgeball to parochialize the public space when traveling with a group of people. For example, several New York participants mentioned using Dodgeball at South by Southwest, an annual music/film/hi-tech festival in Austin, Texas. A large group of colleagues and friends were at the festival and used Dodgeball to ensure meeting up with familiar people in an unfamiliar city.” (Page 773, Ibid.)
However, even a semi-serendipitous finding of like-minded individuals could happen. For our hypothetic traveler, a stroll down Huntington Avenue reveals Northeastern University and the Museum of Fine Arts. Nearby is the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum. With FourSquare checkins, the traveler knows that her friends are at the Gardiner, and she can choose to join them, or contact them and suggest a change of venue to the MFA, or avoid them by entering the campus of Northeastern.
Is the RSVP dead?
Even planned meetings have changed.
As Rheingold, H. (2002). Shibuya epiphany. In Smart mobs: The next social revolution (pp. 1–28). New York: Basic Books. [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard] wrote, “‘Kids have become loose about time and place. If you have a phone, you can be late,’ added Kawamura. Kamide, the other graduate student, agreed that it is no longer taboo to show up late: ‘Today’s taboo,’ Kamide conjectured, is ‘to forget your keitai [cell phone] or let your battery die.” I later discovered that this ‘softening of time’ was noted for the same age group in Norway. ‘The opportunity to make decisions on the spot has made young people reluctant to divide their lives into time slots, as older generations are used to doing,’ agreed another Norwegian researcher.” (Page 5)
All of this is small comfort to someone planning (and paying for) a major event like a wedding or a Bat Mitzvah. Kids may have become looser about time and place, but caterers have not.
Constantly knowing where everyone is at all times can take away the fun of accidental meetings. It can make them nigh well impossible. Continually seeking preexisting friends when in unfamiliar places can keep people from extending their hands and introducing themselves to new people. With augmented reality, the locatability isn’t even necessarily voluntary anymore.
As Lamantia, J. (2009, August 17). Inside out: Interaction design for augmented reality.UX Matters. [Link] wrote, “With tools like augmented ID on the way, what happens if your environmentally aware AR device, service, or application recognizes me and broadcasts my identity locally—or globally—when I want to remain incognito? At least until the advent of effective privacy management solutions—including hardware, software, standards, and legal frameworks—AR experiences that identify people by face, marker, or RFID tag could severely challenge our ability to do ordinary things like get lost in a crowd, sit quietly at the back of a room, or attend a surprise party for a friend.”
Even more chilling, what happens when victims are trying to escape abusers or stalkers? Constantly being locatable seems, at times, akin to the microchipping of pets. We don’t want our dogs and cats to wander too far, because we fear they’ll get lost or will be injured or even stolen. But humans are (ostensibly) smarter than all that. Shouldn’t we have the freedom to, if we want to, just go out without having a tracer put on us?