urban tapestries


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social tapestries

Public Authoring and Civil Society
Social Tapestries is a research initiative developing experimental uses of public authoring to demonstrate the social and cultural benefits of local knowledge sharing enabled by new mobile technologies. These playful and challenging experiments will build upon the Urban Tapestries framework and software platform developed by Proboscis and its partners. Through collaborations and partnerships with other civil society organisations we will address education, social housing, community arts and local government.

By designing and implementing a series of experiments in real world situations, Social Tapestries will aim to reveal the potential of public authoring to:

  • create and support relationships that transcend existing social and cultural boundaries;
  • enable the development of new social and creative practices based around place, identity and community;
  • reveal the potential costs as well as benefits.

The areas we are exploring are:

  • education and learning
    looking at how local informal knowledges can be gathered, represented, understood and shared by schoolchildren and lifelong learners.
  • community engagement & arts
    working with artists as facilitators for local communities in engaging with regeneration contexts and local issues.
  • social housing & environment (active citizenship)
    exploring how new forms of neighbourliness could emerge where existing physical structures (such as tower blocks) create barriers and where issues such as safety and presence in the community can be addressed through sharing information and knowledge.
  • local government & public services
    assessing the impacts on communities of locally specific information gathered by local public services; and local residents ability to interact with such agencies through public authoring systems.

Proboscis ran a Creative Lab in September 2004 to explore the ideas of Social Tapestries and to identify and establish potential collaborations with arts and civil society organisations to help us create the experiments. The Social Tapestries experiments offer a platform to devise and understand actual uses of public authoring by people going about their everyday lives.

Education & Learning 1: Kingswood Social Tapestry
Proboscis collaborated with Kingswood High School near Hull to design a set of tools and activities that introduced the concept of local knowledge gathering, mapping and sharing with Year 7 students (11-12 year olds).
The aim of the project is to impact the relevance of learning by making it proximate to the environment in which the students live. Students will be asked throughout the year to gather and map specific phenomena which can then be studied across the curriculum.
Proboscis aims to develop a model and toolkit for other schools to apply this approach to associative learning, as well as to make the process sustainable and transferable.

Community & Arts 1: Robotic Feral Public Authoring
Proboscis has won an EPSRC award to host the renown artist/engineer Natalie Jeremijenko of UC San Diego on a Visiting Fellowship during 2004/05.
We will be collaborating with Natalie to adapt her Feral Robots (toy robot dogs reconfigured to act as independent mobile pollution sensors) to create a model for using hobbyist robotics and public authoring as social activism, and as triggers for new social and cultural encounters.
We are just embarking on partnerships with SPACE Studios and the London Knowledge Lab to begin working with a local community in Hackney with whom we will identify a local environmental condition and develop a prototype feral robot to sense and map the pollution as part of a public event to raise awareness of and focus attention on the issue.

Education & Learning 2: STAMPS
System for TAgging Messages, Post-inferential Semantics
Proboscis is collaborating with researchers from the CRAFT (Computer Supported Collaborative Learning) Lab at EPFL Lausanne (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) on a 3 year PhD research project exploring the cognitive processes used by people to infer elements of spatialised communications.
EPFL will use Urban Tapestries as their test platform running 2-3 trials over 2 years in order to develop intelligent algorithms based on semantic descriptions of spatialised communication to enable smart meta data to be automatically added to spatial annotations.
The first trial with an estimated 10 participants is anticipated to run in London for up to 2 months during Spring 2005.

Active Citizenship 1: Eyes on the Street
Proboscis is developing a collaborative project with Citizens Online and the Community Development Foundation to explore the potential and appropriateness of social technologies to help address issues of liveability, and community engagement in community safety.
The intention is to work with people in a specific neighbourhood to investigate the potential for systems like Urban Tapestries to meet the needs of people in a community to have effective 'eyes on the street’, creating possibilities for new approaches to neighbourliness, community reporting on local environmental conditions and other social interactions.
The design process will be adaptive and people-centred, with the intention of creating appropriate uses and interfaces for people with different lifestyles, capabilities and levels of interest.

Community & Arts 2: Neighbourhood Games
John Paul Bichard is leading a research project exploring the feasibility of gaming as a social tool. The project will look at ways in which social multiplayer games can be developed and sustained in a local neighbourhood environment.  The aim is to develop a games methodology that has the potential to allow a broad demographic to play in the everyday environment across race, age and gender. 
A fundamental part of human social activity is play, whether private or shared, solitary or in groups. Play functions on a number of levels, one of which could be as a means of exploring, testing and defining the ‘neighbourhood’ as both a social place and an interpersonal mechanism. Neighbourhood Games looks at a way of developing simple games layers within familiar environments – in relation to the research carried out to date in UT, it will draw on notions of community, age separation and hidden stories with an aim to establish clear directions for ongoing research and development.

Community & Arts 3: RoadMarker
Nick West is leading a project to research and demonstrate ways to make and hear spatial annotations while driving. As an extension to the Urban Tapestries system of marking and examining space, the annotations can be created on the fly while driving or riding; they can also be constructed or edited while on the web. Both drivers and passengers will be able to listen to these annotations from a mobile device that is with them in their vehicle.

Education & Learning 3: Architecture Week 2005
Proboscis is collaborating with Arts Council England to use the new Urban Tapestries web interface to map the commissioned tours of London by architects and critics for Architecture Week. Members of the public will be bale to sign up to Urban Tapestries to explore the tours online as well as to create their own, building up a large online and searchable database of local knowledge about the architecture of London.

Active Citizenship 2: Mobility Field Experiment
Proboscis will run a small field trial in Summer 2005 with a group of people with physical impairments. The participants will be able to use the public authoring system to annotate access issues relating to the physical infrastructure of the city. The aim is to begin to understand the everyday practical issues faced by people with mobility difficulties in the urban environment – providing key information to surveyors and mapping agencies about what additional features needs to be mapped (such as kerb height), as well as a public way of mapping and sharing locally specific information crucial to a variety of communities.

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