"Blocks like the Bonaventure building claim to be perfect, self-sufficient miniature cities: But they cut themselves off from the city more than they interact with it. They stop seeing it. They refract it like a dark surface. All around, the tinted glass facades of the buildings are like faces: frosted surfaces. It is as though there were no one inside the buildings, as if there were no one behind the faces. And there really is no one. This is what the ideal city is like."
"Communication will be everywhere, but because it is independent of place, it will be situated nowhere."
How is our relationship with people and space being affected by wireless technologies in public space? What are the social implications of these technologies (WiFi and ubiquitous computing) on public life?
PUBLICBYTES is a public intervention that disrupts the daily routine and digital practices so as to initiate dialogue on local design. It acts as a "communicative tactical tool" to share/reflect the human experiences and urban voices.
Public bytes as a mobile appliance and tool using wifi and rfid, disrupts individuals isolated routines and digital practices to spark dialogue on shared experience and initiate civic engagement in a community.
It is a mobile unit that creates a WiFi hotspot in public parks and hijacks browsers and redirects them to a local network so as to engage them in their real surroundings and to initiate civic engagement in a community.
When you are at a public park where PUBLICBYTES is situated, you connect to publicbytes and go to the usual online services you go to like facebook or google, however unexpectedly you find yourself on publicbytes page where simple questions about that specific community, are being listed for you to participate in this feedback sharing/exchanging experience. After submitting your feedback, a unique I.D. is given to track your feedback.
After submitting feedback on the site, a unique I.D. is given to track your feedback. At this point participants comments are stored in a database and streamed in the mobile unit to redirect the physical traffic and flow of people in the park to a physical interface to seed further participation and possible social encounters that normally do not happen. RFID tag chips are used to track each unique participant feedback on the site.
Languages Used: openFrameworks, Arduino, PHP
PublicBytes works as a closed system where
• Router(Linkys wrt-54GT) runs a customized firmware called DD_WRT to create its hotspot and redirect browsers-
• All the browsers are directed webpage -that is hosted by local server MAMP-
• Database connected to the webpage- stores the feedback the participants submit
• Meanwhile openFrameworks calls the data rows being added to the database by outputting them in an XML format to start processing this data
• Arduino runs in the background to read RFID values and sends the data as bytes to openFrameworks(oF) then oF calls each RFID value and the data row matching in the database and visualize them.
Iterations on different mediums
I have tried implementing different forms of mediums that would enable communication inside a local community. I have worked on scenarios and different platforms to gather community members' stories and inputs. I tested this setting with cubes where RFID tags are embedded on each side that encapsulate a different story. As users interact with cubes, RFID tags on each side triggers a different story and projects into the wall where anyone in that public space can see and contribute. However cubes were limited to a certain number of stories and for the user it was complicated to associate their stories with a random surface side of a cube. So it didn't achieve the sense of belonging in the user. In another scenario, I tried to integrate a touch screen for users to read different community members' stories by touching certain tags on the surface to read the rest of the story. However the cons were a touch surface was very artificial in a public space setting and maintaining and managing a very heavy touch surface wouldn't be feasible.
Iterations on different web interfaces
I have also tested out different concepts to initiate conversation inside a community. I started with a platform for storytelling and chatting with people in physical proximity. My goal was creating a digital yet local platform for community members to communicate with each other without worrying about their anonymity. From that direction, I moved to a more community intervention approach where I listed questions related to public social landscape. I tested out different set of questions, different themes that relate to communal life and different layouts to see how users engage in. Throughout the testing, I have seen that people contribute less once they are overwhelmed by the number of questions listed. Also they seem to react more positive to more minimal interfaces.
Iterations on different data visualizations
I also tried different visualization principles for the story/feedback outputs. After the users inputs their feedback related to their community experience, all data is collected, visualized and projected on a surface. In one of my tests, I worked on a Computer Vision algorithm where users can interact with a tag cloud and read everyone's personal contribution to this public conversation. In another trial, I tested out a more static wall projection where users can view rather than interact. After seeing that people engage in an interactive display more than a static visualization, I moved on to a visualization where each particle represent an RFID tag that encapsulates a different story.