Urban Informatics » From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen (MIT Press 2011)

From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen:
Urban Informatics, Social Media, Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement

Edited by

Marcus Foth, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Laura Forlano, Cornell University, USA
Christine Satchell, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Martin Gibbs, University of Melbourne, Australia

Web 2.0 tools, including blogs, wikis, and photo sharing and social networking sites, have made possible a more participatory Internet experience. Much of this technology is available for mobile phones, where it can be integrated with such device-specific features as sensors and GPS. From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen examines how this increasingly open, collaborative, and personalizable technology is shaping not just our social interactions but new kinds of civic engagement with cities, communities, and spaces. It offers analyses and studies from around the world that explore how the power of social technologies can be harnessed for social engagement in urban areas.

Chapters by leading researchers in the emerging field of urban informatics outline the theoretical context of their inquiries, describing a new view of the city as a hybrid that merges digital and physical worlds; examine technology-aided engagement involving issues of food, the environment, and sustainability; explore the creative use of location-based mobile technology in cities from Melbourne, Australia, to Dhaka, Bangladesh; study technological innovations for improving civic engagement; and discuss design research approaches for understanding the development of sentient real-time cities, including interaction portals and robots.

The MIT Press

Foth, M., Forlano, L., Satchell, C., & Gibbs, M. (Eds.) (2011). From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen: Urban Informatics, Social Media, Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

7 x 9 • 544 pp. • 108 illus. • ISBN 978-0-262-01651-3 • US$50.00 • cloth

About the Editors

Marcus Foth, Founder and Director of the Urban Informatics Research Lab, is Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow with the Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation at Queensland University of Technology. Laura Forlano is a Postdoctoral Associate at Cornell University. Christine Satchell is Senior Research Fellow at the Urban Informatics Research Lab. Martin Gibbs is a Lecturer in the Department of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne.

For more information visit the MIT Press website: http://mitpress.mit.edu/9780262016513 or QUT eprints >

Section 1: Theories of Engagement

Phoebe Sengers, Cornell University, USA

1. The Ideas and Ideals in Urban Media Theory
Martijn de Waal, University of Groningen, NL

2. The Moral Economy of Social Media
Paul Dourish, University of California, Irvine, USA, & Christine Satchell, QUT, Australia

3. The Protocological Surround: Reconceptualising Radio and Architecture in the Wireless City
Gillian Fuller, & Ross Harley, University of NSW, Australia

4. Mobile Media and the Strategies of Urban Citizenship: Control, Responsibilisation, Politicisation
Kurt Iveson, University of Sydney, Australia

Section 2: Civic Engagement

Yvonne Rogers, Open University, UK

5. Advancing Design for Sustainable Food Cultures
Jaz Hee-jeong Choi, QUT, & Eli Blevis, Indiana University, USA

6. Building Digital Participation Hives: Toward a Local Public Sphere
Fiorella de Cindio, & Cristian Peraboni, University of Milano, Italy

7. Between Experience, Affect, and Information: Experimental Urban Interfaces in the Climate Change Debate
Jonas Fritsch, & Martin Brynskov, Aarhus University, Denmark

8. More than Friends: Social and Mobile Media for Activist Organizations
Tad Hirsch, Intel People and Practices Research, USA

9. Gardening Online: A Tale of Suburban Informatics
Bjorn Nansen, Jon Pearce, & Wally Smith, University of Melbourne, Australia

10. The Rise of the Expert Amateur: Citizen Science and Micro-Volunteerism
Eric Paulos, Sunyoung Kim, & Stacey Kuznetsov, Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Section 3: Creative Engagement

Gary Marsden, University of Cape Town, South Africa

11. Street Haunting: Sounding the Invisible City
Sarah Barns, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

12. Family Worlds: Technological Engagement for Families Negotiating Urban Traffic
Hilary Davis, Peter Francis, Bjorn Nansen, & Frank Vetere, University of Melbourne, Australia

13. Urban Media: New Complexities, New Possibilities — A Manifesto
Christopher Kirwan, & Sven Travis, Parsons — The New School for Design, USA

14. Bjørnetjeneste: Using the City as a Backdrop for Location-Based Interactive Narratives
Jeni Paay, & Jesper Kjeldskov, Aalborg University, Denmark

15. Mobile Interactions as Social Machines: Poor Urban Youth at Play in Bangladesh
Andrew Wong, & Richard Ling, Telenor Research & Innovation, Malaysia

Section 4: Technologies of Engagement

Atau Tanaka, Newcastle University, UK

16. Sensing, Projecting and Interpreting Digital Identity through Bluetooth: From Anonymous Encounters to Social Engagement
Ava Fatah gen. Schieck 1, Freya Palmer 2, Alan Penn 1, & Eamonn O’Neill 2
1 University College London, UK, 2 University of Bath, UK

17. The Policy and Export of Ubiquitous Place: Investigating South Korean U‐Cities
Germaine Halegoua, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

18. Engaging Citizens and Community with the UBI-Hotspots
Timo Ojala, Hannu Kukka, Tommi Heikkinen, Tomas Lindén, Marko Jurmu, Simo Hosio, & Fabio Kruger, University of Oulu, Finland

19. Crowdsensing in the Web: Analyzing the Citizen Experience in the Urban Space
Francisco C. Pereira, Andrea Vaccari, Fabien Giardin, Carnaven Chiu, & Carlo Ratti, Senseable City Lab, MIT, USA

20. Empowering Urban Communities through Social Commonalities
Laurianne Sitbon, Peter Bruza, Renato Iannella, & Sarath Indrakanti, National ICT Australia

Section 5: Design Engagement

Mark Blythe, University of York, UK

21. A Streetscape Portal
Michael Arnold, University of Melbourne, Australia

22. Nonanthropocentrism and the Nonhuman in Design: Possibilities for Designing New Forms of Engagement with and through Technology
Carl DiSalvo, & Jonathan Lukens, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

23. Building the Open Source City: Changing Work Environments for Collaboration and Innovation
Laura Forlano, Cornell University, USA

24. Dramatic Character Development Personas to Tailor Apartment Designs for Different Residential Lifestyles
Marcus Foth, Christine Satchell, Mark Bilandzic, Greg Hearn, & Danielle Shelton, QUT, Australia


Judith Donath, MIT, USA

Posted via email from Expanded Memory

ALPHA-VILLE 2011 PROGRAMME: Mediating Mediums – The Digital 3d


The upcoming alpha-ville festival in London features a whole line of interesting workshops, screenings and live action…

Posted via email from Expanded Memory

Tomer Sharon: Measuring User Experience

A four-step model for implementing user experience metrics for a new Google product:

* Define user experience goals.
* Identify signals for user experience success or failure.
* Translate signals into metrics.
* Identify ways to track metrics.

Illustrated with real-world examples from a process that took place at Google throughout 2009

Posted via web from Expanded Memory

Engaging Walls

© Watermarks Project

© Watermarks Project

“Walls are becoming screens” was the title of a recently published article in Süddeutsche Zeitung, featuring work and an interview with Ron Wood from Microsoft Research (not from the Rolling Stones for that matter…). This statement holds true for quite a number of media art and research projects having appeared in recent years, and is probably the reason why there is this very research blog you are reading now.

The notion that urban building structures can serve as a surface layer for dynamic visual design, but also as a physical element being mirrored and cited by the dynamic mediations itself, has been exemplarily shown in projects like the 555Kubik facade by urbanscreen.com, or the urban projections by easyweb.

Some examples I came across and that struck me with their formal simplicity yet highly appropriate transfer of their subject and its immediate environmental impact are being presented here:

© Watermarks Project

© Watermarks Project

The watermarks project by Chris Bodle and Claire Underhill. This is an excerpt from their project description:

Sea levels are rising due to climate change… but how much could they rise and how quickly? And how could this affect the world’s coastal cities.

Watermarks is an ongoing public art project that explores these questions. Between 6th and 12th February 2009 a series of large-scale projections were displayed at sites across the centre of Bristol (UK).

In Bristol, flood level marks were projected on to the sides of buildings, showing how high water levels could potentially rise as the sea inundates the central, low lying areas of the city. By displaying these levels in real space, the project aimed to help the audience imagine the depth and extent of this potential future flooding – allowing us to measure the possible future water levels against ourselves in familiar environments.

The Bristol projections were the first phase of Watermarks – further phases will extend the project to other cities in the UK and globally.

Climate on the Wall

Climate on the Wall

Another similar project is “Climate on the Wall” by the Danish Center for Digital Urban Living at Aarhus University. The simplicity of the interaction metaphor it is using (magnetic poetry, most of us might know from various flat-share kitchens) guarantees an enjoyable interaction experience, not only with the dynamic system, but also together with other people and passers-by.

The way the projected words are formally adapted to oversized dynamic speech bubbles nicely involve individuals into the mediated scene. Often, public installations or media facades at building scale exactly fail at this point, and sometimes are not much more than mere decorative elements within the urban landscape. However, as this example is showing, a simple yet playful interaction taking into account its geographical and individually public location is a great opportunity for mediated architecture and display.

Digital Water Pavillon

DWP Day two-008998

© Digital Water Pavillon at http://www.dwp.qaop.net

The Digital Water Pavillon has been designed and built for the Expo in Zaragoza 2008 as a tourit office and information point for the Digital Mile project. Its facade is made of a digitally controlled water curtain, acting as a permeable division between outside and inside.

It contains over three thousand digitally-operated solenoid valves, twelve hydraulic pistons, several dozen oil and water pumps, a camera-operated control system, a good deal of controlling software, and many other components.

DWP day tre-009110

© Digital Water Pavillon

The building itself seems like a kinetic object, sensing and reacting to the nearby environment and able to transform not only its wet surface, but also its shape according to the current usage. It is becoming a central point for retrieving information, but even more importantly for playful interaction, where people are enjoying themselves.

The Pavilion is down, in closed operational mode. The roof is on the ground, covered by a thin layer of water. Only two volumes in glass, containing the Digital Mile info point and the tourist office, project upwards. It is a new medium, and a rather exceptional one. It is made of thousands of closely spaced solenoid valves put in a row along a pipe suspended in the air. The valves can be opened and closed, at high frequency, via computerized controls. This produces a curtain of falling water with gaps at specified points – a pattern of pixels created from air and water instead of illuminated points on a screen.
The entire surface becomes a one-bit-deep digital display continuously scrolling downwards. Something like an inkjet printer on a huge scale. So, how to make really fluid, reconfigurable architecture? Our building aims to stand as a possible answer to that endeavor. Fluid in the literal sense of the word. But also fluid as a reconfigurable, responsive building. The difference between wall and door can disappear. Facades can become a continuous medium that open and close interactively. The water itself is dynamic: it can display graphics, patterns and text. But, most importantly, it can almost become alive with patterns that are generated in real time, replicated from one point to another and which respond to the nearby environment. The presence of people can be sensed by the DWP and this plays an important role in the dynamic process, allowing waves and other distortions to be generated.

DWP day tre-009077

© Digital Water Pavillon

Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT, describes the project in his talk at LIFT Conference (towards the end, around 17min 50 sec):

Carlo Ratti “The Sensable City” (Lift09 EN) from Lift Conference on Vimeo.

Project partners included:

La Vitrine

La Vitrine – Montreal from steven bulhoes on Vimeo.

La Vitrine is “Montreals’s cultural window”, a tourist information office promoting cultural events in the Greater Montreal Area.  They have been recently installing a permanent outdoor interactive wall, featuring a low-resolution led matrix and built-in sensor technology.

From the press release:

Thanks to the creative talent of Moment Factory, passersby can come interact with the luminous forms displayed on the giant screen. A technical and artistic achievement, the screen is lit with 35,000 LED bulbs and is an achievement of the Quartier des spectacles Partnership in collaboration with La Vitrine.

via computerarts.ca

this happened…

This happened... Some of the talks so far.

This happened... Some of the talks so far.

This happened is a series of events focusing on the stories behind interaction design. Having ideas is easier than making them happen. We delve into projects that exist today, how their concepts and production process can help inform future work.

Interaction design companies are often too closed off to the outside. We want to encourage people to be more open in their methods and ideas. We aim to have a mix of established practitioners, commercial companies and students. We want to encourage the perspectives from the other side of the fence, so will also be inviting curators and commissioners of work to give presentations.


Liv-lit at KEPCO Building, Osaka

Touch the Light. KEPCO building responding to user interactions.

Touch the Light. KEPCO building responding to user interactions.

Liv-lit (Lighting as Live Reflector) is an interactive lighting system at the top of the Kansai Electric Power Company Building in Nakanoshima, Osaka, completed in December 2004.

The “Live Reflector” is a new concept in urban lighting that informs us about the surrounding environment in real time. The lights come on as the sun goes down, reflecting the actual movements of the wind.

In December 2005, an interactive feature was added, that reflects the movements of people: Touch the Light.

Touch the Light. Functional sketch.

Touch the Light. Functional sketch.

Media Facades Festival Berlin 2008

source: mediaarchitecture.org

source: mediaarchitecture.org

Last weekend I have been lucky to attend the Media Facades Festival in Berlin. For the second time, after last years take-off as Media Architecture Conference at the CSM Innovation Center in London, organizers and curators Susa Pop, Mirjam Struppek, Gernot Tscherteu and Oliver Schürer managed to gather a quite illustre and international crowd of theoreticians, practitioners, manufacturers as well as outstanding projects in the field of contemporary urban digital display, this time at the Deutsches Architekturzentrum in Berlin. The Festival combines life screenings, an exhibition and a conference, and is one of the rare occasions to meet many of the internationally active key figures in this relatively young field of mediated urban space.

There’s a growing need for the research of different creative contents that are able to make these new media for urban space vivid and attractive. Creatives in the different areas of media and culture are confronted with entirely new challenges in respect to resolution and distribution of pixels; there are also new forms of interaction arising from the specific dimensions of size and distance that differ basically from classical media formats.

The content of media facades and digital moving Images in public spaces should not only be determined by market forces, yet should follow urban necessities. Therefore we aim to transform the growing number of digital architectural surfaces in our cities into experimental visual zone on the threshold of virtual and urban public space, contributing to a liveable urban society.

I only managed to attend day 2 of the conference, however the panel topics as well as the invited speakers (.pdf) promised to be very interesting: The day started off with project presentations by Marc Largent, Magic Monkey and Dr. Hank Häusler, SIAL, RMIT Melbourne;

Grand Lisboa Casino by Magic Monkey. Image © cnmark (Flickr)

Grand Lisboa Casino by Magic Monkey. Image © cnmark (Flickr)

Hank Häussler

Hank Häussler

Next, leading managers of Arup Lighting Europe/Worldwide, Rogier van der Heide, Rudi Scheuermann and Andrew Hall joined the presenters to engage the panel and audience in a discussion about light as a space-defining means in architecture, the role of communication, context and dynamics in the planning process as well as sustainability issues raised in current debates about energy efficiency.

GreenPix: Zero Energy Wall, Bejing

Arup Lighting: GreenPix. Zero Energy Wall, Bejing

Although this part of the programme was quite successful in generating a vivid and open discussion, the lack of a specific focus of this particular “workshop” was a bit of a backdrop, resulting in a few quite general and superficial discussions about “interdisciplinarity”, the quest for relevant “content”/”social participation”, or “sustainability”. However, it surely brought up questions for later discussions at lunch.

The next panel, named “Perception and behavior – facing Urban Media” was hosted by Mirjam Struppek.

Urban scenarios are always part of an interactive as well as competitive process. Any medially enhanced urban environment will amplify these dynamics. Has the medial intensity reached the limits of human perceptive capacities? Is there an aesthetic answer? What is the position of art, how can art stand out against the glut of information in public space and not be perceived in terms of mere spectacle?

Daniel Michelis, a recent PhD graduate from UdK, Berlin presented quite an interesting insight into his research on human computer interaction within urban screened environments. His presentation on findings and some resulting methods for engaging with passer-bys can be found here. Next Ursula Stalder, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Luzern, talked about “Media@Work: Out of home displays”, showing some interesting examples of hyper-real spaces in art and commerce, such as a public staging of an operette in a commuter surrounding (La Traviata at Zurich main station), as well as debating aspects the representation of commercial values in contemporary car museums (Mercedes-Benz or BMW as hyper-real spaces). Odd Arne Blindheim, Director WideMediaGroup, Bergen gave a talk about responsibility in merging light, graphics and video in public spaces, e.g. regarding visual pollution or energy consumption. He had some interesting thoughts on what the effects might be for developing ambient visualisations “inspired by nature”, as well as how the urban planning process needs to be adapted to such possibilities. While he clearly sees current drivers of mediated architecture in advertising and art, he suggests that usage by security technology and public information systems will be highly important in the future.

After some more project presentations by Stefan Hofmann from LichtKunstLicht and Sakchin Bessette, Moment Factory – by the way really great work for the current 2008 NineInchNails Tour, the next panel, called “Dynamic Ornament- Towards a new Iconography?” was hosted by Dr. Oliver Schürer.

MomentFactory: Schematic visualisation for Perkins Rowe

MomentFactory: Schematic visualisation for Perkins Rowe

MomentFactory on the responsive large scale video installations for the 2008 NIN-Tour

What are the cultural signifiers that could generate new forms of digital urban content? AS a new mass medium, media facades could become more influential than radio, TV or the Internet. The potential of a specific iconography or of user interaction has not been discussed yet. What are the opportunities offered by light emitting or kinetic components? Why are traditional media formats being reproduced on media facades?

Christopher Bauder, WHITEvoid interactive art & design, showed some recent projects developed partly as concept, prototype and final artistic piece. He explained the development of the Flare Facade prototype, the Moving Wall project and a lounge object called Polygon Playground as an artistic art piece.

Christopher Bauder from WhiteVoid

Christopher Bauder from WhiteVoid

Dr. Andrea Gleiniger, ZHdK, ETH CAAD, titled her lecture “Architekturen des Augenblicks” after a term coined by Franz Hessel in the 1920s. She gave an overview on the notion of imagery in (public) space in a historc context, from Georg C. Lichtenberg (1775), Walter Benjamin, Lazlo Moholy Nagy, to Venturi/Scott-Brown’s Learning from Las Vegas, Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and Toyo Ito’s 1986 “Tower of Winds“. She ended by questioning there is a new quality of simulation, namely the simulation of public through mediated architecture.

Dr. A. Gleiniger: Lewis Mumford

Dr. A. Gleiniger: Lewis Mumford

Prof. Christa Sommerer, Interfacedesign Universität für Gestaltung Linz, gave her own quick overview on the history of interactive art, in an architectural context, highlighting among others some of the works of christian möller or monika fleischmann and identifying an austrian predecessor of the better-known blinkenlights, called “Click-Scape“, developed already in 1998. Skipping through some of her earlier projects, such as “Growing interactive plants” (1992) and “Wissensgewächs”(2007), she presented her 2008 patented concept called Solar Display, a solar-powered architectural display, using solar cells as pixel elements and mechanical tilting of each solar-cell as a means to create light/dark contrasts and “greyscale”.

Aether Architecture

Aether Architecture

Adam Somlai-Fischer, Aether Architecture, had the unfortunate role of being the last presenter on a quite dense schedule of talks and presentations. However, in a charming and entertaining way, he visually explained some of the main aspects of his practice, using methods of hacking and low-fi technology application and presenting some examples of engagement and accessibility resulting from these aproaches. Adventurous architecture at its best.

Some more impressions from the conference can be found here.