Monday, November 17, 2008

Playful spaces - take a swing!

Bruno Taylor is master in industrial design, and he had a question: What has happened to playing in the streets? Fewer and fewer children are playing outside in the public areas. Taylor has shaped his question as a swing in a bus stop and recorded the reaction towards the installation:

This is not a game (which is what I am studying) but it is still relevant as it deals with the restrictions and possibilities there when inviting for play in public space.

A few people actually take a swing, some pose on the swing to take a photo - which in my perception is also a form of play. Some just look puzzled and distrustful towards the alien swing in the bus stop.

A bus stop is a context for waiting, often together with a bunch of strangers. People waiting there are together even though they are not. For me at least it is a dull time, where a bit of excitement would be much welcomed. But is it acceptable for adults to play in the streets? Does the design of modern cities invite for play?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ubiquitous computing - where it all started

In 1991 Mark Weiser wrote the article: "The Computer for the 21st Century" presenting the visions for future computing that he and his colleagues at Xerox PARC worked at.

Weiser states that the greatest technologies are the ones that are not noticed anymore. They are constantly present in the background, but do not call for attention. They are ready with the information we need when we need it.

Weiser advocates for a different approach to thinking about computing, one that takes natural human environment into account. The focus should be the task at hand - not the technology.

When people are very familar with a technology then they do not notice it anymore according to Weiser. He makes references to Georg Gadamer and Martin Heideggers notion of "horisont" as an equivalence to concept that the person ceases to be aware of his knowledge when something is learned sufficiently well.

Weiser also labels ubiquitous computing "embodied virtuality" - which is the process of "unleashing" computers in physical space. This is opposite to "virtual reality" that aims at re-creating the world within the virtual world.

In embodied virtuality it is very important that the ubiquitous computers know where they are and that the right scale is chosen.

The location awareness ensures that the technology can fairly easily adapt to the environment. The scale gives different possibilities. In the 90ties they worked with Tads, Pads and Yards (the former is smallest, the latter biggest). The strength of the concept is not the devices in themselves but what emerges from the interaction between them.

Finally ubiquitous computing aim at focus at the task and the "people in the other end" more than on the tool.

Weiser is mainly dealing with computing for workspace whereas I am interested in using the technology in an entertainment setting.

As Weisers' - and his colleagues' - ideas are the beginning of ubiquitous computing and thereby pervasive computing it makes out the basic idea behind pervasive gaming.

WEISER, Mark "The Computer for the 20st Century", 1991, Scientific American, pp. 933-940