Urban Tapestries

Urban Tapestries

Took part in the Urban Tapestries public authoring trial, last weekend in Bloomsbury. Lots of good fun to experience the concept of Space Annotation in action. I think I may have surprised them with how much I enjoyed it (in the feedback, I compared it to early aviation) considering that the prototype technology was really scruffy.

IPAQ (we snickered IRAQ) handheld, Flash MX based map, communicating XMLRPC over wireless to a database in Dallas, TX. It crawled and crashed, as the poor CPU couldn’t handle the amount of data in this Flash app. Also strange, every character input when authoring did a round trip to the server (in Dallas). I would’ve dropped the wireless aspect completely for the trial, instead just sync’ing up back at headquarters.

Despite that, it was tons of fun. It was amazing being out in the public, this device access to the unseen world of past moments. The sometimes anonymous city was thick with personality. For ourselves, it became a sort of conjuring device for memories. We’ve stayed in the area before. Remembered loading up a rental car with our luggage, in front of Bonnigtons Hotel, for the last leg of the move to Brighton. That rental car was a Golden Volvo, which we felt semi-lucky in tacky way to rent, until it later caught the attention of some very efficient car thieves! We also stayed for a night in the Generator Hostel a couple years ago. That marked the end of our hostel days. In Russell Square, on a classic day of wandering around London, we came across a wildlife display, a couple dozen trained owls and hawks, beautiful and fierce.

Urban Tapestries is a cultural research project. They’re funded for a year, by some big names, so maybe they’ll be developing a more robust system further on? They really were more culturally focused, than technologically, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The researcher on hand for our trial had also developed a weblog for London bus 73 (and received a three month research grant to do it!). I lent a hand with her moveabletype template.

One major problem that will need to be solved is spatial information organization and filtering. Metadata is even more key to making mobile tech useable than the web — you just don’t have enough bandwith to look and look.