Philadipity: An entry in the Gigabit City Contest
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“The joy of cities, their creativity, energy and diversity, comes from the clash of many cultures and systems in close proximity, or layered on top of one another. To live in the city is to live in the midst of every conceivable kind of person, thing, vocation and pass-time. Our senses are bombarded all of the time, and we are time and again surprised by unknown things and chance encounters. This is the essence of the city: there is no creativity without serendipity.” FutureEverything – Serendipity City Challenge
We propose to enter Philadelphia into FutureEverything’s Serendipity City Challenge, a global call for “a new generation of Serendipity Apps, ones that surprise us, and that reroute our experience of the city in mesmerizing, outrageous ways.” Philadelphia is a perfect city to meet the Serendipity City Challenge because of its excellent streetscape, its dense social networks and historic neighborhoods, its “cosmopolitan canopies” (Anderson 2004) like Reading Terminal Market, and its growing tribe of code-writers, software start-ups, and creative arts and media collaborators.
FutureEverything suggests: “The opening up of public data sets and the roll out of a grid of high bandwidth connectivity can transform the public realm and the way we live and interact in urban areas. We are increasingly able to digitally search and interrogate the city. Social tools can be layered over the city, giving us real time access to information about the things and people that surround us, helping us to connect in new ways, and giving rise to a data-driven society.” Gigabit speed (“infinite bandwith, zero latency”) will be needed to support Next Generation Access: the movement and accessibility of data, images, and interactions within the serendipitous city at more than 100Mbps It will also support co-present experience and interaction for remote groups as part of FutureEverything’s new model for a Globally Networked Event (GloNet).
Harnessing the resources of Drexel University (including Digital Media and Computer Science students, RePlay Gaming Lab, URBN Center, and mCenter) and Breadboard/NextFab at the University City Science Center we will create PHILADIPITY – an Open Data design challenge to release information to the public and create new apps for serendipitous encounters in Philadelphia. Adam Greenfield (author of Everyware) has selected some of the best existing Serendipity Apps including NYCWay, Everyblock, Museum of the Phantom City, Nearest Tube, Foursquare, Pachube, and even Google Maps itself. PHILADIPITY will build on these models to advance a locative gaming-based model of serendipitous encounter in the urban public realm.
PHILADIPITY will put Philadelphia on the map of Serendipity Apps, with Gigabit broadband turning it into an Open Data City with every kind of dataset opened up to the imaginative creation of new chance encounters with the city: from the names of trees (see San Francisco Trees), to historic photo archives and the stories to go with them (PhilaPlace.org), hidden film footage (Secret Cinema), to cycling, traffic, and transit info (Septime.org), to crime reports (SpotCrime) and street repairs (i.e., Government 2.0), and news of nearby art galleries and cultural events. As we ramble through the streetscape it will interact with us, while we will be able to interact with others, engage more deeply with places, access flickering collective memories or take actions as citizens to make a difference for the public realm.
Greenfield goes even further in his vision of a read/write city of responsive networked public objects. “What if we imagined that the citizen-responsiveness system we’ve designed lives in a dense mesh of active, communicating public objects”, which was “like an operating system for cities”. We could envision objects throughout Philadelphia with addressability (public objects each with its own unique identifier, or address), queryability (API allows us to pull information off of them in a meaningful, structured way), and scriptability (the ability to push instructions back to connected resources) – imagine if your favorite bench, or park, or mural could tell a story, record a memory, play a song, or send a message to your phone.
FutureEverything’s organizers (who will be visiting the mCenter@Drexel in July) “are championing a global movement calling for the opening up of publicly held datasets in accessible formats. Cities today are vast repositories of information, endlessly collecting and archiving data. When semantically organized, the data can be exposed, shared, and interconnected. Giving people the right kind of access to this information can spark new applications and services, new ways of living, creating and being.” We want to promote an Open Data Gigabit Philadelphia that will spark a new generation of creative entrepreneurship and, just as crucially, social entrepreneurship and urban sustainability. We can advance the transition towards the networked city of tomorrow, based on the “internet of things” (Sterling 2005, 2006) and “blogjects” (Bleecker 2006), right here in Philadelphia, building on our strong traditions of urban diversity, technological invention, and cultural innovation.
Anderson, Elijah (2004) Being Here and Being There: Fieldwork Encounters and Ethnographic Discoveries. Special Editors: Elijah Anderson, Scott N. Brooks, Raymond Gunn, and Nikki Jones. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Volume 595, September 2004.
Bleecker, J., (2006) A Manifesto for Networked Objects – Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things or Why Things Matter, available from http://www.nearfuturelaboratory.com/2006/02/26/a-manifesto-for-networked-objects/
Crang, M. & Graham, S. (2007) Sentient Cities: Ambient Intelligence and the Politics of Urban Space, Information, Communication & Society 11(6), pp. 789-817.
FutureEverything Festival and Conference: http://www.futureeverything.org/about.
Greenfield, Adam. (2006) Everyware: the dawning age of ubiquitous computing (New Riders Publishing)
Greenfield’s selection of best Serendipity Apps: http://www.futureeverything.org/blog/2010/04/serendipity-cities-apps-bringing-it-all-back-home/
Sterling, B. (2005) Shaping Things (Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press)
Sterling, B. (2006) Viridian Note 00459: Emerging Technology 2006, Viridian, Available from http://www.viridiandesign.org/2006/03/viridian-note-00459-emerging.html
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