[Research] Meaning and Structure in Everyday Encounters with Space

Getting Out of the City: Meaning and Structure in Everyday Encounters with Space (.pdf) by Genevieve Bell and Paul Dourish was their talk at the Urban Computing Workshop ('Ubicomp in the urban frontier') that occured last september (I'm late blogging this). I really appreciate Dourish's take on space, generally speaking. His concept of "social navigation" is definitely true and we can feel this concept in the ubicomp paper. The authors insists in on human encounters with urban (and other) environments and the layering of structure (physical, historical, cultural experience) in cities. And, infrastructures define elements of the experience of space: like the naming of streets is an infrastructure for encountering and experiencing the city, traffic flows, parking patterns, service times, regions and neighborhoods... Their point is that technology will add more infrastructure (wandering about trying to find cell phone signal, or a wirelss access point).

space is organized not just physically but culturally. (...) architecture is all about boundaries and transitions and their intersections with human and social practice. (...) new technologies inherently cause people to re-encounter spaces (...) there is already a complex interaction between space, infrastructure, culture, and experience. The spaces into which new technologies are deployed are not stable, not uniform, and not given. Technology can destabilize and transform these interactions, but will only ever be one part of the mix. We need to design not simply for settings, but for the processes by [which] practice and meaning evolve.

What is of interest for my is this notion of "infrastructures that define elements of the experience of space" with a peculiar attraction to social experiences like for instance wandering around to find a wireless access so that I could locate my partner on a map (using a lbs). That's something I would like to address in the catchbob experiment.