Social friction and urban computing

When Fabien and I had to find a title for our photo booklet "Sliding Friction: The Harmonious Jungle of Contemporary Cities", the notion of "friction" came up very easily in the conversation. Having read few books by Lefebvre in the last few years, it was certainly one of the reason for picking up that term. Digging my "Docs" folder on my laptop, I recently unburied a very good paper by Jensen & Lenskjoldabout similar issues. It's called "Designing for social friction: Exploring ubiquitous computing as means of cultural interventions in urban space".

Here's how they define this "social friction" (a notion they discuss using Lefebvre and De Certeau):

"Social friction is a fundamental aspect of everyday life. We use the term to denote the process, which separates different expressive behaviours and contexts from each other. Social friction is at play when people in the city act and express themselves in surprising and unconventional ways. When people challenge existing norms and leave marks and traces on their social and physical surroundings. (...) Social friction can also be described as the ‘rubbing of’ of people on each other. It is the kind of friction that occurs when people, who hold different backgrounds, understandings and experiences, meet on the bus or in the street and exchange opinions, stories or maybe just gestures and glances."

Now, what about "social friction" and ubiquitous/urban computing? The authors' point is that this notion is helpful "in the development and analysis of ubiquitous computing in relation to art and design". They articulate social friction a critical position, which could be applied as a strategy for design. Relying (or designing for) social friction is then seen as way to release new forms of social and cultural potentials. Which, is also related to Nicolas Bourriaud's idea of "art as a social interestice". Why do I blog this? my interest in urban computing and art practices led me to that paper, I quite like that notion of "social friction". Let's sleep on it.