About an intriguing urban computing assemblage
The recent story of Google cars causing stir in Rome still makes me wondering about the perception of so-called "urban computing" and citizens. To put it shortly, the problem was basic: Google recently brought in black cars in Rome that take pictures for the Google Streetview project (yes at some point you have to physical artifacts taking PICTURES of streetviews, it's not just virtual). BernhardWarner for the timesonline hence reports the following people's reaction to these black cars:
"On cue, pedestrians shuffled off the street and into bars, out of sight of the offending vehicle, no doubt wondering if these are the new intrusions that must be endured after a sudden shift to the right. Your correspondent managed to snake through a queue of cars at a traffic light to get a better look at the vehicle that upset so many mid-afternoon espressos. (...) Just then the Google car swung left and I followed, in a very slow pursuit. The identical scene unfolded before me: Romans stumbling into shops and bars, hoping to be out of view of the camera's lens"
In a sense, they perceived it as "a new type of video surveillance vehicle". I won't enter into the details of the explanation provided by the timesonline (the election of a right-wing mayor... who wants to promote tough-on-crime platforms) but this situation seems certainly revealing of a troublesome relationship between technological assemblage.
The picture of the google cars in the Netherlands made by Lars van de Goor shows how the whole pack can be intimidating:
Why do I blog this? what I find interesting here is less the perception of a service (that can be articulated as "urban computing") but instead the sort of experience of the infrastructure needed to provide a service. A flock of all-similar black cars wandering around the city with huge camera-devices may indeed by an intriguing experience as it may came out from the blue. Will we see more of this sort of encounters in the city of the near future?
Btw, Mauro were in you in Rome? have you seen this?