Ambient Urban Informatics

I was just looking through a series of pamphlets on “situated technologies,” and I found this one on Urban Computing and Its Discontents very interesting. A quote:

Stamen Design’s Oakland Crimespotting . . . is a nifty hack that imports Oakland Police Department crime data into a Google Maps mash-up, and does so not willy-nilly but with a fairly high degree of aesthetic polish. . . . But it must be said that its impact is somewhat limited by the fact of its output being limited to a PC, or at best a smartphone, screen.

Why? Because geographically-organized data like this cries out for a direct mapping back to the locations in question. How much more powerful and actionable will things like Crimespotting be when they’re ambient—when the information about a place comes to you when you’re in that place? When, instead of shaded circles on a screen, you experience the output as a rising tone in your headphones, as a tickle in your shoe or a sudden wash of yellow over the view through your glasses, as you’re actually walking through the streets of Oakland?

I have a sense that “stop and frisk” locations may also eventually be mapped, and sensorially “alarmed,” as that technology becomes more common.

X-Posted: Madisonian.

Frank Pasquale

Frank is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland. His research agenda focuses on challenges posed to information law by rapidly changing technology, particularly in the health care, internet, and finance industries.

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