There is little doubt that laptops, PDAs, and mobile phones have enabled
computing to become a truly mobile experience. With these new computing
devices, we emerge from our office, work, and school into the urban fabric
of our cities and towns. We often view these urban areas as “in-between
spaces” – obstacles to traverse from one place to another. However, not
only do we spend a significant amount of time in such urban landscapes, but
these spaces contribute to our own formulation of identity, community, and
self. Much of the richness of life transpires within our own urban settings.
Similarly, there is a growing body of work within the field of social
computing, particularly those involving social networking such as Tribe,
Friendster, and Live Journal. At the intersection of mobile and social
computing, we seek to provoke discussion aimed at understanding this
emerging space of computing within and across our public urban landscapes –
While toting a laptop around a city may seem a like an example of such city
computing, Urban Atmospheres research is more deeply concerned with addressing
several sub-themes, including (but not limited to):
Place – What is the meaning of various public places? What cues do we
use to interpret place and how will Urban Computing re-inform and alter our
perception of various places?
Community – Who are the people we share our city with? How do they
influence our urban landscape? Where do we belong in this social space and
how do new technologies enable and disrupt feelings of community and
Infrastructure – How will buildings, subways, sidewalks, parking
meters, and other conventional, physical artifacts on the urban landscape be
used and re-appropriated by emerging technology tools?
Traversal – What is a path or route through a city using these new
urban tools? How will navigation and movement, either throughout an entire
city or within a small urban space, be influenced by the introduction of
Urban Computing technology?
The single main research challenge of Urban
Atmospheres research is to understand how
this future fabric of digital and wireless computing will influence,
disrupt, expand, and be integrated into the social patterns existent within
our public urban landscapes.