Urban Atmospheres

Proactive archeology
of our urban landscapes
and emerging technology

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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 – Urban Computing.

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 belonging?
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.

Eric Paulos         Intel Research Berkeley

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