Urban gaming precedents

In looking for historical analogies for contemporary forms of mobile based urban gaming both Hjorth (2011) and de Souza e Silva and Sutko (2009) reference the flâneur. The flâneur is a caricature or trope used by several authors from Baudelaire to Benjamin. He is described as embodying a blasé attitude — a wanderer through the 19th Century boulevards of Paris that sees the city as visual spectacle (de Souza e Silva and Sutko, 2009). In the sense that the flâneur re-appropriates the city space of work, routine and purposeful activity with random walks, a parallel can be drawn with the Situationist International subversive activity of dérive. As a challenge to what Guy Debord perceived as the increasing commercialization of everyday life in 1960’s Paris, dérive is described by Hjorth (2011) as a strategy of drifting through geographic space. An experimental behavior that radically revises usual motives, actions or traditional routine ways of being in the city.

Holly Gramazio speaking at today’s Future Everything conference described a less well known urban gaming precedent — the treasure hunts organized by local London newspapers at the beginning of the 20th Century. In an attempt to increase circulation, newspapers such as Dispatch, created national treasure hunt competitions, with cash prizes for those able to follow the weekly clues to locate concealed medallions. In response to complaints about damage to property and violence that occurred as crowds congregated on specific sites to dig for the buried medallions, Earl Desart (Director of Public Prosecutions) wrote to the proprietors of certain newspapers and the competitions were eventually halted.

Certainly in the case of the texts by Hjorth (2011) and de Souza e Silva and Sutko (2009) the  the flâneur and dérive strategies seem to be important jumping off points for thinking about cities in relation to gaming. But, hearing Gramazio speak today about the treasure hunt riots, made me question whether there are less well covered genealogies of urban gaming that could be further explored, to help us better understand contemporary urban gaming practices and effects.

de Souza e Silva, A., and Sutko, D., (2009). Merging Digital and Urban Playspaces. In: de Souza e Silva, A., and Sutko, D., (2009). Digital Cityscapes Merging Digital and Urban Playspaces. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Ch.1

Hjorth, L. (2011). Mobile@game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming. Convergence, 17(4), 357-371.

The treasure hunt riots that Holly Gramazio’s referenced in her talk at Future Everything today are covered in detail on this website:http://www.planetslade.com/treasure-hunt-riots1.html

Digital Urban Gaming

Digital urban gaming enables the user to explore a hybrid space combining a digital gaming environment within a ‘real’ physical locality. Enabled through networked location based mobile technologies, digital urban gaming ensures the user explores different “modes of co-presence” (Hjorth 2011:357), between the online and physical worlds. Hjorth (2011) argues that this transforms our perception and engagement with, and understanding of space, place, networking, relationships and our environment.   

“Through contemporary examples of urban games, LBGM, and hybrid reality games, we can learn much about changing definitions and experiences of the urban, mobility, and a sense of place”

(de Souza e Silva and Hjorth 2009 in Hjorth 2011:359).

The perceptions of and our relationships with space and place, which are often embedded with personal “stories, memories and social practices” (2011:358), are challenged through urban digital gaming. Through exploration of a digital urban fitness game ‘Zombies, Run!’ the combined on and offline experience of a familiar running route being mediated through an audio based digital game where I imagined I were being chased by Zombies, creatively altered my perception of my space both visually layering my urban surroundings with a foreign digital cityscape, which was enhanced through audio noises mediating and enhancing my experience (radio streams from ‘mission operatives’, and gunshots for example). The application through audio story telling mediated my run through a zombie apocalypse; it was both motivating physically whilst being fun and engaging through the altered perceptions and engagement, blurring my immediate and online spaces.

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(Images: ‘Zombies, Run!’)

The emancipatory, democratizing nature, and civic engagement possibilities of mobile media technologies has been much celebrated and criticized (Hjorth 2011; Rheingold 2002); through their potential to entrap us into “various erosions between work and leisure” (2011:367) which in turn may cause anxieties and pressures from such hybrid spaces and co/absent present practices (Gergen 2002). It is of course important to be critical of any new technology or medium (Hjorth 2011; de Souza a Silva Digital 2009), however urban gaming enables a new perspective and engagement with these technologies through imagination and creativity, where we could view it as a “reflexive step toward showing how these technologies and our uses of them have the potential to affect us socially, spatially and playfully” (de Souza a Silva & Sutko, 2009:15).

There are other experiences and issues addressed other than simply ‘play’ which can be developed through digital urban games; educational focuses or ‘bottom up’ approaches which address complex political and social issues (de Souza e Silva & Sutko 2009:14). ‘Rezone’ for example, based in Den Bosch (Netherlands), enables players to keep their city safe from deterioration and vacancy by salvaging real estate from decline within a combination of real 3D printed buildings with an augmented reality layer detailing real-time information.[1] “The challenge is for players to not just pursue individual self-interest but to strategically collaborate in order to defeat the system, which is programmed to let the city descend into decay” (De Lange 2013).

MP2012-12-14@3 IMG_4278

(Image: ‘Rezone’ www.themobilecity.nl)

“Rezone is composed of a physical board game with a number of 3D printed iconic buildings that represent the neighborhood, an augmented reality layer of real-time information about these buildings projected on a screen, and a computer algorithm programmed to induce vacancy. When the game begins all buildings are fully occupied. Then at alarming speed they spiral down towards total abandonment. A vacancy meter on the screen indicates the level of occupation from 4 (completely occupied) down to 0 (abandoned). Empty buildings act like a contagious virus that infects neighboring buildings too” (De Lange 2013).


(Image: ‘Rezone’ www.themobilecity.nl)

Rezone explores many different issues and developments post-digitalization; the relationship between the digital and the urban space whilst addressing social and political shifts by exploring the relationships between politics and citizen engagement, professionals and amateurs, and the role of the pro-sumer (De Lange 2013). In contrast to engagement with media technologies in order to make urban life comfortably networked and connected, “Rezone by contrast is a project in which digital technologies help to engage citizens with each other and their living environment” (De Lange 2013).  Rezone, like Dotplay as examined by Hjorth encourages the “possibilities of play in challenging the role of technology within society” (2011:365). What is particularly exciting from this perspective is the future for digital cities infrastructures; through mobile media and even gaming, there is potential for a more democratic and collaboratively built infrastructure between citizens, city planners, and politicians.


Hjorth, L. (2011). Mobile@game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming. Convergence, 17(4), 357-371

De Lange. M. 2013. ‘Rezone’ (Available at: http://www.themobilecity.nl/2013/04/22/rezone-the-game-playing-for-urban-transformation/, Last accessed 31/3/14).

Silva, Adriana de Souza e, & Sutko, Daniel. 2009. Digital cityscapes: merging digital and urban playspaces. Peter Lang: New York/Oxford

Gergen, K. 2002. ‘Cell phone technology and the realm of absent presence’. In Katz, J. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

[1] “Participants adopt one out of four possible stakeholder roles. In the case of vacancy these roles include proprietor (owner of real estate), mayor (representing the municipality), engineer (urban designer) and citizen (neighbors). The challenge is for players to not just pursue individual self-interest but to strategically collaborate in order to defeat the system, which is programmed to let the city descend into decay” (De Lang 2013 see more:http://www.themobilecity.nl/2013/04/22/rezone-the-game-playing-for-urban-transformation/)

Commercial Urban Treasure Hunting

Treasure hunts are games that require players to follow instructions to find something hidden. “The act of traveling to new locations specifically because of gameplay closely resembles the behaviours encouraged in Geocaching” Frith, 2013, p 251, and with more complex technologies available urban treasure hunting has responded with the inclusion of other forms of social and locative media along with GPS. Locative technology, such as GPS has “allowed for multiple cartographies of a sense of space in which the geographic and physical is overlaid with the electronic, the emotional and the social” p357, a situation well suited to remediate treasure hunts into location-based mobile games (LBMGs)

The examples I want to highlight are both by the Australian agency ‘One Green Bean’: Firstly, “I Love Levi’s” 2009, was an integrated promotional campaign, in the form of a multi-modal treasure hunt. Social media coupled with locative technology was extremely important to the game play as players utilized Twitter to find/share clues as to the whereabouts of a person wearing a specific pair of jeans, if they were the first to find them then the person gave you their jeans.

and secondly “Game of Phones” 2014, a Virgin Mobile location based alternate reality mobile app played out in Perth, Australia, where players had to follow clues and get physically close to a prize, then defend it from other players who might steal it. The goal for the brand is for increased awareness and engagement through game play.

However treasure hunts can fit into a number of the subsets of urban gaming as well as being LBMGs, such as  ‘big games’ (Hjorth), because “the game space interrupts the flows of everyday urban life” (Hjorth, 2011, p361) and the game approaches “the role of people and the importance of place in the navigation of co-presence” (Ibid), where the “forms of co-presence include: virtual and actual, online and offline, cerebral and haptic, delay and immediacy.” (Ibid). The instructions or clues are accessible, and the ‘treasure’ is discoverable, if the player has engaged with the appropriate (digital and non-digital) technologies, geographies, activities and communities.

Souza e Silva and Sutko suggest that the “tropes of urbanity emphasize the activity of knowing urban spaces by exploration”p8 Treasure hunts allow for consideration of “the relationships among urban spaces, playful behavior and mobility” p6. They also ask “[h]ow does this merged physical / digital reality influence the way we move through cities and access information while on the move?”p8, which is a particularly good question when you consider the opportunities of integrating urban games into marketing.

My words = 291


de Lange M. (2009) The Mobile City Project and Urban Gaming, Second Nature 2: 161-169

Frith J. (2013) Turning life into a game: Foursquare, gamification and personal mobility, Mobile Media & Communication 1: 248-262

Hjorth L. (2011) Mobile@game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 17(4): 357-371

Souza e Silva A. & Sutko D. eds (2009) Digital Cityscapes: Merging digital and urban playspaces

Whitson J. R. (2013) Gaming the Quantified Self. Surveillance and Society 11(1/2): 163-176

Locative, Mobile and Public Sound

Behrendt (2012) recognizes that ‘locative’ media are usually reliant on the visual to determine our sense and perception of space. [1] Our focus on the visual aspect of these media, neglects auditory space perception, which is “productive for focusing on the very activity of engaging with mobile media and the urban context at once, the multi sensory, embodied, spatio-temporal experience of the urban journey or encounter” (Behrendt 2012: 289, emphasis in original). Behrendt (2012) importantly draws our attention in recognizing how everyday within the digital city, our construction of space, communications and information gathering is a combination of both visual and auditory sensory mediation. The immersive nature of sound is invisible, intangible and yet (especially once experienced through headphones) an all-encompassing experience. Beherndt argues that we “need to consider how immersion works in locative media, where we are both ‘here’ and ‘there’ in hybrid spaces” (2012:288).

Bull (2004; 2007) examines this relationship in the context of the Apple Ipod, and argues that the IPod “universalizes the privatization of public space, and it is a largely auditory privatization” (2007:4). Such ‘hybrid spaces’ it could be argued are more ‘immersive’ with the inclusion of an auditory element. To explore, I attempted to produce a locative sound for a running route via a locative mobile sound application sonicmaps.org, which proved unsuccessful.

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(Sonicmaps.org located sound maps)

After various failed attempts over a number of days to familiarize myself with the visually simple, but user-unfriendly application, many hours trawling through the website reading and watching tutorials, and asking more technologically savvy friends if they had any idea, (all I/we managed was to upload a link via Dropbox to my ‘sounds’ on a map), my ‘locative sound’ experience via this application was non-existent and so too my dwindling motivation for my run. The process of creating a file via dropbox and copying a ‘link’ in which to upload sound, seemed overly laborious, and not possible via only your mobile device which in itself seemed to void the whole function of the application.

Giving up on Sonic Maps I returned to my well-trusted Ipod for my moral and motivational support. Selecting various ‘soundscapes’; specific albums which evoked memories, and physical motivations (spurred by fast paced music), I created my own ‘auditory bubble’ and ‘individual reality’. I was transformed from my current location of Sevenoaks (Kent), to my childhood, to running routes in Melbourne, and even to wistfully looking forward to upcoming holidays planned, all through the various music albums in which I was immersed. If one album finished I immediately began another, I ensured I had constant ‘mediated company’ (2007:6), craving the ‘feelings, desires and auditory memories’ (Bull 2007:3) evoked through the music.

photo 4

(No music via my smart phone accompanied my run)

“In the head and mind of the IPod user the spaces of culture have been redrawn into a largely private and mobile auditory worship” (Bull 2007: 2-3)

My perception of the park was reduced completely to the visual, with my emotions, communications, information and knowledge of my space mediated through my auditory soundscape. My ‘sensory gating’ (2007:7) ensured I did not hear the birds in the trees, the wind or the trees rustling, I was in a completely privatised auditory world, with my music as my soundtrack. I ‘controlled and managed my environment’ through my IPod usage (2007:4); if I felt like saying hello to passers-by this could only be achieved by removing my headphones. If I felt too tired to do so I kept my headphones in, a ‘distancing mechanism’ (2007:14), where ‘silence equaled exclusion’ (Bauman 2003), ‘legitimising’ (on face value) my unfriendliness, in my ‘sonorous envelope’ (2007:4) I could not hear passers-by nor could they hear my soundscape. I was a silent presence, privatised yet personally empowered (2007:5), whilst simultaneously excluded from the public communicative space.


[1] For example, Facebook ‘check in’ function, Googleplaces, Foursquare, and augmented reality applications such as Layar. Through building and developing online localized community networks through such applications as Foursquare (Humphreys & Liao 2013), or maintaining existing social networks through Facebook ‘check ins’ for example.


Behrendt, F. (2012) The Sound of Locative Media. Convergence: The International Journal of research into New Media Technologies, 18(3): 283-295.

Bull, M. (2007) Sound Moves, iPod culture and urban experience: an introduction. In: Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience. Oxford: Routledge: 1-11.

Humphreys, L. & Liao, T., 2013. Foursquare and the parochialization of public space. First Monday, 18(11). Available at: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4966 [Accessed February 7, 2014].


Listening to Location

Motte-Haber (1998 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.287) points out that the “geometric description of space enforces the visual dominance of space reception”. In other words, because we can readily measure space, this makes it easier to communicate and render precisely via visual means — space then gets defined as a visual phenomena at the expense of non-visual aspects of spatial perception such as sound. Side stepping the visual bias to consider spaces sonically, foregrounds the importance of time, because without time you have no sound. This move allows for a temporal analysis of spaces or media and spaces. In such an analysis, spaces have to be considered as less bounded, with permeable boundaries unlike the “hard and fast visual constructions of space” (Behrendt, 2012, p.288). As this description of the Soho Stories locative sound app concurs; “If you move away from an area the audio fades rather than cuts out. As you move back it picks up where you left off” (Telegraph, 2012). The fade here drawing attention to the ephemerality of sound and in turn its temporality.

Considering the temporal dimension to an analysis of locative media does some good things. Firstly, it diminishes the importance of the “common focus on location” (Behrendt, 2012, p.292), when you add a temporal dimension locations become more like events. Thinking of an event, you no longer consider the body as static, instead you start to think of movement or performances or “embodied interactions” (Behrendt, 2012, p.292). The immersion in space that a sonic encounter with the world entails, also puts us, or the user, in the middle — “centre stage” (Behrendt, 2012, p.292). So one’s “situated experience” and the framing social, physical context is given primacy. This way of understanding how people, media and space work together in time is shared by Mackenzie (2003, cited in Timeto, 2013) who uses the concept of transduction. The theory is complex and multi-facted, but to take a brief quote, he describes how he considers technologies as “events happening together with people encountering their affordances on the basis of situated practices”. In this way a sonic perspective allows for analysis of locative media to find people, material places and practice in location, again.

Behrendt, F. (2012) The Sound of Locative Media. Convergence: The International Journal of research into New Media Technologies, 18(3): 283-295.

Telegraph., (2012). Soho Stories Android app review. [online] Available at: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobile-app-reviews/9555035/Soho-Stories-Android-app-review.html> [Accessed 24 March 2014].

Timeto, F., (2013). Redefining the city through social software: Two examples of open source locative art in Italian urban space. First Monday, [online] Available at:< http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/issue/view/405> [Accessed 16 Dec 2013].



locative sound

Engaging with this weeks subject was problematic; I do not have much direct experience of locative sound projects to be able to discuss them in any critical depth and I could not get the ‘sonicmaps’ app to work or find the app very intuitive, with very little guidance included over how to upload/link to sound files, this wasn’t helped by the app crashing numerous times.

Thinking about the right sort of sound to attach to place, allowing people to experience it while on the move would require multiple sounds. I considered creating a street of soundscapes, documenting the inhabitants, where sounds could overlap and play concurrently, to allow the cacophony of family life to spill out into the street.  I wondered if the app allowed sound to get louder the nearer the listener was to the centre of the circular area defined, so that people would know how close to source they were, highlighting the locative nature of the sound, as “sound always travels over space in time, emanating from the source, distributed over space and eventually fading.” Behrendt, 2012, p288. Perhaps, allowing sounds to ebb and flow in volume and hierarchy if played concurrently, remixes the sounds on the move, considering how “movement – often walking – acts as remixing” Behrendt, 2012, p286

The idea was to externalise internal sounds, breaking through the walls of the house to experience the soundscape of the occupants within. Where sound creates the space inhabited by the family, a house becomes a home due to the occupants and the noise they make whilst using the space. That my ‘quiet’ sub-urban street is not as quiet as it seems to be, that sound spills out of spaces. However, home is also a very private space where occupants may not want their everyday behaviour documented for anyone to access.

My intention had been to first have a trial run at uploading a recording of the everyday sound created by my family, therefore I had recorded a sound file on my phone, ready to upload to sonicmaps, however, I am yet to make this work!


Behrendt F. 2012 The Sound of Locative Media. Covergence: The International Journal of research into New Media Technologies, 18 (3), pp.283-295

In other news –

AIAIAI Presents the Sound Taxi from AIAIAI on Vimeo. The Sound Taxi is equipped with a microphone to record its surrounding noise. Specially designed software written in Max analyses the frequencies of these noises and uses them to generate unique music in real time. The music/sounds will change and evolve as it is driven in different parts of the city. Further info can be found at: http://www.makethecitysoundbetter.com/



Locative, Mobile and Public Sound

Isolated, fragmented and atomised the urban citizen can be a stranger in a crowd and congregate without meeting. Church bells used to mediatise a social order, now public sound is used to envelop the individual user by ‘engulf(ing) the spatial’ (Bull in Bassett, p.349). From changing the car radio, to fast-forwarding a Walkman and now downloading mobile content, personal technologies are used to recodify space; re-aestheticise everyday experience through a process of negation; and filter stimuli by investing in an economy of sustained attention. (Bassett, 2003).

Michael Bull (aka Professor iPod), studies the use of audio to mediate urban space in order to foster mood and experience. He argues that technology has the potential to be emancipatory, providing “oases of meaning through a featureless desert” (Bull, 2007:17). This consumption of media acts as an effective substitute for a sense of connectivity (Bull, 2007:5) but comes at the price of privatisation; distancing users from the proximity of others, ‘warming’ the individual’s mediated experience but ‘cooling’ the physical space for others.

This dialectic of power, control and freedom is challenged by the smartphone, according to Bassett (2003). It is at once emancipatory, facilitating communication in multiple socially produced spaces, yet at the same time limiting by compelling the user to be ‘always on’ and accountable to social solicitation. Sonicmaps is an example where the urban consumer can re-codify space by producing location specific audio content. Users can download site specific content, walking as remixing (Behrendt, 2012) a narrative from pre-curated sound. As yet, this app seems limited by its interface (see field notes). Bluebrain produced an example of a locative album which highlights the potential of immersive sound away from a tiny screen and clunky menu.

Behrendt mentions the exclusive nature of the branded technology, app and location. Debord in Bull discusses the atomisation of the individual and the weakening of the collective bonds between urban citizens and Bassett discusses the necessary fetishisation of mobiles as an enhancement of urban life.

“I am lost in the crowd, I am anonymous. In my phone, in my space, I matter.” (Bassett, p.350)




BASSETT, C. (2003). How Many Movements? In M. Bull & L. Back (Eds.), The Auditory Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg: 343-355

BEHRENDT, F. (2012) The Sound of Locative Media. Convergence: The International Journal of research into New Media Technologies, 18(3): 283-295.

BULL, M. (2007) Sound Moves, iPod culture and urban experience: an introduction. In: Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience. Oxford: Routledge: 1-23.


field notes week 7

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) can be described as the layering of physical space with the digital representation of space. The AR application Layer describes itself as a “digitally enhanced view of the real world, connecting you with more meaningful context in your everyday life (layar.com/augmentedreality, emphasis added). Within Layer such ‘meaningful’ content could include restaurants, cafes, shops, tourist destinations, ‘celebrity spots’ and user generated content such as photos of a location, all mapped within a digital map generated by user LBS current location. “Layar [is] based on the notion that we are constantly surrounded by location-aware digital information” (Karppi 2011:92), invisible and incalculable by the human eye but generated visually by Layar.  Such technologies have extended our natural senses and capabilities (Karppi 2011), but arguably identified locations and ascribed a ‘value’ by the locational ‘marker’ (Uricchio 2011:27). The location only gains value through the digital representation (see below Kamsons Pharmacy in Layar).

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If we understand AR interfaces as ‘representations of space’ it is useful to understand them as “[…] expressions of social practices carrying in them relative relations between knowledge, understanding and ideology” (Drakopoulou 2013:2). What then happens to our experience of urban space once experienced through the mediated visual AR interface? Drakopoulou argues that “the urban environment is changing not only in its appearance but in the way it is used, accessed and lived in by its inhabitants [… and] provides new ways of ‘experiencing’ the urban environment and spatial practice” (2013:1-4). AR is a temporary state of perception and sensory depiction, which Karppi (2011) argues may disrupt order and stability within our experience of urban space. It is arguable that this is achieved through a new ‘spatial commodification’ (Drakopolou 2013), enabled by AR. Personal engagement with the interface directed me, regardless of ‘functions’ to sites of consumption, from shopping, to buying groceries and eating out. Is this solely a commercial, consumer, capitalist experience, by mixing commercial information with everyday activities? Within Layar it was impossible to find a function that did not encourage or provide such commercialization of the urban environment and personalized consumption, which Drakopolou argues may encourage practices of autonomy (2013:9)?

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(User generated content)

“AR applications are the next step in a long line of audiovisual technologies entangled in the networks of capitalism […] a mode of production but more broadly to heterogeneous apparatuses that affirm social subjection andtie users to machinic enslavement”

(Lazzarato 2006 in Karppi 2011:97).

Certainly from personal experience, I was not drawn to ask strangers or friends for recommendations of restaurants, locations of services or particular shops, drawn into a cycle of individualized ‘production of both reality and subjectivity’; self-subjective, self-enjoyment as a capitalist subject (Karppi 2011:100). These are arguably, not new patterns of individualized autonomy encouraged by neoliberal practices, but certainly another outlet from which to be ‘subjected’. Therefore, is there is not simply a ‘merging of physical space with digital information, ‘techno-synthetically composed’ (Drakopoulou 2013), there are broader implications, socially, culturally, and politically at play within the structures, developments and construction of an AR interface (Kennedy 2000).

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This cannot however, be said in the same way of all AR applications and interfaces VisAge for example is a development project ‘visualising data from ages past’, and uses AR to visualize the spaces inside old buildings, and tells the stories of those which once lived there (http://mhms.org.uk/VisAge).

Perhaps we should consider that “the really compelling applications that are going to make AR take off just haven’t been built yet, “Instead what we’ve got primarily in the market are gimmicky advertising experiences”(Jules White, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University). With the hope that in the future this might give way to more democratic, diverse uses and forms of engagement.

Own words (333)


Drakopoulou, S., 2013. Pixels, bits and urban space: Observing the intersection of the space of information with urban space in augmented reality smartphone applications and peripheral vision displays. First Monday, 18(11). Available at: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/ article/view/4965 [Accessed February 7, 2014].

Karppi, T. (2011) Reality Bites: Subjects of Augmented Reality Applications. In Unfolding Media Studies, eds. Puro, J. and Sihvonen, J. Turku: University of Turku: 89-102

Fidel, A. (2010) Art Gets Unmasked in the Palm of Your Hand. The New York Times.

Hill, S. 2014, March 14th. ‘Get past the gimmicks and gaze upon the future of augmented reality apps’ (http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/future-ar-mobile/#!Ac11h, Last Accessed: 17/03/14)

Layar Augmented Reality (Available at: http://www.layar.com/, Last Accessed 17/3/14)

Uricchio, W. 2011. ‘The algorithmic turn: photosynth, augmented reality and the changing implications of the image’, in Visual Studies, 26:1, 25-35.

Augmented Reality and Wikitude

Holding the device up, after a few moments, images/information appear, hovering over the camera image. With a compass marking further accessible information Wikitude allows you to view Flickr or Instagram images, Wikipedia entries or Tripadvisor ratings by location. Uricchio, 2011, looks to Culler and Heidegger, to define the “algorithmic construction of the image” p25, saying that “the modern social order can be defined through a representational system characterised by precisely defined subject-object relations (the world as a picture), a metaphysics of exactitude and an underlying spatiotemporal grid” p26. Suggesting that digital media, in the form of location-aware technologies and augmented reality (AR) systems, are affected by “algorithmic interventions between the viewing subject and the object viewed” p25 Where, “the algorithmic domain ultimately determines what we see and even how we see it” p33 (their italics) “In the case of location-based AR applications, meanings are as precise as the viewing position.” ibid

My office is adjacent to the hospital, which offers me a Flickr image of an x-ray and another of a sleeping baby, it feels rather intrusive or even voyeuristic, as these images feel private to someone else, they were not intended for me.

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Screenshot of flickr content discovered through Wikitude

Picture 2

Screenshot of flickr content discovered through Wikitude

Holding up the device, to view through, feels cumbersome and not particularly intuitive as I am constantly aware of the technology. As are the other people in the room, with a camera between us, I can see that they feel uncomfortable.

Anne Friedburg (2009) defines modern media through the use of multiple windows, or frames, through which we perceive images. Saying that “our new mode of perception is multiple  and fractured. It is ‘postperspectival’ – no longer framed in a single image with fixed centrality; ‘postcinematic’ – no longer projected onto a screen surface as were the camera obscura or magic lantern; ‘post-televisual’ – no longer unidirectional in the model of sender receiver.” p194. The ‘window’ metaphor suggests realism of visual content, a clear transparent view of the world, however AR gives content overlaid with multiple frames/windows of further information.

Bolter and Grusin (2000), defined contemporary media through the concept of remediation, consisting of two logics: immediacy and hypermediacy. Wanting to highlight “the twin preoccupations of contemporary media: the transparent presentation of the real and the enjoyment of the opacity of media themselves”, p21. Suggesting that the goal of a media designer should be to create a transparent interface, “so that the user is no longer aware of confronting a medium, but instead stands in an immediate relationship to the contents of that medium” p24. Linking this through the history of visual culture, to the addition of linear perspective to painting, to mathematise space. Hypermediacy is represented by screens containing heterogenous windows, “a medium that offers ‘random access’; it has no physical beginning, middle or end” p31. These multiple windows bring the interface to the foreground, working against the desire for a transparent medium.

My screen creates a frame/window through which I can view the augmented information, the image has become an interface, overlaid with further information, which is floating, detached from three dimensional space. When I view via the map, the location-based information feels rooted somewhere more concrete and space regains dimension once more.

(331 of my words)

Other related links

Sight from Robot Genius on Vimeo. A film that imagines a future, where reality is augmented through contact lenses. Suggesting that even mundane everyday tasks  will become a gamified experience, through the permanent inclusion of digital graphics into our field of vision. It is rather pessimistic about the augmented-human condition, suggesting that technology will form an emotional barrier with an inability to form unmediated relationships. However the aesthetic quality of the augmented imagery integrated into our perceived reality is seductive and makes current examples look underdeveloped.

Immateriality | The Future Human from jenny lee on Vimeo. With available technology, will we want to augment our own appearance in the future? I can imagine people might want to appear more attractive or younger, however, the ‘digital skins’ offered by this artist may be to far removed from current realities to seem currently feasible.

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo. Another slightly pessimistic view of AR, suggesting that we will surrender our cognitive abilities to technology and need the help with even simple tasks, such as how to make a cup of tea.


Bolter J.D. and Grusin R. (2000) “Remediation: Understanding New Media” MIT Press, US

Friedburg A. (2009) “The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft” MIT Press, US

Uricchio W. (2011) “The algorithmic turn: photosynth, augmented reality and the changing implications of the image” Visual Studies, 26:1, 25-35 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1472586X.2011.548486


AR Testing

Test 1 on 2-D printed material. Traffic sound mp3 file and a German map.
Software works well with small .mp3 file size and the graphic nature of this image.

Test 2 on 3-D object. Environment Agency Twitter feed and a water cooler.
I was quite surprised that the software recognised the watercooler as the shapes are not hugely distinctive. The process of acquiring the information via WiFi necessary to render the Twitter feed took quite a long time.

Test 3 on 3-D organic object. Plant care website and my cheese plant.
The software really didn’t like the Cheese plant. The curved organic forms really seems to fox the algorithm, but it did eventually recognise the form and load a website.

As a user of Augmented Reality software I did feel affected when I aligned reality correctly with the device and the software recognized the features of the scene to deliver the sound, video or image. Karppi (2011) in describing this moment, or as he calls it — event, uses three layers as a method of analysis; the first layer is relations between the real environment and the application, the second is the interface or browser screen and the third is the user and the software. In the first layer the application puts the invisible chaotic environment full of data in order via the processes of “seeing, articulating and calculating”. In the second layer, the interface mediates us an environment – we move our bodies to to reveal not a static image but a “mobile temporal section of the world”. In the third layer, Karppi (2011) draws on Parisi and Terranova to suggest that we should try to understand these ‘events’ outside questions of representation and reality. Instead we are to think of these events as affective media, with the capacity to “embody the experience of seeing without deceiving the spectator or falling into the category of unreal simulations”.

I’d like to follow this post up and expand on this as I think some of the ways that Karppi is describing affective images chimes with a little of what I’ve read of Flusser’s (2011) account of technical images but this is all I’ve got for now!!

Karppi, T. (2011) Reality Bites: Subjects of Augmented Reality Applications. In Unfolding Media Studies, eds. Puro, J. and Sihvonen, J. Turku: University of Turku: 89-102 Karppi(2011) Reality Bites- Subjects of Augmented Reality Applications.pdf