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Sat Nav Mishaps for Mobile City Blog

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To start things of, you can probably think of at least one satellite navigation system (sat nav) mishap. Either from your own experience, a friend’s anecdote, or from an article in the “comedy” section of your favourite newspaper. Some stories, however, are far from pleasant for the user or the environment. I wrote this post for the The Mobile City blog. It is related to my New Media MA thesis at the University of Amsterdam, for which I did a case study on “Sat Nav mishaps”, a term derived from Anthony Dunne’s reference to Mobile Mishaps in the 90s. I’ll write a more elaborate post on this subject later, as I’m still in the process of finishing the final version. I’ve also removed the draft version, which was on here for a few days as an example for the Mobile City conference. In a larger scope, the goal of the case study is to research how communication between local and global space in satellite navigation system use can be understood and, more specifically, how communication can be enabled. As we shall see, there are not just consequences for the user of the system, but also for local space and territory. The following stories show just the tip of the iceberg of Sat Nav Mishaps appearing around the globe, in repetitive fashion.

Car wrecked on railroad crossing
Paula Ceely’s story, a 20 year old student from Redditch in England, had her car wrecked after she followed her navigation system onto a railway track. Fortunately, Ceely escaped injury in the incident, otherwise the consequence of sat nav use would have been very grim. ‘I put my complete trust in the sat nav, there were no signs at all and it wasn’t lit up to warn of an oncoming train,’ Ceely told British broadcaster BBC. An article in local Welsh newspaper The Western Telegraph sparked a heated debate by locals as to whether the crossing should be made safer for drivers unfamiliar with the local. However, Paula is not unique, a similar story surfaced in the United States.

Car crash at rail road

What makes Paula Ceely’s story most interesting, is that it exemplifies a locally initiated call to adjust a hazardous situation caused by sat nav. And because the mishap repeats itself, as mentioned by the locals, it tends to change existing meaning of neighbourhoods. This is not just a single case: Dutch and Belgian municipalities have filed complaints about increases in traffic moving through their residential areas.

Netherlands and Belgium: Villages file complaint against Sat Nav use
Woldendorp GPS

In September 2006, villages around Dutch municipality Delfzijl filed a complaint about truck drivers, mostly new to the region, using their navigation systems and causing dangerous speeding situations. On the trajectory from Nieuweschans to Delfzijl, drivers can skip fourty kilometers if they choose the shortest route algorithm. The downside is that on large parts of the trajectory the speed limit is only thirty or fifty kilometres per hour. Local Theo Nijland from the village of Woldendorp says: ‘most truck drivers usually drive eighty kilometres an hour and started to hit the breaks just before a turn’.

Sint Gilles Sat Nav

In Belgium, traffic flow through a number of villages has increased after implemention of navigation systems in traffic. In February 2007, Belgian minister of mobility Pascal Smet, in response to a complaint from the municipality of Sint-Gillis, asked nineteen municipalities around Brussels to map all conflict zones dealing with an increase in traffic due to GPS navigation. Before Sint-Gillis two other municipalities, Mortsel en Leuven, already complained about the traffic increase. Especially near schools and village centres traffic should be decreased. Similar stories have surfaced in the United Kingdom, specifically in Micklefield and Barrow Gurney.

From database error to damaging houses
The new routes not only cause a nuisance, in some cases, trucks or cars driving through villages are responsible for physically damaging the local. Villagers in English Carmarthenshire say they fear restoration work is being damaged by drivers using satellite navigation. Local residents mentioned that trucks and lorries were smashing into buildings ‘that have already had thousands of pounds spent on them’. Belgian village Meulebeke is experiencing similar damages. Because of sat nav use, heavy lorries are (illegally) driving through the center of the village. Houses have been damaged because the trucks are unable to make the turns.

Village damage Meulebeke

On a larger scale, English rail road company Network Rail blames drivers ‘following satellite navigation (satnav) instructions down narrow roads for a surge in damage to bridges and crossings.’ According to research done by the company, trucks have caused £15m-worth of damage in the past year ‘by striking low or narrow bridges after being directed under them by their in-cab systems.’

Seeking Solutions: Ignore your Sat Nav signs
Because of these mishaps, new ways are being sought the local to communicate with the user. A local space is being challenged, or tagged, by new meaning of global satellite navigation system use; the consequences of satellite navigation system use are similar all around the globe, as is evident in above stories. However, there seems to be an inability to communicate, or incompatibility, between spaces. The following solutions exemplify this. Firstly, there are calls for GIS database change by (local) politicians, for example in The Netherlands and the village of Barrow Gurney in the United Kingdom.

Secondly, and perhaps most interesting, is the appearing of new signs that constitute a level of acceptance into existing, dominant traffic protocol. Dutch village Roermond has put up signs to ask sat nav users to turn off their systems and follow an official detour (omleiding).

Roermond GPS detour

Exton, an English village, also put up a sign asking drivers to ignore their system. As local Brian Thorpe-Tracey mentions: ‘About two years ago we noticed a real increase in drivers using the lane. Vehicles are getting stuck and having to reverse back up, damaging the wall and fence. There’s even a piece of metal embedded 12ft up in a tree which looks like it’s come off a lorry.’

exton image

In a Welsh village, the first official British road signs to warn drivers about the dangers of trusting their sat nav. Especially foreign truck drivers navigating the region with their sat navs found themselves driving unsuitable roads.

sat nav official

Satellite navigation systems, the most widely used GPS enabled application in consumer society today, are causing interesting mishaps and perhaps even more interesting responses by local space and traffic protocol. However, solutions, such as traffic signs and calls for database change, do not enable any dialogue between global user and local inhabitant, battling over territory’s meaning. Therefore, the interesting question remaining is: how can real-time dialogue between local and user, using global technology, be established? If the sat nav algorithm would be able to take into account emotion, for example drawing its information from an Emotion Map, a vibrant dialogue might just emerge. Sat nav algorithms, the automated decision making process of navigation, is taking on existing traffic protocol. But even Sat navs are arguing what route is the best.

Written by newmw

February 20, 2008 at 10:16 am

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Warming up for Picnic ’07

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Picnic ’07, Amsterdam’s annual event organized by the Cross Media Week Foundation focusing on creativity in cross media content and technology, is only a month away and the list of speakers is nearly finished. Between the 25th and 29th of September, Amsterdam’s Westergastfabriek will once again host the event after the succes of last year’s edition. But with such a diverse and wide-ranging programme, where will you go? In order to get into the mood and warm up for the event, it is worthwhile to highlight some of the fascinating speakers and take a more in-depth look at what they are all about.

Reuben Steiger (Former Linden Labs Evangelist and founder/CEO Millions of Us)
scion2ndlifeAt Picnic ’06 Philip Rosedale of Linden Labs / Second Life presented his take on ‘the empowerment offered by Second Life of the average citizen to not only create but monetize their own content and design’. This year former Linden Labs Evangelist Reuben Steiger will take the stage at Picnic’s Virtual Worlds, which is all about virtual worlds becoming central to the future of marketing, technology, entertainment and brand-building. After his work at Linden Labs, Steiger founded and became CEO of Millions of Us, a company dedicated to helping businesses understand and harness the power of virtual worlds. An example is the Toyota Scion car in Second Life.

Being an evangelist and clearly someone who believes in the power of virtual worlds, Steiger fights of recent criticism of Second Life as a branding tool at influxinsights.com by saying that ‘some of the criticism is partially warranted, but a lot of it is poorly contextualized and opportunistic, in the sense that pundits love to tear down technologies that have ridden a wave of hype. IT analyst firm Gartner calls this the hype cycle – new technologies spark a wave of initial excitement, expectations inflate, the technology is found to be imperfect in some ways, and there is a backlash – but in the long term, a good technology will overcome the hype cycle and enjoy long-term adoption.’ Are virtual worlds all that Steiger says they are, or just a big bubble? Are you a skeptic or an enthusiast? Not sure? You can find out at Virtual Worlds. In the video below Steiger answers questions on his personal interest in Second Life and if virtual worlds are a response to alienation in real-life.

When? 27th September 14.00 – 17.00
Where? WesterUnie
What? Virtual Worlds at Picnic ’07

Cory Doctorow (SF novelist, blogger, technology activist)
doctorow overclocked Cory Doctorow, co-editor of popular weblog BoingBoing and contributor to the likes of New York Times and Wired, explores the benefits and consequences of online systems in his latest (fictional) book Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present (free download). This provocative collection of six previously released stories shows Doctorow extrapolating todays user experiences towards a futuristic vision and creating fascinating stories in doing so. An extensive review can be found at The Uberreview. For his writings, Doctorow has already been compaired to ‘Cyberspace’ godfather William Gibson by Entertainment Weekly. In the Authors@Google series Cory Doctorow himself presents and discusses the book, if any questions remain be sure to go see Doctorow at Fab, or the personal fabrication revolution.

When? 28th September
Where? WesterLiefde
What? FAB, or the personal fabrication revolution

Pablos/Paul Holman (Futurist, IT security expert, notorious hacker)
From an interview with Pablos “Paul” Holman at DLD ’07, shown in video below, comes the following provocative quote on creativity in companies: ‘Especially large companies tend to be poor at doing new things. They have lots of resources, lots of people and a lot of infrastructure . But all that gets in the way of when you’re trying to be creative. [...] Ideally for me, I’d be able to wake up in the morning and dream up something I’ve been dreaming about. Then go build it by lunchtime, launch it in the afternoon and see if people like it. And then maybe fix some bugs by dinner.’

hackerbotpablosContrary to Doctorow, Holman does not read science fiction because he doesn’t want to be accused of plagiarism. His views however are, as the Picnic website also mentions, unique. With his design studio Komposite he ‘consults on bizarre invention and design projects that assimilate new technologies’. To give you an idea: Among his projects is the Hackerbot, a WiFi seeking robot that can find you when you’re using a wireless network – and drive up to show you your password on its screen. According to the Hackerbot website, the robot is really quite friendly and tries not to show your passwords to anyone else. Interested? Be sure to check out Holman at Picnic ’07, also if you’re interested in salsa dancing!

When? TBA
Where? TBA
What? Pablos Holman

Stefan Sagmeister (Graphic designer and typographer)
sagmeisterYou might have seen Stefan Sagmeister‘s design in your local record shop on the covers of Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Talking Heads recordings. The Picnic website mentions that just as film, art, music and literature have the power to move people, Stefan Sagmeister’s innovative work shows that graphic design, too, can cut to the emotional core. An in-depth interview with Sagmeister can found at designboom.com. The image is courtesy of Grafik-freunde Stuttgart.

In 2004 Sagmeister spoke in Monterey, California about how design can make us happy and more specifically design that made him happy on a personal level. Telling stories ranging from billboards and museum exhibitions to pictorial language, Sagmeister is able to show how design can touch a nerve. Design never felt more personal while listening to Sagmeister’s presentation and his words seem far removed from corporate thought. Anyone intested in the emotional side of creativity, and creative industries in general, should see Sagmeister at Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far at Picnic ’07.

When? 27th September 16.50 – 17.20
Where? Zuivering West
What? Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far – Stefan Sagmeister

Various Meetings and (Un)Common Ground
Like last year, Picnic also hosts various meetings such as Virtueel Platform’s (Un)common Ground II: An expert meeting that brings together all the top thinkers in the industry. This year the sub-title is Scale and Intimacy. At the meeting experts will take a close look at the complex issues arising when practices and models of collaboration move across different scales. Like Stefan Sagmeister in his presentation, questions such as ‘how to maintain the emotional connection that people make to the ideas that are promoted or the services or products that it delivered’, are asked. Although the meeting is ‘invitation only’, be sure to check out Virtueel Platform’s publication (Un)common ground. Creative encounters across sectors and disciplines for more information.

For information on all Picnic ’07 events (25th – 29th of September) go to the Picnic network website. Oh… and did I mention Andrew Keen (see my previous post) will also be there?

Incompatibility in Protocol: E-mail sent from Thunderbird sometimes doesn’t arrive at Hotmail

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In my post about incompatibility below, I wasn’t that surprised that some things just don’t work under Linux. But with Windows XP now installed again and with Mozilla Thunderbird for my e-mail, I really didn’t expect anything to be incompatible.

Untill I tried to send an e-mail from my student account (in Thunderbird) to my Hotmail.com account. It just didn’t arrive, again and again. This makes you think: Mail is supposed to arrive at the receiver computer, right? But there is also a business in that doubt, just think about the response message for succesfull deliveries. Did they get it? In this case, I was doubting if the mail I sent to Hotmail adresses over the past month actually even arrived.

So I started searching the web to find some answers, because I thought a small setting in Thunderbird was going to solve the issue. But it turned out to be something that wasn’t solvable with just the click of a mouse.

Check out this post by Daifne from the MozillaZine forums:

Problem:
Intermittently, can’t send messages to hotmail.

Solution:
Insert HTML formatting in message and vary message contents.

Factors:
It looks like a Baysian e-mail filter between Bell Sympatico and Hotmail is being used to automatically delete e-mail messages. They DO NOT show up inthe Junk E-mail folder on the hotmail account.

Baysian filters use a technology that weights a number of factors to
determine if a message will be sent. +1 represents likelyhood of
uccess. -1 represents likelyhood of failure. If you score low on too many categories, the e-mail will be deleted.

The discussion this post sparked on the MozillaZine forums of course took the form of an angry mob trying to burn down Bill Gates’s house: “This is only an issue when sending to Hotmail accounts and that is exactly what Microsoft is trying to get you to do here. Are you going to fall for their fraudulent business practices?” But where does the cause of incompatibility lie? With the sender or the receiver, or perhaps the signal itself? The willingness to make compatibility possible? Microsoft’s alleged monopoly position doesn’t speak for the company. But the ideal of free software on the other hand also forces expectations that can not be met on companies that employ thousands of people.

But back to the solution for my problem? The first sounds a bit strange, if the content of your message is varried enough it does get through. But if you just want to test your account with a small messsage, chances are big that it doesn’t come through.

Luckily I have a Hotmail/Windows Live account in Thunderbird and use the localhost/Hotmail SMTP account that is created by the Webmail extension to send all my email through. It works, but it is a work-around and not a shining example of compatibility. With thanks to this post from Ambiguity on the DI Forums Board. More info also on this page by Ian Gregory called The Black Hole Called Hotmail. Pictures from Wikipedia.

Talking about ‘Fans, Bloggers and Gamers’

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Jenkins Fans Bloggers GamersFor the Masters of Media blog at the University of Amsterdam fellow student Roman did a Podcast on Henry Jenkins‘ new book Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture and he called me up to talk about it. Got to love those vintage phonelines and the aesthetics of Podcasts!

You can check it out in this blogpost, or you can download the ‘Discussing Jenkins’ Podcast directly from here. And since we’re talking about bloggers here, check out what other blogs say about it here, here and here. The first link includes an interesting interview with Jenkins.

Cyberkoelies: Buy World of Warcraft characters or experience straight from China

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Cheating has been around as long as games existed. If you fail at something time after time, you just typed in the code and off you went to the next level. With MMORPG’s and a complete social online community, that way of skipping the hardest part is gone. Players are looking at other possibilities offered. One of them is buying character from eBay, or in some other way.

chinese wow playersMade in China has probably been around for as long as mass produced toys are overflowing the markets. And while the West used to get their cheap toys from China, they now get their experience points straight from China where the young people from the countryside who want to make a carreer in the big city -in this case portrayed Zhengzhou- play World of Warcraft for a living.

The Dutch documentary Cyberkoelies by Floris-Jan van Lyun deals with this sensitive subject. He shows us the lives of Jing and Wang, two Chinese youngsters looking for a way to get out of the seemingly never changing life of the Chinese countryside.

Van Luyn shows us that the life of the farmers and the ‘ore farming’ for other users in World of Warcraft isn’t all that different. What makes it attractive is the virtual world. Jing tells us that there are less boundaries in this world, and when we see her walking down the street -in real life that is- she tells us that she just enjoys watching people walking around.

The employer is also interviewed, and this gives us some insight as to who is behind this business but in the end we don’t really get any more concrete information than ‘a contact in Germany.’ Tracing this line back to the players who actually want these ‘virtual tasks’ done would be a very interesting next step. To track the people who make this whole system of supply-and-demand work.

Besides Jing, Van Luyn also shows us the life of Wang. His family doesn’t really understand what he is doing, his brother thinks he is kind of a failure and his father doesn’t really know what the computergame is as long as it is legal: “Because that is what is important for my generation.” If it is legal or not can be contested. According to Chinese law probably not, but the ‘employers’ from World of Warcraft -I’d call them the cheaters- are not favored in World of Warcraft.

User GijsW posted a comment on the forum of Holland Doc, the program that aired the documentary. He noticed that these practices are not ‘legal’ in World of Warcraft, because one user can only play his own character which would be very hard to check up on. And he also mentions that some parts of the game actually are becoming too time consuming, causing the users to ‘outsource’ their ‘work’ to the Chinese youngsters at a certain cost. Cheating costs money nowadays.

ore mining in WOWThe documentary didn’t really convince that the older generation in China doesn’t know what computergames are, or that World of Warcraft is the same work as working in the ‘real’ fields. Although these things do exist, they are not specific for China. I found that the main argument to go and see the documentary is the outsourcing of work in the virtual. These are the nasty jobs -ore mining, time consuming jobs- the West doesn’t really want to do. The toys we don’t want to make.

Cyberkoelies is not available -yet- with English subtitles, but if you can understand a bit of Dutch or Chinese then this is definitely an interesting documentary. You can view the documentary online at the Cyberkoelies page at VPRO Holland Doc. Dutch newspaper NRC also ran an interesting story on this, which includes an interview with Van Luyn. The first image is courtesy of VPRO.

Disrupt Technorati

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This next thing is an interesting initiative. Make a blogpost and link as many people to disrupt -or maybe you could call it hack- Technorati’s ranking system. It’s like the Google bomb for blogs, and why shouldn’t we participate in such an initiative to check out what it does, right? It would be interesting to see what happens if this thing grows big. Web statistics would become less reliable.

Although I’m not sure if this idea is original, I got this through Laurence-Hélène’s blog and the initiator Mark Collier’s Viral Garden blog. eMarketeer Seth Godin also made a post about this, and his list looks different already from the list that I have posted below. To read how this works here is a part of the how-to from Mark Collier’s post Revenge of the ‘Z-Lister’:

What YOU can do is simply create a new post on your blog, but CUT AND PASTE the list I have below, and then ADD any blogs you feel aren’t getting their due either. It can be 1 blog, or a hundred(or none if you simply want to repost the same list), but the idea is, find those great blogs that, for whatever reason, you feel aren’t getting their due, link-wise.
Then after you leave your post, the next blogger will do the same thing, cut and paste YOUR list, and add THEIR blogs to the list, then repost it. Add the same instructions in your post that the next blogger should cut and paste YOUR list, and add any blogs they feel should be on it to THEIR list. The list will get increasingly long, and all the blogs will get a sort of reverse ‘pyramid-affect’ of link-love.

This is the infamous list:
Creative Think / Soloride / Movie Marketing Madness / Blog Till You Drop! / Get Shouty! / One Reader at a Time / The New PR / Own Your Brand! / OTOInsights / bizandbuzz / Work, in Plain English / Buzz Canuck / New Millenium PR / Pardon My French / Troy Worman’s Blog / The Instigator Blog / AENDirect / Diva Marketing / Marketing Hipster / The Marketing Minute / Funny Business / The Frager Factor / Mindblob / Open The Dialogue / Word Sell / Note to CMO: / That’s Great Marketing! / Shotgun Marketing Blog / BrandSizzle / bizsolutionsplus / Customers Rock! / Being Peter Kim / Billions With Zero Knowledge / Working at Home on the Internet / MapleLeaf 2.0 / darrenbarefoot.com / Two Hat Marketing / The Emerging Brand / The Branding Blog / CrapHammer / Drew’s Marketing Minute / Golden Practices / Viaspire / Tell Ten Friends / Flooring the Consumer / Kinetic Ideas / Unconventional Thinking / Buzzoodle / NewsPaperGrl / The Copywriting Maven / Hee-Haw Marketing / Scott Burkett’s Pothole on the Infobahn / Multi-Cult Classics / Logic + Emotion / Branding & Marketing / Popcorn n Roses / On Influence & Automation / Bullshitobserver / Servant of Chaos / converstations / eSoup / Presentation Zen / Dmitry Linkov / aialone / John Wagner / Nick Rice / CKs Blog / Design Sojourn / Frozen Puck / The Sartorialist / Small Surfaces / Africa Unchained / Perspective / gDiapers / Marketing Nirvana / Bob Sutton / ¡Hola! Oi! Hi! / Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid! / Women, Art, Life: Weaving It All Together / Community Guy / Social Media on the fly / Jeremy Latham’s Blog / SMogger Social Media Blog / Masey.com / New Media Wanderings / Return on Innovation / T’s Melange / Masters of Media

Awayism on Messenger

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awayism5Is this also what your Messenger or other social contacts application looks like? Everyone uses the ‘away’ status nowadays, and trust me, it is not because I am impopular among my Messenger crowd because I talk to these people in real life on a regular basis.

What I see here is the trend of awayism. I’ll briefly explain what I mean with this -ism here: With Messenger you speak when you are spoken to, simply because it is expected. But if you don’t want to reply, you don’t want to have to excuse yourself all the time, right? So that is where the away button -or the busy/lunchbreak/etc. for that matter- comes into play.

Its original intention was to notify the other user of your availability. But now the Messenger applications are maturing on a social level and developing their own user language. Now the away button is not a way of saying that you are really ‘away’ or ‘busy’, but more and more it signifies that the person on the other side decides for himself if he/she wants to speak when he/she is spoken to.

When software is used, users create their own way of using certain options in a way that they see fit. It is neither in the hands of the developer, nor completely in the hands of the user how the software works in the community. It is a combination of both, meeting in the middle. I’ve been thinking about this, but a button in Messenger that says ‘I’ll think about it if I want to talk to you’ just wouldn’t cut it I guess.

Written by newmw

November 29, 2006 at 10:00 pm

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