Posts Tagged ‘media’
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.
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
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’.
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.
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).
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.’
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.
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.
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)
At 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
What? Virtual Worlds at Picnic ’07
Cory Doctorow (SF novelist, blogger, technology activist)
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
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.’
Contrary 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!
What? Pablos Holman
Stefan Sagmeister (Graphic designer and typographer)
You 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 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.
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.
Made 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.
The 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.