Locative Media at ISEA 2004 – Mapping Space Panel

Here at ISEA 2004, locative/located/site-specific media is holding a place of prominence, with at least three panels that deal with it directly, and a few panels that could be described as close cousins.

Two panels, Mapping Space and Tracing Space, were both moderated by Marc Tuters and provided two distinct perspectives, political/technical in the case of Mapping Space and artistic/aesthetic in the case of Tracing Space.

Mapping Space featured speakers Chris Heathcote, Ben Russell, and Andrew Morrison.

Chris Heathcote’s talk was entitled “Exhibitionists and Voyeurs”, which basically referred to his idea of a community (2% produce and everyone else watches.) He related this idea of community to “situated software”, that is, software that is produced for a limited group, usually geographically specific. He cited bass-station.net as an example, where internet users can control a single ghetto blaster that is accessible to a closed group of people. In general, he predicts a movement towards hinternet and localized darknets.

Ben Russell is a great storyteller. He displayed a wild and wonderful {{popup ben_marc.jpg ben and marc 300×400}}mind map (with nodes entitled things like “infinite meets the finite”, “the question of land refuses to go away”, “location of hair on the body”, “east coast code/west coast code”, and “salmon”.)

He spoke a bit about his recent interviews with archaeologists, which revealed a working definition of archaeology: it is the study of how people related to each other through objects. He then applied this thought to a concept of an archaeology of digital media, which might be less material but still exchange of “objects” (media objects.) He described how capitalism preys on this basic human tendency to collect things. This tendency makes an archaeologist’s job more interesting, and keeps the capitalist economy going, as well.

He said many other interesting things, including a story about a salmon that can communicate with you and tell you a lovely story that convinces you to buy it even though it is going bad. A collection of his thoughts will soon be available in book form.

Andrew Morrison spoke about a new initiative at the University of Oslo called “Re-public”. He discussed four focii of this research group: Expression, Gaming, Museums, and Services. One of his interests seemed to be performative public communication with mobile locative technologies, and he asserted that “performativity is the next frontier”. (I agree with him there.) He also posed some good questions, that the Re-public research group will investigate, such as:
-> What challenges to interpretation are posed by public electronic works?
-> How may audiences be included in their completion and circulation?
-> How may interaction design be artful, adaptive and participatory?

The audience had some good questions. Susan Kozel asked about the significance of performance to locative media, especially since the word “performativity” seems to be bantered about quite often in relation to the potential of locative media. She wondered if we will perform with our bodies differently because of locative media. Chris responded by saying he didn’t think performance was relevant (which I disagree strongly with), but he was speaking from the perspective of marketability of locative media (his words were that he didn’t think performance was significant to market-driven locative media.) Ben was more open in his definition and posited that performance can simply be acting differently, and that devices can trick people into being more performative (something I referred to in my talk the following day.)