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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, July 19, 2004
    Pigeon city

    Not for the first time, a fascinating link from the Demos site: to Fusedspace, "an international competition for innovative applications for new technology in the public domain."

    The site is full of entries each of which propose a way "through which technology will make possible other interactions with the public domain, will shed new light on it or in any other way will bring about innovation." Some excellent ones. Among them the one which first got me interested: the Bus Browser, an idea which redefines buses from being unsavoury public vehicles filled with soulless advertising and bland media screens to being "vehicles for community," those ads and screens being replaced with "a charismatic information system generated by the local community itself. "

    By website, or in situ on the bus itself, the public, local councils and community groups (using digital technology) can generate content on in-bus screens, perhaps voting on the best services along the route (promoting local businesses), commenting on local council initiatives (increasing engagement), contributing anecdotes (local social history repository), finding out what's on the streets behind the bus route (encouraging exploration), alerting others to community happenings (increasing involvement), learning what the area is known for (strengthening identity), celebrating local successes like recycling targets or sports matches (increasing civic pride)..... endless possibilities. Fantastic idea.

    The winner of the Fusedspace competition is Transitions, an idea about creating places for people to record their memories and tributes to their deceased, using a link between webspace, fibre optic light and physical space - you type in your tribute to a loved one and in a field somewhere, a light begins to glow.

    But the one that has just grabbed me as most in the spirit of my own programme of urban discovery (see Parish Walks series on sidebar) is called Urban Eyes, and it's quite simple - link CCTV cameras to pigeons and follow them on their journeys around town. It works via electronic tags the pigeons have ingested as 'seeds' which trigger CCTV cameras when they fly nearby them. Great way of seeing the city as you could never otherwise - by bird.

    "Urban Eyes borrows from the shamanistic journeys, providing an animal perspective in a distance. It gives a view on our surroundings that is not intended for the public. Because the imagery is intimately associated to the pigeon, the captured images form a micro story of the life of the bird throughout the day."

    Love it.