MIT SENSEable City Lab (famous for Mobile Landscape Graz) is working on the Real Time Rome project for the 2006 Venice Biennale of architecture.


The project combines different datasets in a single interface to reveal the rhythm of the city in real time. RTR aggregates mobility of people according to their mobile phone usage and visualizes it synchronously with the flux of public transit, pedestrians, and traffic to better understand patterns of daily life in Rome and show how technology can help individuals make more informed decisions about their environment.

The data of the movements of a mobile phone location will be anonymously visualized on a map. The algorithms used are able to spot the difference between a slow mobile phone in the pocket of a pedestrian or the phone of a driver stuck in one of Rome's monstruous traffic jams.


Using this instrument, one would be able to choose the fastest street to get to lunch but also the quietest restaurant. An analysis of country codes gives detailed information about the flow of tourists: where are Germans going? how do Japanese move in the city? Combining traffic and public transport data will help understand if the number of buses available matches the density and requirements of usage. Users would be able to check on their phone screen the nearest taxi or parking space.

Rome was chosen as test bed for the project because "in 1748, Nolli's map of Rome introduced modern cartography," explains Carlo Ratti, Director of senseable. "The maps of the future will be huge database that will enable us to extract fragments that suit our needs, like we can do today on Internet".

Maps of Rome.

Via PPF and la repubblica. Second image from Roma, the 1972 movie by Fellini.

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For their Metal Phone project Jack Schultze and Matt Webb (blogo-famous for their Availabot work) have been using a low-melting point alloy to cast and recast a mobile phone shell using only hot air or water.

Metal Phone comes with a machine that melts and reforms a phone around the internals of a standard Nokia handset (the 5140i). The idea is to discuss the local factory angle of personalisation: Could purchasing a mobile phone be more like a performance of manufacture? Could it be more like a vending experience?

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Recasting machine and Metal Phone melting

Using the Metal Phone is not meant to be a piece of cake. The phone is really heavy because it’s mostly lead so you’ll need strong pockets to carry it around. The metal reduces the effectiveness of the aerial so you’ll need to be closer to the transmitter. If you leave your mobile on the dashboard of your car on a hot day, you’ll come back to find the components in a pool of liquid metal. It’s not advisable to hold the phone in your hands for too long because cadmium is present in a low concentration.

The Nokia 5140i is an illusory object. Disconnected from the network when you’re underground, it becomes a lump of plastics and metals. Although safe in your hands, you wouldn’t want to eat the components. It, too, would lose its shape in an oven—in time, it would break apart anyway.

Metal Phone seeks to undermine the current experience of choosing a plastic replica fastened by a security tag to the wall of a handset outlet. The machine represents a vending model for fabrication of the phone in-store, extending the production line to the buyer’s palm. Metal Phone proposes and experience when consumers witness and participate in the fabrication of their products through novel techniques at the point-of-sale and subsequently.

Metal Phone is an extension of work for Chris Heathcote of Nokia, Insight Foresight Group (now NEXT) to develop prototypes exploring personalisation in mobile phones.

Graduation show of the IDII in Milan, project number 8.

Ana Camila Amorim's project is a mobile communication service that supports the user in the management of their social network and the definition of who, how and how much others can access to them and their information.

The main touch point of the service is the so-called "Presence Phone". Each element on the screen corresponds to a contact and its size represents the amount of communication shared between him/her and the device’s owner. Contacts are organized around tags.


Other people availability to you is visible by the color change of the bubbles. In case a contact is not on the visible area of the screen, you can search for it based on name or related tag. Several tags can be combined in order to reduce the number of results. Once you've found the contact, you can open the contextual menu where one of the options is ‘see details’.

The notification of missed communication appears in a pop-up window listing the missed events by chronological order. Events are identified in relation to the current time (e.g. 5 minutes. ago).

Incoming calls will be notified in full screen with clear information: name, photo, company logo, most recent tags (personal, automatic, local and communication) and last communication event.

Text messages can be responded through the dedicated inbox on the contact detail, by adding a field on top of the previews message. Other people can be added to this message and copies of it also appear on their inboxes. comprises of:


1. Personal card

Each user is issued with a single ‘identifier’ that responds to all of his/her digital communication needs (voice, text). When initiating communication the caller/ sender uses a single ID and a distribution engine diverts it to the most convenient device according to the callee’s preferences.

Contact initiation can be done either by online invitation or card swapping. By accepting a card and approaching it to the phone, the receiver allows the link to be created. Each card has a RFID tag, that when in proximity to a NFC enabled device, validates the user in the card owner’s contact list.

2. Hot spots also allows you to communicate their level of availability to different people according to your context and willingness to be reached. This definition can be done manually or automatically by defining different profiles that are activated during specific periods of the day, or by location awareness or other day to day events. RFID tags placed in different locations (working place, home, cinema, church, etc.) allow the phone to be aware of its environment and adjust accordingly.

Video scenarios.

ilikefrank.jpg Well... when i write Blast Theory, i mean one of its members: Matt Adams (i took some extremely loosy pictures of him during his talk, so the portrait of him was stolen on The Age.)

Matt Adams started by giving a brief history of Blast Theory then explained with more details their latest work: The Day of the Figurines.

In the beginning, Blast Theory was particularly interested in British clubbing culture, they were trying to make out art in clubs in the early '90s. Clubbing at the time wasn't a branded activity like it is now (clubs selling their t-shirts and other "merchandising".) Matt background is in theater and he was interested in how people were staging themselves in clubs. In clubs you have a certain control: you can decide to be and stay a spectator or to be the center of attention, to become part of the show. Clubbing were a very fluid space. THe other main interested was: how do you find and build an audience? how does it form? Visual art is usually shown in galleries, galleries have their audience. Artist have a very personal dialogue with their work and get their audience via the gallery. So matt wanted to find other ways to find new audience.

This reflected also a political interest influenced by the Russian constructivism of the '20s and also by the radical forms of theatre that emerged in the 60s and 70s.

Matt wanted to see how culture could have a transformative role and to make art works which are not narrative. Stories have limits. None of us lives a linear life, our life is more fragmented. Looking for works which would be non-narratives while being also accessible for a broad public, he found out that there was already something out there that had these two qualities: Games!

Games are entertainable, readily understandable, interactive and non-narrative.

In the meantime, he had lost interest in clubs which had lost their fluidity.

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Can You See Me Now?

Blast Theory's first attempt to use the street and mobile phones was Can You See Me Now?, commissioned in 2001 by the Art Council of England and the BBC. Why using mobile phones? in 1998-1999, the use of mobile phones was rising, they were becoming ubiquitous and thus became a new transformative technology. Internet is not as transformative as mobile phones. A small number of people have internet at home in some countries. Mobile phone is accessible, there's a very low barrier of entry (unlike the walkman which was a status symbol when it was launched). A study in the UK showed that the proportion of homeless people who own a mobile phone is higher than the proportion of people who have a home and a mobile phone. The mobile phone is also the first thing that immigrant buy when they arrive in the UK. The device is unusually well disiminated in our culture.

In 2000 and 2001, location and 3G were coming with all kinds of promises. Blast THeory wanted to come up with uses of these technologies which were not revolving around commerce and marketing (find the nearest McDonald's, etc.)

As Sadie Plant said "The mobile phone has privatized the phone book." It's an act of trust and reciprocity to give your phone number. In 2001, Blast Theory was thus looking for ways to address these factors. Matt Adams said the Can You see me now was rather primitive, it's a chase game in which online players and players in the streets compete against one another. Why such a simple format? Two reasons: the technical challenges were big and it was necessary to make players easily understand what was going on.

The game was developed in collaboration with the researchers of the Mixed Reality Lab in Nottingham.

People found the game very adrenaline-charged, even if they were only playing online. The walkie-talkie audio element made the game very compelling: listening to the player in the street struggling with traffic, snow, breathing heavier because he or she was running up a hill, etc. The audio element made the players feel intimately connected.

Uncle Roy All Around You

Blast Theory had some frustrations about the game: it was a short and specific experience, not intellectually engaging over a long period of time. The group wanted to extend this kind of experience, so they came up with Uncle Roy All Around You. The players are not competing anymore but collaborating to search the city for Uncle Roy. 20 players online and 12 players swapping information. Uncle Roy is always one step ahead and players never find him. They will finally get to his office but will have left already when they arrive there. Blast Theory ask people: if someone you don't know asks for your support, will you offer your help? They took the phone numbers of the people who said "yes" and gave each number to another person, saying that during one year that particular person would be there in case of need. Blast Theory was interested to see what kind of community they would be able to build like that. Two or three years ago people were not sure that it was safe to shop online, there's also still questions about trusting people on the net and in chatrooms. Matt Adams gave the example of suicide chatrooms. He commented in particular the famous example of Japanese chatrooms where depressed people get in touch with each other and arrange to meet and commit suicide together. Paradox: online space is accused of being hooribly corrupted, sick and twisted example of the worst internet can offer. On the other hand, many people around the world feel depressed and find confort in discussing with other people who feel the same and won't jude them.

Back to the mobile phone numbers swapped for Blast Theory's experiment: some people did meet as a result, other never used the number but kept it and felt a connection with the stranger out there who had agreed to be there in case they needed to talk to someone.

There was a frustration with Uncle Roy: developing works on phones is extremely difficult: mobile phones are hostile to people working on then and phone operator do not want you to mess around with the devices either. So for Uncle Roy, Blast Theroy was lending the phones. As they only had a small number of phones, the performace was always on a small scale.

Besides it's difficult to develop something new for every mobile phone that exists. You must make 32 types of the same ringtone to cover the different handsets. So for the Day of the Figurines, Blast theory had to use something that all mobile phones had in common: either the voice or the SMS. They chose the SMS.

The Day of the Figurines

Last July they tested the Day of the Figurines in London, at the Laban Center. They improved the game for Barcelona. The next Day of the Figurines performance will be in Berlin in September and it will last 24 days (only 3 days at Sonar.)

Blast Theory's concern is to let people play whenever they want to. They want to look at the culture of SMS: they can be either annoying or a welcome intrusion. FOr the new project, they wanted to keep the balance right. The goal is to have players regard the figurine as part of their life. Another concern was to make it simple, to let any kid break into the game and have fun with it. There's no more rule than necessary. For example, one of the players had decided that his figurine had stolen a BMW.

Blast Theory is presenting their latest work, the Day Of The Figurines, at Sonar.

The game, set in a fictional gloomy town, unfolds over the three days of the Barcelona festival, each day representing an hour in the life of the town that shifts from the mundane to the cataclysmic: Scandinavian metallists play a gig at the Locarno that goes horribly wrong and a gunship of Middle Eastern troops appears on the High Street. How players respond to these events and to each other creates and sustains a community during the course of a single day in the town.

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Maria choosing a figurine

The centrepiece of the game is a 3.5 x 5 meter model town - at the Centre de Cultura Comtemporània de Barcelona - created using pop up metal buildings, overlaid with computer graphics.

Once there, you register, choose your figurine, give it a name, personalize it (kind of shoes it wears, favourite place when it was a kid, name, nickname) and your character is placed into the model town. Mine is a black lady with green boots, she's called Morphine and is in distress. Throughout the day, you get text messages from the game asking where you'd like to go in the town or how the figurine should react to the people it encounters and to some rather unpleasant situations. So far it's really compelling. My poor character started her adventure by being dropped by a truck at the edge of the town. So i made her run to the timber yard, but men in sharp suits are arriving with jerry cans. I decided to look for some timber to use as a weapon, etc.

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Figurines at the edge of the town, wating to be moved
and Nuclear Bunker

Your tiny figurine, as well as those of the other players are moved by hand on the model town every hour for the duration of the game.

The game uses emergent behaviour and social dynamics as a means of structuring a live event. It invites players to establish their own codes of behaviour and morality within a parallel world. It plays on the tension between the intimacy and anonymity of text messages, building on previous projects such as Uncle Roy All Around You, I Like Frank and Can You See Me Now?

Just received an SMS that informs me that my figurine could only find a broom. But the shaft breaks and the thick nylon bristles sweep across the side of my face. What should i do?

Blast Theory will be speaking tonight, at 7, at the Art Centre Santa Monica. Just before them, there will be a talk by Jose Luis de Vicente then by Michelle Teran. The full day 24 day version of Day Of The Figurines will be launched in Berlin in Septembre.

My pics on flickr.
Other Blast Theory posts
: Kidnap, the day of the figurine, Single Story Building.

8mobias.jpg Suhjung Hur informed me a few days ago that the Art Center Nabi in Korea was organizing a Mobile Asia Competition and an exhibition that investigate the new forms of Asian identities and cultures in the creative works of artists and designers who dare to experiment, play, and wrestle with the mobile technologies (submission form). Reading Suhjung Hur's email, I immediately thought that it was a great opportunity to write her back with questions about the event and the art scene in Korea.

As a curator at the Art Center Nabi, a non-profit media art center in Seoul, Suhjung Hur has been curating and organizing exhibitions, workshops and live events since 2002.

Her curatorial projects include Liquid Space, Art & Science Station, Unzipping Codes and the forthcoming Urban Sensorium, which explores the multi-sensory experience in urban environment enhanced and intervened via new media technologies. She is also organizing an experimental sound-visual performance series, 'alt_sound' and a monthly gathering of media art practitioners, The Upgrade! Seoul. In 2005, she co-organized the international workshop 'Urban Play and Locative Media' and Unesco Digital Arts Award on the theme of 'City and Creative Media' held at Art Center Nabi. She was also a co-founder and editor for the short-lived art quarterly Stray Dog in Los Angeles, and has written for leading art and architecture magazines in Korea including Wolgan Misool, Art in Culture, Bob, Design Net, as well as for catalogue publications. Suhjung holds a Bachelors Degree in Communication/Journalism from Yonsei University and a Masters Degree in Art History from University of Southern California. Currently she is a doctoral candidate for Communication and Arts in Yonsei University.

Shoot me if you can, by Taeyoon Choi

The competition focusses on mobile technology in Asian region. Asian countries seem to be quite different from each other in their uses of mobile phone technologies. Do you agree or do you think that beyond these natural differences they have in common some distinctively Asian cultural aspect?

'Asia' could mean many things and different geographical regions. When it comes to "East Asia" which include Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan, there exist peculiar phenomenon regarding mobile culture and technologies: for example, excessive embellishment of mobile device among young generation, skyrocketing market in mobile gaming, biggest numbers of mobile labors, etc. But of course, it would be risky and misleading to give overarching description on Asian mobile culture. It is also one of our goals through the Mobile Asia initiative to find out if there exist any 'Asianness' or cultural-specific characteristics around mobile culture and technologies.

Are there many exchanges between the media artists and institutions of the various Asian countries?

There are a few media art institutes in Asian region such as Sarai in India, ICC and IAMAS in Japan, and Art Center Nabi in Korea. There have been exchanges through exhibitions and smaller events such as Upgrade!, but not often in the official frame of institutional exchange program. Last year, Art Center Nabi started co-organizing a workshop program with Ching-Hwa university in Beijing where media artists from Korea and students in Beijing develop projects over a semester period. This is an ongoing project between Nabi and Ching-Hwa universtiy, which we hope will develop into more visible and sustainable program between the two institutions. Mobile Asia aims to facilitate more dynamic, long-term collaborations among the countries in Asia through research and media art projects and we just started talking with different individuals and institution in and outside the so called 'Asia.'

Duk-eum by Ji-Hoon Byun

The call for the competition mentions that "Artists and media makers always appropriate and challenge the given technology through creative ideas and critical practices to broaden the space of possibilities." i couldn't agree more on this. But could you be more specific and give us some examples?

While I was dwelling on the meaning of media art and its new functionalities, my colleague, Soh-Yeong Roh, gave this account, which seems to bear good insights: "New media seems no longer an object to be appropriated or challenged. It is very much integrated into our daily lives, almost to the point of constituting the very core of our identities. For me it is somewhat bewildering to think of what it means to be human apart from the dominant media of each age. If there is something to be challenged is not the media per se, but how people make use of them given the socio-political ideologies. So, like always, it is the human being and the society of it- the enemy within - that needs to be studied critically."

Could you give us the name of some Korean talents we should keep an eye on?

I hope you visit and check some names at Upgrade! Seoul.

Jang-Won Lee
who has a background in sculpture and computer engineering has been developing robotic installations using obsolete computer hardwares and softwares.

Ji-Hoon Byun
whose interactive works probes into the process of perception, embodies meditative and self-reflective philosophy in buddhism.

Tae-Yoon Choi's performative media art projects incorporates both humorous and interventionist approaches into our everyday urban lives.

Jin-Yo Mok is also worth checking for his exquisite sound installations.

Music box by Jin-Yo Mok

The selected works will be exhibited in various on and offline venues. Can you name a few of them?

Art Center Nabi will organize both online and offline exhibitions where the awarded works will be shown. The works will also be screened at theater during Resfest, digital film festival in Seoul in November. People in Korea who have DMB mobile phones will be able to view the works on their handhelds through TU media's DMB channel with whom we made a partnership through Mobile Asia competition. We are currently talking with Cyworld web service on the possibility of downloading and
uploading the selected works through phone to web or web to phone.

Is the call addressed to Asian artists only?

The competition is open to anybody whose interests lie in or related to cultures and technologies in Asia.

Sun Tracer by Jang-Won Lee

Apart from the exhibition and the competition, what are the other activities undertaken by Art Center Nabi?

Since 2000, Art Center Nabi has been organizing exhibition, workshop, seminar, live performance, symposia and various community development projects through both online and offline platforms. Recently we started re-blog project nare
( that covers diverse issues and information around media art in and outside Korea. One of our focal areas is 'mobile computing and urbanity' through which we held workshop in 2005 focusing on the theme of locative media and urban play based in the city of Seoul. Mobile Asia initiative is also align with these interests. Youth culture is another primary concern and we have been leading 'Project-I' through which media artists and children in different locales meet and produce projects incorporating various mundane media technologies.

Thanks Suhjung!

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