Eave · A project on local networking

Presented & Published at the Responsive Cities: Urbanism in the Experience Age International Symposium in Barcelona (September 2016)

Eave is a box of anonym reflections on crowd-sourced topics. Eave stores audio-messages in the place where they were created, which will be audible by other users if they are close enough

HI, WE ARE EAVE

This project approaches the issue of ubiquitous computation as a phenomenon that informs the perception of the built environment and interpersonal relationships. It challenges mainstream social media by proposing a novel way to foster social exchange: Eave allows the user to share opinions on crowd-sourced topics with her local community.


Short sounds are left by the users at certain locations, and they can be geo-activated by other users if they are close enough. A reflection on the means and some of the key aspects that drive the project (anonymity, local networking, open data, etc.) is presented.

WHY?

In accordance with Moore’s law (Moore, 1965) the amount of data produced by and in our cities are increasing in an unprecedented rate, as its citizens require advanced systems to harmonize co-living. This data defines our everyday behavior, whether it is through sensors and actuators that keep us safe in traffic or whether it is an interactive system that we act upon, such as social media. Eave was raised as a critical instrument to reflect on the way we generate and interact with this data, and how it influences the way we interact with each other and with their ‘virtual dimension’, i.e. their avatars in social media. Eave draws from three main concepts regarding the role of technology, ubiquitous computation and urban policies in contemporary western societies:

  • Loss of meaning of space, as the digital space seems to demote the physical space when it comes to establishing relationships among citizens. 
  • Pervasiveness of ubiquitous computation and its implications on the quality of the data generated by social media abuse.
  • Reconquest of the public space for their inhabitants, drawing from the ongoing privatization of public space in the UK, a phenomenon that silently articulates a switch over the general understanding of “public space” into “publicly accessible space”.

The main goals of the resulting product define a theoretical framework that guided the process from beginning to end and that could be resumed as follows:

  1. Reattachment of the physical realm to the digital one. Foster awareness and regain meaning of loci via their inherent attached experiences and interactions.
  2. Challenge the trending way of generating, sharing and revisiting data: notanywhere, not anytime, not anyhow.

HOW?

Sound was found to be the most adequate mean to fit our needs for several reasons:

  • Availability: It is present and well implemented in mobile devices. It is well known by the average user and needs no extra hardware.
  • Non-invasive: We rejected a visually-demanding interface in favor of a more complete experience of the city. The user is free to explore without having to look at the screen.
  • Personal & Anonym: Speech holds a strong semantic component. Through intonation, volume, pitch, pauses, etc. it is easy to get a quite precise understanding of the message, without needing a visual input. Tone and articulation can also be understood as elements for identification. Nevertheless, we take this as a much less explicit form of exposure and in certain cases, as a personal or even intimate way of interacting

In order to find a way to draw the limits of eave and define its interaction methods, we reflected on mainstream networking and content-based opinion platforms. As a proof of concept, we analyzed Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, but many other social media could be subjected to a similar analysis. Especially, we reflected on the following features:

  • Unfiltered: The content that the user can access isn’t chosen by any person, organization or algorithm.
  • Anonym: None of these platforms provide an option for anonymity. Users are required to provide personal information as well as email address and -in some cases- mobile phone numbers. 
  • Constrained: The existing platforms store and provide information indefinitely both in space and in time. The only exception is Snapchat that became popular for its limitation of visibility in time of messages. (Chen, 2015)
  • Limited Publicity: Messages are constrained spatially and temporarily, therefore they are theoretically available for anybody, but limited in the sense that it requires physical presence in a specific location to access every piece of information. Half-publicity allows for a more localized, neighbourhood-driven communication.