(Augmentia - with permission from DoctorWat)

“You can find anything at the Samaritaine” is this department store’s slogan. Yes, anything and even a panoramic view of the all of Paris. All of Paris? Not quite. On the top floor of the main building a bluish ceramic panorama allows one, as they say, “to capture the city at a glance”. On a huge circular, slightly tilted table, engraved arrows point to Parisian landmarks drawn in perspective. Soon the attentive visitor is surprised: “But where’s the Pompidou Centre?”, “Where are the tree-covered hills that should be in the north-east?”, “What’s that skyscraper that’s not on the map?”. The ceramic panorama, put there in the 1930s by the Cognac-Jays, the founders of the department store, no longer corresponds to the stone and flesh landscape spread out before us. The legend no longer matches the pictures. Virtual Paris was detached from real Paris long ago. It’s time we updated our panoramas.”

The World is the Platform

Augmented Reality is going to make it possible for us to see through walls. It will remove some of the blindness that has crept up around our industrial landscape. But what is the “use” of this tool we’ve fashioned? And how will it even be implemented; how will many different app developers ever agree on what we see from a single window?

In a couple of weeks a bunch of us are going to get together to talk about this at ARDevCamp . But as a pre-amble to that I thought I’d share some of my own questions, thoughts and observations.

The hype has started to become real as William Hurley observes. Personally I blame Bruce Sterling but perhaps the iPhone 3GS and Android phones share some of the blame. This last weeks prime example should have been brought to us by companies like TomTom or Garmin given recent acquisitions. Instead (in what is clearly a longer term strategy) Google stopped licensing TeleAtlas in the USA and started provided their own higher quality interface and UI (and taking a bit of a stab at Apple at the same time not to mention the Open Street Maps community). The interface itself is shifting from a traditional top down cartographic orthodoxy to become more game-like; with street-view projections, heads-up-displays and zero-click interfaces. The hidden pressure underneath these moves may not be to just provide better maps but to provide a better higher fructose reality. A candy coated view that shows you just what you want just-in-time decorated with lots of local advertisements and other revenue catch basins. Cars and traffic reports are just the gateway.

In my mind this isn’t just hype but something relevant and important. Augmented Reality isn’t just an academic or even safe exercise. It connects in a very primal and critical way to who we are as humans. It’s not just an avatar in Second Life or a profile on a OKCupid – it is us. It puts own embodiment at risk. And whomsoever can mitigate that risk while providing reward will probably do well. I believe that organizations such as Apple and Google see this and are pursuing not merely real-time, or hyper-local or crowd-sourced apps but ownership of the “view”. They want to own the foundation of the single consistent seamless way of presenting an understanding of the world. And as such it is about to become extremely competitive.  Everybody wants a part of the lens of reality, the zero-click base layer beneath the beneath. As Gene Becker puts it “The World is the Platform”. And an ecosystem is starting to emerge.

Personally I’m trying to approach an understanding with praxis; balancing between time reading and time making. On the making side I’ve been writing an Augmented Reality app for the iPhone. For me that’s already a unique exercise. It’s the first time I’ve written code and then had to actually go outside into the real world to test it. On the thinking side, and coming from an environmental interest, and from a critical arts and technology perspective I’ve also been fascinated by how we understand and use Augmented Reality.

Collision of Forces

Like many new technologies Augmented Reality magnifies tensions between things that were normally separate.

In a sense it is the same dream that the social cartography community has had. This is the community that coalesced around Open Street Maps, Plazes, Where 2.0 and the idea of geo-tagging as a whole. This was a vision of a crowd-sourced bottom up community driven and community owned understanding of the world. It is a vision that failed in some ways. Yes we have nice free maps but we never did get to the point of being able to see our friends, or the contrails of where our friends had been, or really where the best nearby place to have a nap was. But now the idea is returning more forcefully and with more determination than ever.

It is also about an actionable Internet. There is a community that is rebelling against the morbidity of indoor culture and a largely passive media consumption centric lived experience. One that wants to decorate the world with verbs and actions – that wants to put knobs and levers on everything – or at least make those knobs and levers more visible. Diann Eisnor talks about Transactional Cartography – an idea of maps that are not passive – that don’t just show you where you can solve a problem – but that hear your request for help and call you back with solutions. Just imagine the kinds of trust and brokering negotiation infrastructure that this inevitable end game implies.

It is also about an ideal of noise filtering as a pure problem. There’s been a long and unsolved problem of building working trust networks on the web as a whole. Even aside from spam there are acres of rotting bits out there that will completely drown out any new view unless they are filtered for. Many social graph projects have failed to help filter the deluge of information that we are inundated with every day. When you can’t see the forest or the trees then this becomes a much higher priority to resolve.

It dredges up an amusingly disparate rag-tag collection of development communities who have been safely able to ignore each other. Suddenly game developers are arguing with GIS experts and having to unify their very different ways of describing mirror worlds. Self-styled Augmented Reality Consortiums are emerging with the proposition to define the next generation notational grammars by which we will share our views of reality.

It brings the ubiquitous computing and ambient sensor network people to the table. These are folks who had safely been hiding out in academia for the last decade doing exotic, beautiful and yet largely ignored projects .

It creates a huge pressure and demand for interaction designers to actually make sense of all this and make interfaces that are usable.

It draws a pointed stare towards the act of siloing and building moats around data. When your FourSquare cannot see your Twitter and when your Layar view can’t show the gigantic T-Rex stomping towards you … well people just aren’t going to put up with that anymore. What is needed is a kind of next generation Firefox or foundation technology that underpins and unifies these radically disparate realities.

It is going to take the idea of crowd-sourcing to a wildly energetic new level above where it is now. When your body is on the line the idea of real-time tactical awareness suddenly becomes much more important to everybody. When the SFPD can volunteer that they’re going to put a radar gun at a location, or when a driver can post about a car accident to the cars behind him or her – you start to involve a real time understanding that affects your quality of life in an visceral way. It’s almost the beginning of a group organism. Something that goes beyond merely flocking type of behaviors and becomes more like a shared nervous system. It’s an evolution of us as a species – and probably just in time as well given the kinds of environmental crisis we are facing.

It takes the Apple ideals of interface to a new level. Instead of one click there are zero clicks; the interface becomes effortless. As Amber Case puts it interfaces move from being heavy and solid with big heavy buttons and knobs and rotary dials to becoming liquid and effortless like the dynamic UI of the iPhone to becoming like air itself. They become part of the background, ambient and everywhere, we breathe them and can see through them, the virtual pressure of these interfaces becomes like an information wind steering us around invisibly like toy boats on a lake.

It will connect us to the environment because everything actually is connected to the environment – we just manage to ignore this. Our natural environment underpins everything around us but we largely ignore it. There’s a feeling in the movement that things are constantly getting worse. That we’re losing more of Eden every day. We hear in the media about plastic oceans, carbon dioxide and the like. Derrick Jensen says “what would it take to live in a world where every year there were more salmon, and every year there were more birds overhead, and less concrete and more trees?” Paul Hawkens talks about an idea of thousands of local organizations developing a local understanding of their region and each working in parallel over local issues. When people can see environmental issues around them, and connect those issues more simply to related economic issues then it will vitalize action.

It will do interesting things to national boundaries. When you can look through walls and see other kids who are exactly the same as you – clearly that will have some kind of impact. Either to humanize us or to make us carry an even greater burden of cognitive dissonance.

It even brings out that eternal question of what it means to be human. We’re so willingly embracing technology today it almost feels like a planet wide mania. Consider how the One Laptop Per Child is challenged in terms of is it the best and cheapest technology device for kids but rarely is there a question of if technology at all is the right thing. We give some kids augmentia while other kids pry precious metals out old desktops while coughing out toxic smoke from nearby jury rigged smelter operations.

As Sheldon Renan posits in his ‘theory of netness’ a sufficiently dense network exhibits an emergent behavior. A virtuous field is created that affects not only the participants in the network but everything around it, even things not directly connected to it. By way of allegory in the United States we used to back our currency with gold. At some point we left that backing because the illiquidity was a hindrance to velocity. Local area information is about to get a similar speed up and disconnection from its argumentative grounding. You won’t have to visit city records to see the hidden history of the homes around you or the supply chain behind a package of smarties. AR is in some ways like seeing the speculative sum of the Noosphere. Privileged information may become cheaper. Inflationary economies may take hold. But by making hidden things visible, and visible things cheap, it will make other things possible that we don’t entirely realize yet.

Historical Perspective

In 1997 I co-founded Virtual Games Inc. We were a specialized 12 person venture funded games co focusing on real-time immersive many-participant shared experiences. You could put on a VR helmet and run around in our game worlds and interact with other players ( usually by shooting them unfortunately ).

Back then the relatively moderate performance of 3d rendering hardware made it difficult to keep up with the rapid head movements of the players. The lag between moving your head and seeing the 3d display repainted could make you nauseous. Today the average video game machine such as the WII, XBox or Playstation II can paint around 100,000 lit shaded polygons at 60 frames a second but back then home computers were much like the mobile devices today; capable of only very limited 3d performance.

The biggest challenge we faced wasn’t hardware however. Rather it was simply knowing where to start; how to define the topic as a whole. We had very few examples. Issues such as User Interface controls that could be used while moving, having a Heads Up Display, having a radar view, or decorating the VR world with visibly striking markers – these were all fairly novel ideas. We didn’t have a design grammar for representing the objects, their relationships and how they behaved.

Today many of the same issues are occurring again with Augmented Reality. The synchronization and registration between the movement of the real world and the digital overlay can feel like being on a ship at sea. Presenting complex many polygon animated geometries that interact with the users is still a challenge – especially on mobile devices where the camera is fairly dumb and the computational power limited. Making a publishable data representation of an avatar or interactive digital agent is in and of itself a significant challenge. There are fundamentally new ways of interacting that still haven’t been very well defined. The Augmented Reality Operating System has yet to be invented.

Now as a result there are fervent discussions about how to describe, publish, share and run an Augmented Reality world.  People are trying to design an ARML ( Augmented Reality Markup Language ) much like occurred years ago over VRML ( Virtual Reality Markup Language ). But the whole space still lacks the cognitive short-hand and the usability expertise that characterizes web development today.


“For instance, do you see this chunk of land, washed on one side by the ocean? Look, it’s filled with fire. A war has started there. If you look closer you’ll see the details. Margarita leaned towards the globe and saw the little square of land spread out, get painted in many colours, and turn as it were into a relief map. And then she saw the little ribbon of a river, and some village near it. A little house the side of a pea grew and became the size of a matchbox. Suddenly and noiselessly the roof of this house collapsed, so that nothing was left of the little two-storey box except a small heap with black smoke pouring from it. Bringing her eye still closer, Margarita made out a small female figure lying on the ground, and next to her, in a pool of blood, a little child with outstretched arms. “That’s it,” Woland said, smiling, “he had no time to sin. Abaddon’s work is impeccable.”

Building the technology for a next generation OS is going to be challenging.

There will need to be some kind of way of publishing AR objects onto the Internet. This description will have to describe what an AR object would like to be presented as. Its geometry as described by a series of polygons or mathematical surfaces, texture, appearance, lighting and animation. Often appearance is tied to underlying functionality and a description of the behavior of the object needs to be shipped as well. Some of this behavior is gratuitous; eye-candy for the viewer, and some is utilitarian, actual work that the object may do for you. The clear legacy for this kind of description comes from the world of video games.

Unlike the traditional web probably there will be one view – not many separate web-pages. Everybody’s stuff will all pour together into one big soup. Therefore there will need to be a way to throttle 3d objects that are presented to you; limiting the size, duration and visual effects associated with those objects so that one persons objects do not drown out another persons. Objects from different people will have to interact gracefully with the real world and with each other.

There will be an ownership battle over who owns ordinary images. Augmented Reality views may be connected to real world images around us. An image of an album cover could show the bands website, or it could show – depending on who ends up winning this battle. An image of you could show your home-page or a site making fun of you. Eventually a kind of Image Registry will emerge where images are connected to some kind of meta-data.  An AR View would talk to this database.

There will be user interface interaction issues. What will be the conventions for hand-swipes, grabs, drags, pulls and other operations to manipulate objects in our field of view. We’re going to evolve a set of gestures that don’t conflict with gestures we use around other humans but that are unambiguous.

There will be a messaging system. It’s pretty clear that most signage, sirens, alerts and social conventions will be virtualized. You’ll probably be able to elevate your car to being an ambulance in certain conditions and have everybody clear the road ahead of you for example.  This kind of transaction will require an agreement on protocols at least – aside from privileges, permissions, and payment systems.

There will probably be huge incentives to have trust well defined. Since your actual body is usually involved in an augmented reality – you’re likely to be more sensitive about full disclosure. Trust is usually accomplished by a whitelist of friends who are allowed to see you or contact you – and perhaps one or two degrees of separation may be allowed as well.

New Senses

Of course we can imagine that we’ll move past these challenges. And then it becomes like any human prosthetic; integrated with our faculties, shifting who we are, and becoming invisible. Modern video games have a well framed design grammar that is taken for granted – the experience of being in a VR world is completely natural. Mobility, teleporting, just-in-time information – all completely normal. We can navigate a VR world with about the same ease that we can trace our finger along a map or browse the chapters of a book. And like maps or books if it is convenient and helpful then it becomes necessary.

Today I am sitting in the park between the Metreon and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I’m currently surrounded by thousands of “agents”, ranging from birds to pedestrians to street-signs to the grass itself. Clearly we are fit for this world we live in. Plants in general are color coded in such a way that their coloration has critical meaning for us. There is a well understood inter-species dialogue between ourselves and other kinds of agents at many levels. The pace of the world runs at about the pace of our ability to keep up with it. Our world is highly interactional – a total tactile and sensory immersion if we permit it. Our whole body is ventured and at risk. The world affects and defines us by the compromises we make; we put substantial cognition into avoiding harm. It is not about arbitrary irreverent static images floating around in our field of view like a detached retina. We are a persistent but porous boundary between an inner state and an outer state. Our embodiment is affected by the powers and needs we have.

Augmented Reality is (I imagine) more of a new kind of power. It isn’t quite like our own memory or quite like the counsel of friends. It stands in its own right. It is not simply “memory” – it isn’t just a mnemonic that helps bring understanding closer to the surface of consciousness. A view instrumented with extra hints and facts is of course not entirely novel. Clearly we are surrounded by our own memories, signage, advertising, radio, friends voices and an already rich complicated teeming natural landscape loaded with signifiers and cues. But it is another bridge between personal lived experience and the experience of others. It seems to lower costs of knowing, and it seems to provide stronger subjective filters. A key aspect is that it seems to be faster. It’s as if we are evolving in a Lamarckian fashion to deal with a new kind of world.

It is hard to imagine what having a new sense is like. Recently I was invited by Mike Liebhold at the IFTF to hear Quinn Norton talk about having had magnetic implants in her fingers. She is the writer for Wired Magazine who interviewed Todd Huffman a few years back on the same topic and had the procedure done to herself. By brushing her fingers over a wall she could literally feel the magnetic field lines where the electrical wires ran underneath the surface. Her mind integrated this as a new sense; not merely a tugging on her fingers but a kind of novel sensory field awareness.  Quinn also spoke about wearing a compass cuff; a small ankle bracelet that would buzz on the north facing side. Over time it gave her an awareness of which direction was true north. It wasn’t just a buzzing feeling in her leg, but a feeling for her orientation with respect to the world. This kind of sensory awareness may be like what a homing pigeon feels intuitively. Choices we make may be quietly guided by an understanding we have.


Who have persuaded man that this admirable moving of heavens vaults, that the eternal light of these lampes so fiercely rowling over his head, that the horror-moving and continuall motion of this infinite vaste ocean were established, and contine so many ages for his commoditie and service? Is it possible to imagine so ridiculous as this miserable and wretched creature, which is not so much as master of himselfe, exposed and subject to offences of all things, and yet dareth call himself Master and Emperor.

Dirt Architecture has leaned in the direction of making our world simpler, safer and dumber. It seems to largely have been about the imposition of barriers, walls and structures to reduce the complexity of the world. This is prevalent today. Perhaps the primary legacy of the Industrial age is the fence.

Many of us still live sheltered box lives. In the morning you enter the small box that is your car and it safely navigates you to your office. During this journey you are protected from the buffeting winds, from people, from noise and from most other distractions. Once at the office you sit down in your cubicle, the walls safely blinkering away distractions as you myopically gaze into the box of your computer screen. Even the screen itself consists of very clearly delineated boxes. There are buttons that say “go” and buttons that say “cancel”. There is no rain, no sun, no noise. After the days work ends you get back in your car and you drive home. When you arrive at home you close the door behind you and relax – ignoring the outside world held at arms length outside of your domain.

There is a sense of pleasure in this artificial simplicity. A sense of closure, understanding and a lack of fear about things being hidden. There is also an undue sense of speed at our ability to race through these spaces very quickly.

This pattern is similar to that of working by yourself versus working with others. You gain privacy, concentration, control and velocity by doing it yourself, but you lose an ability to crowd-source problems and to avoid repeating work and energy that others have already put in. By expending more energy on being social you save energy on wasted effort.

This extends to the way we shop at Whole Foods, Costco, Walmart, Ikea and other such big box stores. Certainly part of the reason we don’t use local resources as much as we could is that we simply can’t see them. We don’t know that we can just pick an apple instead of buying one. We don’t know that a certain garage sale has what we need or that there’s an opportunity to volunteer just around the corner.

If we interact with spaces primarily as a series of disjoint divisions then we tend to think our actions on the world can be contained without side-effects. In any busy city you can see the store owners and proprietors manicure the space directly in front of their building. Planting plants, brushing the pavement, creating a sense of mood and ambiance around their particular restaurant. And that obligation stops immediately at the margins of their property line. Of course this just pushes negative patterns to the edge where pressure builds up more strongly.

Our aesthetic leads us to try to whitewash reality and yet it pokes through. An urban landscape becomes clotted with thrown away garbage, sidewalks blackened with bubble gum. Paint peels, weeds crack the pavement. We see sometimes vagrants, beggars and the dispossessed raging against the world, noisy, bothersome; frightening even. We see their helpless entanglement and inability to be indifferent as a kind of betrayal of Utopia.

Simplicity, linear surfaces, boxes, walls. These patterns fail because they hide but do not eliminate side-effects. In fact they magnify them. It is the lack of synthesis between spaces, the lack of free movement between them that makes pressures build up. If you can’t understand that you could share a ride with a new friend to work, or that kids are constantly vandalizing your street because they used to exhaust themselves instead in a wilder more abandoned overgrown forest, then you tend to work against opportunities, you end up spending more energy to get less.

This is so unlike a dirty natural entangled world where you have little say in how the world is phrased. Where one brushes through spider webs and thorns stick to you and you have to walk all the miles to a hopeful uncertain destination. You get wet and dirty and hungry and tired and rained on and slapped silly by nature if you make a dumb mistake. You have to balance many forces in opposition and if you tug on one thing you find it connected to everything else in the universe. In nature one is constantly leveraging the landscape itself, working very closely with what it affords and simply steering those resources slightly in your benefit rather than asserting them so strongly. And it is there that we always seemed happiest.

Augmented Reality seems to at least offer the possibility that we can punch some holes in the boxes. It seems to offer a bridge between structure and chaos rather than just structure.  It is fundamentally different to see that something in a geographical proximity to you is actionable than to see it in a list view in Craiglist or read about it in a newspaper. It becomes a physical act – you can walk towards it, you can judge if you should participate.


AR is a precise assault on dirt architecture. It is a response to design – not by changing the world but by changing us. It is as if we’ve become fatigued with the attempts to refashion perspective with dirt and are instead just drawing lines in the air. How will we use it? And by use I mean use in the same way that we wear a garment or use an art object – the value we derive from it individually and culturally.

The First Union Methodist Church of Palo Alto on Webster street is designed to evoke a certain emotion. It has a Gothic style with many small windows arranged to a peak. To me these tiny windows seem to imply souls, perhaps ascending to heaven. That the windows are small also seems to imply a certain kind of suffering in life and a certain role of humility. The architect who designed this invoked a visual language that subconsciously refers to historical references and understanding. Carlton Arthur Steiner, the designer, may indeed not have been a fully rational actor; much in the way that we casually gesture with our hands and expect others to understand those gestures even though we don’t fully know them ourselves as rational acts.

This church is a fairly objective object in our shared reality. We may bring our own prejudices, history and understanding to our perception but it exists as a series of reinforcing statements by an amalgamation of the people around it. To avoid a Wittgenstein-like knot: I use my perception of said church a different way than another person but I am not using something else entirely; there is some portion of it shared between different views.

Counterpoint this with the augmented reality case where the church may not even be there, or may be some other completely arbitrary and alien cartoon artifact – something so subjective to each user that agreement is radically impossible.

We’ve always draped our landscapes with our opinions. We downscore certain things, upscore other things and in this way exhibit a kind of prejudice. We’re afraid of and offended by people who are down and out, we embrace a certain definition of nature, and a certain definition of beauty. We think certain kinds of architecture, space and geometry is beautiful. There are a set of culture aesthetics that bias us to value certain kinds of artifacts, shelters and structures over others. We read between the lines in many cases, seeing the rules that guided outcomes, seeing policy and choice as reflected in the geometry of our world and nod approvingly or disapprovingly.

Most of us are not architects and don’t have permission to rewrite our landscapes anyway. We’ve had to comfort ourselves with criticism in text, image, placard or graffiti to communicate our point of view. Often it was at a degree of remove – not so closely conflated and overlaid with the view as augmented reality affords. Even graffiti is somewhat transitory and superficial; it is not a deep rewriting of structure ( at least not yet ).

In an augmented world these factors all move around. Your critical statement may be directly attached to the subject in question; not at a remove. Your statement is explicit, it can be published to other people, it isn’t just in your head. But at the same time your statement is increasingly subjective. It loses some of the value of an embodied artifact.

In an Augmented Reality we can erase buildings that offend us and we can paint golden halo’s around people that we like. We can prejudice our contemporaries and fuel a kind of hyper tribalism if we wish. But at the same time our power is diminished unless we can get a large portion of the mainstream to agree with our view.


AR views will make our prejudices more visible and more formal. But they will also make them more subjective. Different people will subscribe to different views and build up quite a bit of bias before they’re forced to reconcile that with other people.

It may very well be that the role of consensus builder, or at least the role of holding a consensus space where issues of consensual reality can be debated, may become most important. I imagine that the role of a bartender for example, a neutral stakeholder who bridges other people together by offering a shared public space, might become quite important.

Let’s imagine that three people walk into a bar:

The first person, let’s call her Mary, a liberal environmentalist, has an augmented reality view that shows the carbon footprint of the people and objects around her. She can also see where the rivers used to run through the urban landscape, she can see if food is locally sourced and if purchasing power goes back into her community. She can see where super-fund sites are and where poverty levels are higher.

The second person, let’s call him a Derek, an artist, has an augmented reality view that redecorates the landscape around him with a kind of graffiti. All surfaces are covered with cartoon like creatures voicing criticism, comments, banal humor and art. He automatically has a critical perspective that lets him better understand others assumptions. He can see the contrails of his friends passage, the tenuous connections between people, and the location of upcoming art events in the area.

The third person, let’s call her Sarah, has a neo-american point of view and say is deputized as a police officer. She can see the historical pattern of crime in the area, she can see the traffic congestion, parking zones, gps speed-traps and can raise her space to emergency vehicle status if she needs it, she can see the contrails of important people in the neighborhood and can turn streets off and on.

The bartender serves them all a round of beers on the house and they sit down to talk about and share their differences.

Each of them is going to see their beer, and each other a radically different light based on their powers. For Mary the beer may appear especially palatable due to being locally sourced. For Derek the beer may have an attached satire which plays out about the human condition. For Sarah the beer may be seen with respect to late night noise ordinance violations surrounding the pub. This is on top of any personal memory that they have.

They get to talking about the beer, how regulated it should be, how it should taste and the like. A small typical bar conversation, but prejudiced by fairly strongly colored and enhanced points of view. Each participant thinks they are picking facts but they’re in fact picking opinions. Over time each one has subscribed to a set of prejudices that fundamentally altered what they now see. It alters how quickly they reach for the drink, it alters if they even enjoy it.

Over the issue of regulation Sarah might say that the sale of alcohol should be restricted. Derek might say that the alcohol should be served frozen so that it takes longer to consume. Mary might argue against regulation at all.

Each persons views are accumulated views. They are accumulated out of networks of people with like minds. Some networks are based on friendship, similar sentiment and trust. Other networks are constructed out of hierarchical chains of command. Each of these individuals reflects not just themselves but is a facet of a larger community and a larger set of views.

What comes to the table is not Mary, Derek and Sarah but Mary’s tribe, Derek’s tribe and Sarah’s tribe.

And the resultant consensus conflict becomes a classic case of the same kind of pathology that occurs when anthropologists try to understand a new culture. Each person is burdened by a deeply framed cultural lens that makes it difficult to really see things as they are. There is a tendency for all of us to divide the world into categories or into prototypical objects, and to then classify what we see as an example of some kind of object. We build mental machinery to deal with objects – we know how to deal with dogs or cats or a car – and we can mistakenly treat something as dog-like or cat-like when it in fact is dangerously not quite so. We cannot always give all things equal weight all the time, and in prioritizing, categorizing and scoring we necessarily create prejudice.

The redeeming difference here is that each of these participants can choose to trade views. Saran can put on Derek’s view, and Derek can put on Mary’s view and Mary can put on Sarah’s view. They can now see the world as scored from the other person’s point of view.

We find that Sarah has a personal financial benefit to seeing the world in her perspective. Her point of view is necessarily beneficial to continuing to earn a living. Derek perhaps also has a similar dependency. His point of view is necessarily driven by a need to continue maintaining a street credibility with his artist peers. Mary’s point of view is driven by and self-reinforced by a caution and concern for her well being. Each of these points of views is an embodiment of needs.

There’s both a risk and a promise that Augmented Reality will magnify prejudice but may also help us more clearly see each others prejudices. More to the point we’ll be able to hopefully trace back down to basic needs that lead to specific prejudicial postures. We can unwind the stack and get down to embodiments – perhaps we can tease apart our deep differences or at least respect them.


look at a variety of iphone 3d engines such as the ones used during GOSH

One Comment

  1. Posted January 2, 2010 at 11:15 am | #

    There’s a third pole of experience to compare to the heavily mediated urban/suburban artifice and the raw dirty hiking ecological uncontrolled beingness … the unmediated, out of control, intensely human, constantly directly negotiated urbanization of much of the planet. Kibera or Ramallah or Mumbai are intensely exhilarating, reawakening senses dulled by pre-negotiated spaces of architecture and laws, and frustrating to the extreme that no artifact exists anywhere, and attempts to pull out to a wider perspective are dragged down by the immediate needs of security and any food at all, local and organic or manufactured, it makes no difference. Pressure at the edges and margins indeed.

    The experience of these places, my intuition tells me, is going to be extremely informative for the design of augmented reality, and a design challenge in itself.

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  3. [...] and how to peacefully live together. Even the design challenges tomorrow’s technologies, augmented reality, have everything to learn from how space is negotiated in off the grid, on the edge places. Kibera [...]

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