Non-Visual Augmented Reality | Geonotes, Proximal Notification Systems, and Automatic Check-ins with GPS and SMS

If you don’t know Aaron Parecki (@aaronpk) yet, you should. You have an excuse if you don’t yet. He moved to Portland in October 2009.

The reason you should know him is because he created a system for automatic location check-in two years ago. He’s been taking GPS data every day for those past two years, and he’s got major data visualization skills. And Aaron innovates. The system he built keeps getting built.

I first met Aaron at Beer and Blog when he had just moved to Portland from Eugene. I forgot who introduced him to me, but I was very excited. I’d been talking about so many of the systems that Aaron was actually building. I promptly told him to present at the second Portland data visualization group, which he did.

Since then, we’ve been working on micro projects together. I started carrying around a GPS with me starting on 12/28/2009. With the exception of Japan, I’ve been logging pretty much everywhere I’ve been.

Having two GPS devices in play makes for some interesting opportunities, which is the subject of this post. This will all make sense in a minute.


Automatic Location Check-ins

A while ago, Aaron set up an automated check in system based on GPS coordinates. The system allows one to check into locations without having to load an interface. This was about 2 years before any of the geosocial systems were readily available. Parecki was not living in Portland, and his audience was small.

Now, social sharing platforms are hot, but they still require user action. This means that one still has to pause social flow to look down at a device, poke a few buttons, and check in. This is normal when one is around a tech-focused crowd, but should one still do this on a date? Or in the presence of a non-geek?

Checking in and Social Punctuation

Checking in can punctuate social flow. I ate lunch one afternoon with and experienced this. A group of five was sitting at the table next to me. One of the guys in the group got excited when he sat down. “Oh! I have to check in on Foursquare!” he said. His tablemates looked at him with blank faces as he tapped away at his mobile device. When he realized this, he started trying to describe Foursquare in order to explain why he had stopped to check in on his mobile device. It didn’t work. There is a way to avoid this.

Quadrant-Based SMS Alerts

Early on, Parecki’s system was able to SMS messages depending on quadrants of Portland, or pre-defined locations. Every time I go home, I get a text message on my phone telling me that I’ve arrived at home. Instead of actively checking in, I can simply dismiss the message. This reduces the time and space it takes to check in because I don’t have to load an app, wait for the location, and then check in. When I leave SE Portland and enter Downtown Portland, I get a SMS message telling me that I’ve changed locations.

Co-Location Negotiation proximity-notification-aaron-parecki

But there’s a lot more to the social equation than just automatically checking in. GPS is useful for a number of things. For instance, co-location negotiation, or “meeting up”, is one of the most text heavy social protocols currently in existence. It gets worse when one party hops from place to place, because one can’t constantly text their location or forward motion. Two people who haven’t met before must also negotiate by multiple texts. One might sit in a coffeeshop and wait for quite a bit of time without knowing when the other person should arrive. New visitors to buildings need specific directions in order to enter the location.

Instead of receiving a text message like “I’m late!” or “stuck in traffic”, I’ve been able to simply look at Aaron’s GPS. The picture is worth a thousand text messages. I can see if he’s left the office or if he’s crossing the Burnside bridge. If the GPS lines are squiggly and slow, I know he’s having trouble finding a parking spot.

In this situation, there is no need for text messages. Looking at a GPS map still takes user effort and load time. This punctuates task completion and social flow if one must always be checking and refreshing a GPS map 15 minutes before someone arrives.

In an effort to reduce the need to look at the GPS map, Parecki set up what has proven to be my favorite part of the entire system: proximity notification.

Proximity Notification

Instead of having to look at Parecki’s GPS map, the system detects when Aaron and I are in a certain distance of one another. I know when Parecki is near when I get a text message that says “you are 0.4 miles from aaronpk”.When I get a message that says “you are 0.1 miles from aaronpk”, I know that he’s arrived.


I can wrap up client work or finish what I am doing right up until the moment he gets there. I don’t have to waste time waiting. I get a warning “0.4 miles!” and then a confirmation “0.1 miles!”. It’s the equivalent of “on my way” and “here”, the two most common co-location ‘drags’. I call them drags because they are redundant and repetitive communication protocols. They’re actions that can be costly, especially when struggling to split concentration between driving and texting, or the sheer inability to text while on bike.


Bridge Notifications

A few nights ago, Aaron created bridges as locations, so that one could be checked into them as well. I got the text message you see here on my iPhone when I crossed the Burnside bridge.

Aaron wants to take the two years of GPS data he’s gathered and use it to visualize how many times he’s crossed the many bridges in Portland. It’s kind of amusing to get an SMS when crossing a bridge.

Why is any of this stuff important?

I’ll tell you why it’s important. Computers are evaporating. Interfaces are dissolving. Innovation in technology comes from reducing the time and space it takes to preform an action, or compressing redundant actions in order to free up time. Computers used to be the size of gymnasiums. Now we have computers in our pockets, begging for attention. We’re constantly planning for our future selves. We look at Yelp! reviews to prepare our next culinary adventure. We want to guarantee that our future selves will have a good experience. We’re connecting to tons of people to do this, connecting to the collective wisdom of a data set that consists of many samples. The more samples, the more accurate the data set. Why ask one person when you can ask many?

Tablet GPS

Xerox PARC had little tablets in the 80’s that allowed everyone to see where everyone was. There were little local GPS maps in the offices, so people could co-locate more easily. One of the guys working there was very excited about the tablets. “This is the future,” he said, “in maybe 20 or 30 years, everyone will have one of these. What works within these walls will work everywhere on Earth”.

Good interfaces disappear. Good work is invisible. Good technology dissolves. A book is a good piece of technology. If the writing in it is good enough, one’s consciousness dissolves into the pages and one has a consensual hallucination of an alternate reality.

All that is Solid Melts Into Air

The mouse is melting. The button is evaporating. Why check in physically when you can do so automatically? “Buttons are losing their shape,” says Interaction Designer Bill DeRouchey in a recent speech on the History of the Button at SXSW, (Bill’s slides on SlideShare) “Before [the computer monitor], buttons always had a sort of tangible border around them, whether physical or visual”. Automatically checking into a location means that the button does not even have a center. It is just a state that one physically walks into, or something that occurs after a certain amount of time has passed. An environmental button.

This is very similar to a video game, in which pieces of the environment closer to the avatar are loaded more fully than far away variables. Our lives are turning into video games, with plus one follower, and plus one friend. Our phones are our friends, giving us statistics about who we are and what we can do. They are our remote controls for reality.

Button Evolution

“Steve jobs hates buttons”, DeRouchey continues, “He sort of has this mandate to not have buttons. This is evidence if you consider how long they resisted having a two button mouse. It’s a all about hiding the buttons, hiding the barrier between us and technology”. Good design is reducing buttons.

A vehicle is a physical transportation device. There are limits to how small it can be made. But a computer is a mental transportation device. It need not be limited by tangibility.

Geonotes – Attaching Notes to Place

Location sharing platform Gowalla has items that one can collect when they check in, but they have to physically check in on the interface in order to retrieve the item.

This Sunday, Parecki developed the ability for users to send geonotes. That is, an outsider can open up a Google map and drag a circle over an area.

You can leave a Geonote for @aaronpk. Just drag your cursor, choose a geo size, and leave your message!


If you leave your E-mail address, you’ll get an E-mail when @aaronpk gets your note. Also, the bar will let you know @aaronpk’s likelihood of receiving your message, based on 30 days of GPS history. You can also leave a Geonote for me as well.


Geolocal Autosubscribing RSS Feeds and Augmented Reality

When one takes automatic check-ins further, one can add streaming data, allowing one’s device to collect SMS messages for hyperlocal areas without the need for QR codes or any visuals. This could be called non-visual augmented reality.

At WhereCamp 2008 in Portland, I wrote about the possibilities and opportunity of Geolocal Autosubscribing RSS Feeds.

I began the session by drawing a big grid of Portland’s on the white board. I drew 5 circles representing Portland’s 5 quadrants on the white board, and labeled them NW, NE, SW, SE and N. The circles represented ranges of ‘hearing’ that a mobile device might have to RSS feeds. I pointed out that as one progresses from street to street, quadrant to quadrant, one’s phone should understand this and automatically subscribe the user to the geolocal RSS feed for that area. That way, data could be very relevant and contextual to the area.

Aaron Parecki has developed a framework that does just this. Locations are defined by circles on a map, and SMS messages are triggered to send when one enters into the area defined by that circle. One can set neighborhoods, areas, and blocks.

Privacy, GPS, SMS and Check-in Exhaustion

Privacy is an enormous issue with systems like this. One does not always want SMS updates, open GPS map data, or text notifications of another’s proximity. In our case, it works well because we work together frequently. If, on the other hand, we were to get proximity notification texts all the time because our commutes were similar, the data fuzz would be annoying and unvaluable. We’re the only two people using the system right now. Anyone with more than 10 active friends on Foursquare or Gowalla and has probably experienced a Push Notification nightmare of endless texts.

Relative Location Value

Here’s a definition: One’s location is valuable to another if and only if that location or person is socially relevant during that time period. The basic case here is the meeting. Person A and Person B need to meet each other, but GPS data is only shared between them when they have a scheduled meeting. When the meeting ends, the data wall closes off, giving them back their privacy, kind of like a wormhole of temporary transparency between two people. This solves the problem of extreme bouts of “checkin-ism”., as well as the issue of remaining privy to one’s whereabouts all the time.

If more people were on the network, this sort of action would have to be taken. Negotiations of privacy and messages would have to be structured so as to prevent push and SMS notification exhaustion. When done correctly, the system is a valuable time saver that decreases anxiety, showing that technology is not inherently good or bad. It is design that is important.

Want to Learn More?

There’s a lot more. Hours and hours worth. But if you’d like 45 minutes of it, come to our talk at Open Source Bridge session: Non-visual location-based augmented reality using GPS data.


The presentation will cover the topics discussed above. It will also highlight the advantages and disadvantages of visual and non-visual augmented reality. We’ll cover alternate types of augmented reality techniques and how they have been saving us time in the past few months.

We’ll demonstrate how we’ve been merging available technologies with custom programming to create location-aware social networks with custom proximity notification. Finally, we’ll describe other uses for location sharing, such as automatically turning off house lights when leaving for work, and wayfinding with piezoelectric buzzers. Privacy and data transparency will also be discussed.

How is the GPS data taken?

Aaron Parecki uses They have windows mobile, java, and blackberry versions of their software. Parecki says that, “when the GPS device has a lock it is very accurate, you can tell what side of the street I am on”. The program logs data about every 6 seconds, so it ends up being a very smooth line when drawn on a map.

iPhone Software

iPhone users can use a program called InstaMapper. However since it’s an iPhone you will be limited to running the application in the foreground, which means you’ll stop tracking if you get a phone call or want to check twitter or something. But as long as the program is open you’ll be tracking. IIRC it doesn’t end up with as high resolution data as the program on my phone.

boost-mobile-phone-gpsSince I have an iPhone, I can’t run a GPS apps continuously unless the device is jailbroken, so Aaron set me up with with a pre-paid Boost Mobile phone, which the InstaMapper program runs on as well.

One downside is that I have to carry and charge another device. This isn’t bad at all, because I can carry 8 hours of GPS tracking, and it feels kind of awesome to have a physical GPS tracker instead of some claustrophobic invisible mobile app within a device. Not to say that the Boost Mobile interface isn’t archaic. In a way, it’s the age of the interface that makes it nice. Switching between the two makes one constantly appreciate and consider the extremely fast evolution of interface design.

Boost Mobile Phone as GPS Device

You can pick up a Boost Moble phone for $50 at Target, and get a $10 prepaid card. You wouldn’t be using any voice minutes on it, but the credits expire after some time. It would only cost $10/month to run it all the time. Over the summer I loaned a friend my Boost phone and she took it on a bike ride from NY to LA logging most of the way.

Instamapper has an API which provides a CSV file of the last 100 points logged. Aaron then imports them into a MySQL database.


More about Aaron Parecki

You can follow @aaronpk on Twitter, or you can go to or visit, the mobile version.
Leave Aaron a Geonote if you’d like. If that’s not your thing, enjoy some Data Visualization that Aaron’s done with his GPS data.

And if you liked what you read, I suppose you can follow me on Twitter as well, or see if I’m in town.

Visualizing the Internet Strategy Forum Summit 2009

For the second year in a row, I live Tweeted and Visualized the Internet Strategy Forum Summit at the Governor Hotel in Portland, OR.

jeremiah-owyang-tweetstreamMy goal was to track Twitter volume, speaker quotes, and general buzz around the event of every attending Twitterer in the audience. I had to formalize the data and take samples during many parts of the day to get a solid visual.

Instead of digging through pages of Twitter data with the search term #ISF09, the method here allows the audience as well as speakers to see how their speech ranked in comparison others at the conference. This way, one can see exactly the topics that hit the audience the hardest.

I used a Java Applet called StreamGraphs to visually track the Internet Strategy Forum Summit. The app was built by Jeff Clark. You can follow him @JeffClark on Twitter.

Standardizing the Data

StreamGraphs has some limitations. It only shows the last 1,000 tweets and thus it must be queried in real-time, during an event, to get usable results. The first thing to do was to standardize the hashtag. Some Twitter users were Tweeting with @summit, #isfsummit09, or #isf09. For the best data to be presented, users had to Tweet using one hashtag. I did a Twitter search for everyone following @summit OR #isfsummit09 OR #isf09 OR the Governor Hotel and began following them. Then I @’d them, welcoming them to the Internet Strategy Forum Summit and added an #isf09 hashtag to the end of each Tweet. I watched for people questioning as to which hashtag to use and informed them that #isf09 was shorter and better.

By 10:47, I had regular data and was able to begin tracking the Internet Strategy Forum Summit. Katherine Durham’s Tweets were not able to be recorded into the graph, but Shelia Tolle and the speakers after her were picked up. This was due to a limitation of the StreamGraph Java Applet (StreamGraph only shows the last 1,000 Tweets). So alas, we missed Durham’s excellent words: “Flat is the new up“.

And the second sample was taken from 10:08 to 2:37. The second sample did a better job at gathering the overall sentiment and buzz of the conference. It is evident from the image that Jeremiah Owyang was the speaker that captured the audience’s attention the most.


What Was Shown:

The interesting part about visualizing data in this way is that it shows that there is an inherent difference between what a speaker says and what they audience values. The conversations bursts worked just like sine waves as audience began to engage with the material of each new speaker. As memorable quotes were released into the audience, a lot of tweeting and retweeting coverage occured, melding some of the terms into like-groups. The graph shows that people tweeted about the speaker during the middle of the speech as opposed to at the beginning or end of the speech.

The First Burst: Shelia Tolle

Vice President of Marketing, Intuit Small Business Group. TOPIC: Combining eCommerce and Community: It’s a New Normal…and, There’s
No Going Back

The three words most associated with Shelia’s speech were online, Twitter, and Social.


BenZee: Fastest growing group on Twitter and facebook is people over 40.

CommunityMGR: Fastest growing group on Social Networks (ie: Facebook) are over the age of 45! Social Equillibrium from young to older. #ISF09

CommunityMGR: Channels like Twitter allow companies to help customers WHERE THEY ARE. Personalize with indiv photos, NOT logos as avatars. #Intuit #ISF09

TMMPDX: Intuit helping customers where they are – Twitter. @intuit draws the ire from professional haters online – Sheila Tolle. #isf09 #isfsummit09

cyndibrigham: Help customers where they are. This is the work I focus on through online syndication. Go to where the people shop and research #isf09

tmmBosley: turn bullhorn around, be part of the community, live your higher purpose, create amazing, embrace chaos! #isf09 Sheila Tolle

The Second Burst: Lisa Welchman

Here we can see the major takeaways from @lwelchman‘s speech on change.

Top tweets: “orgs need to handle change internally. All communications need to change, and people don’t want to grasp impact, says @tom_bennett and @tmmBosley.


@smdempsey: @CommunityMGR Game has changed, but the internet was just the impetus. Time to rethink the model; biz as usual is not sustainable.

@blocheads: Effecting change is hard. I’ve asked clients to agree to a “We promise to do whatever you say clause, but no takers yet.
@tmmBosley: What to do? Systematic change: Figure out guiding principles in your organization (like Intel has done right @bryanrhoads?

Key Point: Chief Content Officer

At 11:11, @lwelchman brought up the idea of the Chief Content Officer, or the Chief Web Officer.

rahelab: Time has come for a Chief Content Office, Chief Web Officer, ect as these areas have become critical to web ops.
close2open: “Why can’t there be a Chief Content officer?
tmmSabrina: Lisa from @welchman Start a management REVOLUTION! Chief Content Officer, Chief Web Officer, ect. Amen Sister!

But I was told later that it was not about hiring a Chief Content Officer, but about becoming one.

Retweets of this comment appeared again at 11:49.

10:40: We all have a ‘wierd background’ – I’m a philosophy major w/Phorics minor and did did vocal opera. what does that make me? a Web person.

Caseorganic: RT @jeffreybunch: @lwelchman inspiring the oppressed web masses at #isf09!

imeldak: The CIO should be responsible for driving content, web and technology revolutions in the C Suite

@lwelchman was an excellent speaker.

The Third Burst: Jeremiah Owyang

The audience took away major points from Jeremiah Owyang’s speech, including ideas related to the web, context, users, eras and years, pages, and community. The social theme resonated most with the audience, as well as being a major theme of the conference.

The idea of eras was a new and interesting take on the standard ideas of business the and social web. One of the main takeaways concerned the fact that a company could actually have a 5 year media plan instead of a year to year thing. He outlined the social eras to come so that businesses might plan instead of being left behind.



CommunityMGR: 5 eras of social web: Relationships, Functionality, Colonization, Context & Commerce.


Webtom_bennett: Allow users to surf the web within your experience (put your wrapper on it).

msdouglass: Social web colonization is coming to your business. Will you be France? Belgium? Ivory Coast? USA? Offline lessons abound.


jdenizac: People will surf in social contexts, even if your site is not social. eg, digg bar.

tom_bennett: Social Context – contextualized experience based on universal IDs is coming.


agray: Registration pages are going away – the way you collect leads online with change.
@thisKat: @agray More details! Live Tweet this! So many marketers are slaves to the registration page.
NathanJWagner: Registration pages will change…lead gen and CRM reporting will change…SM sites will get more traffic than corp sites.
Caseorganic: Registration Pages Going Away. May be able to measure by # of fans, engagement you have instead of signups.


Tom_bennett: Agencies will appear that represent communities, not brands.
tom_bennett: Functionality – shatter your corporate website and let it spread within the community.
CommunityMGR: Social Networks will become next generation CRM Systems. Ad agencies may flip to representing the Community.


caseorganic: Social networks becoming operating systems – can put apps on top like Scrabulous and interact with users where they are.
Rahelab: Social functionality: more like operating systems. Apps on top of platforms-Facebook, LinkedIn apps. “Go where users are.” Not mature yet.
BenZee: On the web: technologies evolve, users adopt then companies adapt.


Johan’s speech about Intel Corp’s Keynote spurred a lot of Tweets about Intel, and thus the Intel name is associated with it. Most of the Tweeting was done towards the first of part of Johan’s speech, as well as the discusion of a very nice Intel ad about the co-founder of the USB. Towards the end of the speech, and the subsequent panel, the electronics in the room ran out of batteries, making it impossible to cover the event via Twitter. I was told that iPhones and Blackberries were also running out of power. Although some battery life may have been restored during lunch, the life quickly ran out. I saw many audience members turn towards pen and paper to take notes for the rest of the conference.


There are many graphs like this available online. Most are made by students at colleges, and a lot have to do with graphically displaying content volumes. I found this analytics visualizer to be exceptionally powerful because of its ability to track word volume over time.

The applications for this type of visual presentation of information are vast. During the ISF after party, I determined that these graphs would be an invaluable tool for examining PR statistics over time. If I sat down and pulled apart the code with someone, it would be fun to develop this graphing system into an extremely granular tool for online reputation management.

Data Dimensions:

My research depends on attending conferences because my current focus is on visualizing data with 4 main dimensions.

1. Time
2. Volume
3. Keyword
4. Event/Person

In this way, data becomes more like an audio file, and even closely resembles it. It is a friendlier way of viewing trends, and is more accurate (because of the added dimension of volume) than

Tool Limitations:

Currently, the tool I am using is Java based. It does not yet allow the user to set periods of time, and does not have the server capabilities to store server data. It is a brilliant data analytics tool, and if it were to allow a greater amount of granularity (in terms of keywords), as well as time range, it would prove to be an invaluable tool for tracking Public Relations. Currently, it is possible to do this, it just takes a longer amount of time to do so.

I approached Jeff Clark, the tool’s developer, about collaborating with him to create a more robust version that would incorporate a larger time frame, clickable data formats (I have a paper prototype of all of this), and a zoom feature. He declined, so the tool will stay where it is. If he releases a new version, I will be the first to use it.

There are so many great potentialities with a tool like this, because being able to visualize data over time with an extra dimension of volume is really exciting. Please let me know if you’d like to work on an open source version of it with me.

Now What?

Systems are optimal when the amount of time and space it takes to get pieces of relevant data from one person to another continues to decrease. Those designs/processes that exemplify this paradigm will be successful in the future economy. Systems like these that track the most important data points will be an important part of your complete data breakfast.


Amber Case is a cyborg anthropologist, internet marketer, and speaker from Portland, Oregon. You can contact her at caseorganic at, or on Twitter at @caseorganic.

Many thanks to Steve Gehlen for running the Internet Strategy Forum Summit and inviting me back to the conference to visualize the data streams.

A New Way to Interact With Data

MIT Media Lab

A lot of times we wait around for technology to just “appear” like we see in films. But if we continue to do that, nothing will get built. Thankfully, people are out there filling in the gaps.

There’s a set of a new sign language for controlling movement from a distance. Very intuitive and simple to learn. Especially with the rewards of being able to move things across the room without touching them.

The rest of this post is over at the Blog, as it relates directly to the event.

Gesture Recognition Demo at the MIT Media Lab with Jamie Zigelbaum.


Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist who also posts over at the Makerlab Blog, which is something you might enjoy reading if you enjoyed reading the post above. It’s about more experimental tech and activities related to pushing the limits of art and technology. If not, you can always follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

A Cyborg Anthropologist’s Journey to MIT

I wanted to write about this before, but I had to wait until everything was secured and verified.

In September, Steve Gehlen invited me to speak about Cyborg Anthropology at Inverge: The Interactive Convergence Conference on September 5th of this year. The conference was a refreshing and entertaining look at where entertainment, art, culture, business, and social media are going. The keynote was Joshua Green of MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium.

After Inverge, Joshua and I compared theorists and research, and had a great time socializing along with all of the other conference attendees and speakers. A month later, Joshua informed me of a conference at MIT called the Futures of Entertainment, and wondered if I would be interested in being on a panel on social media. He said that my analysis and understanding of both the academic and corporate world would provide a useful bridge between two separate fields.

Convergence culture has moved swiftly from buzzword to industry logic. The creation of transmedia storyworlds, understanding how to appeal to migratory audiences, and the production of digital extensions for traditional materials are becoming the bread and butter of working in the media. Futures of Entertainment 3 once again brings together key industry leaders who are shaping these new directions in our culture and academic scholars immersed in the investigation the social, cultural, political, economic, and technological implications of these changes in our media landscape. This year’s conference will work to bring together the themes from last year – media spreadability, audiences and value, social media, distribution – with the consortium’s new projects in moving towards an increasingly global view of media convergence and flow. Topics for this year’s panels include global distribution systems and the challenges of moving content across borders, transmedia and world building, comics and commerce, social media and spreadability, and renewed discussion on how and why to measure audience value.

I very carefully prepared two forms of submission — one on Cyborg Anthropology from the academic perspective, and another from the business perspective.

However, I feel that what I am doing pales in comparison to the accomplishments of those whom I will be participating with. I am both honored and overwhelmed by this opportunity. I hope to be able to add value to some aspect of the conference.

I’ll be participating on the social media panel, which is described as follows:

“Moving lives online, creating conversations across geography, connecting with consumers – how is social media defining the current entertainment landscape? As people not only put more content online, but conduct more of their daily lives in networked spaces and via social networking sites, how are social media influencing how we think of audiences? Video-sharing platforms have changed how we think of production and distribution, and Facebook gifts point to the value of virtual properties, how are these sites enabling other processes of production or distribution practices. Spaces where commercial and community purposes intertwine, what are the implications for privacy, content management, and identity construction of social media? How have they impacted notions of civic engagement?”

Conference Attendees

Kim Moses – Executive Producer, The Ghost Whisperer, Lost, Medium, Yochai Benkler – Harvard Law School, The Wealth of Networks (Yale University Press), John Caldwell – UCLA, Production Culture (Duke University Press), Henry Jenkins – MIT, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (NYU Press), Alex McDowell – Production Designer, The Watchmen, Kevin Slavin – Area/Code, Sabrina Caluori – Director, Marketing and Promotions, HBO Online, Grant McCracken – Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture (Indiana University Press), Donald K Ranvaud – Buena Onda Films, Amanda Lotz – University of Michigan, The Television Will be Revolutionized (NYU Press), Gail De Kosknik – UC Berkeley, How to Save Soap Opera: Histories and Futures of an Iconic Genre, Joe Marchese –, Amber Case – Cyborg Anthropologist and Social Media Consultant, Hazelnut Consulting, Mauricio Mota – New Content (Brazil), Alisa Perren – Georgia State University, The Media Industry Studies Book (Blackwell Publishing)….more.

Steve Gehlen, Paige Saez (on a grant from PNCA) and Kris Krug will be flying out to join me at the conference. In case you’re in the area too, the conference information is as follows:

MIT’s Futures of Entertainment 3

Friday, Nov 21 8:30a to Saturday, Nov 22 8:30a
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Wong Auditorium, Cambridge, MA


A great big thank you to everyone in the Portland Tech community for being supportive and welcoming of interdisciplinary thought. Special thanks to Joshua Green and Steve Gehlen.


Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and New Media Consultant living in Portland, Oregon. You can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

Inverge ’08 Powerpoint and Transcript: From Telephone To Tweetup

This is the PowerPoint of a lightning talk given by Amber Case (@caseorganic) at Inverge: The Interactive Convergence Conference in Portland, Oregon on Sept 4+5th. NOTE: This was a 10-minute compressed presentation. From Telephone to Tweetup: an Abbreviated History of Technology and Social Exchange.

Some Theory Behind the Subject

The invention of the telephone ushered in an era of ‘on-demand’ social connection. These conversations were freeing, but were still limited to location and time. As communication technology matured, telephones became detached from their cords and were allowed to travel with their users.This detachment from location allowed conversation to happen in more times and more places. As the amount of time and space between nodes of connection decreased, the intersection of rapid news methods such as blogging, mobile technology, and chatrooms begin to merge. This convergence allowed dramatic increases in the ability to rapidly convey information to others. Instead of engaging with one person at a time, many are now capable of talking at once. No where is this more prevalent than on Twitter. It has found ways to connect communities, stave off suburban isolation, and warn of earthquakes before medical help can access them. The distance between individual and community will continue to decrease, and those products and services which decrease the amount of time and space it takes to create an action will be the most successful. Actions and devices will become lighter and lighter, and the social will continue to become more and more mobile. The convergence of various technologies will result in rapid learning and communication never imagined before. For details on the original event, look at the SlideShare Link.

Slideshow transcript

Slide 1: Every bullet point in this presentation is less than 140 characters.

Slide 2: This is because the text of these slides will also be broadcasted on Twitter at the time of this speech.

Slide 3: In this way, the speech can live in two places at once.

Slide 4: To one audience here at Inverge.

Slide 5: And also to 600+ followers on Twitter. [@Inverge] [#Inverge]

Slide 6: You can follow @caseorganic to see it in action.

Slide 7: [this is a waiting period because the Internet connection here is probably slow] @caseorganic

Slide 8: Hello.

Slide 9: My Name is Amber Case.

Slide 10: I am a Cyborg Anthropologist.

Slide 11: I study the symbiotic relationship between humans and computers…

Slide 12: And the psychology of space that is created by online environments.

Slide 13: Or, how the online experience is “ experienced” .

Slide 14: In Anthropology, one could call this a Digital Phenomenology

Slide 15: …

Slide 16: We live in a community that increasingly transcends time and space.

Slide 17: It is our relationship with technology that allows us extended capabilities.

Slide 18: Right now, search engines and people are interacting with your social profiles and websites.

Slide 19: While you aren’ t there.

Slide 20: And with social networking sites like Twitter, you can watch many conversations at once.

Slide 21: …

Slide 22: Consider Letter Writing, the first Internet.

Slide 23: The message to response ratio was very slow, but it was social.

Slide 24: Enter the Telephone.

Slide 25: Thus began the era of ‘ On Demand’ social communication.

Slide 26: This made the world very small.

Slide 27: You could stand on one side of the world, whisper something, and be heard on the other.

Slide 28: But to those who had never experienced a telephone, the device was as foreign as the Internet once was in 1993.

Slide 29: The fact that a human could speak into a machine and hear a voice on the other side gave the appearance of schizophrenia.

Slide 30: Over time, the strangeness of the new dissolved into formal society and the landline telephone started to get along with humans.

Slide 31: Those living in suburban communities were less capable of reaching actual members of society on a daily basis.

Slide 32: …and the telephone allowed them an escape from the isolation of industrial modernity.

Slide 33: But the telephone was limited by the length of its cord and its proximity to a phone jack.

Slide 34: So along came the cordless phone.

Slide 35: It was free! {yay!}

Slide 36: …to run around the house…

Slide 37: So then the Cell Phone arrived on the scene. {take that!}

Slide 38: While it was the least rooted to place,

Slide 39: The Cell Phone did not offer information transparency.

Slide 40: It only allowed one conversation at a time (excluding 3-way).

Slide 41: Cell Phone + Text allowed decentralized message access and multiple recipients, but limited message transparency.

Slide 42: Then Twitter happened.

Slide 43: It was not rooted to place and time.

Slide 44: It allowed multiple communication channels and recipients.

Slide 45: Users were praised for contribution and helpfulness to those in their network.

Slide 46: Why does it work?

Slide 47: Twitter is a centralized technosocial hybrid that asks a single question that can never be fully answered.

Slide 48: …

Slide 49: What

Slide 50: Are

Slide 51: You

Slide 52: Doing?

Slide 53: The question is asked by all, to all. Socialization is aided by machine.

Slide 54: The time and space it takes to absorb and disperse information is compressed.

Slide 55: Twitter takes advantage of the 4th Dimensionality of the Internet.

Slide 56: [Analog] [Demonstration]

Slide 57: Lets look at some Architectural Theory

Slide 58: “ Our daily existence is normally filled with short walks and passing through interfaces. It is not the number that we remember but rather the poor quality of them and the time spent in moving through them.”

Slide 59: “ It is not the number that we remember but rather the poor quality of them and the time spent in moving through them.”

Slide 60: “ Interference interchanges must be fast, convenient, comfortable, without undue effort in a controlled environment.”

Slide 61: The General Theory of Relativity

Slide 62: The shape of space makes people more, and people create the shape of space.

Slide 63: The Analog World is full of Friction

Slide 64: The level of Friction in the Digital world has far less.

Slide 65: Online, we are capable of innovating in a frictionless atmosphere.

Slide 66: There are dangers to this.

Slide 67: Frictionless development becomes cancerous if not restrained.

Slide 68: Too many features/innovations reduce overall value.


Slide 70: Now, lets talk about highways.

Slide 71: Highways are giant projects requiring high levels of funding and cooperation.

Slide 72: To dig up a highway and move it costs millions of dollars.

Slide 73: But rerouting a path online takes a few minutes with a 301 redirect.

Slide 74: People, when compressed, can do more in less time and less space.

Slide 75: Actions flow to spaces with reduced activation energy and barriers to entry.

Slide 76: Humans and Technology Co-create each other through an Actor/Network of technosocial interaction.

Slide 77: “ In the search for itself and an affectionate sociality, it easily gets lost in the jungle of the self…”

Slide 78: “ Someone who is poking around in the fog of his of his or her own self is no longer capable of noticing that this isolation,

Slide 79: “ This ‘solitary-confinement of the ego’ is a mass sentence. [Ulrich Beck, 40 in Bauman’ s Liquid Modernity 2000:37]”

Slide 80: [So Technosocial Interaction is about Transcending the silos of Mental Isolation]

Slide 81: Hello

Slide 82: The key to the semantic web is to always reduce the steps in user action.

Slide 83: Twitter engages the user in ways that do not decay.

Slide 86: See SlideShare for image

Slide 87: See Slideshare for image

Slide 88: Husband on Google Street View

Slide 89: Old map

Slide 90: See Slideshare for image.

Slide 92: @caseorganic On Social Sites Everywhere Thesis: “Cell Phones and Their Technosocial Sites of Engagement” Available

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthopologist and Social Media Consultant from Portland, Oregon. You can contact her by E-mail at caseorganic at, or on Twitter @caseorganic.