[ISEA2011] Paper: Therese F. Tierney & Vincent Velasco – [i-metro] universal access to information


Navigating through an unfamiliar city presents numerous logistical challenges.  For persons without an automobile — for example new residents, job seekers, tourists, and students — this becomes an even more onerous task.   Although many urban dwellers own cellphones, the majority lack mobile internet access due to its expense, thus making their wayfinding efforts even more challenging.   Increasingly, as more location-based information and services transfer online, wireless modes are becoming the accepted norm for information access and assistance.  However, while new mobile communication devices [blackberries, i-phone or droids] can provide travelers with services, maps and/or directions, thereby solving many logistical dilemmas, the purchase price and monthly service fees nevertheless prohibit individualized ownership for the majority of urban dwellers, effectively creating zones of information privilege, and excluding those who use public transport most.

This project takes the position that information, as both a resource and an integral component of the public sphere, should be equally available for all.  By addressing the problem of unequal information access, [i-metro] provides public locational information accessed through the Internet.   Location-based information, for example, Google Maps, Yelp, Foursquare or other such services, when added to a GPS-enabled smartphone, produce another city, a city of layered opportunities and data.   This particular type of information is often required “on the go” or in mobile environments — in situations where directional coordinates are difficult or impossible to obtain from print media.  As an interactive information portal [i-metro] contributes to new forms of public engagement by creating socially rich glocal nodes for the public benefit.  Glocal information connects the global with the local through direct-networked communication systems by linking the scale of the webpage to the city in real time.

Information is mediated through technology available today, utilizing modern motion sensing technology similar to Microsoft’s Kinect. This off-the-shelf, inexpensive solution does not require tactile input in a germ rich environment and will provide an unobtrusive, intuitive experience for everyone.

  • Dr. Therese F. Tierney is an Assistant Professor of Architecture with a Designated Emphasis in New Media at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.   As the founding director of URL: Urban Research Lab, her research explores the intersection between emerging technologies and the built environment.  She was a predoctoral researcher at the MIT media lab, and a participant in University of California Berkeley Center for New Media directed by Ken Goldberg.  Tierney is the author of “Public Space/ New Publics: Social Media’s Connected Culture” (forthcoming 2012),  “Abstract Space: Beneath the Media Surface” (Routledge 2007) and co-editor of “Network Practice: New Strategies for Architecture + Design” (Princeton 2007).  theresetierney.net   mobilityandthecity.com/concept                        mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/leon.2007.40.1.51?journalCode=leon 
  • Vincent Velasco 

Full text (PDF) p. 2376-2381