Predestination: Loca and mobile surveillance

September 23, 2006

Imagine that you are walking down the street when you hear a beep from your phone.  You see a message reading:

“You were in a flower shop and spent 30 minutes in the park; are you in love?”

The thing is – you were in the flower shop an hour ago and then you did go to the park for half an hour!

How would you react to this message? How would it make you feel? (loca-lab.org)

Well, I’m not sure how I’d feel. “Creeped-out” comes to mind. But as soon as I found out that these strange stalker-like text-messages were part of a city-wide art project, I’d probably feel pretty cool and want to learn more.

Loca, “an artist-led interdisciplinary project on mobile media and surveillance,” uses a network of Bluetooth nodes scattered around the city to track the movements of anyone with a Bluetooth-enabled device. The tracking data is fed into a database, which is then parsed according to “urban semantics” to make guesses about what the tracked individual is up to. The system then sends a potentially relevant message to the subject, such as the “are you in love?” question above.

See also: John Krumm‘s talk at Ubicomp 2006, “Predestination: Inferring Destination from Partial Trajectories” (.pdf).

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