latest blog entry

Passive City Blogging

July 31st, 2006, By Duncan Gough

When I said that ecolocal was continuing to surprise me, I wasn’t joking. To recap, over the last few months my wife and I built a site to scratch an itch. Ecolocal went live a couple of months ago and is ticking over nicely. It’s effectively a location based forum with plenty of well placed ‘escape points’ to let you explore the tone of conversations not just in your local area, but also in your local county and beyond.

In truth, though, given some redesign work and a clearer understanding of how it’s all coming together, we rapidly seem to be reverse engineering a more traditional forum. Given the fact that the website is built using Ruby on Rails, it’s been easy to follow the agile development route and make these kinds of changes fairly swiftly.

However, I thought that when the site went live, my involvement with it would reduce to pure administration and mainteanace. Last month, though, I discovered the Wattson and posted it to ecolocal. Since then, I’ve found a number of ‘green’ stories that are relevant to ecolocal and have kept me involved with the site as a user, not a developer. I’m finding more and more stories cropping up about green technology companies, like this one about how green tech will spawn the next Google.

suttree - pigeonbloggin

My favourite, though, has to be this one.

If you take all the things I’ve writen about lately, passive gaming, social software and green technology, then roll them into one, you might just come up with a story about pigeons in California equipped with sensors for measuring air pollution, the data from which we used to create a real-time air pollution weblog, called PigeonBlog.

From a games perspective, this kind of thing has been done before. The Xbox360 has an element of surveillance-ware in the way it tracks your with a gamer tag. There are sites that collate this information to create a machine-made trail of your gaming achievements, namely From a social software perspective, there’s a true piece of surveillance-ware in the form of sekrit, a bit of Python code that pings with the name of every track played on BBC6 Music. And from a Passive Gaming perspective, there are also a couple of notable examples trying to make sense of the vast amount of data we are exposed to.

Back to the pigeons, though. As technology gets cheaper, as GPS transmitters get smaller and mobile phones get more ubiqitous, as Governments struggle to hold on to geographic and environmental data, it seems that passively collecting and transmitting this information may present a real threat. As the article from PlentyMagazine notes:

Da Costa and her graduate student assistants, Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto, plan to make their development process open source and distribute it for free online, so that anyone who’s tech-savvy can take widely-available devices, like cell phones, and adapt them to collect pollution data in their own neighborhoods and communities. “Scientific information is usually distributed in a top down, hierarchical approach,” da Costa says. “This is tactical technology—a way of building our own circuits.” And figuring out from street level up what’s in the air.

« ecolocal – eco localisationPyGame Casual Game Love »