Internet Geographer


Posts tagged mobile
Call for papers: Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities (at the Association of American Geographers)

Call for Papers: Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities

Most parts of our urban areas have become both digitally connected and represented by digitalized information. Digital layers of geographic information (commonly referred to as “augmented reality” by computer scientists) can take myriad forms. The most visible of which are probably the digital maps that many people use to navigate through cities. Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Apple, OpenStreetMap, Baidu, and many other companies and organisations all host publicly accessible platforms that partially reflect parts of our world. These services also become the platform for an almost unimaginable amount of additional content that both reflects the materiality of cities and augments it with additional content. This additional volunteered (and emitted) geographic information is comprised of photographs, blogs, tweets, social media checkins, webcams, videos, and encyclopedia articles. These layers of digital representations are then further reproduced and repurposed in the ways that they annotate the urban environment

The ambition of this session is to interrogate the increasing prevalence of both geographically referenced digital information and the code through which it is regulated. By asking what these augmented realities are, where they are and where they are not, and how they are brought into being, we can both unpack the language we use to speak about digital augmentations and explore the ways in which digital extensions of place are becoming increasingly important in everyday, lived geographies.

This session seeks two kinds of papers. First it aims to provide space for papers that explore the ways in which we should imagine, describe, critique, and even name, the digital and informational augmentations of our lives. Second, the session seeks papers that critically examine information geographies and augmented realities in specific contexts. How do informational augmentations impact on how we bring our worlds into being? What and where do they exclude? What narratives and discourses do they allow, and what do they conceal? How are they governed, regulated, and challenged?

Please submit abstracts of less than 250 words to Mark Graham ( and Matthew Zook ( before October 31, 2013.  We will review abstracts in order to form cohesive sessions.

Zombies and Massively Multiplayer Augmented Reality games
Last week I was trying to run away from a horde of zombies. I ran faster than I had ever run before. I ran until my chest hurt and I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs. I knew they were close and I knew that if I slowed down they would get me. But the adrenaline and fear kept me moving. It wasn’t enough though. I was still miles from home and knew that it was impossible to keep up the pace. There was nowhere to hide and ultimately I had to slow the pace of my sprint. I lost hope; I gave up, and that’s when they got me.

This all started when I was running on my typical route: across Oxford’s Port Meadow, up the Thames, and then towards the village of Wytham and the forest on the hill behind it. It was a sunny day and a peaceful run. A combination of the music on my smartphone and the sunny weather put me in a great mood, and I easily made it to the forest without thinking about muscle tiredness, warm showers or the pizza waiting for me at home. The way back, however, was much more of a challenge.

On the way home, I activated an app on my phone called Zombie, Run! I boldly set the outbreak level to ‘total pandemic’ and set the zombie speed to “28 Days Later” (the other options were Night of the Living Dead and Resident Evil) (Wired has an interesting article on zombie speed here for those of you unfamiliar with the finer details of undead taxonomies). This was clearly a mistake.

The app displays a map containing your own position and the location of the zombie horde infesting the space that you’re in. Most zombies show up as green icons, but turn red once they notice you. This is when you start getting into trouble.

Once they sense you, you need to run as fast as you can to escape. This wouldn’t be a huge problem with normal Romero-style slow zombies. But 28 Days Later speed zombies are an entirely different story: especially when you’re faced with a massive outbreak. They will get you.

This playful way of augmenting reality is still in its early stages and could undoubtedly take on a number of exciting forms. There is already a multiplayer option that I haven’t had a chance to try yet (why don’t I have more smartphone owning zombie obsessed friends who like to run?).

Imagine this sort of platform turned into a massively multiplayer augmented reality role-playing game (MMARRPG - for comparison see also MMORPGs). Games could be organised involving hundreds, or even thousands, of players. Zombie walks that happen in cities around the world are fun enough to attract thousands of participants, and there is no reason why a zombie-themed MMARRPG couldn’t also draw huge crowds.

There are interesting possibilities here, and augmented versions of tag, ghost hunting and more traditional role playing are already available. Zombies are clearly only the beginning (or in a different sense I suppose they could also be the end) of a new wave of augmented gaming.

In any case, if you see someone sprinting through the streets, out of breath and clutching a phone, remember that they may well be interacting with something that is innocuously invisible to the naked eye, ephemeral, and comprised of lines of computer code, but ultimately (and terrifyingly) trying to devour their brains.
Mobile price wars and disposable income in Kenya
This is an interesting time to be in Kenya. A price war has erupted in the mobile market (instigated by Zain) and tariffs have dropped dramatically. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of people are switching, and planning to switch, their providers. This is particularly significant because Kenyans spend a huge amount of their disposable income on communications services (I’ve seen estimates of averages between 50 and 75 percent). Last week I had the opportunity to speak with both Alex Gakuru, Chairman of Kenya’s ICT consumer society, and Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications. Both agreed that cheaper mobile services will likely result in a significant increase in the amount of disposable income available to your average Kenyan. We’ll have to wait a while to see what the precise effects of this intense competition in the mobile sector will be, but there will undoubtedly be some transformational effects.

See also:

Our project to understand the effects of the new fibre-optic cables in Kenya.

Irish Times article: “Silicon Valley looking to Kenya for view of the future”
Mark Grahammobile, Kenya, ict4dComment
GPS Real-World Gaming in Hybrid Space
A real-time, multiplayer, GPS game for mobiles is being played out in the real-world. The game, played by groups of four or five people, uses a one kilometer radius around any point on Earth to delineate spatial extents in which three or four chasers try to capture one runner. Each one of the players is tracked via a GPS phone and their coordinates are mashed onto a map that they can all see. The only twist that that the runner is always allowed to view the map, whilst the chasers only have access to the map every six minutes. The game is a fascinating way to roll elements of the physical and virtual together into an adrenaline-pumped experience.

What’s next? Fast Foot Challenge is essentially a high-tech version of tag. But, more complex games combining the physical and virtual worlds are already starting to appear. A variety of shoot-em-ups in which the mobile phone is used as a gun have been designed, and it seems only a matter of time until we start seeing a lot more of the Earth and our daily lived environments being used as a setting for interactive games. Let’s just hope we don’t ever see Grand Theft Auto ported over into real cars in the real world.