• Kars' "hypertext remix" of his marvellous dConstruct talk. It was sensitive and well thought-through, and appealed to me as both a designer and game maker. Very much worth your time.
  • "With the full avatar spritesheets available in the API, we dream of Glitch characters overflowing the bounds of the browser —and even the game itself— to find new adventures, anywhere people can take them. To this end, our new developer site is chock-full of resources to enable web/HTML5, iOS, and Android developers to build interesting applications leveraging Glitch APIs." Full spritesheets! Gorgeous. But really: this has the potential to be super-brilliant, and it's nicely designed. Hopefully more conventional developers will get on this sort of thing at some point. Bungie? Valve? Blizzard? Watch out.
  • "In re­cent re­leases, Sa­fari has been re-ar­chi­tected, with some of the work farmed out to a thing called “WebProcess”. This doesn’t seem to be work­ing out that well." Much as I was excited about Safari 5's re-architecting, I must admit: I've seen everything Tim says, and it's driving me nuts.
  • "I am not naive and I am not a fool. I realize that gamification is the easy answer for deploying a perversion of games as a mod marketing miracle. I realize that using games earnestly would mean changing the very operation of most businesses. For those whose goal is to clock out at 5pm having matched the strategy and performance of your competitors, I understand that mediocrity's lips are seductive because they are willing. For the rest, those of you who would consider that games can offer something different and greater than an affirmation of existing corporate practices, the business world has another name for you: they call you "leaders."" Ian's whole article is great, and the comment thread is eye-opening.
  • "Something terrible has happened in our city (and may yet continue to happen). It's damnable, deplorable, heartbreaking. But it is also extraordinary, unusual, bizarre. Slamming the door on it without studying and understanding it is a dangerous and short-term tactic. Allowing yourself to feel nothing but anger, and doing nothing but lashing out … isn't that a little mindless? It would be nice, and useful, if we could ask London "why" without already having an answer in mind." Excellent, sober, cautious writing from Will Wiles.
  • "In this volume, people of diverse backgrounds — tabletop game designers, digital game designers, and game studies academics — talk about tabletop games, game culture, and the intersection of games with learning, theater, and other forms. Some have chosen to write about their design process, others about games they admire, others about the culture of tabletop games and their fans. The results are various and individual, but all cast some light on what is a multivarious and fascinating set of game styles."
  • Lovely little round-up of games about architecture and the urban environment from Kars.

Cities are full of public space; between the buildings – most of which are private, some of which are public – is space, most of which is public, some of which is private.

Some of that public space isn’t, really. It looks like it is – and part of the conditions of its existence are that it serves as a limited thoroughfare – but it’s very much a private space that you’re lucky to be allowed on, and which can be policed privately.

Nowhere is that more obvious than More London – a complex directly west of Tower Bridge, where City Hall resides, as does a variety of office buildings. It contains the obvious walking route along the river front; it’s designed as a very public space. But it isn’t at all: it’s private property, with its own rules.

Lock a bike to a lamp-post and this happens:

That lamp-post wasn’t yours to lock it to. This sort of thing both frustrating and confusing: why does this space, which looks like any other space, behave differently? How was one to know it wasn’t, technically, public? If you don’t see the little signs, you wouldn’t know. People walking freely, people eating their lunch in the open spaces: these are much greater signifiers for the urban citizen, and these all seem to fit a representation of “publicness”.

More and more of the city looks like this.

What happened with Tower Bridge on Twitter a few weeks back was a reminder that this is also true online. Twitter isn’t a public space like the domain name system is; it’s a private one, and you’re at the whim of its Terms of Service. I infringed its Terms (just), things got moved around.

So far, so walled-garden. We’ve seen things like this before.

But there’s a slightly larger, and more complex question raised here, and that’s the one I’m much more concerned about.

The frustrations that you see in the real city are coming to the instrumented city, and this highlights an interesting set of problems if you’re designing that instrumented city.

(What follows is not about my bot in specific; it’s about the state of existing terms of service around the web, and what they mean for any form of instrumentation and augmentation).

The idea that an object representing a structure itself in the first person isn’t allowed to describe itself is problematic; the idea that someone with the rights to a trademark has more claim to represent a structure, an edifice, than a stream of information that the structure itself produces is… troubling. (I’m not sure I can find the right word there just yet).

There’s something important about authorship and identity here, and the idea to suggest that the streams of information about a structure come from anywhere other than that structure itself feels backward.

(I would, of course have no problem if the trademark owner wished to produce that stream of information themselves).

The Transamerica Pyramid doesn’t have an account on Flickr so that people can pretend to be it, or pretend to upload photographs in its name. It has an account so that it can be pointed at in other photographs; it has an account so that it can be referenced just like a person. How do you enable something to serve that purpose if it doesn’t have the actual name of the building in question? The account isn’t impersonating the building; it is the building. Those photographs aren’t lying about having the Pyramid in them. (As it stands: the account on Flickr is called “The Pointy Building”, which is both non-infringing, but also a more accurate representation of what most people call the building anyway).

There are obvious issues that the Instrumented City, ultimately, will find ways around. Twitter – a short, written-language service – really isn’t the best format for instrumenting the city in the long run; it’s just what some of us are using for now. So I’m not worried about service-specific issues or any particular terms of service. I’m sure that the city of data will find more detailed, specified delivery formats for its information that building-owners will buy into, although I’d hope there’d still be an emphasis on the human-readability of such information.

For now, though, this is what we have, and these are the issues we have to work around, and they bear thinking about.

  • "Certainly as delivered through mobile devices, contemporary AR imposes significant limits on your ability to derive information from the flow of streetlife. It’s not just the “I must look like a dork” implications of walking down the street with a mobile held visor-like before you, though those are surely present and significant. It’s that the city is already trying to tell you things, most of which are likely to be highly, even existentially salient to your experience of place. I can’t help but think that what you’re being offered through the tunnel vision of AR is starkly impoverished by comparison — and that’s even before we entertain the very high likelihood of that information’s being inaccurate, outdated, or commercial or otherwise exploitative in nature."
  • GameMaker-like tool for OSX and Windows – that outputs Flash games, built out of Flixel and Box2D. Niiice.
  • "Cole Phelps has no health bar, no ammo count, and no inventory. He doesn't write journal entries, and has no safe house or property. He doesn't eat, doesn't sleep, doesn't smoke or drink or sleep around or go out with his friends. I have seen nothing of his wife and children, his passions, his hates or his desires. He walks into a crime scene and barks his introductions like a dog, rude and abrasive; petulant and bullying. He carries himself like a child playing dress-up, weak-chinned, pale, and aimlessly angry. Cole Phelps is kind of a prick.

    But when I look at what's going on around him, I can't really blame him. What to make of this Truman Show-esque existence, this vast, toothless city? If I were trapped in such a purgatorial nightmare, I'd probably behave badly, too." This is good, and expresses in poetic and critical terms one of the many reasons I just don't care about LA Noire.

  • "Airport City is a slippy map of airport runways and highway on/off ramps rendered using OpenStreetMap data (OSM). …I became fascinated with the on and off ramps, in OSM, during and still following the creation of prettymaps in 2010. To see them in isolation is to see the gravitation push and pull (the wind patterns and dance moves) of the cities they make possible." Yep, still love Aaron.
  • "This is the part that interests me: What happens to a person's experience of prettymaps when the echoes of their own life start to make up the map itself? What happens when the only streets on a map are those you and your friends have traveled?"
  • "It's the new urban Baroque! Install greenscreens everywhere in an optical infrastructure for the 21st century—a DIY industry of everyday special effects, little greenscreens popping up beside trees, in alleyways, behind buildings, atop roofs, the entire urban environment camera-ready and pierced like St. Sebastian by the arrows of parallel worlds, our cities become effects labs and every sidewalk a set." Chromakey Planet.
  • "I’m basically the James Cameron of PowerPoint 97." Making short films in Powerpoint because it's the only tool you've got. Brilliant.