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January 31, 2007

Friday Feb 2 afternoon: Prospero Design review

Friday Afternoon Tea: "Prospero" Design Review
DATE February 2
TIME 4:30 – 5:30
Design Lab 1
Duderstadt Center, University of Michigan

The Prospero project may soon have a working prototype ready to serve the community of students who are using Design Lab One this semester. At Tea, the Prospero Team will explain the goals of the prototype and solicit feedback and suggestions for improving its effectiveness.

Friday Afternoon Tea is a weekly gathering of students, faculty and staff sponsored by the Digital Media Commons and GROCS to stimulate creative and spontaneous conversations about the role of rich media tools in culture and academia. All are welcome.

Posted by bhattach at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2007

First Technology Update

I've been putting off blogging about the technology aspect of our project for some time, but I made a breakthrough today worthy of sharing with the world.

Today I finally linked up enough modules so that people who swipe in with a card can have their facebook profile picture appear on screen. (not an amazing accomplishment if that was the entire goal, but it demonstrates that the pieces of the architecture are falling into place.) This is how the system currently works:

Announce (handles CardSwipes) --> DB(Store session start, expiration, and last update)

Updater --> DB (Poll all active users) --> Updater (Run Collectors to collect information about each user (including facebook profile, LDAP information ,etc)) --> Updater (Store this information in the DB)

And here is where it gets fun.

Controller (XML-RPC web server that listens for RPCs)

Client --> Calls Controller (get_active_users) --> Controller returns active users

Client --> Calls Controller (get_user_info(user) )

So essentially, right now anyone can query user_info and active_users using simple XML-RPC calls. I have written example clients in Python, Javascript (AJAX), RUBY, and PERL. This will make it easy for user created modules to interface with the information stored in the database in the future.

My example application uses Javascript XML-RPC to interface with the XML-RPC server (Ruby's WeBrick), and display the facebook pictures of active users.

Posted by bcx at 01:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2007

A new book that looks quite interesting....

Fans, Gamers, and Bloggers: Exploring Participatory Culture
by Henry Jenkins
New York University Press (August 2006)

Curiously enough, while the subtitle of the actually published book is "Exploring Participatory Culture", in advance previews the book seemed to have had the subtitle "Media Consumers in a Digital Age".

I've just browsed the book in the library today, though not actually read it.

I wonder what caused the author/publisher to change the emphasis in the subtitle from "consumer" to "participant". Of course, we at the Prospero project are in favor of empowering people with the tools they need so that they can become participants in media instead of consumers of it, and so we like this change.

Posted by bhattach at 01:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2007

The Ephemeral Public

Among the design challenges Prospero faces is the basic task of definition. A motivation behind the project, of course, is to conjure an alternative to the creeping ubiquity of one-way communicative media and the latter’s tendency to dominate and thereby define common spaces.

Interestingly, our project converges the limits of theory (e.g., what defines and delimits “the public” in the age of pervasive/locative media?) and horizons of technology (e.g., how does one create an architecture that enables self-defining publics to coalesce and evolve?).

As the basic decisions regarding the Prospero architecture demonstrate, we're seeing the chief decisions we're facing as dwelling within the "Controller" portion of the diagram.

In fact, we've already significantly amended the posted version of this architecture (look for it to be posted soon), such that the "Controller" has gobbled up most of the "Display".

A few interesting questions decisions are immediately before us:

a) As the modules within that Controller are the most pivotal, what would be the best ones to prototype?

b) We have envisioned so far a Null Module, the default to which our display will shift when no one is present. What should this default consist of?

c) We've decided that the display will contain content about itself, call it Prospero's Self-Awareness module. What should it contain? Information on who's been present? Content that has been displayed (i.e., like some weighted average?)? A scroll of various modules that have been developed and with what results?

d) Let's say lots of people are using Prospero at once. What will determine what gets displayed? So far, we've decided to focus on dividing display time rather than display space (because if lots of thing are displayed at once, it gets difficult to see). If the common denominator is, say, watching a football game, how can we claim to have provided anything but a new-fangled TV set? I.e., to what extent can we show the public is capable of doing more than coordinating itself as a multi-organismic remote control?

e) To what extent is it possible to remain neutral about the content that might drive a public to coalesce?

More on all these soon.

Posted by ckaylor at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

Technorati Presence

This post is just to enable our technorati presence:

Technorati Profile

Posted by phartzog at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Spreading the Prospero Word

There are significant communities of scholars who are interested in various aspects of the Prospero project and who might want to know about it. So, this blog post is just to archive links to the communities of like-minded scholars to which we announced the presence of the Prospero project. We will edit this over time to add more links.


Posted by phartzog at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2007

The New York Times on digital displays

This is precisely the kind of thing that projects like Prospero strike
a blow against.


NY Times, January 15, 2007

Anywhere the Eye Can See, It's Likely to See an Ad


[Excerpts below. For the full text, click here.]


Old-fashioned billboards
are being converted to digital screens, which are
considered the next big thing. They allow
advertisers to change messages frequently from
remote computers, timing their pitches to sales
events or the hour of the day. People can expect
to see more of them not only along highways, but
also in stores, gyms, doctors' offices and on the
sides of buildings, marketing executives say.

The trend may lead to more showdowns as civic
pride is affronted. "They're making our community
look like Las Vegas," said Barbara Thomason,
president of the Houston Northwest Chamber of
Commerce, of the scores of digital signs she has
noticed popping up in the last few years. "The word
'trashy' has been used."

Some advertising executives say that as long as
an advertisement is entertaining, people do not
necessarily mind the intrusion — and may even welcome it.

In some office buildings, for instance, video
screens in elevators provide news and information
as well as ads. This year video screens will be
placed in about 5,000 New York City taxicabs,
where passengers will see both advertisements and
NBC programs, according to Clear Channel Outdoor,
which is installing the screens.

"If you do it the right way, you actually win
points," said John McNeil, executive creative
director at McCann Worldgroup San Francisco. His
agency designed ads for Microsoft that appeared
on tray tables in US Airways planes last spring.

But advertisers are still trying to determine
exactly what the right way is, and that has led
to some intriguing experiments.

At the Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla., for
instance, an interactive floor display for
McDonald's last year showed the head of a teenage
boy with small Big Mac burgers flying past; when
people stepped on the ad, the burgers bounced
away from their feet.

An interactive ad for Adidas appears in the
Herald Square subway station in New York City.
Passers-by last week said they liked the sign,
which looked like a static picture of a sneaker
until someone walked past it, triggering a motion
sensor that sent a spray of miniature sneakers flying.

"It makes me interested in the sneakers," said
Roscoe Evans, 36, a personal trainer from
Waterbury, Conn. "I'd rather have it in here
than out on the street."

Andrea Mendez and Julie Wheaton, both working in
New York for a year for Teach for America, said
the sign was "cool" and suitable for its
location. "But I wouldn't want to see it back in
Spokane," said Ms. Wheaton, who is from the
state of Washington.

Toyota projected ads for its Scion cars on the
sides of buildings in 14 cities, including
Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas. Unilever also
projected ads, for its Axe men's fragrance, on
buildings in places like Tampa and Milwaukee. But
this tactic does not always go over well: last
month, when branches of Chase Bank and Commerce
Bank projected ads on New York sidewalks, the
city told the banks to turn off the unauthorized beams.


Posted by bhattach at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2007

Prospero First Meeting and Architecture

The Prospero team met twice this week (Jan 7-13, 2007), and we hashed out various duties as well as got a start on the program architecture. On Friday, we will present these initial steps at the first GROCS meeting of the semester.

Here is a Visio jpg of our basic architecture.

Posted by phartzog at 02:15 PM | Comments (1)

January 10, 2007

Prospero "Visual Commons" Grant Proposal

Prospero – A "Visual Commons" Framework for Community-Aware Public Displays

Prospero is an infrastructure to enable public displays to reflect evolving public participation.

The objectives of the Prospero project arise from two primary motivations: one descriptive, the other normative. First, technologies that foster cooperation enhance our relationship to our surroundings. Many of these technologies incorporate user feedback in real-time.

Second, our team members believe that a society in which collective decision-making is based on participatory democracy and public resources should be allocated not by top-down or centrally-controlled mechanisms, but on the basis of the expressed desires and needs of participants. As cooperation increases, we have seen a resurgence of "the commons," i.e. that public sphere in which community values are

In our project, we shall explore this theme through its instantiation in the specific domain area of public displays. In much of modern life, public spaces, public media and public art are designed to send us messages that we passively receive, process and absorb. However, we believe that in a democracy, citizens must actively shape the public sphere. This necessitates "talking back" to the elements that constitute the public sphere. Public displays, that is, displays located in public spaces and accessible to a public, constitute an increasingly important element of the public sphere. We will develop an infrastructure for community-aware public displays that are controlled by users' expressed needs and preferences; we see our endeavor as part of an ongoing, democratic reclaiming, by citizens, of control over an increasing number of aspects of the public sphere in general.

Thus, by making a public display that is attentive to its community of users, a Visual Commons, it becomes possible for the community to escape the present hegemony of one-way communication, or "broadcast," of generic information (such as the time, or stock prices) or the barrage of mass-media advertising (such as occurs in New York City's Times Square). In effect, dynamic processing of community feedback regarding the contents of the display enables it to become more than just a billboard.

Here is the final grant proposal for which we received the grant:


(NOTE: It is shorter than the original one we wrote, which we may post later...)

Posted by phartzog at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)