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Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
The case studies that follow examine applications of portable devices from museum
corridors to city streets, all made possible by the development of portable devices.The
ultra-futuristic, sociological ambitions of Urban Tapestries are in contrast to the more
conservative and practical educational aims of the Handscape and MUSEpad projects.The
scenarios presented indicate how the technologies can be used in eTourism, preservation,
and personalisation.
Case Studies
Urban Tapestries
Urban Tapestries investigates the possibilities of location-based mobile and wireless
systems.The project team is currently building an experimental location-based wireless
platform covering the Bloomsbury area of central London.This prototype will allow users
to access and create location-specific content whether as text, audio, pictures, movies, or a
combination of these media.
The project as a whole is therefore also a type of forum for exploring and sharing
experience, stories, knowledge and reactions, allowing users to record and annotate the
paths they trace as they traverse their area via handheld devices such as PDAs and mobile
phones.The user community's collective memory will grow organically. Users can add
new locations to the shared corpus, append their own reactions and content to locations,
and draw new paths or `threads' between different locations and contexts. Mobile commu-
nication technologies enable new types of interaction and creativity which will produce
unanticipated social, cultural or political consequences.
The project was conceived and developed by Proboscis, a cultural organisation
and creative studio, in collaboration with the London School of Economics (LSE),
Hewlett-Packard Research Laboratories
in Bristol, and mobile phone company
. In addition, Birkbeck College of the University of London contributed
programming effort, the British Ordnance Survey provided assistance with mapping
resources, and LocustWorld provided wireless networking expertise.The UK Department
of Trade & Industry
(DTI)'s Next Wave technologies programme, Arts Council
, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science & Technology
co-funded the project. Significantly it is the first project jointly funded by the DTI and
Arts Council England. Apple Computer UK and Sony Europe sponsored hardware
used in the prototype.The ten-month project (from February to December 2003) had a
budget of 115,000.
The Proboscis team has acted as project leader, bodystorming/films producer, system
architect, information architect, content producer, interface designer, and conceptual
designer. LSE conducted sociological/ethnographic studies.While these roles may at first
seem clear-cut, it should be stressed that all aspects of the project's development were
shared and indeed collaborative: Proboscis assembled a multi-disciplinary team.While
partners had responsibility for specific `task areas', all partners shared their expertise
144 This case study is based on an e-mail questionnaire completed by Giles Lane, founder and chair of
Proboscis ( during August 2003, and on face-to-face discussions between
Giles Lane and Danny Angus of Proboscis and Martin Donnelly of DigiCULT in London, May 2003.
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