During the summer of 2012 I attended and Ubiquitous Computing Summer Schools in Oulu. Here I attended a 2 days workshop titled "Urban Sensoria" —Here the description of the workshop — where my team and I addressed some of the issues around 'Public displays' and the relation between generalised information and contextually curated one.
Oulu is/was (?) a world case study for its free wi-fi (panoulu) and an it interactive public displays. As a way to compare and better understand the citizen low interest in the public screens me and my team decided to investigate how grassroot and informal communication was actually taking place in the city. We therefore collected and analyzed existing traces of communication in the city, like stickers, street art, advertisement and event posters. More than 500 pictures have been collected taking advantage of the pervasive connectivity and a flicker phone app.
After collection and coding all the material, what emerged is that communication happen everywhere in the city but specific topics appear just at certain corners and certain location. The lesson is that communication is “situated” and that the physical, community and personal expression experience of crafting something and stick onto a wall hardly replicable by a public display or a phone: Certain things need to be said in the right place. The human centered (phsyco-geographical ?) approach we used resulted being a very good tool to understand how communication take place, where and about what topic. This is in contrast with a general trend in information technology that tend to design solutions not focused on space and context and provide any sort of information: as a consequence not be used.