Living Memory (lime), a project initially sponsored by the European Commission, seeks not to replace geographic communities with digital ones, but rather to enhance neighborhood cohesiveness with a computerized collective conscious. “It’s not proud in its own existence,” Salchow said. But there’s somethingto be said for quirkiness.
In this tabletop prototype, users can tap into a community data stream through terminals in any number of neighborhood locales to peruse or post the same kind of “help wanted” signs and flyers found on neighborhood bulletin boards or in traditional shop windows. ime’s physiology is communally driven, meaning its content well and interface are constantly reconstructed in accordance with use.
Unlike the Internet, which exists in its own sort of fourth dimension, the lime experience is physically contextual. The body of information a user accesses while sitting in a coffeehouse, for example, will be hierarchically and substantively different than the content mix found via a bus stop, kiosk or pda. As the technology leverages existing webs of cultural association, places become natural filters of information. Physical locations have as much to do with the interface as the computer screens.
Making lime even more subjective is the fact that users access information via smart tokens. Chips embedded in the tokens intuitively store information about personal preferences and immediately shuffle the information in the data stream accordingly.
With the introduction of air conditioners in the 1950s, porch sitting became a lost art. Then came the Internet; doomsayers predicted the demise of community life. lime seeks to counter the threat of isolation by allowing each community to chaotically construct its own digital sense of self. “This uses technology to bring people together,” Nichols said. “It serves the community in a real way.”
What was the inspiration for LiMe?
Current views suggest that modern computer communication systems can lead to the fragmentation of the local community. The aim of the LiMe project is, using the same technologies, to see if it’s possible to reverse this trend: to find new ways to bring the community together and build a collective and living memory for all people.
Explain how the prototype “learns” from its users and how this collective memory transforms the interface.
The LiMe system begins empty, and gradually fills as people create content in it. This architecture is sensitive to cultural, social and personal context. Each node, such as the cafe table, contains a profile reflecting its real-world cultural context (i.e., the particular cafe it is in). Based on this cultural profile, the table filters out information not relevant to the cafe but always lets a little random content leak in.
Are there long-term applications for this kind of system?
We hope to be able to address issues such as information overload, increasingly large or anonymous communities and the emergence of temporary communities (from hotels to refugee shelters), by creating solutions for real people that merge naturally with everyday life in everyday places. LiMe aims to strengthen community self-awareness.
design: Philips International BV, Eindhoven, Netherlands: Steven Kyffin, director of research and development/project manager; Anton Andrews, project leader; Henk Lamers, senior visual interface designer; Irene McWilliam, creative director; Bianca Oosterlaar, project assistant; Stefano Marzano, CEO. Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, Scotland: Kathy Buckner. Domus Academy, Milan, Italy: Marco Susani. Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, London: Robert Spence. Universite Rene Descartes, Paris V, Academie de Paris Sorbonne, France: Federico Casalegno