Carnegie Mellon University
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Urban Probes: Encountering Our Emerging Urban Atmospheres

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journal contribution
posted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by Eric Paulos, Tom Jenkins
Urban Atmospheres captures a unique, synergistic moment - expanding urban populations, rapid adoption of Bluetooth mobile devices, tiny ad hoc sensor networks, and the widespread influence of wireless technologies across our growing urban landscapes. The United Nations recently reported that 48 percent of the world's population current live in urban areas and that this number is expected to exceed the 50 percent mark world wide by 2007 [1]. In developed nations the number of urban dwellers is even more dramatic - expected to exceed 75%. Current studies project Bluetooth-enabled devices to reach 5.4 billion units by 2005 - five times the number of mobile phones or Internet connections [2]. Mobile phone penetration already exceeds 80% of the population in places like the European Union (EU) and parts of Asia [3]. WiFi hardware is being deployed at the astonishing rate of one every 4 seconds globally [4]. We argue that now is the time to initiate inspirational research into the very essence of these newly emerging technological urban spaces. We desire to move towards an improved understanding of the emotional experience of urban life. This paper describes Urban Probes - a lightweight, provocative, intervention methodology designed to rapidly deconstruct urban situations, reveal new opportunities for technology in urban spaces, and guide future long term research in urban computing. We also describe a completed Urban Probe exploring urban trash.


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