A reader writes:

I enjoy your self-awareness about wanting a smartphone more as they resemble phones less. This is key to what we computer scientists like to call pervasive (or ubiquitous) computing. Wikipedia predictably provides a good summary:

In the course of ordinary activities, someone "using" ubiquitous computing engages many computational devices and systems simultaneously, and may not necessarily even be aware that they are doing so. This paradigm is also described as pervasive computing, ambient intelligence, or more recently, everyware. When primarily concerning the objects involved, it is also physical computing, the Internet of Things, haptic computing, and things that think.

The mobility and combination of technologies like GPS, always-on Internet, and mobile hardware powerful enough to do some fairly serious audio and video processing expands the possibilities of creative and artistic work in a way that is only starting to be explored.

My pet idea: Imagine a generative music system on a computer, something like Brian Eno's work. Sitting on a desktop or in a home theater system, it can be quite compelling and enjoyable. Now move it onto a mobile device with location awareness, use the location data to seed the music generation, and suddenly you have a musical experience that is unique to your position in the real world.


Connect it to the internet, allow the device's microphone to capture ambient sounds of that location, and then upload the sounds (to a much-hyped "cloud"). The next person who wanders through pulls the same new sounds out of the cloud, the generator is seeded by the same location, and it becomes a shared experience in a way that is uniquely made possible by this convergence of technology.

Much as a stereoscopic film offers an extra dimension to a viewer, the meeting of audio processing hardware, location awareness, and internet connectivity adds an extra dimension to the perception of a real location in the world. In many ways, this is an extension of the situationist practice of dérive, which given your affinity for serendipitous wandering, I suspect you'd find compelling. I'm planning to write an initial version of this software over the summer for iPhone/iPod touch; I hope you'll be able to give it a try by then.

Will do.

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