#networkedurbanism: ‘Physital’ Social Networks

Jul 28 •

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Hyper activated place of connection - Table Talk

Hyper activated place of connection – Table Talk

Earlier this year we introduced to you #networkedurbanism, now that the “studio report” book is almost ready, we are publishing a series of posts showing some of the projects that the students have developed during the 2010, 2012, and 2013 studios at the GSD.

In this sixth #networkedurbanism post we present to you two projects that apply the concepts of a social network, like the ones that we generally use—twitter, facebook—to the physical world using digital locally-targeted apps or physical objects.

Table Talk

Stacy Morton, with her Table Talk, tried to reconnect the concept of social network to one of the objects where most of the social networking took place in the past, the table. Table Talk is an exploration of how physical, static objects, can be enriched with a layer of digital technology to behave like a physical network where social interaction is made easier by digital means. Her prototype, is focused on the possibility of “engraving” informations—users interests—on the table digital layer, the system then is able to share this information with other tables and therefore other users, connecting them in the physical world. The system also retains the trace of previous conversations and topics and makes them available to future users so that connections can “span over temporalities.” They explain the importance of this in-between as follows “With the increased use of the “in between” place between work and home where individuals come to work independently in public, TableTalk further enhances the social quality of this space. This new typology is a place to work alongside other intellectuals, some of which may share an inherent knowledge base, and connect on mutually beneficial terms. This type of environment not only provides a work space, but starts to break social barriers through place, creating a richer way for people to connect, develop community, provide place for organizing, and therefore become a tool for place making.


The prototype itself is a table equipped with two main functions. The first one is composed of a RGB LED strip embedded at the table strip that changes color depending on the conversation topic so other users can know wich topic is beign discussed around a table, the topic can be chosen simply by touching one of the location specific topics engraved on thesurface. The second main function is a QR code that once scanned can connect a user to the previous conversations that were held in the same place, the user can bring on the conversation and even leave notes for future users.

You can read more about Table Talk on #networkedurbanism.

Hear Here!

Joe Liao and Hansley Yuñez decided to develop Hear Here! after an extensive research on the vast existing locally-targeted communication app market. They found out that none of the existing social networks—in spite of having erased spatial barriers—had explored enough the world of proximal, physical, interactions, and the projects focused on locally-targeted communication have way too many restrictions to be considered real “physical social networks”. Hear Here! is a virtual discussion board, based on the user’s physical location, that connects people to their own neighbourhood or region, creating a sense of place in cyberspace.

They explain how it works like this: “we decided to develop our own solution by creating a discussion board that connects people to their own neighbourhood or region (…) if a user wishes, they may join discussions in locations other than their own which may have relevance to them.  Just as populations shift and migrate in the real-world, users may come and go, leaving one thread to join another,  or they may continue to follow threads based in their previous location, in order to maintain contact. Hear Here! is entirely user generated. Its users create both the content and the geometry of the places to which these topics are tagged.
Deeply Hear Here! is a virtual tool designed to foster both local community and provide an avenue for transient populations to engage with locals and with each other conciliating the digital layer with the physical world.

This project is now a startup, in 2013 was selected to be further developed at the Harvard Innovation Lab and was semifinalist for the MIT 100k entrepreneurship competition, you can read more about it on #networkedurbanism.

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