[NetBehaviour] Exploring Relational Space.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Nov 21 10:30:08 CET 2006

Exploring Relational Space.

Cities are not merely collections of buildings; they are the living, 
breathing, teeming product of the human bodies who inhabit them. A city 
razed to the ground may recover, but a city emptied of people is dead. 
Yet emphasis is always given to the locative nature of a city - the 
neighborhood you live in, the street, the floor, the unit - an assertion 
of a Cartesian primacy which ignores the more profound natural 
relationships of the city: the coming together and parting of human 
beings living social lives. Cities are their people; souls are the 
bricks from which a city is constructed.

BlueStates: Exploring Relational Space--by Mark Pesce and John 
Tonkin--is an attempt to reverse the figure and ground of the city, 
ignoring its visible nature as a locative, Cartesian space, creating, 
instead, a view of the city purely as a social space. In this work, the 
trope of absolute location is abandoned in favor of the idea of 
relational proximity. BlueStates does not show you where you have been, 
but rather, it shows you who you have been with - a more perfect metric 
for the inner life of the city.

The inspiration for BlueStates is drawn from the recognition that most 
of us, most of the time, carry that most common of 21st century 
appliances, the mobile phone. Most of these mobile phones are equipped 
with a wireless technology known as Bluetooth. A Bluetooth mobile phone 
user creates a radius of electronic awareness - what we call a 
"bluesphere" - extending as much as ten meters from their body. When two 
Bluetooth devices pass in proximity to one another, each senses the 
other. Data is exchanged - and promptly ignored. BlueStates: Exploring 
Relational Space uses its own, custom software sensors - which run on 
mobile phones, PDAs and computers - to listen intently to the 
bluesphere. These sensors contribute to a database record of proximal 
encounters, and this data is then used to build views into the social 
life of the city's residents.


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