I had the honour of speaking at Berkeley University this month, at the Spaces of History / History of Spaces conference. One point my paper explored was the similarity between surveillance and the blogging, logging, and documenting we engage in day-to-day.


As of mid last month, fifty-five million tweets a day were sent to Twitter. Tweets have recently been updated to allow geo-tagging.

Exploring computer-mediated spatial practices – such as the use of Augmented Reality and apps like FourSquare – I tried to draw some complexity into an account of the conflicting roles of the technology as poly-vocal dissemination of information, or extension of surveillance.

The mock-up iPhone application above is a thought experiment into the extent that our social practices allow us to be tracked. Initiated by a call from one of your contacts, the application explores each one of your social media services, including SMS (specifically leveraging the phone as a platform). It pulls out (via trained natural language parser) the locations from recent geo-tags and status updates, then disambiguates with Google Maps. This needn’t run just when your contact calls, it could be constantly looking at the collage your contacts social media produces. And most importantly, this isn’t science fiction, it is possible right now.

As part of my PhD research, I am seeking participants to help test how possible the above app is. You’re invited to run through the process manually on the last contact who rang you, and indicate what you found. Your submission can be totally anonymous, and you’re asked to remove any identifying information (such as name!) of your contact.

I’ll be presenting the results when I have enough material, and depending on the outcome actually developing the app as a proof-of-concept.