Friday, November 28, 2003

We have been checking out many of the internet cafes in Adelaide. They provide access via their desktop computers for as little as $2 for 20mins or $5 for an hour including a free coffee. Some places offer ‘Lock-ins’ which includes 6 hours internet access for $13 and is only available at particular times like midnight to 6am on the weekend. We have also found one cafe that is trialling their wireless network so we are using it for free.

We are finding people in cafes to be very very helpful. The other day when Nina and I were having trouble trying to get online with our laptops, we had spread out over the tables and were taking ethernet cables off desktops which meant semi-dismantling the desk units. The manager felt so apologetic for our trouble that he gave us free coffee, called up the service provider and sat on hold for 30mins trying to get through and ask for help. We found this attitude in all the cafes we entered (three so far) and in each despite the fact we were were trying to access the Citilan network. The cafe owners may not understand the wireless network but feel responsible for the use of it in their space. In fact one lovely (but slightly deranged) woman offered to find 'the cord for the wireless computer'. She came back a few minutes later and said it was lost.

So now I am connected it all seems pretty effortless, though I can only sit in the mall until my battery runs out. A few days ago we found a cafe that rearranged their tables to allow us access to a power cable to keep working. So we had power but no internet access. It appears you have to be dedicated to find out how to use the wi-fi system as a visitor to the city. Maybe it is easier as a local but without any signage or iconography anywhere it requires a good half day to sort it out - not a normal tourist activity.

I have been unable to blog the bus for a while but am very excited to see three new bus stories have been added. Have a look.

and one more (bad) joke....what do you call a kangaroo crossed with a sheep?
a woolly jumper.
- kat

Thursday, November 27, 2003

I am in Adelaide now for the last week and I have had a really interesting experience using wi-fi in the city. Citilan the wireless network is serviced by two providers Airnet and Internode. There has been lots of newspaper coverage and online promotion about it so I had been looking forward to using it. They have hotspots throughout the main city centre and it looks very dense and impressive on online maps.

This all sounds terrific. However accessing the system is not easy. There is no signage in the main city mall which is odd considering it was officially launched in September. The coverage in the main pedestrian mall is sometimes patchy which meant that I could not even sense Citilan at first due to the location of my first seat. I then went into a café and looked online and found the two service providers through the Citilan site. I called one as the online packages seemed expensive for a visitor and spoke to an operator who explained that there were better deals than those listed on the website. I could in fact use my (actually Nina's) credit card to become a member for one month for $11; which includes 50hours of dial up time and wireless internet in the city centre. All very complicated but very interesting as it took us at 3 hours and 3 cafes to work it all out.

I have found that using a laptop in the open has developed my understanding of the environment to know locations to power up, to get the best signal and protection from the weather. Firstly I have gathered enough experience to know the best seats in the Mall for the strongest signal. I have never had four full bars of signal but three means it is a good place to sit. Then I have to choose a seat that is sun protected as the screen can be difficult to read and it's bad for your skin (33degrees lately). There are also variables that make these good locations problematic; the sun moves and the cells experience interference.

Right now I am sitting in a cafe in which I can only see the wi-fi cell if I stand on the balcony and rest my laptop on the railing... not very safe or comfortable. So I have been writing emails and downloading web pages standing up and then sitting down to read them. Nina, Genevieve and I have joked about attaching some kind of bungee cord to the laptop, for safety reasons as well as a way to drop it into wifi signal areas. Given our location, a boomerang laptop could also be interesting.

Speaking of which… what do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?
A stick.
I have not blogged for a while as I have been in Australia working with Genevieve Bell (Intel) on a research project about Australian urban life. We have been on the road interviewing families in their homes for 5 weeks now, from Sydney to Newcastle to Merriwa to Canberra to Wagga Wagga to Melbourne and across to Adelaide where I am now. The project is looking at ways in which people use and don’t use technology in their everyday lives. The whole experience has been very interesting. We have driven about 3000kms around and between these cities, which has given us a real experience of everyday Australian life and the importance of the car.
- kat

Thursday, November 20, 2003

We've been lucky to have a series of great visitors to INCITE over the past few weeks. They include:

James Crabtree from the iSociety and voxpolitics. He talked about his voxpolitics blog, e-democracy and blogs as political and participative tools.

James Leach "is a Research Fellow at King's College Cambridge, and Associate Lecturer in Social Anthropology, investigating the theory and practice of description, with an emphasis on how material and social forms emerge from the processes of interdisciplinary collaboration" (quoted from James presented a new paper about anthropology and arts collaborations.

And just yesterday, Drew Hemment, who is currently a research fellow at the School of Art and Design at the University of Salford and who runs Futuresonic, talked to us about his new project concerning mobile devices and surveillance.

Next week, we're looking forward to hearing from anthropologist Diana Bewley about her research with business owners on Brick Lane in London.

Thanks to all of our guests.

Friday, November 07, 2003

THE LETTER, at the London Film Festival. Let's not talk too much about aesthetics, because then I'll have to describe what might have led more than half of a packed house to walk out on this film (see the above link for a full description; in short, it's a film about text messaging). Instead, let's talk about--oh, I don't know--ethnography. In this light, the film is remarkably brave, willing to retain all of the banality and bathos of late night text messaging between bored Japanese teenagers. Here is one exchange featured in the film: 1. you ok? 2. yup. 3. [after many erasures, one of which was 'don't you have anything else to say?', he settles on] yeah. 4. yeah! yahoo! 5. yeah! yeah! yeah!. At which point, the exchange ends. And because the film is real time in this segment, sustaining a shot of the phone's screen and the phone in its charger, the exchange takes maybe 15 minutes. It's an excruciating film to watch, naked and unadorned (e.g. the soundtrack includes music from the boy's stereo until the cd ends. Because the boy doesn't play another cd, the second half of the film's score is the sound of static interference caused by the proximity of a poor quality mic and a mobile phone). But full of longing and loneliness. All very much like good ethnography. Social scientists: try to find a copy, then go see the Matrix.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I presented some of my work with digital photgraphers to other PhD students, and staff yesterday. It summarised a chapter of my PhD in which I investigate an online group of digital photographers, all of whom have a Fuji branded digital camera. So, there are three elements to the group: digital photography, the Fuji brand, and the community itself.
In the presentation I focused upon how digital photography are the brand are 'performed' by members of the group. Through communication by email and posting photographs onto their website, members tell 'stories' that help to defined what digital photography and the brand are. Therefore what they 'are' in the life of the group, build upon already exisitng stories from producers and intermediaries (e.g. designers, marketers, advertisers and writers in magazines related to digital photography), but they also go beyond them to construct them in ways that are in some ways unique to the group.
I think it went really well, although I experienced some prior problems with a couple of video clips. It pays to have all your software up to date, in this case windows media player 9.
How quick a reply is this. Just got this email from Rebecca Davies at The Guardian:
Hi Steve
Very interesting contradiction and one that we're very aware of. We're
currently investigating alternative bags that we might use that are bio
degradable and will introduce them into such activity as soon as possible.
Hope you liked the mug (reuseable) and coffee.
Best wishes
Hi. I just had an interesting experience on campus here at the University of Surrey (branded UniS - does the university think it can create an effective brand by just giving it a new name?). Anyway, a rep from The Guardian is here outside the uni shop selling copies of the paper for the normal reduced rate of 20p. But today, included in the price is a Guardian mug.
After swapping my 20p for the goods, I was also given a sachet of Fair Trade coffee. 'Oh', I said, to which the rep replied 'we wouldn't give just anything away, only those things that fit in with our brand image'. He then proceeded to put the paper, the mug and sachet in a plastic bag that, I am told from elsewhere, will take tens of years (possibly hundreds?) to degrade. So, does this fit into The Guardian's brand image? An interesting contradiction?
Meanwhile, I have sent an email to Rebecca Davies from Marketing at The Guardian asking for her comments.

Saturday, November 01, 2003