Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dogseat's purple bike

The latest tech toy advance toward total digital hegemony in the mulitverse is a bike that takes pictures & links them to GPS maps worldwide. I heard about this bike via flickr's own irrepressible photog-around-town dogseat (aka Eric Harvey Brown). As part of an incomprehensible (to me) Yahoo campaign known as Start Wearing Purple , dogseat is piloting a specially designed, purple camera-bike around his regular haunts in Jersey City, Brooklyn & Manhattan. In motion, the bike takes a picture & records GPS data every 60 seconds. Simultaneously, similar purple bikes are cruising the streets & roads of selected locations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Asia & Europe.

To see pictures by dogseat's bike, click here. Don't forget to also click on the "Map" link. It's an interesting exercise, although personally I got bored pretty quickly.

I'm guessing that -- depending on age & inclination -- you might be exclaiming "Sooo cool!" right about now. Or you might be grumbling "What for?" My own response is somewhere in between. The ongoing development of web-linked digital imaging & fast accurate global positioning systems is increasingly useful & even potentially visionary. But I've grown tired (more than tired) of glitzy, market-driven gee whizz rollouts that seem to meet no resistance from an increasingly atomized public consciousness. I keep wondering if I'm the only one who thinks, "OK, I'm supposed to greet this new digi toy as indispensable & use it all the time because I can, but how, really, does it change my life for the better?"

An example. Every day as I walk the streets, fully half my fellows at any one time, on any sidewalk anywhere in the city, are listening or talking intently into miniaturized, wireless, globally-connected phones that were barely dreamt of 10 years ago. Totally absorbed, they pay no real attention to where they are or who is with them. Their imagination is focused on a conversation with a person whose physical reality may be thousands of miles away. Is this automatically better than talking to a companion, thinking their own thoughts, looking, listening, smelling, feeling the place they are?


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of recording in images (bike or not) every minute - maybe more frequently. This would auto mate my image harvests and get me onto the street more. Don't care myself about the GPS aspect as much.

As to your question "Is this automatically better than talking to a companion, thinking their own thoughts, looking, listening, smelling, feeling the place they are?" Not automatically better but certainly keeps the people I am closest to in reach wherever I am travelling.

Tim Connor said...

Ron, You should try auto harvest in some form. I wonder though if it would gather what you need -- if your interests, instinct, even gestural style don't affect your current takes more than you know? It would be interesting to find out.

No argument about the convenience of cellphones (assuming you can see/manipulate the obtuse little fuckers). I was thinking more about the major societal changes that take place & force conformity -- sure,one can hold out but it ends up being harder than going along. With cellphones, it seems to me, ideas (& realities) of privacy, etiquette, even time change radically yet no one is actually allowed to make a personal decision about it.

I would prefer to sometimes be unreachable, unmappable. I'm not bothered, indeed prefer, communication that requires clear intention & at least minimal planning. Why should I be perpetually connected? Yet I'm carrying a cellphone in my pocket as I type.

Anonymous said...

The cell phone ( or mobile phone as we call it in England ) ties everyone to a short lead. As for all the other gizmos you mention, they put a wedge between people and the stream they're moving in.

What has become of the romance of waiting ?
Waiting to hear someone's words , waiting for a letter, seeing the pulse of the writer in the handwriting and so forth.

Tim, more and more I see photography as being like any map. Not what I see and somehow I've grown to trust it ( but trust it less and less and doubt my own seeing...want to open my heart up to other ways of seeing that don't require machinery )

-Nancy (Yellowhammer)

Tim Connor said...

Nancy, I've been getting frantic with Republican lying & the apparently endless stupidity of the American public, so a week ago picked up my 13th volume of the Aubrey-Marturin naval series by Patrick O'Brian. Instant fly away.Do you know those books? Beautifully written, very human books -- though admittedly concentrating more on its male than its female portion -- the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars -- but I love them dearly. It's the era just before steam engines -- with gigantic sailing ships, completely dependent on the wind, horses & carriages on land. Life is just as complicated, just as cruel as today, but I'm so drawn to it (esp if I get to be born a reasonably well-connected male). Just think, in those days, not long ago really, it could take months, depending on the wind & currents, for news of a birth, death, war, end of war, etc. to travel across the ocean. Talk about different...

Anonymous said...

I'm not much for the bike that takes pictures. But I'm trying to be minded since I came late to the cell-phone-as-camera idea, which seemed absolutely silly to me when it first appeared. (Certainly there were other, more useful applications?) I'm more interested in whether the pictures taken from the bike have any interest beyond the novelty of their capture.

Years ago, American Demographics Magazine had someone stop and take a picture every X (forgot the exact number) miles as they drove across the country. It didn't matter whether the spot made any sense, or was convenient; if the odometer indicated another X miles had passed, the driver got out and took a picture. Individually, they weren't much, especially as they were run, one-a-month, as a regular back page feature in the magazine. But seen at one sitting, preferably scanned quickly, they made an interesting story.

The confluence of photo and GPS is interesting to me, if for no other reason than it seems like two things no one would have thought to link. If you're photographing in uncharted territory or are experiencing some kind of emergency, they're probably useful. But I, too, am a little put off by the idea of constant tracking. A friend with the new iPhone marvels that it can track her on a map as she moves around her house. That's definitely more than I would want someone else to know about me. But perhaps some day we'll all have wireless chips in our heads that enable us to talk, Google, travel and experience other things without so much as an external handset or headpiece at all.