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Re-making space with cellphones July 12, 2007

Posted by François in appropriation, baroque, boost, space.

Brett Stalbaum, who had brought Boost’s cheap GPS-enabled internet-connected phones to my attention, has been using them in two of his classes at UC San Diego this past quarter. The result is “antinormalizer”, a project in which his students used the phones to re-make public spaces around campus. As Brett explains in the video, cell phones are increasingly scripting our behavior in public spaces, so why not use them to “change the script of already programmed spaces”? The result is a fascinating baroque layering of unexpected behaviors onto existing space.

“Antinormalizer is a project of VIS 141B (Advanced Computer Programming in the Arts) and CAT 124 (Sixth College Practicum) at the University of California San Diego, Spring 2007. In it, a location aware mobile phone application helps students do things that are antinormal. And, it is also all of the antinormal performance that happened as a result.”


Boost: cheap appropriable mobile internet May 23, 2007

Posted by François in boost, cannibalism.

Following up on a tip from Brett Stalbaum, I have been playing with a Boost mobile pre-paid phone. The two low-end models, Motorola i415 and i455 respectively sell for $30 and $50, including a $10 credit. Both have a built-in GPS. The interesting part is that Boost offers unlimited data for $0.35 per day. Combine that with the fact that Motorola recently opened the java interface to its iDen phones, and you have unlimited mobile internet access for about $10/month (I have yet to make a voice call. That would cost $0.20/min.) In addition to browsing the net with the phone, you can also use it as a tethered modem for a computer (instructions here; very slow — I’m only getting about 10kb/s… I need to figure out how to unlock Widen)

This Boost offer is being fully cannibalized by mologogo, the free social location service: they have appropriated it as a cheap networked GPS tool (they sell Boost phones, preloaded with their software, at a slight premium over the Boost price.) Mologogo’s web pages even include tips on “stopping unwanted calls”, to make sure nobody calls and eats up precious pre-paid time (receiving calls also disrupts the GPS application.) I wonder what Boost thinks about all this… A dynamic hacker community is emerging to do all kinds of interesting things with this. Mologogo has also used the twitter API to create a ‘molotwit’ mashup.

So far I have loaded up the opera mini browser, gmail, and mologogo (you can see where abaporu has been hanging out lately). One of the interesting features of the boost pre-paid plan is that it doesn’t charge users for incoming SMS. So, with the unlimited data plan, you can use m.twitter to send free SMS to a twitter feed, and boost phones that subscribe to that feed get free twitter updates. There has to be an interesting project that can take advantage of that… any brilliant ideas?