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<nettime> wap the hell
David A Cox on 13 Nov 2000 04:08:29 -0000


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<nettime> wap the hell


Few people could have predicted, even five years ago that the mobile phone
would develop into a digital media. The phone is used to illustrate
lectures about the emergence of mobile audio visual media as a commonplace
adjunct to everyday life.

There is emerging with the proliferation of WAP services, many
opportunities for developers of new media, from writing for the small
screen through to graphics and animation development. Even film and video
production for viewing on small screens is possible.

If only WAP were aimed at a broader range of people, and was next to free
to use, like say, the payphone system.

As innovation continues, new and exciting possibilities present themselves
for students and practitioners of digital media. WAP type services are
primarily about mobility. People using mobile phones and personal digital
assistants are able to access information from wherever the network allows
and this means that small screen publishing is now a significant and
exciting area of design and creative expression..

The hardwwre itself matters less than the creative uses to which the
software - i.e. the network services themselves - are put.

The fact that people can use networks from anywhere in the city with WAP
capable devices means that information about where that person is
geographically can be made available. The proximity-specific nature of
emerging WAP content differentiates mobile phones from other types of
digital media devices such as laptops and desktop computers which require
the user to stop what they are doing, and concentrate on the activity at
hand to the expense of other activities. By contrast, WAP capable devices
enable the user to more or less continue with walking and generally
conducting matters while they simultaneously consult the small screen for
momentary grabs of information.

Users thus need not interrupt everyday practices in order to access
information pertinent to where they are and what they are doing. Mobile
phones are thus becoming wearable computers, whose use genuinely augments
the activities of everyday life. It is not inconceivable that the 'dick
tracy' 2-way video wristwatch might very soon become a reality, and beyond
that devices so small that they are effectively invisible.

It would appear that now is the time to develop the various media which
could find use within these emerging applications - ideas for small screen
movies, interactive media, games, activities and so on which take into
account the limitations of the system and exploit them. Given that
mobility and ubiquity of use characterize WAP services, what types of
design ideas for these services can emerge? How does writing and directing
a movie alter when your screen is the size of a large postage stamp, is
black and white, and has a limited frame rate? What interactive design
ideas can take full advantage of the user's continual and dynamic motion
through space?

These and other matters interest me and by broader interest in the
development of wearable computers and the overlap of communication media
and everyday life, and electronically mediated urban life.

Privacy issues are never far behind though.


David Cox




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