Hello Lamp Post is a project that combines gaming, mobile phones and smart cities through the notion of playful cities. The creation of PAN studio it is the winner of the Bristol's Watershed arts venue's Playable City Award.
According to a recent article in The Guardian the project encourages people to communicate with street furniture including bus stops, post boxes and lamp posts by using the repair numbers found on the objects as SMS codes. Texting this number to a central server "wakes up" the object, and prompts questions via text. The next participant who encounters that object can learn about the previous replies. It is hoped that this will encourage regular conversations with the objects allowing people to learn stories about the hidden lives of the city's population, effectively enabling people to interact with the urban environment in more game-like ways.
PAN co-founder Ben Barker describes how the team devised the project:
The team spent the early months of the project thinking about memory and city, and how we build our own psychogeographies of familiar environments. "Personally I was inspired by Austerlitz, a novel by Seabald in which the city was a walkable version of the protagonists brain. We became obsessed with how we put these memories back in the real world, how do we unite the physicality of the city and the stories we tell about it?For co-developer, Tom Armitage, the project is a way of reclaiming the term "Smart Cities" from major corporations such as IBM and Cisco which increases the reliance on their infrastructure and their idea of the smart city.
"In all our conversations we were keen to avoid making an application that would limit who could play. Using SMS and the codes on objects we could avoid GPS and make it accessible to all. By making it open to everyone, all players needed was an interest in the stories of others."
"It's exciting to see lots of great thought going on around alternate versions of the Smart City," says Armitage. "And it's thought that really focuses on all the other elements that make up a city - not just its technology. Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica (and formerly Arup and Sitra) has a great recent blogpost on this. The work of New York-based designer Adam Greenfield also explores designing not only for networked cities, but also network citizens.
"There's a long tradition of technology reshaping the city by harnessing its citizens – services like Foursquare or Dodgeball, games like MogiMogi, even cycle hire platforms like Vélib. These all alter and improve the city through technology and people. We're taking some of that DNA and then investing the city with some personality."
The team hopes that by facilitating a different type of interaction with the objects in the city, and a game that does more than require task completion and points accumulation, that users might be able to change their perspective on the city and urban environment.