The future is fast approaching

Caught up in an information culture.

Digital Signposts, the Physical Environment, and Steve Martin’s “L.A. Story”

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There’s apparently no CG there, it’s all on-location footage.  Oh, the beautiful, shiny future of the pointy sign.

It’s fair to say that this sign, as implemented, duplicates a lot of the functionality people expect from smartphones, but I don’t see street signs (or, for that matter, billboards) disappearing.  This may not be the final form digital signposts take, but it’s an interesting look – minimalist, fairly unobtrusive. Forget the content for a moment; as a medium, I like this as a way for the physical environment to communicate information to me.

The question it raises is, how much interactivity do we need?  The simpler interface of buttons rather than screens seems appropriate, though I wonder about how the interaction goes down on a more crowded street corner.  Some of the suggested interactions seem counterproductive; there are other devices far better suited to streaming digital news, for instance.  I don’t personally need my physical environment to display tweets, and nor do I have a pressing need for game scores or news, unless that news is accompanied by “and evacuate immediately in this direction” (which would, by the way, be a great use of this sign).

That’s not purely retro hipster grumbling about wanting my real world experiences untainted by digital clutter (and, by the way, where’s the nearest damn wifi), but a question of what signposts are fundamentally for – their job is to give you more context about your physical location.  They’re geographic metadata made physical.  When a signpost’s metadata content detaches from the geospatial realm and they help the user mentally detach from their physical environment, it sends mixed messages about what its purpose is.

Even the most famous (and presciently txt spking) interactive signpost of modern times remembered that one: overstepping its traffic guidance role to get messed up in Steve Martin’s love life it might be, but it never forgets the importance of being physically situated, both right next to Steve Martin and in the heart of LA.

That signpost knows that, whatever it does, it’s telling an LA story.  The Points signpost is incredibly compelling when it’s telling a Brooklyn story… and a bit less so when its narrative gets written by the Twittersphere and the Associated Press.

(via Atlantic Cities – “A Signpost for a Digital Age”)


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