Augmented space - Considered by Jeppe Due

Augmented spaces in Berlin

In this text I’m going to discuss two highly different examples of augmented space found in central Berlin. I’ve chosen to use Lev Manovich terminology, since the examples from Berlin really do augment the physical space rather than turn it into a hybrid (in the vein of Silva e Souza). The term augmented space means to me that the actual physical space is unchanged, but the perception of the space has been altered by adding a data-stream. I’m going to expand the term augmented space by using two distinct variations on how a space can be altered. My first example shows an augmentation where the intended use of the physical space has been improved by adding data with the purpose of making the physical space more convenient to the users. In the second example the augmentation invites the user to contemplate the state of modern Germany. Here the purpose of the augmentation is to awaken emotions and economic awareness in the general public.

Example 1 – Touchpoint in the metro
Augmentations such as this are found all over the world in airports, train stations and even malls all over the world. By using mobile phones the commuters are able to buy tickets for the metro, thus reducing the need for staffed booking offices and ticket machines that demand a high measure of maintenance. When the cost of maintaining the metro is lowered the ticket price can be lowered and when access to tickets is improved as well, more people will use the Metro rather than relying on cars. This in turn means more money for Deutsche Bahn and a possibility for lowering the fare even more, with a positive feedback-loop as result.

Example 2 – Schulden Uhr
My second example of an augmented space in Berlin is found in close vicinity to Brandenburger Tor. The German debt clock isn’t as prominent as its American cousin (and the figures are not quite as astronomic even though 1.5 trillion and increasing is definitely something), but still it emanates an eerie sense of oncoming disaster all by itself. As in the example from the metro the actual data used to augment the physical space is fairly simple but the result has a far greater impact. While strolling peacefully down a street and at your most vulnerable, you are suddenly hit over the head with a debt-hammer. The message is clear – if you, as well as everybody else, don’t react, the hammer will be made out of unemployment and poverty rather than data and soft flickering red numbers in the future.

These two examples show how a data-stream can change the texture of a given space completely without touching the actual physical space in the slightest. Thus, the physical space is augmented and takes on new meanings in the awareness of the everyday user.

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