How Locative Media Art Set the Agenda for Location-Aware Apps (and why this still matters)


Session Title:

  • Locative Media and Social Data

Presentation Title:

  • How Locative Media Art Set the Agenda for Location-Aware Apps (and why this still matters)




  • This paper argues that locative media art has had a significant role to play in the shaping of emergent location-aware technologies with this influence very evident in the latest generation of locative smartphone apps.

    The paper presents case studies of early locative media art projects drawing connections to popular commercial location aware mobile applications. It will be argued that their influence goes beyond the specifics of similarities in approach between particular applications and artworks but rather represents a fundamental conceptual shift in thinking about location which has far reaching implications for the future of location-aware applications.

    From its inception locative media has set itself the task of defining a mode of operation for emergent locative technologies. This approach emphasises the technology’s ability to augment space through revealing hidden histories and layers of meanings and associations which foreground the rich lived experience of place. It will be proposed that this approach of locative media has shifted the locative agenda from an emphasis on cartesian position to a more user-centred focus on location as the locus of lived experience.

    In the past year location-aware mobile phone apps and services have become mainstream with the rise of locative social networking services like FourSquare, place based narratives such as Soundwalks and a plethora of location-aware information services typified by Yelp. The paper will trace a connection between the user-centred idea of place at the heart of these applications and the concept of place espoused and developed in locative media art demonstrating that this approach stands in stark contrast to the native cartesianism of GPS and other locative technologies. I propose that this is not coincidental and in fact represents the agency of locative media in shaping these emergent technologies.

    While location-aware services and applications may not have made their much anticipated breakthrough in 2010 there is no doubt that location will play a significant role in the future of the mobile internet. This paper argues that this agency of locative media points toward a framework for the consideration of art engaging with emergent technologies.

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