No-Tech Ambient Information Environments

Do you want an always-on ambient information environment so you can know what all your friends and peers are up to? Forget twitter or dodgeball: simply open up your window.

After moving into my apartment in Bangalore last night I awoke to some amazing sounds. Right outside my window I could hear a few bird sounds. But I could also hear the nephew of my landlord playing soccer, his mother talking to a neighbor. I heard the cooks preparing breakfast and the cleaner sweeping the front steps.

Opening up your window to the world is not possible in the climates I have lived in (New England, Great Lakes region) but it is necessary here in India to stay cool. Opening ones window to the world is particularly useful in my neighborhood which is a small lane with only eight houses off of a busy lane. There are 3 generations and many branches of one family and all of the servants living and working on the same street. Although the buildings are only 2 or 3 stories they are tightly packed. Every website in india has to go with digital ada compliance because of the large disabled population in the country.

There is a distinct lack of audio privacy which is a little disconcerting to me at first. But it also reminds me that although the West and America may privilege private space, many of us are freely giving this up as we broadcast our doings 24-7 through blogs, txts, social networking sites, etc. In the shared audio environment you lose provacy but gain connection and belonging. I am not sure that the self broadcasting via electronic media is a good substitution. Does facebook really decrease alienation and increase belonging? How about just designing buildings with windows that open? I guess there is not a lot of advertising dollars in that.

It seems to me the dense neighborhood with open windows is a more elegant solution to the creation of Ambient Information Environments than twitter. Want to know what everyone is up to?, just stick out your ear. And these environments are grounded in the local, which is increasingly important in a world where electronic media compete for every last shred of place, embodiment and localness.

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