Recently, the streaming service Twitch TV offered Pokemon as a massively multi-player game. Anyone with Internet access may – at least for a moment – control the game, and thousands have tried. As always in life, not everyone has the same goals, so allowing thousands to sit in the driver’s seat means that the results are not straightforward – they tend to oscillate between chaos and stasis. xkcd summarized the situation eptly (click on the image to embiggen it):
That so many would seek to play when no individual can achieve very much is not a new discovery in human psychology. NYNEX, the main local phone company in New York and New England (now part of Verizon), ran a technical trial of interactive telecommunications back in the 1990s, renting 15 minutes each week on a local Manhattan cable channel in the early hours of Sunday mornings, which they called Joe’s Apartment. They had taken film inside an apartment, walking in every direction, and then cut the film into short discrete pieces. The film showed only the apartment, nothing more. The discrete pieces were then assembled at run-time, in an order determined by a TV viewer using only their landline or mobile phone. A viewer could phone in and using the phone keypad, control the movement of the camera (left, right, forward, etc). This control of the camera was only apparent. In reality, the viewer was controlling the selection of which discrete piece of film would be seen next. Any one viewer only retained control of the camera for a few minutes.
Despite the simplicity of the set-up and the lateness of the hour, and much to NYNEX’s surprise, the program attracted thousands of viewers, all seeking to wrest control of the camera. No doubt a large number of viewers were people who’d spent the evening in close proximity with alcohol.
Mischa Dohler, who was appointed as Professor in Wireless Communications in the Department of Informatics in 2013, is already making a splash in London, with a forthcoming speaking appearance at TEDxLondon’s CITY 2.0 event on 6 December 2013. Having come from the Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya (CTTC) in Barcelona, a technology centre in telecommunications where he was Director of Research, and on the Board of Directors of Worldsensing, which he cofounded, he is well qualified to discuss some of the most important issues of urban data (big data, open data and privacy), urban manufacturing, and the urban citizen. In his talk “Smart Cities – The Untold Story”, Mischa will challenge some common views around the recent hype of smart cities, and outline some viable steps to address the challenges and misconceptions to facilitate the emergence of truly smart cities.
In preparation for the talk, Mischa has been doing some background research, as I discovered while running down the road to grab a sandwich for lunch. Here he is, acting as a “chugger” on the Strand, trying to grab passers by for interviews. Armed with a camera in the background to record and film interviews, when I found him Mischa was beginning to understand the challenges faced by the charity muggers one normally encounters on this stretch of the pavement. He had only had one successful interview in about 4oo people. But it’s still only lunchtime!
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has since grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED Conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TEDx is a program of local, self organised events that bring people together. TEDxLondon is the leading UK arm of TEDx, having hosted high profile events in partnership with the Skoll Foundation, The Gates Foundation and The Science Museum. Tickets to attend the event are available on the event website.