Social Tapestries
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Social Tapestries is a Proboscis research programme developed as part of our SoMa research initiative. It builds upon Proboscis' projects, Urban Tapestries (2002-2004) and Private Reveries, Public Spaces (2001-2002), broadening the scope to explore specific social and cultural uses of knowledge mapping and sharing in partnership with other civil society, industry and academic partners.

The key areas we are exploring are:

  • education and learning
    developing knowledge mapping and sharing techniques and tools as new forms of associative learning and teaching methods for schoolchildren, lifelong learners and teachers.
  • people & environment
    staging creative interventions with local areas and communities that engage with regeneration and environmental issues to increase issue ownership and people’s sense of agency and empowerment to act.
  • citizenship, neighbourhoods and public services
    exploring how mapping and sharing knowledge and experiences within geographic communities can enable new forms of neighbourliness to emerge. By stimulating and inspiring habits of participation these informal knowledges can assist in transforming relationships with key stakeholders such as local authorities and public service providers to develop reciprocities of trust.


Mass Observation for the 21st Century
Proboscis began trialling a new Urban Tapestries public authoring platform in 2006 as part of several Social Tapestries projects. However we found the system to be difficult to use in many of the social and cultural settings in which it was being implemented. Maintaining the system required significant resources beyond our ability to support it, and we decided to develop a new approach that could take advantage of the many new online services that had appeared in the years since we began the original Urban Tapestries project. Since late 2006 Proboscis has been developing a 'scavenging' approach, using the concepts and processes of public authoring to stitch together services that are simple and free to use (such as photo-sharing sites, blogging tools, online spreadsheets, video sharing platfoms and online mapping applications).

This latest direction for public authoring is best evidenced in the Snout online sensor mapping interface (



Jenny Hammond Primary School
Proboscis is collaborating with staff at the Jenny Hammond Primary School in Waltham Forest, north east London to develop the Social Tapestries frameworks for knowledge mapping and sharing into practical teaching and learning methods. Three intensive workshops were held with students in different classes between July 2005 and July 2006. The collaboration will to begin incorporating some tools and techniques into the school's everyday teaching curriculum in 2006/07.

System for TAgging Messages, Post-inferential Semantics
Proboscis is collaborating with researchers from the CRAFT (Computer Supported Collaborative Learning) Lab at EPFL Lausanne (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) to exchange knowledge and technical data for research into spatial annotation and cognition. We are embarking upon a common analysis of the relationship between semantic and geographical dimensions of message distribution in space, based on the dataset provided by the 2003/04 Urban Tapestries field trials.

Kingswood High School
Proboscis collaborated with Kingswood High School near Hull to design a set of tools and activities that introduced the concept of local knowledge gathering, mapping and sharing with Year 7 students (11-12 year olds).The project aimed to enhance the relevance of learning by making it proximate to the environment in which the students live.


Proboscis is collaborating with inIVA and Birkbeck College to create two prototype environmental sensor 'wearables' based on traditional carnival costumes. The projects seeks to investigate how data can be collected from environmental sensors as part of popular social and cultural activities.

Sensory Threads
Proboscis is collaborating with Birkbeck College Computer Science department to develop a project to explore the social, cultural and ethical issues associated with real-time data capture from bio-sensors worn by people as part of 'healthy-living self-care' regimes. Such sensors are just beginning to become viable but little or no research has been conducted into the social, cultural or ethical effects and issues that tracking people's health in real-time will have on society and individuals. Proboscis and Birkbeck are proposing to develop and test a personal sensor network (using near field communications, mobile data flows and GIS mapping) with a group of people to begin to trace not just sensor reading but how such devices may affect the well-being of an individual on a broader scale of reference.

Robotic Feral Public Authoring
Proboscis won an EPSRC award to host the renown artist/engineer Natalie Jeremijenko of UC San Diego on a Visiting Fellowship during 2005. We collaborated with Natalie to adapt her Feral Robots (toy robots reconfigured to act as independent mobile pollution sensors) to create a model for using hobbyist robotics and public authoring as social activism, and as triggers for new social and cultural encounters. Other partners included SPACE Studios and the London Knowledge Lab and a local community in Hackney. The prototype public authoring feral robot was demonstrated in London Fields in February 2006, at the Science Musem in March 2006 and in Manchester in July 2006.

Neighbourhood Games
John Paul Bichard created a research project exploring the feasibility of gaming as a social tool. The project looked at ways in which social multiplayer games can be developed and sustained in a local neighbourhood environment. The aim was to develop a games methodology that has the potential to allow a broad demographic to play in the everyday environment across race, age and gender. 
A fundamental part of human social activity is play, whether private or shared, solitary or in groups. Play functions on a number of levels, one of which could be as a means of exploring, testing and defining the ‘neighbourhood’ as both a social place and an interpersonal mechanism. Neighbourhood Games looked at a way of developing simple games layers within familiar environments – in relation to the research carried out to date in Urban Tapestries, drawing on notions of community, age separation and hidden stories with an aim to establish clear directions for ongoing research and development.

Nick West devised an experiment to research and demonstrate ways to make and hear spatial annotations while driving. As an extension to the Urban Tapestries system of marking and examining space, the annotations would be created on the fly while driving or riding; they would also be constructed or edited while on the web. Both drivers and passengers would be able to listen to these annotations from a mobile device that is with them in their vehicle. A Cultural Snapshot by Nick is due to be published in 2006.


Conversations & Connections
Proboscis is collaborating with Kevin Harris of Local Level on a project in a social housing estate which aims to enhance democratic engagement at local level by stimulating the habits of participation. It is funded by the Department of Constitutional Affairs’ Innovations Fund – a programme of the Electoral Policy Division.

Community Collaborations
Proboscis is developing a series of small-scale collaborations with community groups such as housing co-ops and associations, local community centres, schools and youth groups. These are intended to help reveal the multiplicity of kinds of local knowledge held and shared by individuals and groups within geographic areas or communities. The first collaborations began in summer 2005 with a series of bodystorming experiences and training sessions in using the Urban Tapestries spatial annotation system.

Eyes on the Street
Proboscis explored a collaborative project with Citizens Online and the Community Development Foundation on the potential and appropriateness of social technologies to help address issues of liveability, and community engagement in community safety. The intention was to work with people in a specific neighbourhood to investigate the potential for systems like Urban Tapestries to meet the needs of people in a community to have effective 'eyes on the street’, creating possibilities for new approaches to neighbourliness, community reporting on local environmental conditions and other social interactions. The design process will be adaptive and people-centred, with the intention of creating appropriate uses and interfaces for people with different lifestyles, capabilities and levels of interest. This project developed into the collaboration with Havelock Independent Residents Organization – Conversations & Connections

Mobility Field Experiment
Proboscis devised (but was unable to implement) an experiment for a group of people with physical impairments to use the Urban Tapestries public authoring system to annotate access issues relating to the physical infrastructure of the city. The aim was to begin to understand the everyday practical issues faced by people with mobility difficulties in the urban environment – providing key information to surveyors and mapping agencies about what additional features needs to be mapped (such as kerb height), as well as a public way of mapping and sharing locally specific information crucial to a variety of communities.

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