Memosphere2009.03.31 09:53
Oh my! News by million phonecams?
©2004 PhonePD
Mr. B is a man of routine. He takes the subway to school in Sinchon from his home in Jamsil. With the exception of a couple of streets he knows well, the only Seoul space that exists in B's head is the subway map between Jamsil and Sinchon stations. The rest of that city known as Seoul exists for him nowhere but in virtual space.

B, who managed the none-to-easy feat of getting a job at a bluechip company in Yeoido, buys a car. Having to drive rather than take the subway, Seoul is now a completely new world. 

He discovers on the map roads that were outside his attention when he was moving about underground, and he's awakened to how beautiful Seoul's Han River is as he takes the Olympic highway for his daily commute. For B, who now doesn't go anywhere if there are no parking space, Seoul gives an entirely different spatial ambience.

Even real space can appear completely different depending on the window through which you contact it. In that sense, you can tell that the subway or car is playing the role of media through which B's perception of space is controlled.

Depending on what medium a person sees the world through, his or her perception of space also evolves. At first, there was real space. As I've already demonstrated, however, people have their own unique sense of that space, even if the space is the same exact one.

With the arrival of the Internet, human history's most innovative medium to date, people have come to experience a completely new sense of space, i.e., cyberspace. Of course, people first accepted the Internet by trying to replicate the real space on the web with existing practices with which they were familiar. 

A Canadian experiment was typical. The Canadian government selected one village and installed broadband Internet, after which it observed what changes were apparent after members of the community began Internet communications.

The results were quite different from what was expected, however. Rather than communicate with the people in their village, they jumped into the vast sea of Internet extending beyond their geographic location and began sharing a completely new form of communication with total strangers throughout the globe. The Internet created cyberspace, a global cyber community that far exceeds the boundary of real space.

In the last 10 years from the full-scale introduction of the Internet, the entire world has welcomed and marveled at this New World of cyberspace, and despite the spectacular dotcom bust, that fervor has yet to cool. 

The wild enthusiasm for the possibilities of cyberspace as a method to overcome the limitations of real space in the United States is largely due to the nation's vast territory, in which it takes more than five hours to transverse the country by air.

For Americans, whose exchanges were inevitably limited due to geographic distance, cyberspace was the only real alternative. In a nation like Korea, however, with a high population density and over 70 percent urbanization rate, the very same Internet took on quite different characteristics, as we could see.

For example, there was the so-called beongae or "lightening" phenomenon demonstrated by the "I Love School.com" craze, in which Korea was so caught up by this cyber reunion service that at its peak it was impossible to make reservations at restaurants on the weekend with everyone meeting each other. 

In the United States as well, there is the Internet school reunion site Classmate.com, but with classmates scattered all over such a huge country, it was realistically impossible to hold a snap weekend evening "lightening" gathering by placing a single note on the site's bulletin board. Accordingly, the U.S. alumni reunion site was one that was inevitably limited to a phenomenon that could occur only in cyberspace.

On the other hand, Korean cyber alumni sites and the countless Internet cafes spawn lightening meetings almost without exception. In the Seoul metropolitan area, nothing is farther than a 30-minute subway ride away, and even in the provinces, one could make it a weekend trip if they really wanted, so lightening meetings are always possible. If there is such a meeting, the following classes always follow with their own cyber reunions, and those who fail to show up at such reunions naturally begin to grow estranged in the conversations of those who attended, even in cyberspace. 

In the end, there are cases when those who participate in the lightening reunions have seized control of the bulletin boards. Interaction in real space has begun to influence the operation and form of cyberspace.

With broadband wireless network and extensive LBS technology firmly ready for immediate application, the March anti-impeachment protest could quickly evolve into a dynamic Hypersurface
©2004 Kwon W.S
In this "lightening reunion effect" one could infer the idea of "hypersurface," raised by new-generation architect Stephen Perrella in his book "Hyper Surface Architecture." 

The idea runs that the sense of space obtained through experience in cyberspace is superimposed on real space, while experiences in the real world influence cyberspace, creating a third space which isn't real but isn't cyber.

I shall borrow Perrella's pioneering idea and refer to the world after cyberspace as "hypersurface" for further discussion. 

What kind of sense of space would hypersurface give us? Or before that, what kinds of things could occur in hypersurface? Firstly, in order to create true hypersurface, we must premise it on an "ubiquitous" environment in which people could access a network anywhere at anytime. In other words, just as the Internet gave birth to cyberspace, the ubiquitous environment shall inevitably give rise to hypersurface.

Let's look at a scenario that could take place in hypersurface. Mr. B, with his next generation mobile handset, finds an eatery near his office. As he passes one restaurant, basic information about the place, along with comments left by customers who had eaten there, pop up on the screen of his handset, which is registered for a LBS or location based service. In just a glance, B could decide whether or not he wishes to eat at that particular restaurant.

After eating, B could leave a comment of his own concerning the restaurant, or do nothing. It's a cyber bulletin board that exists exclusively when space, time and conditions are correct, but it is as if it were a real bulletin board with customer postings hanging right next to the restaurant door. This is hypersurface.

Now rewind your memory to Korea's presidential impeachment crisis in March. Those opposed to the impeachment held large-scale demonstrations at Gwanghwamun and held events for six hours straight that resembled carnivals. 

OhmyNews reported from the scene, but with a crowd of 200,000 people flowing all the way down to City Hall, there was no way for people at the rear of the procession to know what was happening on the podium. In the end, as strange as it may sound, it was easier for people who were following OhmyNews' on the scene reporting to know what was going on than it was for people who were actually there.

If OhmyNews had been able to use location information to send text messages of what was happening on the podium in real time to all 200,000 people gathered at the demonstration, the crowd could have enjoyed a much more dynamic gathering.

One could compare this with baseball fans who bring their radios with them to the ballpark to listen to professional commentary as they watch the actual game. This was a hypersurface experience that could have happend, despite the technology and infrastructure was already there for immediate use.

There is countless tourist information posted on major portal sites. OhmyNews citizen reporters, too, like to write stories about their own trips or places to travel to in the areas where they live. We could imagine a service in which OhmyNews stores such articles according to its place, time and season, and relevant articles appear on the screen of those readers who have subscribed to a location information system carrying mobile devices as they travel.

Readers could respond to travel stories by citizen reporters and additionally leave their own feelings on the comment section upon arriving at their destination. It's a moment when hypersurface materializes; cyberspace and real space fuse together.

Just as cyberspace grew rich not as a result of a hierarchical relationship between content providers and consumers but through spontaneous interaction between Internet users, we will be able to experience the true taste of hypersurface when one is able to make it not a unilateral information service provided by dotcom heavy-weights, but a place where users exchange their own ideas and opinions in a dynamic place as they freely move between cyberspace and real space.

What is Hypersurface? It is a whole new breed of hybrid space where everything is teeming with live information feeds. To borrow a line from the trailer of 'Ghost in the Shell: Innocence', the newly released sequel of the Japanese anime cult classic, the line between real and cyber space will blur beyond distinction in Hypersurface. Many find themselves bewildered and confused by the new hard-to-pronounce technologies of the 'ubiquitous' environment, but this is the nature of things to come.


Posted by PSB

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