Apps for architects

We all know how tricky it can be getting the right gift for an architect. See The Hell of finding a gift for the architect, and  The gift always seeks recompense .

So if you’re trying to remain relevant to that spouse who is otherwise absorbed, suggest some very cool app and be the one who casually shows them how it works.

Google have always, astutely, developed apps that appeal to designers, futurists and style or opinion leaders.

Ask an architect when he/she first used Google Earth and it will be an experience he/she will be able to recall with vivid detail. It’s an app that most folk appreciate and value as a geography reference tool, but for architects it is mindblowing. They get just how powerful  that democratized ‘eye in the sky’ surveillance tool is, and feel empowered by its affirmation of the visuospatial world that they inhabit, navigate and manipulate.

What else is on the horizon then? Google has always got something ready for the twitter feed and weekly press releases. Last week it was googles (google glass), this week it is Google sneakers (the talking shoe). These wearable vehicles for apps, data collection and advertising might appeal to architects.

But the one I think the architect might enjoy most is Smileage, the product of Google’s collaboration with VW.

It connects users with Google Maps/Google Earth – puts us on the map – and with social networks of our choice. It might even encourage us to pay more attention to buildings, to photograph them as we seek sights to share with others whilst driving.

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When I first read about Smileage as an app that was designed to enable people to enjoy that wasted commuting time more, transforming it into a social experience, I assumed it was an app that would encourage people to use their cars less, to use public transport and enjoy a more social experience whilst on the bus, train, tram or airplane. I figured it would be an app that could be used to help people meet and connect with other people on the same bus or plane or transit lounge. This wouldn’t suit an architect at all.

But no – it’s for solitary drivers of cars. An app that enables them to use their phone to snap, post, geo-tag, share and discuss, on social networks, some things and locations of interest along the way. I can imagine an architect liking this. Especially if they can showcase buildings  they like or dislike. And have their buildings snapped, tagged and commented on by others.

Never mind the problems raised by the logistics of this. Only a wet-blanket wife would question the safety and lawfulness of taking and tagging snaps whilst driving.

And forget the question of why anyone would bother. You may ask-  If the commute is so boring as to warrant getting an app to spice it up, then why would you want to share these dreary moments and sights with others?

Well, the banality of the content is unimportant. The popularity of Reality TV and Facebook updates demonstrate that all too clearly.  The medium is the message. What is important is the act of being an observer who creates content from the everday, who transforms the everyday into spectacle. We are self-reflexive observers affirming, defining and positioning ourselves as we frame and report these experiences and share our ‘take’ on the world.

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The roadside, a row of trees, a blurred facade, a passing car – it’s all grist for the mill, the mill of being connected, phatic communication that occurs for the sake of interacting, and for creating connections between distributed networks, between people, between spaces (geographic and virtual). We share our snaps and observations with others who are interested and we share our snaps and observations with those who are not.

The big realization that led to the development of this app, according the folk at Google, was the recognition that people were bored whilst commuting. The yawning cumulative time/space of the commute must have seemed like virgin territory for google to occupy (and its clients – those who will pay for user data or for highly targeted and localised ads).

smileage

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What I might ‘share’ if I had Smileage. Grist for the mill.  VW outside the Tavern in downtown Joshua Tree.

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What I might ‘share’ if I had smilage.

Genre – drama. An oversized Motorhome – almost camoflagued – stuck in the gate as it tries to exit the Desert Park Zoo near  Palm Springs. Happy ending: everybody helps and the vehicle is pushed through.

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Behind the gated resort, topiaried Joshua Trees that look like something out of Dr Seuss

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