James Stewart | The Mobile City Conference 2008

James Stewart works at The University of Edinburgh, School of Art, Culture and Environment, The Institute for Study of Science Technology and Innovation, and the School of Informatics, and Edinburgh College of Art.

His presentation is titled “Branded Meeting Places, Ubiquitous technologies, and the design of places for meaningful human encounter.”

The way that we experience urban place and the built environment is defined to a large degree by the places we go for social encounters, meeting: the places we go to work, for consume, to learn and for entertainment. These places are changing:
meetings are now less constrained to offices, shops and fixed points of service, and can take place in a range of environments, IN particular we see the rise of branded places: coffee houses, transportation hubs, customised meeting places, and informal, locally-branded spaces that attempt to offer a quality of environment for all sorts of meetings. People are drawn to places that have particular meanings as loci of human encounter. The concept of Brand is increasingly used in the creation of these meaningful locations.

Integral to our experience of places are communications technologies, that provide richer brand environments, link networks of individuals across physical spaces, and in new online social spaces, such as Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, MySpace and innumerable public and private networks of interest. Brand is increasingly important in the creation and management of these spaces too. Any understanding of and innovation around new urban spaces, and the experience of urban sociality must engage with the practices and possibilities of the merger of online sociality and activities with those in physical space.

In this multidisciplinary project we are gathering evidence for these assertions about the rise of branded meeting places, examining the suitability of branded spaces for human encounters (eg meetings amongst business associates, between service providers and clients), and developing strategies for improving the technologies that support them. In the process we will critically examine and analyse branded spaces, theories about their formation, the extension of brand concept to include the practices of individuals and informal groups,and how brands operate as loci of human encounter.

In particular we are doing research though the use of mobile and online technologies, and though conceptual explorations by designers and social scientists. We are currently researching the concept of the ‘tag’, a generic term for a host of familiar and novel practices that help give meaning to physical and online environments, such as signage, brand logos, adverts, graffiti, Web 2.0 classifications, personal avatars, electronic and paper identification of people, items and places, attempting to find common analytical concepts and extend and bridge practices between the online and the physical world.

Branded Meeting Places