Locative media or Location-based media are media of communication functionally bound to a location. The physical implementation of locative media, however, is not bound to the same location to which the content refers.
Location-based media (LBM) delivers multimedia and other content directly to the user of a mobile device dependent upon their location. Location information determined by means such as mobile phone tracking and other emerging Real-time locating system technologies like Wi-Fi or RFID can be used to customize media content presented on the device. The term was jointly coined at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show by Tom Brammar, the then Chief Executive of Node, and Martin Hill, founder of the Product Management function and practices at Symbian, and wireless pioneer.
Locative media are digital media applied to real places and thus triggering real social interactions. While mobile technologies such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), laptop computers and mobile phones enable locative media, they are not the goal for the development of projects in this field.
Media content is managed and organized externally of the device on a standard desktop, laptop, server, or cloud computing system. The device then downloads this formatted content with GPS or other RTLS coordinate-based triggers applied to each media sequence. As the location-aware device enters the selected area, centralized services trigger the assigned media, designed to be of optimal relevance to the user and their surroundings.
Use of locative technologies “includes a range of experimental uses of geo-technologies including location-based games, artistic critique of surveillance technologies, experiential mapping, and spatial annotation.” Location based media allows for the enhancement of any given environment offering explanation, analysis and detailed commentary on what the user is looking at through a combination of video, audio, images and text. The location-aware device can deliver interpretation of cities, parklands, heritage sites, sporting events or any other environment where location based media is required.
The content production and pre-production are integral to the overall experience that is created and must have been performed with ultimate consideration of the location and the users position within that location. The media offers a depth to the environment beyond that which is immediately apparent, allowing revelations about background, history and current topical feeds.
Locative, ubiquitous and pervasive computing
The term 'locative media' was coined by Karlis Kalnins. Locative media is closely related to augmented reality (reality overlaid with virtual reality) and pervasive computing (computers everywhere, as in ubiquitous computing). Whereas augmented reality strives for technical solutions, and pervasive computing is interested in embedded computers, locative media concentrates on social interaction with a place and with technology. Many locative media projects have a social, critical or personal (memory) background.
While strictly spoken, any kind of link to additional information set up in space (together with the information that a specific place supplies) would make up location-dependent media, the term locative media is strictly bound to technical projects. Locative media works on locations and yet many of its applications are still location-independent in a technical sense. As in the case of digital media, where the medium itself is not digital but the content is digital, in locative media the medium itself might not be location-oriented, whereas the content is location-oriented.
Japanese mobile phone culture embraces location-dependent information and context-awareness. It is projected that in the near future locative media will develop to a significant factor in everyday life.
Locative media projects use technology such as Global Positioning System (GPS), laptop computers, the mobile phone, Geographic Information System (GIS), and web map services such as Mapbox, OpenStreetMaps, and Google Maps among others. Whereas GPS allows for the accurate detection of a specific location, mobile computers allow interactive media to be linked to this place. The GIS supplies arbitrary information about the geological, strategic or economic situation of a location. Web maps like Google Maps give a visual representation of a specific place. Another important new technology that links digital data to a specific place is radio-frequency identification (RFID), a successor to barcodes like Semacode.
Research that contributes to the field of locative media happens in fields such as pervasive computing, context awareness and mobile technology. The technological background of locative media is sometimes referred to as "location-aware computing".
Locative media and creative representation
Place is often seen as central to creativity; in fact, “for some–regional artists, citizen journalists and environmental organizations for example–a sense of place is a particularly important aspect of representation, and the starting point of conversations.” Locative media can propel such conversations in its function as a “poetic form of data visualization,” as its output often traces how people move in, and by proxy, make sense of, urban environments.
Given the dynamism and hybridity of cities and the networks which comprise them, locative media extends the internet landscape to physical environments where people forge social relations and actions which can be “mobile, plural, differentiated, adventurous, innovative, but also estranged, alienated, impersonalized." Moreover, in using locative technologies, users can expand how they communicate and assert themselves in their environment and, in doing so, explore this continuum of urban interactions. Furthermore, users can assume a more active role in constructing the environments they are situated in accordingly.
In turn, artists have been intrigued with locative media as a means of “user-led mapping, social networking and artistic interventions in which the fabric of the urban environment and the contours of the earth become a ‘canvas.’” Such projects demystify how resident behaviors in a given city contribute to the culture and sense of personality that cities are often perceived to take on.
Design scholars Anne Galloway and Matthew Ward state that "various online lists of pervasive computing and locative media projects draw out the breadth of current classification schema: everything from mobile games, place-based storytelling, spatial annotation and networked performances to device-specific applications."
A prominent use of locative media is in locative art. A sub-category of interactive art or new media art, locative art explores the relationships between the real world and the virtual or between people, places or objects in the real world.
Notable locative media projects include Bio Mapping by Christian Nold in 2004, locative art projects such as the SpacePlace ZKM/ZKMax bluecasting and participatory urban media access in Munich in 2005 and Britglyph by Alfie Dennen in 2009, and location-based games such as AR Quake by the Wearable Computer Lab at the University of South Australia and Can You See Me Now? in 2001 by Blast Theory in collaboration with the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham. In 2005 the Silicon Valley based collaborators of C5 first exhibited the C5 Landscape Initiative, a suite of four GPS inspired projects that investigate perception of landscape in light of locative media.
Narrative projects which engage with locative media are sometimes referred to as Location-Aware Fiction, as explored in "Data and Narrative: Location Aware Fiction" a 2003 essay by Kate Armstrong.
The Transborder Immigrant Tool by the Electronic Disturbance Theater is a locative media project aimed at providing life saving directions to water for people trying to cross the US/Mexico border. The project attracted global media attention in 2009 and 2010. Articles included an LA Times cover story focusing on Ricardo Dominguez and an AP story interviewing Micha Cárdenas and Brett Stalbaum. The articles focused on concerns over the legality of the project and the ensuing investigations of the group, which are still underway. The Transborder Immigrant Tool has recently been included in a number of major exhibitions including Here, Not There at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the 2010 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art.
Invisible Threads by Stephanie Rothenberg and Jeff Crouse is a locative media project aimed at creating embodied awareness of sweatshops and just-in-time production through a virtual sweatshop in Second Life. It was performed at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008.
- Hamilton, Jillian. "Ourplace: the convergence of locative media and online participatory culture". Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Galloway, Anne; Ward, Matthew (July 2006). "Locative Media As Socialising And Spatializing Practice: Learning From Archaeology". Leonardo Electronic Almanac 14 (3) (MIT Press). ISSN 1071-4391. Archived from the original on 2008-04-20. Retrieved 2008-09-19.
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- Hudson, Dale and Patricia R. Zimmermann (2009) “Taking Things Apart: Migratory Archives, Locative Media, and Micropublics,” Afterimage 36 4 (January/February): 14–19.
- Mobile technology articles on the MediaShift Idea Lab