16 November 2005 · About 3 minutes read

Social Hotspots

Space is becoming increasingly fragmented, as new dimensions are introduced to what we perceive as a physical space. Based on my exploration of corporate identity theft, I have begun thinking of ideas for my first space proposal. Chris has suggested different takes on corporate identity theft, such as the introduction of WiFi hotspots in shopping malls, petrol stations, hotels, etc. This form extends the identity transfer into the digital. A few ideas of have emerged, such as subverting physical retail through introducing competitors in the physical space. For example, a computer in a large store selling hardware can display a webpage of the direct manufacturer; a tactic perhaps of dissatisfied customers.

Mobile phone stores often offer deals to customers that represent very poor value-for-money compared with their online counterparts, despite the brand being the same. To subvert this, one might install connected laptops in the shop that open up the online deals to customers visiting the physical space. This is, of course, something the physical stores would not be happy with; PC World stores now offer subscription based connectivity, or lock their computers down so that external websites can only be visited by authorised users. This effectively destroys the online subversion model. Can this be restrictive trading? Whilst you are standing on the shop’s physical space, you are visiting information that has no physical representation. Therefore, are you (or is that information) invading the private property of the physical store?

Anyway, forgetting the legalities, this concept of subversion led me nicely into social networking. This is, after all, a social event; one member of the public is exploding the controlled space and distributing information to others; a reputation model to ensure that consumers receive truly ‘impartial’ advice. Social networks, reputation systems, are increasingly becoming part of our lives, although predominately online. In the physical world, social networking more often manifests as a meeting place, somewhere to talk and exchange views and opinions on various aspects of life. These meeting places have been identified, and are appearing all over our cities. They are, of course, coffee shops. The 21st century symbol of social existence is a coffee cup.

Social Hotspots

My idea, then, revolves around social hotspots. Space is increasingly being covered with wireless hotspots (or coolspots) but they have no social context; there is no commutative activity involved in accessing a wifi hotspot. A social hotspot - a symbol in the physical or virtual - shows a space where people can exchange knowledge, catch up on gossip, and freely express opinion or knowledge of their surrounding space. Social hotspots exist outside of geo-time; they are composed entirely in social time, something that I shall be exploring further as it feeds into my final project.

I would like to extend the idea of social hotspotting; the coffee cup is my chosen symbol to represent what amounts to the social hotspot.

Social Economy

Map of the social economy; how the coffee-cup social hotspot might be represented.