Tales of Things: Social Objects in the New York Times

Its been a busy time, thus the slight reduction in posts – its all good though, we are launching a new survey system with the Mayor of London next week, a tweet-o-meter exhibit in the British Library and our other current project Tales of Things has reached the New York Times, twice…

Rob Walkers article is a good introduction to the potential of tagging and in particular memory. This article has launched many other blogs and tweets that tell our story along with Itizen and Stickbits. Try this: http://twitter.com/#search?q=social%20objects

and these links…

NYTimes1 , NYTimes2 , Read/Write/Web , Inventorspot

The Back Story

By Rob Walker

Ask anybody about the most meaningful object he owns, and you’re sure to get a story — this old trunk belonged to Grandpa, we bought that tacky coffee mug on our honeymoon, and so on. The relationship between the possessions we value and the narratives behind them is unmistakable. Current technologies of connection, and enterprises that take advantage of them, surface this idea in new ways — but they also suggest the many different kinds of stories, information and data that objects can, or will, tell us.

A project called Totem, financed by a grant from the Research Councils U.K., concentrates on the narratives of thing-owners. The basic concept is that users can write up (or record) the story of, say, a chess trophy or a silver bracelet and upload it to TalesofThings.com. Slap on a sticker with a newfangled bar code, and anybody with a properly equipped smartphone can scan the object and learn that the trophy was won in a 2007 tournament in Paris and that the bracelet was a gift purchased in Lisbon.

In May, Totem researchers worked with an Oxfam thrift store in Manchester, recording stories by stuff-donors, for a spinoff project called RememberMe. Shoppers could hear short back stories for about 60 pieces of secondhand merchandise. The used goods with stories were swiftly snapped up, says Chris Speed, who teaches at the Edinburgh College of Art and is the principal researcher at Totem: “You pick up these banal objects, and if it has a story, as soon as you hear it, it becomes something far richer.”

You can follow all updates via the TOTeM Blog

London Cycle Hire Timelapse

Oliver O’Brien, a Research Associate here at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis has updated his excellent London Cycle Hire map to include a historic view of the last 48 hours.


As Ollie states over on his Suprageography blog, the distinctive weekday commuting patterns are easy to spot, with the morning rush into the centre, followed by the evening rush back out to the edges and the station terminals. Distribution vehicles movements can be inferred, particularly during the wee small hours when there is little other activity.

You can run the animation direct via the Cycle Hire Dock Visualisation Map.

Also check out A Day in the Life of the London cycle Hire Scheme by James Cheshire.



Tweet-o-Meter: Now with 16 Cities

We have added four more cities to ‘Tweet-o-Meter’: Hong Kong, New Delhi, Shanghai and San Paulo. Is it true that, New York is the city that never sleeps? Do Londoners send more Tweets than New Yorkians’? Is Oslo a bigger Tweeter than Munich? Is Tokyo into Tweets as much as Barcelona?


The Tweet-o-Meter measures the amount of tweets (measured in Tweets per Minute or TPM) received from various locations around the world. The gauges are updated every second giving you a live view of the TPM’s in each location.

The system is designed to mine data for later analysis relating to furthering our understanding of social and temporal dynamics for e-Social Science within the Twitter demographic, its output allows new ‘tweetography’ maps of cities to be created.

See the New City Landscape post over at UrbanTick for full details and the music video behind the original choice of cities or head direct to the Tweet-o-Meter Page.

The big news is that from October 13th you will be able to view our analog version of the Tweet-o-Meter at a notable literary venue in London, more details on that soon.