Culture

The city that talks via text message

In Bristol, England, anyone with a mobile phone can text city fixtures, such as postboxes and lamp posts. And then the fixtures will text back.

(Credit: PAN Studio)

In Bristol, England, anyone with a mobile phone can text city fixtures, such as postboxes and lamp posts. And then the fixtures will text back.

Hello lamp post / Whatcha knowin'? / I've come to watch your / Flowers growin' / Ain'tcha got no rhymes for me? / Dooindododo feelin' groovy!

That's from Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song", possibly the most cheerful song ever written — it's about slowing down and taking the time to enjoy whatever it is in the world around you. This was also the premise behind Bristol's Playable City Award: a competition to "produce a work which surprises, challenges and engages people in exploring the playable city" using creative technologies.

It's also where design studio Pan got the inspiration for its winning entry, "Hello Lamp Post!"

Using the number codes that city services use to log broken fixtures (eg, "Bus stop number 4826 needs cleaning") around the city, users can text objects and features, such as storm drains, bollards, postboxes, park benches, bus stops. Entering "Hello + the name of the object + its code" into a text will get you a reply.

(Credit: Pan Studio)

"If these human touch points," Pan Studio said, "are going to be smart, can they also be open, hospitable and played with at the same time? How can they be open to interpretation, surprising and personable at the same time?"

We're dying to try it — and that may not be an impossible dream. The installation is, according to Pan, eminently portable. All it needs is a suitable location. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

And because no one can possibly stay grumpy when listening to "The 59th Street Bridge Song", here it is in all its ludicrously cutesy glory.

Via www.fastcoexist.com