Friday, January 31, 2014

Homer Simpson Uses Locative Media

I was watching this week's episode of the The Simpsons with my kid. I've loved this show since its first season (when I was still young) and now enjoy it with my kid - yeah the show's been on that long - 25 years (not including when I watched it on the Tracey Ullman Show).

So I was particularly excited when the episode covered my research topic - annotative locative media.

In the episode, Mr. Burns gives all his employees augmented reality glasses, 'Oogle Goggles', to spy on them. The glasses provide a wealth of information. Homer and Marge become enamoured of using them throughout their daily lives. Of course, hilarity ensues. Seven minutes into the episode, Homer uses his glasses outdoors and discovers factoids about his world - from his lower than Flanders' house value to the disgusting ingredients of a Krusty Burger.

As they leave their house, Homer states "Now a simple Sunday drive will reveal the hidden wonders of our hometown!" This has been my thesis statement for the last few years!!!

As Homer drives around Springfield he passes their city hall, which is annotated with facts. Homer recounts them to his family, noting "it was built for the Spencer Tracey film 'Meet Me at City Hall'. It was just a flat wall with nothing behind it for 30 years." Exactly the type of commentary that only locative media can provide!

The full episode is on YouTube (in a bizarre different dubbed version) - but it probably won't be for long.

Slate has a good review of the episode, noting its central message:
the underlying commentary is about how wearable computers like Google Glass can erode human interactions, especially in person. The characters get so absorbed in information from their devices that they miss things about what's happening in real life, right in front of them.
Although this is the point of the episode (along with the attraction and problems of surveillance), I don't necessarily agree with it. More research is uncovering how mobile social and locative media are connecting us more meaningfully to the people and places around us. That wouldn't be as funny though.

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