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Augmented spaces

December 7, 2006

The research i have recently got involved in is related with augmented spaces and community activities in these. There is an attempt to develop the living lab of community design in Tallinn directed by Mauri Kaipainen.
One of the definitions of augmented spaces, suitable in our case would be:
In augmented reality the physical objects in the individual’s surroundings become the backdrop and target items for computer-generated annotations (Höllerer and Feiner, 2004).
These augmented places we deal with emerge when people create the virtual dimension of information on top of real spaces and try to utilise this new space in community activities.
On my opinion, augmented spaces could be analysed same way as real spaces by using activty system developed by Engeström (1987).
The components of the activity systems are subjects who have some motives and goals to do something – the objects. Here the objects should not be interpreted as material ones but more like “something what the subjects aim to do”. What initiates those objects? The surrounding environment with material artifacts – material objects what have been realised by someone, the unmaterial objects propagated by other subjects (e.g. some ideas, impressions etc.), new toolsets, cultures what emerge in relation with those tools and artifacts. How the subjects realise the objects is by using a set of tools – real tools (like mobiles) or virtual ones (like software) as well as mental tools (like language). The latter brings in the ontological dimension. In the communies where many subjects participate, the shared object emerges that keeps the community members occupied. To perform any actions together, the members of the community must come to the common ground what there object is, also how they should act to realise the object, who should do what (distribution of roles), and what are the constraints inside the community regulating the actions (rules). They also must establish shared ontologies that serve as mental tools for performing actions.
In real and in virtual settings the establishment of common ground is mostly dialogical. People must express their sets of meanings and objects and elaborate them until they find out to what extent they share ontologies and objects. The technologies used for augmenting reality ubiquitously are mainly mobile-based. They enable the transfer of small bits of information or use the talk function. The former, however, is a quite difficult format to come to the common ground within the community.
The Engeström’s activity system is a very general model of different types on interrelations within the communities. This model is 2-dimensional in its origin. I have tried to modify that model earlier in this blog for describing distributed activity systems that emerge in collaborative learning systems.
https://tihane.wordpress.com/2006/12/02/in-the-search-of-activity-space/
Those activity systems consist of the action space where manipulations could be performed in real space with tools and artifacts, and 2 communicative spaces – one (ontological one) where people dialogically or internally generate and elaborate the objects (e.g. meanings), and the other (regulation space) where discussions are directed towards interrelating meanings from the ontological space with those of the action space.
In augmented reality the action space is partly related with real spaces and tools (mobiles) but also with the virtual spaces an tools (blogs). The ontological space is purely virtual, existing in people’s minds and also becoming external if people express it by talking, writing sms-s or expressing it other ways (e.g. images, sounds). These externalised meanings, existing in virtual spaces (blogs) will be usually related with real spaces by coordinates. If it was an ordinary activity system, these two spaces would be related by dialogue of coordinating actions and meanings. In augmented reality, this regulation space is mostly missing.
Would it cause major problems within the communities who want to perform shared activities in augmented reality? What might substitute the missing grounding options in ontological and regulation spaces?
The living lab of virtual community design would experiment these issues and i hope we might find out some answers.

Höllerer, T. H., & Feiner S. K. (2004). Mobile Augmented Reality. In H Karimi and A. Hammad (eds.), Telegeoinformatics: Location-Based Computing and Services. Taylor & Francis Books Ltd.

http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~holl/pubs/hollerer-2004-tandf.pdf

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