City Centered Festival

City Centered: A festival of locative media and urban community
June 11 – 13, 2010
June 19 – 20, 2010
San Francisco, CA

City Centered is a three-day festival of locative media and urban community in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, a gathering of practioners at KQED in the Mission District and a weekend of community training workshops. The event includes three consecutive days of exhibitions, a symposium, and demonstrations and installations of locative including an afternoon of presentations, an exhibition opening event, Saturday symposium, and Sunday walks and tours of installations using wireless technology.

Over two weekends, it will engage artists, educators, civic organizations and community members of all ages in exploring how how locative media can act as a platform and venue for community-led expression.

Recent exhibitions, festivals and conferences across the US and in Europe have taken wireless networks, public space, locative
media and urban environments as sites of intervention, creativity, and critique. Formulated within the emerging context of networked urbanism and mobile media, City Centered: A Festival of Locative Media and Urban Community will focus upon dynamics of the shifting, locative, cartographic and social space of the city. It is organized by educational, arts, community-based and civic organizations and asks how locative media can act as a platform and venue for community-led expression.

From within San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, this festival will celebrate the rich possibilities that art and technology offer for urban communication of place and place-based media. City Centered focuses on the use of locative media and wireless technologies for site-specific and neighborhood-based interventions. Artists, designers, architects, community and cultural workers —people, places, and devices — will meet for four days of street-side celebration, public exhibitions, a symposium, and workshops. The festival seeks new work aligned with the themes of creative mapping, urban storytelling, sentient space, body awareness, local history, contested spaces and gaming.

About the projects:

tendersecrets asks Tenderloin citizens, community members, passersby, passers-through and Gray Area visitors one simple question: “What’s your secret?”

Responses to this question are left as anonymous audio messages through an antique phone situated in the Tenderloin or through any cellular phone able to dial to a voice- mail box. Visual representations of the messages are created dynamically in real time and projected onto a street viewable storefront or window. Visitors to the interior of this storefront can listen to the community’s secrets by picking up a phone placed adjacent to the visual projection. The visual archive is updated in real time. When there is no recent message activity, the visual archive is populated with secret messages from the digital archive of all of the past secret messages left behind. Listeners will hear random and anonymous messages that community members left behind in the past. It is virtu- ally impossible to have the same experience twice. Tendersecrets runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is always open to listen to your secrets.

tendersecrets, as a technical project, has an amazingly low threshold for interaction. Everyone has secrets and most people know how to use a phone or can talk into a mi- crophone – almost everyone can engage with it; and the more diverse the participants, the more engaging the installation is. This makes the Gray Area Gallery’s Tendorama street facing gallery an ideal candidate for its location. Here it can take advantage of the diversity of the community on the outside – the owner of the vietnamese sandwich shop, a student and gallery goer, children of a family going to the theater, a recovering addict, you – and it also takes advantage of the visible gallery space and setting from the inside. It creates a unique experience both inside and out. It not only encourages participation from the community in the work, but also with the gallery itself.

UrbanRemix is a collaborative and locative sound project. It encourages and enables participants to develop and express the acoustic identity of communities based on sounds collected by participants. Through the project, neighborhoods and other city spaces are reframed and experienced anew as unique soundscapes.

Through the Urban Remix project, as part of the City Centered festival, participants will use mobile phones to collectively construct an audio map that documents the sounds of the Tenderloin district. Then, they will use a web interface to explore those sounds and mix their own tracks from them throughout the duration of the festival and afterwards. In addition 2 – 3 remixes of these collected sounds will be produced by experimental musicians and local DJs, expressing the identity and lived-experience of Tenderloin district in a novel form. By providing a means for listening to, documenting, and interpreting the sounds of the neighborhood, the Urban Remix project will capture and convey the variety, dynamics, and richness of the cultures of the Tenderloin community.

UrbanRemix consists of a mobile phone system and web interface for recording, browsing, and mixing audio. It allows users to both document and explore the obvious, neglected, private or public, even secret sounds of their urban environment. Participants become active creators of shared soundscapes as they search the city for interesting sound cues. The collected sounds, voices, and noises provide the original tracks for musical remixes that reflect the specific nature and acoustic identity of the community.

The project includes three components:
1) Mobile phone software with which anyone can record and contribute geo-tagged sounds and images (below left)

2) A web site where users can browse, remix and share those sounds on an intuitive map-based interface (below center)

3) A live performance featuring DJs mixing their own music from the database of sounds

The mapping of the wireless landscape is done by walking the streets with a device that scans for wireless access points. The location of the access points are noted by recording the GPS position of the scanner at the time of discovery. The collected information can then be represented digitally with an online mapping tool, or physically with printed maps.

As we explore the themes of the festival, the composition of the wireless landscape is valuable knowledge that will help us design our projects and explorations.

As residents of a unique city district, the Tenderloin community will become aware of its existing wireless landscape and begin to consider what it may be in the future. Metropolitan wireless networks are gaining in popularity. However many attempts at metropolitan networks have failed due to a lack of consensus on the implementation.

By becoming intimate with the existing wireless landscape we better prepare ourselves for the possibility of new wireless landscapes. Those new landscapes may be created in an ad-hoc, grassroots fashion. Or they may be created from an overseeing entity such as a city government. Either way, it is important to be prepared for the inevitability by knowing what is desired.

[no where now here]

The presentation will describe how to use locative art to generate interactive art installations. The main focus of the presentation will be the integration of modern motion capture technologies into an interactive 3D environment where the body limbs are placed and tracked in 3D space. The presentation will start from the above described art installation and its 3D interactive creative environment. The ideal audience spans from new media artist to the general public.

Tomorrow’s Time Capsule

Tomorrow’s Time Capsule is a festival-long presentation of interactive histories from different eras (identical locations) of the Tenderloin. It asks participants to democratically select places to preserve for an alternate portrait of the neighborhood today. By learning to look back, we can move forward more responsibly and more effectively. At the end of the festival, a collage of selections will be compiled into a single story: tomorrow’s time capsule.

Tomorrow’s Time Capsule will tell 4 different historic stories along a single path.

Each of the 4 stories will bring visitors to the same 4-10 street addresses in the Tenderloin, to be selected on historic, dramatic, and design constraints/ From the sidewalk, participants will learn about individual site’s roles in a particular story.

The mode of accessing each story will be informed by the communications technologies of the corresponding era. For instance radio broadcast might be used for the 1940s, cell phones for the 1990s, sms for the 2000s, and wireless web for a near future. (Note: I many not be literal about this. Instead I want a generalized look at how communications have evolved alongside the Tenderloin).

Similarly, the time during which each story may be accessed correlates to a designated block of hours. Walking the path at 10 am will reveal a different, earlier history of the Tenderloin than at 4pm. Daily time constraints provide participants with a stronger sense of the passing of eras. They will not differences in history, light, and daily activity as they pursue a “comprehensive” history.

A critical look at the impact of time on place enables participants to make thoughtful decisions about which places to preserve for our time capsule: a final story/vision collaged from the individual parts and accessible via call-in and mobil web. Voting will take place throughout the run of the festival. Rankings will be updated daily and displayed on a publicly-accessible website that could be displayed or projected at Gray Area Foundation. The time capsule will remain active throughout the rest of the summer.

Block of Time: O’Farrell Street (BOTOFS)

O’Farrell Street was a dream come true, a dream which…embodied a vision held and realized. – Harriet Lane Levy, from her book 920 O’Farrell Street

The house at 920 O’Farrell Street stands catty corner from the Live! Nude! Shows! of the Mitchell Brother’s Adult Theater, and down the street from Tommy’s Joynt steak house, where the neckline of the women in the mural rise and fall depending on what street artists may have passed by recently. Or, at least, that’s where the house once stood. Since then, it has succumbed first to the 1906 earthquake and fire, then to a Cadillac repair shop, and most recently, to the parking garage of the AMC Cinemas. But, from 1867 to the 1880s, 920 O’Farrell was the address of Harriet Lane Levy.

Daughter of a wealthy Jewish merchant, Levy grew up to be a writer who, in the 1890s, wrote alongside Jack London for the innovative magazine “The Wave;” later moved to Paris to become part of an artistic circle that included Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse; and eventually returned to San Francisco to write a memoir of her beloved childhood street: 920 O’Farrell Street. The project Block of Time: O’Farrell Street (BOTOFS) uses Levy’s remembrances as a jumping off point to explore and incite the myriad personal narratives that lie hidden in the bricks and mortar of one city block. BOTOFS will make the walls talk, literally, as well as the alley ways, store fronts and apartment buildings.

Walking Tools:

The border between the U.S. and Mexico has moved between the virtual and the all too real since before the birth of the two nation-states. This has allowed a deep archive of suspect movement across this border to be traced and tagged – specifically anchoredto immigrants bodies moving north, while immigrant bodies moving south much less so. The danger of moving north across this border is not a question of politics, but vertiginous geography. Hundreds of people have died crossing the U.S./Mexico border due to not being able to tell where they are in relation to where they have been and which direction they need to go to reach their destination safely. Now with the rise of multiple distributed geospatial information systems (such as the Goggle Earth Project for example), GPS (Global Positioning System) and the developing Virtual Hiker Algorithm by artist Brett Stalbaum it is now possible to develop useful Transborder Tools for Immigrants – and allow virtual geography to mark new trails and potentially safer routes across this desert of the real.

The technologies of Spatial Data Systems and GPS (Global Positioning System) have enabled an entirely new relationship with the landscape that takes form in applications for simulation, surveillance, resource allocation, management of cooperative networks and pre-movement pattern modeling (such as the Virtual Hiker Algorithm) an algorithm that maps out a potential or suggested trail for real a hiker/or hikers to follow. The Transborder Immigrant Tool would add a new layer of agency to this emerging virtual geography that would allow segments of global society that are usually outside of this emerging grid of hyper-geo-mapping-power to gain quick and simple access with to GPS system. The Transborder Immigrant Tool would not only offer access to this emerging total map economy – but, would add an intelligent agent algorithm that would parse out the best routes and trails on that day and hour for immigrants to cross this vertiginous landscape as safely as possible.


TenderVoice/TenderNoise is an applied acoustic ecology project that entails the aural exploration of places and character of the Tenderloin community. It involves the creative interaction with sound samples and live noise data as a means to foster a qualitative and quantitative understanding of place. In particular, our project uses sound narratives to highlight services and amenities in the neighborhood, enables transparency of noise issues via real-time feeds and visualization in the web, and proposes an open‐source audio-visual public art installation.

We admit it: Our vision is big, while the timeline and funding are limited. Therefore, we propose a two-tiered project:

TenderVoice: An exhibition of a neighborhood‐ based game that uses sound to increase awareness about community resources in the Tenderloin.

TenderNoise: A presentation that outlines a process for tracking real‐time noise patterns in the Tenderloin, and visualizing this data in virtual and physical realms.

Every Step:

Every Step allows a participant to create a short experimental animation while they walk. Each participant is given an armband with a mounted camera and pedometer. The pedometer is mounted inside the armband and is connected to the camera. The camera is mounted on the armband and points towards the sky. The pedometer acts as a trigger for the camera and an image of whatever is above the participant is taken every time a step is made.

To create an animation the participant simply puts on the armband and takes a walk wherever they would like to go. When the participant returns from the walk the images are transferred from the camera’s memory and loaded into a custom software program. The software program uses the images to create a frame-by- frame animation and to create a soundtrack for the animation. When the program completes the animation a DVD is made and given to the participant.

Beyond Boundaries:

Through utilizing digital media, this proposal will explore the diverse community of the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.

Mapping and photography will focus on dynamic interplay between the public space and urban context, examining the inner community and the larger urban context of the district.

As the tenderloin can easily be perceived by negative factors, such as crime, drugs or homelessness, this area should also be recognized for its unique urbanity and complexity. Our main objective in this proposal is to start to understand how this community can thrive and how this community is thriving in positive ways. This is an extremely complex community, where are the opportunities?

Digital maps will acknowledge the dynamic interaction among different urban layers, recognizing the urban environment as a living organism through physical and abstract form. By utilizing GIS/geospatial data, such as economic and residential density, income, street network, public transportation, open space, ethnicity and land use, images will begin to merge and overlap as part of a distinct urban story of the Tenderloin. How does regional mapping start to show the positive attributes tenderloin is already achieving within the larger district? Digital mapping will illustrate the perception, reality and potential of this somewhat isolated district within the larger urban area.

Site specific mapping will focus on community aspects that are thriving or working towards positive change. Various attributes, such as ethnicity, income, age and transient use all contribute to the diverse community of the tenderloin. How are all these members contributing to this district in a positive way?
For example, utilizing cell phone tracking, or other digital methods of people tracking, we will begin to see where and when the community configurations are located within public space. Once these areas of ‘community’ are located, we will begin to examine who this community is, and what positive contributions arebeingmadewithinpublicspaceofthetenderloin. Inthiscontext,apositivecontributioncouldbeas simple as density and diversity of people within a public space—public space could range from a local playground to a multi-use parking lot.

Within this exploration our intention is to collaborate with different organizations within the community that define various groups. For example, one organization we will collaborate with is the Taylor Street Center, a transitional living facility for pre-released inmates at 111 Taylor Street. These transient members of the tenderloin community are in a transition zone between past criminal behavior, prison and reintegration into society. Some of these members are also on home-confinement and are tracked by GPS systems. The director, Maria Richard attempts to engage the larger community in a positive way, and many members of the Tenderloin community work with her to provide these past inmates with a second chance in society. Members of the Taylor street center are currently volunteering and working in the Tenderloin to bring about positive change to their surroundings and we would like to highlight their positive contribution. Our intention would be to not only work with this community group, but also collaborate with other unique communities that contribute to the urban district.

Schedule of events:

Friday, June 11
1:00pm – 5:00pm
Symposium: Whither Data Visualization?

City Centered begins with a gathering of data visualization, mapping and tracking projects including installations, online maps and projected art developed with research and collaborations with neighborhoods organizations. These projects can be experienced in the Tenderloin on Sunday, June 13.

Opening Reception

Saturday, June 12
9:00am – 5:00pm
Locative Media Practioner’s Gathering
Keynote: Joel Slayton, SJSU and ZER01

Panel discussions:
Locative Media and the Political (morning)
Locative Media and the Community (afternoon)

Sunday, June 13
10:00am – 4:00pm

Experience the Tenderloin community through wireless technologies, the Internet and walks led by artists and community members.

Saturday, June 19 and Sunday, June 20th
Community workshops

Participating Organizations
KQED Public Media San Francisco
Gray Area Foundation
Center for Locative Media
Conceptual Information Arts/Art Department/SFSU
The Berkeley Center for New Media