Locative Media Manifesto

Locative Media Manifesto

English version of “Manifesto sobre as Mídias Locativas” publish at 404nOtFound, #71, May-June,. 2009.

Locative Media Manifesto

André Lemos
Associate Professor, Faculty of Communication, Federal University of Bahia

For Bernardo, who already seeks his place in the world.


Media – Artifact and process that makes it possible to overcome infocommunicative constraints in space and time. Media produce spatiality, social action over a given space. Media produce places.

Locative – A grammatical category that expresses place, such as “in” or “next to,” indicating the location or the last moment of a localized action.

Locative Media. Location-based technologies and services (LBT and LBS) based on conscious and context-reacting infocommunicative systems. A communicative action in which people, objects and places process digital information by means of electronic devices, sensors and wireless networks. Current dimension of cyberculture, comprising the era of “cyberspace leaking into the real world” (Russel, 1999); an era of the “internet of things.”

1. Create situations to lose yourself in. Fear of losing oneself is a correlate of the fear of meeting someone. But in losing oneself, one may find something. Disorientation is a method for appropriating space! To locate, map and index everything is symbolic death: fear of the imponderable, of meeting with chance; avoiding a vital dimension of existence. “To lose oneself is a dangerous find,” says Clarice Lispector.

2. Error, failure, forgetting location and movement, these are the only possibilities of reprieve from the current hyperrationalization of space. Only a tactical appropriation of devices, sensors and networks will yield new meanings to places. Do not trust your nomadic position and status. When your operator says, “you are a nomad,” be wary. But know that nomadism is an essential trait of the human adventure on Earth!

3. All is locative: we learn, love, socialize, play, fight, celebrate, work… always bound to a location. There is nothing out of time or SPACE. And social space is the PLACE. In all, the place is what matters.

4. A place consists of the flow of many territorialities. It is always dynamic and at the same time, deep-rooted. A place is a social bond. A place is a flow of emotions, of peaks, of memory and the crystallization of feelings. A place is not fixation, but interrelation. Place in locative media should be perceived as a flow of many territorialities (sociocultural, imaginary, symbolic) + informational databases. Visible spaces marked by invisible information flows circulating through invisible networks.

5. It is currently impossible to think of places without informational territories. But places with no informatization persist. Remember these places. Think of the independent contexts of any technology.

6. We are living the ubiquitous and pervasive computation era (Weiser), informatics in every place and in all things. But there are no sensitive technologies, and none of them is context-attentive! They are in everything and everywhere, but do not know what is a context, and cannot feel any place.

7. After uploading to Matrix up there – Internet 1.0 – now is the time to “download cyberspace,” information about things down here – Internet 2.0. We are not dealing with what is virtual up there, but of what to do with all this information about things and places down here! How can we relate to things and places? And now that these things and places are provided with digital information and Internet connections? Do we invoke Heidegger and Lefevbre?

8. Refuse the LBS and LBT that place you only in the position of another mass consumer. Seek to produce localized information that makes sense here and now. This is the only way to build social places with these location and mobility technologies. Demand post-mass functions of locative media. Publicity, marketing and operators want you only as a passive mass receptor, although supposedly free, mobile and frontierless. They want you controlled, active but consuming, a receptor that thinks he or she is emitting. Acting is more than this. React against this right now.

9. Know that location-based media are not new. Every media is both local and global. Pay attention to analog locative media among us; think of urban writing, such as graffiti, stickers, messages or notes. Notice marks on streets, cues around you, local – and now hyperlocal – journalism. Act as a detective seeking to solve the mysteries of urban space! Try to use locative devices critically. Remember that artists and activists created the term “locative media” to question the mass use of LBS and LBT.

10. Use, disseminate and stimulate the development of non-proprietary protocols, of collaborative and open software, of free and participative operating systems. Your freedom in the world of locative media is directly proportional to the development of open mobile computation. As in the cyberspace era “up there” and in the Internet era that drips over things, struggle against closed devices, systems, software and contracts such as those that currently exist in world mobile telephony. Seek, use and distribute jailbreaks for all mobility and location systems!

11. Think that the only purpose of using locative media is to produce meaning in places. If this does not happen, switch off or create some use that deconstructs the device. You do not need to be precise, you do not need to be located all the time, you do not need to be always rational; a complete homo economicus, to experience what is local! If devices help, use them, otherwise use them in other ways (hacking) and, if that does not work, abandon it!

12. Find a balance between a generalized click in the world of information and leisurely contemplation. Disconnect and reconnect your devices always, daily, permanently. Stop, close your eyes, open your ears, and move only in thought, an absolute deterritorialization (Deleuze).

13. The issue of location is not always linked to space and movement, but rather to time. Think like this about duration, the viscosity of things, immobility, extended time. Know that there is never “time lost;” it is impossible to “kill time.”

14. Regardless of any smartphone or GPS, what matters is that you know where you are: “you are here” and “now.” Invert Walter Benjamin’s (1927) maxim, which stated, “places have been reduced to colored points on a map.” Make these points effectively be places.

15. Marks on maps showing what is close to you should not stop you from meeting with others or what is unusual. Do not be concerned if you do not know what is near. Be aware that you will always find the path to the places you seek anyway. It is simple: ask for information, ask, seek cues, and look at space as something to be explored locally in contact with the world around you.

16. Think of crossings, corners, and position differences; thing of connections, of distances and approximations. Think of what is audible and not audible, on what is visible and invisible, on what is fixed and what changes. Think about places as part of your existence, permanently in construction. Think that you only exist by being locative.

17. Give meaning to your social, cultural, and political place in the world. Locative media may help in this process through notes, maps, mobile social networks, political or hedonistic mobilization, and street games. All is power; what remains is the hard, difficult and slow updating work.

18. Think about neighborhoods, crossings, paths, historical landmarks, and borders (Lynch). Always ask how locative media may act in each of these dimensions: how does one create a community or act politically (in the neighborhood)? How may one generate meetings (crossings)? How does one open new roads (paths)? How does one create new reference points (landmarks)? How is it possible to stress the frontiers (borders) with these technologies?

19. All mobility assumes immobility; there is and will never be a world without frontiers. A frontier is control, and control may be freedom. Immobility is a condition of mobility, and vice-versa. We can only think of one in relation to the other. We really need to be immobile to think about mobility, and in movement to think about inertia. Define your frontiers, be autonomous in controlling your borders, stop so that you may move, and move yourself to stop.

20. “Dis-locate” does not mean finishing with the place, but rather, to put it in perspective. Move yourself and take control of what is urban; write you space with text, images and sound; meet people; play; occupy space out there. This is what locative media allow you to do. But if you are unable to do any of this, then think about the use and the reason for these technologies.

21. Maps are always psychocartographies; they are never neutral. Maps – technical, mnemonic and communicative tools – including “Google Earth,” “Street Maps,” and others, are always expressions of biased worldviews. They always reflect power structures and serve as tools for extending geopolitical influence. Think about how shortsighted digital maps are. Compare the details of Tokyo and African cities on digital maps to gain an idea of this invisibility.

22. Know that every map is media, and that every mapping process is a communicative action, a message with an emitter, a channel and a receptor. To map is to read and write space. Mapping is always a discourse about space and time. Maps, such as media, are always forms of visualization and knowledge, or producing the reality of the external world. As Borges in “Del Rigor de la Ciencia,” seek to create maps that are new territories on a 1 to 1 scale.

23. Build maps that deconstruct worldviews. Produce maps about what is not mapped around you, about what is invisible to eyes wide open. Flee from Cartesian thinking, rationalism and geospatial coordinates. Try to use locative media to decentralize the building power of maps and of meaning about places. As Meyrowitz states, “all our media function as a mental GPS.”

24. Do not overuse mobile social networks: findings friends and acquaintances randomly may be more interesting that to have everything programmed. Surprise may be an ingredient of great meetings. But think also about new forms of voyeurism, of control, of monitoring and of surveillance of friends, family members, employees and employers.

25. You are a roaming point in many systems (GPS, mobile phone networks, RFID tags, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth networks…). Know that new control, monitoring and surveillance methods (subtle, transparent and locative) are ever more present in all you do, from switching on your cell phone to accessing a wireless network in a coffee house, updating your social network while on the go, using the ATM, walking around with an RFID tag on your shirt, or paying toll automatically when passing along in your car. Be aware that the surveillance cameras are not the only things that are watching you!

26. In the current phase of ubiquitous computation and the internet of things there is the data that is provided (the data), but there are also those data that are not given, but rather, captured without your permission and at times without your knowledge, (the capta) (Kapadia, et al.). Think about this, about the “data” that you provide and the “capta” that are stolen from you! Fight to protect (handle) the new informational territories from which invisible “data” and “capta” emanate. Control and defend you privacy and anonymity, the basis and assurance of modern democracy. If necessary, create countersurveillance systems: sousveillance (Mann) against surveillance. If all else fails, provide unclear information or switch off and become invisible.

27. There is not only Foucault’s panopticom of disciplinary confinement, but Deleuze’s “controlate,” modulation, cypher and “dividual.” Walls no longer protect us from anything. Prisoners attack from prison. For Pascal, Man’s problem is that he is unable to be alone in his room. With informational layers, what is the informational meaning and efficiency of punishing someone by sending him to be alone in his room?

28. There is no neutral use, distribution, production or consumption of information and/or technologies. Think about how locative media may help you to create and destroy your territories. What are the limits of your territories? Develop creative ways of telling stories, of making politics, of playing and of having fun. These technologies may help you to write and electronically define your surrounding space; but seek new meanings, new memories of places. Strengthen social bonds and the collective imaginary.

29. Commit your self to revert the logic of vigilant eyes, to produce sounds for attentive ears, to create images of the past linked to the present. Locative media are only important if they help to produce meaningful content for you and for the place in which you live. Never use any media passively; especially those that act you’re your mobility and location in the world!

30. Think about the use of technique (it is not neutral), of communication as bringing you close to places and to others (it is not impossible, but improbable – Luhmann) and your place in the planet (it is part of your existence). The question should be: do locative media help you to find your place in the world?