Interfacing the City

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For the most part, 'ubiquitous computing'--the growing trend of imbedding computers in our everyday surroundings--seems to encourage connecting with things we enjoy or need (or the things marketers think we enjoy and need) and avoiding pretty much anything else. iPods allow us to walk around in our own imaginary music video and GPS navigation systems in cars take you directly from point A to point B on the most direct and efficient route. But this tendency to isolate social experience within the known and familiar is not going unchallenged. Many designers, engineers and artists are creating other uses for the ubiquitous networks of communications devices being built around us--uses that attempt to focus attention outward rather than inward. 'The Interactive City,' one component of next year's ISEA and Zero One festival, will feature projects that expand participants' knowledge and experiences of their surroundings. Set in San Jose, CA--the 'Spirit of Silicon Valley'--organizers are currently looking for submissions for 'urban-scale' works that foster novel relationships between the city and its inhabitants. The deadline for proposals is 22 April. - Ryan Griffis