Category Archives: Technology

Philly Brownstoner

It's Nutter!

Just stumbled across a cool city site: Brownstoner Philadelphia. It’s a great mix of real estate, politics and the Philly scene. Way better than the Phillyist, despite being smaller. Want to know when the Mummers sell their headquarters, what people are saying about the bike-sharing program, or how much the condo next door is selling for? Check it out if you have any interest in Philly.

There’s a Brooklyn sister site (the original) that’s also pretty good. Anyway, nice to see some cool, well curated Philly news.

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Triangulating the city

The New York Times has an amusing, albeit gimmicky, op-art spread titled “Navigating the Urban Jungle.” The author, Tristan Gooley, is an expert outdoorsman and in this piece he successfully applies bush skills to the urban terrain. Many of us probably use at least some of these tips already:

In this age of GPS-enabled phones it is increasingly easy to set off for some destination without knowing exactly where you’re going. You can just get to the nearest subway station and then whip out the iPhone. Newer models even boast built-in compasses, which will not only tell you where you are, but also which direction you’re facing (thereby eliminating 3 of Gooley’s 6 tips).

Then there is the growing world of augmented reality, where the reality before you is “augmented” by a computer (usually a smartphone). Literally, you hold up your iPhone to a building, mountain, statue, whatever, and the screen of your phone will point out local attractions and provide info on each. It gets better. Want to find the closest Starbucks or busstop? Just hold your phone up and walk in a circle – the screen will identify which direction AND how far away all the closest options are. Wikitude is probably the most developed example. You can imagine this technology being incorporated into an eyepiece that people permanently wear when they’re out and about.

I think this stuff is great. It enhances our ability to learn about our surroundings and increases our accuracy & efficiency. But there is something depressing about how this must inevitably “dumb down” society. Who needs to learn boyscout methods for navigating the urban jungle when your phone can tell you exactly where you are and where to go? Tethered computing required people to maintain a certain degree of navigational ability, but with the surge in mobile computing I’m guessing people’s sense of orientation and navigation will go the way of the slide-ruler.

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