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Posts filed in ‘research’

Manholes – Research

Mar 2009

Channels, or drainage conduits, were created underneath the streets in an effort to keep the waste away from the structures, and allow it to flow away from the residential areas. An initial problem was that the conduits leading away from the structures and to the actual underground drainage channels weren’t actually vertical. They were slanted. And waste didn’t flow easily to the channel, as there was no water pushing it forward. Maintenance workers were frequetly needed to shovel the waste clear of the conduits and into the channels.

However – there was no easy street access to the conduits, meaning the workers would have to either dig their way down, or most likely, enter through the actual toilet hole. The toilets themselves thus became manholes.

Extensive studies over many years were conducted to better determine the form and size of the conduits, and ensure that sanitation workers would have easier access to the system for maintenance.

Street level channels would lead to the waste conduits, giving access to the sewers, while also acting as ventilation to prevent gas build-up. These channels – or manholes – leading to the modern “Underworld” of society, needed obvious covers; easy for workers to access, yet hard for residents to accidentally fall in or steal. Round, cast-iron manhole covers were an efficient choice over square for a few simple reasons.

One reason were the actual conduits – the holes that had been dug and that were fortified with brick (in Victorian times), were cylindrical – the strongest form for the underground purpose (pressure equally distributed). The best fit for a cylinder is quite simply a round cover. Another reason was transportation and installation. Rolling covers could make life easier. Then – the shape could assist preventing the covers from falling in the manholes once removed (although additional ledges under the covers keep them in place).

Manhole Cover Design

Manhole cover design varies greatly from city to city, with each municipality balancing budget versus art. Some cities, such as Seattle, opted for a clever street map design on their covers, others went with city logos or seals. Most, though, choose a simple grid pattern, or checkered design. The reason behind a pattern or design on the covers is simple – traction – both for pedestrians, as for vehicles.

As of late, manhole cover design is no longer something to be treaded on lightly. Cities like Vancouver, Seattle, New York and Tokyo have decided to pursue commissioned designer covers, giving their cities more than just a curiousity. In competitions to find the best designs, these cities have their communities actively participating in waste awareness, while simultaneously promoting a brighter and livelier city.


Also in this article, the shape and patterns of several manholes covers are explained: click here

RFID sniffer workshop

Mar 2009

RFID sniffer workshop: “

Mediamatic is organising two RFID Sniffer workshops in Amsterdam on Friday March 27 or on Saturday April 4 2009. At this workshop you can assemble your own RFID Sniffer circuit with designer Marc Boon.


The RFID sniffer is a simple analog electronic circuit which can detect the presence of 13.56 MHz RFID tags. These tags are commonly used in all kinds of plastic cards like access badges, bank cards, library cards, loyalty cards and so on.

RFID is everywhere. Use the easy to build RFID sniffer to find out if objects are tagged. Also many other objects may carry RFID tags without you knowing it. Books, toys, and even clothing might be tagged. Carrying tagged objects with you can reveal your identity or whereabouts to anyone equipped with the appropiate tools to read RFID tags. The RFID sniffer helps you identify which objects are tagged, and which are not.


Looks like a great workshop! And the Sniffers are available to buy from here.

Related things:

  1. RFID & the internet of things Julian Bleecker, Arie Altena and I will be participating at…
  2. Workshop: Near field interactions This is a call for proposals for a workshop on…
  3. Touch at Recalling RFID I will be presenting at Recalling RFID in Amsterdam…

(Via Touch.)

Mechanism for Bench

Mar 2009



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Can You Hear Me? by Julianneswartz – 2004

Mar 2009


“Can You Hear Me? (2004) is a site-specific interactive sculpture installed on the exterior of the building that houses The Sunshine Hotel, one of the last remaining flop houses (Single Residence Occupancy) on the Bowery. The piece was created for Counter Culture, a show that the New Museum of Contemporary Art organized to inaugurate their new neighborhood. The parking lot next door to the hotel is the future site of the museum. I sited my piece at the Sunshine to explore the complicated social dynamics of the situation and perhaps create an opportunity for a person- to- person connection within an uncanny context.

The sculpture is a functional alternative “telephone”. It uses PVC pipe and mirrors to make an aural and visual communication link from the second floor lobby of the Sunshine Hotel, to the street below. Passers-by on the street can call up through the tube and be heard in the Sunshine’s communal lobby area. If a resident chooses to answer the call and engage in a conversation through the tube, the sculpture offers a space to have a face to face conversation over a distance of 36 feet. The natural acoustics of the PVC pipe amplify and carry the sound of each person’s voice, creating an aural proximity. At the same time, a periscopic mirror system in the tubes carries the image of the person’s face you are speaking to, but it appears very small and upside-down, visually emphasizing the distance between the two conversants.

The title references the first message heard through wire transmission during Alexander Graham Bell’s early experiments with telephone communication. ”


Sophie Calle in NY – 1994

Mar 2009


Calle asked writer friend Paul Auster for some pointers as to how to behave. His “Personal Instructions for Sophie Calle on How to Improve Life in New York City” read “Keep Smiling. Talk to Strangers. Give Food and Cigarettes to the Homeless. Appropriate a Public Space.” “I followed his instructions,” writes Calle. She took over a phone booth in lower Manhattan, decorating it with flowers, providing chairs, talking and smiling to passers-by, handing out sandwiches and cigarettes – and documenting her daily activities.

Have a seat by Caroline Woolard

Mar 2009

have a seat.JPG

“…reclaiming public space. It is a platform for a new vantage point on the street. As seating bolted to no parking signs in New York, Have a Seat offers rest and contemplation in transitional spaces.

In the city, the street should be a destination in itself. Many people use the street to get from one place to another, but it is an invaluable arena for immediate interaction. Instead of walking to a park or other zone calculated for relaxation, Have a Seat serves those people who want to pause amidst action for a direct perspective on the momentum of the city.

Have a Seat makes everyday environments strange, pushing for a moment to reevaluate the monotony of consistent routine…
Although disembodied conversations (Blackberry, cell phone, etc) and narrative accompaniment (iPods) inevitably insulate individuals from this reality, I hope that a symbol of rest amidst action allows some people to create immediate connection with the street. ”

Why NY doesn’t have this?

Mar 2009


Article in the StreetsBlog that talks about this problematic issue in NYC

RFID Guardian – Melanie RieBack

Mar 2009

Anxious society

Feb 2009

“My girlfriend didn’t used to have mobile phone and we were quite OK; and now when I text her, when she doesn’t takes back in ten minutes I get completely upset. Because I think something is wrong, because I worry all the time. When I didn’t have the technology to express my worries with, I was much happier…

…Yeah, much calmer! And now, all that stuff just makes me nervous. So, this is just me, now this has become the whole society. The whole society is becoming more nervous because of all these gadgets”

interview with Rob van Kranenburg

Two references – Article and Presentation by Matt Jones

Feb 2009

>> about location-awareness
“Exporting the past into the future or the possibility jelly lives on the hypersurface of the present”

>> The Demon-Haunted World
Talk given at Webstock, February 2009 – slideshow with notes



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