Project: Parkscene
Artist: Andrew Benson

Major: Painting
[link to diagram]

ParkSCENE is a mobile, virtual park and community building interface based on the location of Mountain Lake Park in the Presidio. It is a network that allows users to log in and discover who else is in the park and what they are doing from their handheld device (cellphone, etc.). When users log in, they are prompted for their name (or nickname) and what they plan to do in the park that day. By giving this information to the server, the visitor becomes part of the virtual park community. After login is completed, the server informs the user who else is in the park at that time, and what each person is doing. The user could then choose to send a text message to other members who have similar interest.
All of this is accomplished using a mobile phone or other device capable of text messaging (SMS). The user need only send a brief message to log in, and to tell what they are doing in the park that day. Once connected, the visitor can choose to post messages to the entire community or message an individual member. In this way a non-invasive communication is made possible to visitors.
Because users are able to keep track of what is happening and who's around, it can help to foster a community awareness, and allow visitors to interact without disturbing each other. By telling what they are doing, the user offers a way to connect with others who share interests. The purpose of this project is then to allow a location-based virtual/actual community to form through continued use of an open structure.

The visitors of Mountain Lake are mostly members of the neighborhood, using the park for daily recreation and social interaction. While this park has a great deal of history, each individual who frequents it has his/her own unique relationship to the space along with personal histories and fictions. This project allows for that personal experience to be highlighted through a greater awareness of shared space. If people had access to a database of current guests, they could create new bonds through shared interests, and have a better understanding of what this park means to others.
Access is integral to the success of this project, so that all visitors to the park might potentially take part in the ParkSCENE community. As this project is based around the text messaging functionality of current cellular phones, users could share photos, maps, soundclips, or any other file that can be attached to a text message. The technology of such phones is becoming rather ubiquitous, so most visitors would not be required to purchase any special equipment. Through development of the user network, an open community can develop with an awareness of the park as a social and recreational space. Over time this could benefit the park through an increase of community involvement and volunteers. Although other projects have attempted to create social networks via text-messaging, most such projects have been geared specifically for nightclub crowds and nightlife augmentation. This project is unique in its focus on creating a location-specific network that is open to all users and makes no assumptions about the ultimate use of the network by users.

The audience for this project is the general community of visitors at Mountain Lake. As the project relies on the use of a relatively new technology (SMS), the initial audience would most likely be young, tech-savvy adults who are eager to meet other people with shared interests. As the project develops, and others become more familiar with the technology, this initial group would soon include people from all age groups and income levels. Access to the system will be open to all visitors, given they own a phone with text-messaging capabilities. A recent survey found that 70% SF/Bay Area homes have cell phones, with around 35% of people older than 65 using them. Use of text messaging is expected to grow exponentially over the next three years. Emphasis is to be placed on the inclusion of all the micro-communities within the park environment, because it is only through open communication between these groups that the park network can serve the community.

While text messaging (SMS) is a standard feature on recent cellular phones, a great deal of owners in the United States make little or no use of this feature. However, usage is expected to increase exponentially over the next three years with new applications for the technology. Text messaging is a function that allows individuals to send messages, images, media files, etc. to others by way of cellular networks. These messages can often be sent to either email addresses or phone numbers.
The implementation of this project requires the programming of a network-based server software that can respond to text messages and input user information to a dynamic database of current users, and then respond to queries regarding that information. Such server software is currently available, and allows for a number of customizations. This application could reside on the world wide web for relatively little cost. The software would respond to specific command functions such as posting a message to the whole community and logging in users. It's function would be similar to existing email servers, and could likely be adapted from said software.
A similar network called was created to connect friends and friends of friends based on locations in a city. Since its launch, it has been expanded to several major US cities, including San Francisco. While it shares many functions with ParkScene, focuses on the singles bar/club scene, and promotes dating and social networking in the larger urban context. is also only available on weekend nights, and users must preprogram their possible locations for the system to recognize them. Making connections to other users requires having a group of friends already using the network.
ParkScene is intended to be focused around a specific area, and is meant to allow communication between people of differing social groups all the time. Since there is no need to keep track of various locations, users can focus on communicating and gathering information. There is no specific age group, or assumed activity privileged by the ParkScene. However, taking the model of mobile social software, and making a few vital changes, ParkScene could easily connect the Mountain Lake community in a way that is non-invasive and promotes open communication.
Because the project relies entirely on SMS technology, users need only use their mobile phone. The simplicity of usage allows a large group of users to gain access with very little guidance. Most cellular providers offer online tutorials and guides to using SMS on each phone. Also, SMS now also offers the ability to send media files such as photos and soundclips on some newer phones. These functions would allow users to share photos, maps, drawings, etc. Each user can decide how best to utilize the service.
To supplement the mobile community, a website will be created for new users to register their phones, for registered users to complete a user profile, and for support services and web-links to further information about the park and the technology used.

[link to diagram]
The visitor enters the park and discovers the ParkScene contact information posted on the community bulletin board. The visitor sends a text message to ParkScene with a user name and what she plans to do at the park. Upon sending this message, the user receives a message confirming login and contains a list of all the current users of ParkScene, and what they are doing. A typical message would look like this:
Welcome to ParkScene!
We are in your Scene:
frank(walking the dog)
paul(feeding the birds)
jackie(eating takeout)
The user could then send a message to the whole group (i.e. "hello, where's the bathroom?") or message a specific individual. For example, if the user is also walking a dog, she could send a message to Frank asking,"can our dogs play together?" However, users are not limited to finding activity partners. Anything that can be attached to a text message, such as photos or sound files, could be shared between users.
After continued use, many users will begin to develop a group of steady contacts that they can check in with upon arrival. Neighbors may meet each other for the first time. Residents could voice concerns about the park to the entire community. It is left to the individual's preference what is to be done with the increased connectivity.

T-mobile SMS Groups
Free mobile social software service for urban singles
Presidio Park Conservancy
SMS Description
Related project using mobile technology


A more detailed description of the technology can be found on the GSM website (