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
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 dodgeball.com 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, dodgeball.com focuses on the singles bar/club
scene, and promotes dating and social networking in the larger
urban context. Dodgeball.com 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
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 dodgeball.com 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.
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)
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
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
Related project using mobile technology
more detailed description of the technology can be found on
the GSM website (http://www.gsmworld.com/technology/sms/intro.shtml#4c).