We recently came across a crazy new project that deals with ownership in public space that’s inspired by the popular location-based check-in service Foursquare. Mark Your Territory is an app that combines the human way of claiming spaces (Foursquare) with the animal way of claiming spaces (urine).
Mark Your Territory lets individuals check-in to Foursquare by physically urinating (yes, taking a piss) at the actual location. Pink colored markers made of paper are attached to the walls of a location or pinned into the ground, and connected to Foursquare. One can claim his (or her) territory by actually urinating over the marker. Using Arduino technology and a QR-enabled app, the marker translates the urine into actual Foursquare activity. This way one can check-in somewhere, say McDonald’s, by urinating against the wall, as shown in this video.
This physical check-in will not only be noticed by other humans via Foursquare, but also animals will understand that you have been really there. According to Mark Your Territory’s initiator and media-engineer Andrew Quitmeyer, “squirrels know nothing of your Foursquare status but can tell where you peed”. As humans have created language and all kinds of other advanced ways to communicate with other humans, they have separated themselves from the rest of the world. This project will help to create a renewed understanding between humans and the rest of nature.
“In this world there are organisms and areas. Over billions of years complex, powerful systems evolved which enable the organisms to stake a claim upon a physical area in many different ways. All of these varying methods featured specific affordances and constraints which lead to powerful proliferation of information through the totality of an environment. A dog urinating on a tree, for instance, leaves not only the information that a specific animal had been to a place, but also data concerning the creatures physiology, stature, frequency of visits, and mood.”
By claiming a territory with this system the pee-er indirectly restructures the environment. The explicit marks fade, but one’s impact on a physical environment is permanent. The the seeds inside the marker and the added fertilizer new plants will grow on the spots. A detailed manual and how to obtain or make your own Mark Your Territory equipment can be found on the project’s Instructables page.
This project is interesting in the context of a wide variety of services that have been launched recently and that focus on different ways to claim ownership of public space. Examples featured on this blog like OWNR and Landlord try to shine another light on ownership of public space in an digital area. This remarkable project is an interesting addition to this series of initiatives. Foursquare officials know about Mark Your Territory and contacted Quitmeyer about the app. He says they love it and they even called it “possibly the best API app ever!”