Ownership of the city and its public space has become a big theme over the last years. While today’s placemakers, urban interventionists and community activators are concerned with ‘re-claiming’ physical spaces, the online world sees the rise of all kinds of location-based apps and games that enable users to claim ownership of public space in a digital world.
Although not an entirely new phenomenon, the latent need for (re-)claiming ownership of your part of the city has become more relevant than ever. Communities feel that they’ve lost control over their physical environment to anonymous governments and market forces. The re-appreciation of bottom-up urbanism and DIY is pretty logical from that perspective. A similar trend unfolds online due to the popularization of location-based media, which have made it possible to link digital activities to physical places. Claiming space has become ‘appified’, too.
Among the first ‘claiming city’ apps are, of course, the famous check-in service Foursquare and its early competitors. Users who check in the most at a venue in Foursquare are crowned Mayor, which means that they own the place, on Foursquare so to say. Two months ago we featured smartphone app Landlord, a real-world property game that enables you to buy Foursquare venues you visit and then earn rent as people check in at those properties on Foursquare. Property values depend on how popular venues are on Foursquare. If less people check in than the weeks before, the value goes down. Both the ownership struggle and the speculative element are what makes Landlord an interesting game.
The recently showcased Mark Your Territory project combines the Foursquare way of claiming spaces with the animal way of claiming spaces. The app 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.
But there’s more to claim with. OWNR is a new ‘claim your city’ app for urban sports enthusiasts. The app helps skateboarders to discover, share and ‘own’ their favorite urban hotspots. Users are able to explore new spots, see tricks others already did and battle for the best trick. OWNR turns spots in the city into virtual battlefields where the one with the best trick will own the spot. If you’re more of a runner, Nike+ and its GPS app are the way to rule the road as it awards users who run a route the fastest or most frequently ‘Route Boss’.
Of course, if you’re talking ‘claiming the city’, you’re talking street art. The graffiti scene has developed around the idea of claiming the greatest spots in the city. But hey, there’s an app for that too these days. Street Tag turns your iPhone into a can of spray paint. The application’s coolest feature is its Augmented Reality functionality, which greatly enhances the tagging experience. As soon as you’ve finished, you can showcase your work by geo-tagging your artworks via the app or Facebook, Twitter and email. Others can view your drawings in Augmented Reality at the exact place where you left them.
This article is part of The Pop-Up City’s Trends for 2013. Reflecting on what we’ve written in 2012 and looking into the new year, we’ve composed a new list of remarkable trends that we consider to be important for our cities in the coming time. Feel free to contact us in case you want to learn more about our reports.