artist in residence

KKEP, Caress

Artist in residence October - December 2002

It would be difficult to underestimate the influence that the automobile has on modern society. The automobile was unmistakably an important factor in the social, economic and political developments of the twentieth century. Today, the car is written off as a convenient but neutral means of transportation. But there is more to it than that; since its first appearance at the end of the nineteenth century, the car has been a lot more than a neutral appliance. The automobile became synonymous with freedom: people got in their cars and explored cities and landscapes that they would never had gone to without the vehicle. People started to spend more and more time in their cars, and as a result of that the automobile became a home from home, a place to entertain people, do business, make love and commit crimes. Our social life would have been totally different without the flexibility, comfort and 24-hour-a-day availability of the car. The automobile has to do with a lot more than with mobility and safety.

KKEP’s research addresses the growth of digital technologies in the traffic flow on Dutch roads. With technological progress, the role of the automobile in the prevailing worldview changes. Nowadays more and more new technologies are being integrated in the car, and the driver is becoming a junction in the network of physical and virtual highways. Part of this stems from the developments in wireless technology (GPS and GSM // GPRS and Ethernetwerks), but traditional registration tools such as CCTV cameras alongside highways, in tunnels and in parking lots, or induction loops in the asphalt near traffic lights also play their part. In the last few years a shift has taken place from intelligence on the road to intelligence in the car, such as GPS and on-board computers: in-car mobile communication technologies – in other words, Telematics. The integration of wireless, speech and computer functionality provides the driver with speech, data and Internet services that meet all his needs, independent of his location. Telematics allows the user to log onto whichever information service he needs via his PDA.

The use of GPS technology plays a central role in Telematics. Car rental companies, for instance, have a great interest in Telematics, which allows them to track their fleet, or to diagnose car problems from a distance. The average car driver can use Telematics to increase his safety, because his location is permanently known. Privacy and the so-called right to it seem to be of subordinate importance; the convenience of individualised information and services weighs heavier than the protection of personal and private data. It seems that the modern driver is looking for a personal encounter. The driver is no longer isolated, but is a part of a networked environment. In this project KKEP developed a concept for a PDA equipped with a GPS and GPRS unit. Through this tool the user can log onto a site and on the display of the PDA he sees the other car users moving along highways and through cities. The user can determine what, when, where and for whom his profile is available.

From the research it appeared that the present governmental speerpunten of mobility and safety form a stiff and incomplete picture of the use of the automobile. The car is just as much as an instrument for a ‘limit experience’ as a convenient but neutral means of transportation to travel from A to B. Safety is of vital importance for the car user, but it appears that nothing can stop him to explore these boundaries of his safety, in search of a meeting. Also navigation and the determining of location through GPRS systems, will become standard equipment. In combination with GPRS the caruser will become a ‘networked mobile profile’ en zal hij continue locatie bepaalde gegevens – o.a. van andere autogebruikers – opvolgen, raadplegen en prijsgeven.

At the end of the research a idea for a project came up, which has yet to be performed. This concept proposal included two cars, equipped with a GPS (Global Positioning System), GPRS (General Packet Radio System) unit, pocket PC/ PDA computing device, navigation software and GEO maps for graphic representation of users. The onland technology consists of a webserver, a database server, GPS tracking and tracing software. Optional is a DAB broadcaster for video and audio streams. The user creates his own profile, that can be accessed by other users. During his travels, the profile constantly changes through the driving habits, speed, directions and locations. The incar Telematics transform the isolated driver into a mobile profile. Caress is an ongoing project, only recently a website has been launched were KKEP continually report about their proceedings.

Artists in Residence KKEP
Project coördinator Wiel Seuskens