When I started the residency here at ISIS, I proposed to use the time to look at the data that has accumulated in our database from people who had downloaded the Comob Net iPhone app. There have been a steady stream of users of the app since we launched it in 2009. Some people have used it practically every day for a year, others simply downloaded it and tried it once.
People who download the app have to agree to their data being sent to our server when they download it, and if they read the information page on the app store they will know that the app is part of an arts and cultural project.
The app had originally been written just for our workshops, so we wanted it to work as quickly and easily as possible without any registration, simply an ‘I allow this’ button to agree to sending their data to our server, and information about the project. More recently we added an info button that leads to an option to register to join the Comob community for updates. Perhaps predictably no one signed up. We are now considering having a more formal sign up procedure that would require an email address that we could then use to contact people and find out more about how they are using the app. The data that is currently in the database is private, and must remain anonymous.
We have had a processing app in the past that we’ve used to visualise the data from our workshops and from my performative walks, but it had always been buggy, so during the first week of the residency that had to be repaired.While it was being repaired I wanted to do something to get to know the data, so I started tracing the locations of people who had been using comob during the past twenty four hours each day, from the screen of my iPhone. This capability is only available to us as project developers and is there so that we can keep an eye on how much use the app is getting. Recently we had to change servers because there was more traffic than we’d initially expected.
These tracings are like anonymous glimpses into the data, they are small and limited. I can read in them the relative geograhical situations people are in, and the quantity of activity, and they seem to remind people of kite strings and networks of pylons. These associations are useful in that they refer to networks, connections and environments (e.g. a kite has to have wind in order to fly), while remaining anonymous and abtract. In terms of the residency however, and what comob does as a piece of software they are almost just pretty pictures rather than meaningful maps of networks. If we knew why the people in them were using comob, what they were doing with it then perhaps there would be a greater tension between the abstraction of the drawing and the human connections that are represented.