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#walkingtoworktoday | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees


#Walkingtoworktoday is an ongoing photo documentation project open to anyone.

The guidelines are pretty simple.
1.Take an image while walking to work.
2. Post that image to flickr and tag the image with walkingtoworktoday (all one word).
3. Tweet the title of the image with the hash tag #walkingtoworktoday along with a link to the image on flickr.

I’ve been testing a slightly updated idea of distributing content. While it’s not unique and the tools are available to almost everyone, there’s a number of intermediary connections that rely on each other to make it work. The underlying concept is that people have unique relationships depending on the different web tools they connect with their friends and peers. For example a person might have some good connections on twitter, yet that relationship isn’t the same on Flickr. They’re interested in reading some quotes but not trading photos. Another scenario might be that people are connected via Facebook and Friendfeed. Because Facebook has become full of people they’ve chosen to see what stuff they’re looking at by what’s posted to FriendFeed, yet for another person status updates keep them in touch. It’s all fragmented.

Now consider another scene. Last year I was part of a group of people that ran a site that asked people to take photos at 10:15 am local time. Once they had shot the image they needed to download it from their camera and email it to the general email address. From there one of four people would manually upload the photo, copy+paste the title information and tag the location. It was a fun project but the manual labor for one photo was quite a lot. The second part of the equation was that the images were hosted on the site and a viewer actually had to visit the site to see the images. Pretty basic stuff that most people take for granted.

When I think of Fragmented Medias as an idea, I see it as one piece of content being pushed out in as many different directions as possible, allowing for different meanings depending on how the content is pushed through a channel while finding ways to be connected in other media spaces. My latest photo experiment is called #walkingtoworktoday. The rules are simple and open to anyone—while walking to work take a photo from a mobile device. From there the photo needs to be pushed to twitter via flickr while containing the hashtag #walkingtoworktoday somewhere in the tile. With a simple push of the button via email from a phone, a number of different automated triggers happen that eases the burden of labor unlike the other photo project. The responsibility is left to the photographer. While I like using a mobile device, a person could take the time to upload an image with a better camera as long as the hashtag is in the title and is connected to flickr.

A typical walking to work today process would be as follows for me. I’m walking to work through Manhattan and come across something memorable in Soho. I pull out my iPhone, take the photo and email the photo to flickr with a special email address that will also connect with Twitter. In the subject line of the email I’ll try to keep my message to less than 140 characters and use #walkingtoworktoday somehow. Once the photo has been uploaded and the message readable on Twitter and number of other things happen. My tweets are connected to my Facebook status, so the photo link is announced there, I also have Twitter and Flickr connected to Friendfeed which in turn is connected to Facebook. So a number of different ways people stay in touch with me have all seen my #walkingtoworktoday photo. It’s possible that the friends from Twitter aren’t connected to me in Facebook and vice versa so I’ve been able to cover a couple unique mediums with a simple push of send via email.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the process is great for a one to many push, but how does it become a group thing? I use Tweetdeck and have a search for #walkingtoworktoday so I can see who’s posting what and seeing the images from there. But there isn’t one dedicated space outside of Flickr to see the photos, and even then it’s only seeing it through one medium—I don’t get to see the tweets. So that’s why I decided there needed to be a site. Because I have a lot of knowledge in taming the fire hose of information from working at Daylife, I decided to create a site using Daylife tools that contained Flickr and Twitter moduals. The main modual streams photos from Flickr while the right rail shows the tweets. It’s an interesting redundancy that works. On one side there’s the large photos, the people’s avatars and tweets put the photos in context on the right, plus at time the photos and tweets won’t be in the same order. Because I have the full set of Daylife tools at my disposal I thought it would be interesting to pull quotes from general news about walking to work, and headlines of walking stories. Just for good measure I selected a number of topics that people might also be interested in. From there if any quote, headline or topic is selected there’s a ton of info available, but if people are interested i looking at the photos of people walking to work, they’re available and hosted on Flickr.

I really like the potential of this, everyone has a certain entry point to push the content in the manner that they want, but also allow for hooks that can be pushed into other content areas while leaving a trail where it originally started. Another remarkable thing is that at all times I know who the creator of the digital piece is. The name is connected on Flickr, Twitter and any other content distributing medium. It’s also amazing to consider that once the system is set up and the nodes are connected that with one push of a button a number of different conversations can start. Someone might read the tweet, like the photo and re-tweet what I just said, or maybe just reply with a simple mention. On Flickr someone might favourite the image or comment just like a person could do on FriendFeed or Facebook too. Now consider the number of eyes that have seen or read that one photo that was pushed to them in comparison of having to hope that someone visits a website. The odds and clicks are infinitely higher with a number of Fragmented Medias as opposed to one static site. Lots to explore with a concept like this.