Mobile City Chronicles: Gaming with New Technologies of Detection and Security
General Catalog Course Title:
Special Topics in Social/Cultural Anthropology
Terms Offered:
Spring 2012
Fall 2010
Spring 2010

This course will investigate, develop, and playtest “urban detective games” that engage systems of monitoring city life.  Our objective is to expose these systems and “game the city.”  The games we develop will be played on a smart phone interface.  They will both resignify existing data about cities and produce new data about them that reveal previously undetected patterns.  Both kinds of detection will expand the notion of urban ethnography, art, and alternate reality games.

We may model our games with data from new surveillance technologies that monitor behavior in cities.  Examples include 911 calls, ER triage accounts, traffic reports, pollution analysis, and pharmaceutical sales, all data that reflect changes in the distribution of health-seeking behavior.  Other kinds of data track public safety, criminal activity, financial transactions, real estate, and dating.  In our games, cell phones are interfaces not only for reading from such databases but also for writing to them.

The new technologies that chronicle these kinds of data produce predictive models of social networking and narratives of human agency.  In real terms, such chronicles become the basis of government intervention and policy, often under the rubric of security.  The Mobile City Chronicles research will study the new kinds of profiling on which states, corporations, and inhabitants worldwide increasingly rely to understand and exploit one another.

The seminar will be organized as a research team/lab both to study the histories of urban detection and to develop game narratives. 

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.