Urban Tapestries is the name of a research project and experimental software platform for knowledge mapping and sharing – public authoring – conceived and developed by Proboscis in partnership with collaborators such as the London School of Economics, Birkbeck College, Orange, HP Research labs, France Telecom R&D UK, Ordnance Survey. The original research project began in late 2002 and was completed in Autumn 2004, with a follow-on research programme of experiments with local groups and communities called Social Tapestries starting in April 2004 and completed in Summer 2007 (additional publications and outputs were released in 2008).
Urban Tapestries investigated how, by combining mobile and internet technologies with geographic information systems, people could 'author' the environment around them; a kind of Mass Observation for the 21st Century. Like the founders of Mass Observation in the 1930s, we were interested creating opportunities for an "anthropology of ourselves" – adopting and adapting new and emerging technologies for creating and sharing everyday knowledge and experience; building up organic, collective memories that trace and embellish different kinds of relationships across places, time and communities.
The Urban Tapestries software platform enabled people to build relationships between places and to associate stories, information, pictures, sounds and videos with them. It provided the basis for a series of engagements with actual communities (in social housing, schools and with users of public spaces) to play with the emerging possibilities of public authoring in real world settings. The projects are documented in a variety of ways - from essays, project reports and academic papers to videos, installations and software (interfaces and code).