Monday, September 08, 2008

GPS Film

My brother-in-law, Scott Hessels, a professor of film at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design & Media, just emailed me via Facebook:
I just finished a two-year artwork and want to get the word out. The piece is an open source software application that makes it possible to put in GPS coordinates to build 'neighborhoods' and then associate video with each one.

With a mobile phone or PDA you can assemble a movie by walking or driving around . . . location-based mobile cinema.

I also produced a feature film for the system, a slapstick Chinese gangster comedy (!?), and set up a story space in nine neighborhoods of downtown Singapore. It's getting good reviews and I'm kinda proud of it. Check it out at

Well, I went and checked it out.

By watching the second video that's available at the site, . . .

. . . here called "The Using Of" but there titled "The System," I caught two ideas:
  1. GPS Film is "not a moving picture, [but] a picture moving."


  2. The basic idea comes from the reality that when two people are going someplace together, their locations will often inspire them to tell each other stories--stories, often, about the places where they are or that they are seeing. And so, similarly, GPS Film permits or encourages filmmaking and film consumption based on location. It encourages a traveler to get answers to the question, "What stories have other people told via film about this place where I am at this moment?" -- and, then, to watch them.

For normal, everyday movement, I don't think I'd want my nose quite stuck in my GPS-enabled mobile phone or PDA the way users are illustrated walking around mesmerized by their mobile phones in "The System"/"The Using Of."

But if GPS Film catches on, it could be similar to geocaching. I can imagine some people will take it on as a kind of hobby or personal and social form of entertainment. It could be a lot of fun.

Time-consuming. But a lot of fun.

On the other hand, come to think of it, isn't that what cinema is all about? Lots of fun, but a lot of time?

One advantage of GPS Film over normal cinema: you have to move around. And that should burn up quite a few more calories than sitting in a seat at the movie theater. And, perhaps, you won't be tempted to buy such high caloric foods as movie theater popcorn and soda pop!
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