OtherWorld, a pilot news experiment, has recently been launched on the streets of Manchester in the UK, providing citizens a new means by which to access local news and engage more interactively with their city.
Launched by startup studio Like No Other and Google’s Digital News Initiative, OtherWorld uses varied technology, including Bluetooth and beacon technology to connect people to geo-located news via their smartphone while they are out and about on city streets.
Described as “living media”, OtherWorld news is delivered directly to devices without needing to install an app. Location based stories and news alerts are instantly shared with people as they navigate the city. A silent notification will appear on phone screens as they pass a story location. The notification disappears when the pedestrian moves out of range, marking the relevance of the location and the time of the event in direct relation to the user. They then choose whether or not they wish to engage with the information.
OtherWorld offers urbanites a new perspective through which to view their city. By revealing the layers of the environment around them, the environment is brought into focus and opportunities are provided for deeper exploration of familiar surroundings. By focusing on events that are directly related to the immediate environment, users are offered the opportunity to engage with a nearby prospect, become aware of a volunteer opportunity or a public meeting they would otherwise not have been aware of, which in turn gives them the chance to involve themselves more actively in the public realm.
Though accessible to everyone, OtherWorld has been developed with the younger audience in mind. As more traditional means of accessing news media no longer engage the younger generation, it is hoped that this more geo-located method will help to re-engage this specific audience.
In an interview with ArchDaily, OtherWorld creator Stuart Goulden stated; “There’s a whole generation of people, like me, who will never buy their local newspaper but still value the role they could (and probably should) play in navigating and animating cities. We all carry incredibly powerful storytelling devices in our mobile phones and OtherWorld is an experiment to use them to breathe new life into the world immediately around us.”
When asked how he sees OtherWorld affecting the way people interact with cities, Stuart replied; “My view on the storytelling possibilities of cities is best captured by this wonderful quote [from Patrick Geddes]: ‘A city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time.’ Cities are beautiful, complex and constantly changing and nobody should be better placed to help people make sense of this than local news—however many local news organisations don’t view themselves in this way. OtherWorld is about interrupting our everyday routines with serendipitous news experiences and encouraging people to explore beyond the obvious. We’re injecting an element of surprise into local news that has long been forgotten.”
OtherWorld also believes their system is a chance to provide access to major news coverage to those who traditionally aren’t given a voice, mainly independent businesses, to highlight the role they play in a local community environment.
When asked what he considers the most important impact OtherWorld could have on cities and public spaces, Stuart claimed, “Cities are changing quickly and OtherWorld can play a small part in making sure nobody gets left behind. We’ve reached a tipping point in which more of the world’s population is now living in cities than not and it forces us to ask some important questions; not least about how we choose to live together and talk to one another. Beyond all of this, OtherWorld has the potential to reach previously hard-to-reach communities or for them to create and sustain their own news ecosystem for less than $100. That’s something I’d love to help make happen.”
“In an era that is seeing a rapid decline in both traditional newspapers and news websites - with most people relying instead on the crowdsourced curation of news via social media - what OtherWorld does is create an ultra-personal ‘homepage’ based entirely on where you are and what you’re doing at that moment, practically guaranteeing its relevance to your life and interests. Users move through their surroundings to discover stories and, in so doing, reinvest in their cities and communities,” says Megan Fowler of ArchDaily.