Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Ingress: Rediscovering my world through public art

Hey there,

By now you may or may not have heard of Ingress or the Niantic Project. If you haven't, here's a trailer I recommend checking out.

So what is Ingress? Wikipedia's entry is pretty thorough. Long story short, it's an augmented reality game. It's almost like if foursquare where more like capture the flag.

And you can check out my post, 10 things to know about the Niantic Project. What I wanted to focus this post on was the sense of discovery, and even ownership, of place that this game is cultivating, through its game play.

The main element players interact with are portals, which in the real word are represented by anything from public art to historical buildings, even post offices and libraries, among other things. But what's great is that if you see something that looks like a portal in the real world, but doesn't show up on the app, you can take a picture of it, making sure sure it's geo-tagged, and submit it to Ingress ops for consideration to be a portal. And if you're playing, you can go here for more detailed instructions on new portal submission.

Ingress has most definitely encouraged me to further explore an area  I've grown up in my whole life, the metropolitan area of Washington, DC, and I wanted to share just a few of the "portals" which, in submitting, I took the time to look at and learn about, which I never had, despite having past them multiple times.

One is this piece outside of the parking garage I use at work:

Despite parking there for over a couple of years, this was the first time I stopped to look at it and read the plaque.
"Alba Rosa", by Joseph A. McDonnell, 1988
You can find out more about the piece at this post at Creative Moco's blog.

And no, I'm not going to tell you which parking garage, in case there is anyone from the opposing faction, the Resistance, who sees this post. I decided to side with the Enlightened, when offered the choice. And yes, this would be a curious side-effect of the game engendering a feeling of ownership of these discovered "portals".

Another portal I found again, for the first time, is one I've passed countless of times up & down Georgia Ave. Some of you might recognize it, but many of you (like me) might never have stopped to even just check out what it was called.

New Leaf, Bronze Sculpture
Lisa Scheer, 2007
Untiled poem by E. Ethelbert Miller, 2006
DC Creates Public Art Program
In cooperation with
Art in Transit Program
DCCAH 2007, 184

In case you're wondering, the Untitled poem referred to on the plaque is written on the sculpture, so even if you've seen the sculpture before, if you've never read the poem, you might want to take a closer look next time.

And third piece I wanted to share is this one:
Around the Void V, 1669
Brushed Stainless Steel
Eduardo Chillida
San Sebastian, Spain 1924-2002 
"Sculptor Eduardo Chillida believed that, "All men are equal, and at the horizon we are brothers. The horizon is the common homeland." On behalf of the World Bank Group, I am honored to share this work of art with the citizens of Washington, D.C. and the world as we continue to work together toward the horizon of a better tomorrow." 
James D. Wolfensohn
Dedicated February 10, 2003
Over the past week or so, I was quite pleased to see all of these portal submissions had been approved, and showed up in the game. To my dismay, the last one, had been claimed by the Resistance, specifically an operative of theirs who goes by "spliao":

And I sensed a determination to capture the portal previously not felt, because I was the one that found it, I took the picture which they used, and I had to protect it.

Yeah, I know, it's just a game. But when so many people bemoan how technology and particularly our mobile devices are disconnecting us from the real world, Ingress is a great example of how it can actually encourage our interaction with it.

And yes, the arts manager in me did bias my observation of game play, as well as my own actual portal discovery, in terms of looking for and at public art.

Anybody else playing, who's come across public art and submitted it for portal consideration? See something new, or take a closer look than you had before? Please share in the comments,

- JR
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