Users on social media are often in their own universes. Liberals often don’t even see the content that conservatives see, and vice versa.
Imagine if that kind of segmentation extended to augmented reality as well:
Imagine a world that’s filled with invisible graffiti. Open an app, point your phone at a wall, and blank brick or cement becomes a canvas. Create art with digital spraypaint and stencils, and an augmented reality system will permanently store its location and placement, creating the illusion of real street art. If friends or social media followers have the app, they can find your painting on a map and come see it. You might scrawl an in-joke across the door of a friend’s apartment, or paint a gorgeous mural on the side of a local store.
Now imagine a darker world. Members of hate groups gleefully swap pictures of racist tags on civil rights monuments. Students bully each other by spreading vicious rumors on the walls of a target’s house. Small businesses get mobbed beyond capacity when a big influencer posts a sticker on their window. The developers of Mark AR, an app that’s described as “the world’s first augmented reality social platform,” are trying to create the good version of this system. They’re still figuring out how to avoid the bad one.Is the world ready for virtual graffiti?
I first read China Miéville’s The City & the City many years ago, and I keep thinking about how strange it was then, and how much the ideas have resonated since.