Branded meeting places: ubiquitous technologies and the design of places for meaningfull human encounter

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art


Why do business people, clients, customers, and service providers sometimes prefer to meet outside the office, shop or service centre to discuss, exchange ideas and transact business? Why do they target some places above others for these encounters? It is not just convenience that draws us to certain places, but places lure us with meanings, and, increasingly, the layers of meaning in a place are indicated by branding. Brands are icons, images and symbols that invoke a mood, ambience, and a sense of loyalty to a product, service or place. Consumers identify with brands and sometimes let the brand do the work of colouring the meaning and authority of the activities that take place. A business meeting on the Royal Yacht Brittania tells us this is an important occasion. A meeting in the foyer of the local museum inherits the cultural values of that place.
Some retailers and service providers create branded buildings, stores, and places to give physical presence to their virtual businesses. Convention centres and other multi-purpose spaces are available for brand imprinting and re-branding. Increasingly, brand attributes are delivered to consumers through mobile devices, dynamic displays and other technologies. Branding clearly has a key role in marketing and retail. Office environments are also branded, and to move out of the office is to exchange one system of branding for another, or a single brand to a variegated brandscape. We extend the concept of the brand to spaces where people gather to interact. In this project we conduct three related studies to gain insights into the better design of branded environments for human encounter using ubiquitous computing.
Branding is often associated with mega-stores, iconic buildings, and aspirational life-styles. We translate the branding of places to a concern with the everyday. Int his context, place matters: holding a business meeting in the Oxo Tower, conducitng job interviews in an oak-panelled board room, discussing the accounts in the local Starbucks, or sitting in the garden while counselling a welfare recipient. The choice of place is significant, and for particular purposes. Branded environments are often overlaid with lifestyle connotations, of the kind exploited in marketing campaigns, and operate in concert with or against the influence of rival brands. We commonly evaluate place sin terms of functional and aesthetic considerations. Structuralist and poststructuralists discourses consider meaning and signification. Others speak fot he psychological effects of spaces, sensory experience, and how spaces affect wellbeing and the emotions. We draw on these insights, but the concept of branded space, as we are using it, highlights several important aspects of place relevant to design for the 21st century:
- The changing nature of commercial and business contexts, particularly with increased
uses of networked communications in which many resources and transactions are
accessed online.
- The changing nature of the offce and other work environments, in which places are
selected and use dont he basis of their suitability as settings, particularly meetings, much
as a stage set supports a performance.
- The increasing use of portable and mobile digital devices to supplement the operations of
these environments, and make them more suitable for work processes and business
- Commercial opportunities in targeted marketing to mobile phone users, so-called ambient
intelligence through digital devices, personal signage systems, viral marketing, and the
increasing expansion of 'brandscapes'.

We aim to enhance the potential of branded places, and to improve their operations through mobile devices. Specifically, we will:
1) Demonstrate how ubi


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