In case you are unfamiliar with the most amazing new way to physically “check in” to foursquare here is a video that will explain it all:
Mark Your Territory is a fully open-source system but because it interacts with the physical world as well as the digital one, some construction is necessary beyond just simply downloading the app to your phone.
The main project site is here: http://www.markyourterritory.org/
This project uses the brand new Android ADK (Accessory Development Kit) platform for combining Arduino input with an Android device. Thus the included source code is good to experiment with and provides a basic starting point for anyone getting into
-Using Google’s new Accessory Development Kit
-Using the foursquare API
-Printing colored designs with a laser cutter
(though my code is pretty messy)
If you are interested in the code aspect of this project check out the step labeled “Hacking the Code”
*NOTE: Remember that Physical Check-ins may not be recognized by many establishments. If you want to claim an area, stake something in the ground, or pee on property you don’t own, you are taking your own legal risks. I’m not responsible for any kind of mess you may get yourself into.
Step 1: Materials Needed
In order to fully use the system you will need the following items:
1) Android Phone
with the MYT app: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.andrewquitmeyer.MarkYourTerritory
2) Arduino board supporting the ADK (Android Development Kit)
compatible boards listed here: http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/usb/adk.html
(I use this one http://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardADK )
3) Arduino firmware for moisture sensing
4) building/electronic/art materials
Silicone (not entirely necessary)
Cornstarch (not entirely necessary)
absorbent sturdy paper
spraypaint + laser cutter (or your own method of screen printing and cutting)
Person specific plant seeds
heat press (or a bunch of heavy flat things)
Step 2: Theory
While many may consider this project rather ridiculous, the project is based upon an underlying design theory of embedding physical/natural systems into digital works.
In this world there are organisms and areas. Over billions of years complex, powerful systems evolved which enable the organisms to stake a claim upon a physical area in many different ways. All of these varying methods featured specific affordances and constraints which lead to powerful proliferation of information through the totality of an environment. A dog urinating on a tree, for instance, leaves not only the information that a specific animal had been to a place, but also data concerning the creatures physiology, stature, frequency of visits, and mood.
As humans developed language, we began to leave this rich system designed by our animal brethren and our other senses dulled. With advances in intra-human communication such as printing or rapid electronic communication came further separation from the rest of the physical world.
One of the latest manifestations of this digitally mediated human solipsism is Foursquare. In Foursquare, similacra of real-world locations are digitally overlain in which humans can easily communicate to each other if they (supposedly) visisted a particular place, and which person (supposedly) holds domination over this place by visisting it the most frequently.
Mark Your Territory is a new system that lets individuals check-in to foursquare by physically urinating at the actual location.
MYT maintains the abilities of Foursquare while drawing humans back into the physical world. It is not a shunning of digital technology, but instead serves as a patch, tying together the tear between the worlds of the physical and (Humans-only) digital.
By imposiving several carefully crafted constrains upon one’s digital check-in, the new physical-check-in is imbued with several features drawn from real-world marking. Such features include:
-How “there” were you?
-A description of yourself that you cannot cheat
-Squirrels knows nothing of your Foursquare status but can tell where you peed
-Maintenance of a physical reputation is demanding (and rewarding)
Indirect Environmental Restructuring
-Explicit marks fade, but one’s impact on a physical environment is permanent.
NOTE: Some of my oppenents maydeclare this project as “sexist design” and that females can’t/won’t use this system.
Females can also use the device in a squatting manner, with the aid of a peripheral such as the go-girl (www.go-girl.com), or by studying the standing techniques discussed in “A Woman’s Guide on How to Pee Standing Up” .
Step 3: Create the Markers (Printing/Cutting)
These markers do more than just get peed on; they feature carefully designed affordances for claiming territory in hybrid digital/physical spaces.
At their core, they can stick in the ground and illustrate text and QR codes. The needs to be only revealed if it gets peed on well enough though. Let’s see how to make this.
First I tested out various methods of getting an image to show up when wet (crayola color changing markers, litmus paper printing, wax burn-off). You can see the excellent full brainstorm discussion at
Eventually i went with the spraypaint/laser cuttter/ soluble gouache method as it produced the results with highest contrast.
Get nice thick rigid (yet absorbent) paper. I used water color paper.
Give a thin, even dusting of spray paint on one side.
Load up your design in illustrator ( the stencils I used are available here: http://dwig.lcc.gatech.edu/projects/Quitmeyer/myt/store/Mark_Your_Territory_Illustrator_Stencils.zip )
Now when you laser cut onto the spray painted paper, it will cut through the thin layer of paint on top and reveal an inverse image of high contrast (and nice physical texture).