Fluid Assemblies

Geert Roumen
3 min readOct 10, 2019

On this page, I will reflect and show my process around fluid assemblies (digital products and services).

What is a fluid assembly?

A lot of digital services and products that we use today are fluid assemblies; meaning that they are connected, change over time, change based on their environment, change based on user-preferences or user-behavior and usually are represented through some kind of computer.

Data and classification

In the last week, I made a visualizer for Spotify that you can use to explore your music in Spotify in different ways based on subjective features that Spotify uses on the background to define your style and cluster songs.

A screen-recording of the data visualization where music is mapped according to it's 'features' defined by Spotify.

You can try it here:

http://spotify.geertroumen.com/

First steps: See what others have done

For the first week, I will explore Google Maps as a fluid assembly; I choose google maps because it has a lot of the factors that make it a fluid assembly. It is highly used by people (67% of smartphone users prefer this as their main navigation app). Navigation is part of the infrastructure in our current society. Google Maps is a great example of technology that makes us worse in the task that it helps us with; meaning our navigational awareness/skills become worse when we use an app like google maps.

"…As a result, more and more people are losing the ability to navigate and find their way in unfamiliar terrain." — Rebecca Maxwell, gislounge

How fluid is this assembly

To explore how 'fluid' the assembly is I asked people to send a screenshot of their current 'home screen' of Google Maps, in this way I can explore how different these home screens are in terms of context, interface, and personalization/information.

A video showing the home screen of Google maps printed out on transparent paper hanging behind each other, so differences become visible.

Who are the 'users'

Google maps has different 'users', which all have different interfaces.

  • End-user, the consumer. This is the person using the Google Maps App. For this user-group the app is free, but they 'pay' by sharing location, search and 'click' data to Google Maps; besides that they might help in improving the map or services by sharing comments, changing information or by choosing to not follow the maps instructions.
  • User, enterprise advertising. These are the companies that are paying fees to become more visible on Google Maps, besides paying fees they also feed data into the platform; with opening times, prices and other information that might be relevant
  • Shareholders, the shareholders want google maps to grow and to give a return of investment
  • Government. The government, and indirectly the citizens decide what law the platform has to operate within.

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