U.C. Berkeley Social App Lab Releases CitySandbox, Hopes to Network Real-World Deeds

These days, Greg Niemeyer, one of the honchos of the U.C. Berkeley Social App Lab, can be caught tinkering with a pet project: CitySandbox. What exactly is that two-word mash-up? It’s Niemeyer’s grab at getting to a finer integration of online and offline sociability, but by his own admission he still has much ground to cover.

CitySandbox is a social medium for people to “ask questions about specific places in [their] city and discuss them” with fellow residents. The goal is to create real-world action from the postings. The site is designed to promote the formation of social clusters focused on specific local issues through the virtual/real communication between its members.

It works by overlaying a Google map of a local area, Berkeley, in this case, with social networking capabilities. Users select a map location and then ask a question about it or propose a real-life event to address a particular issue.

Here goes one example. Concerning the location 1503 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA 94709, USA, CitySandbox user SEstar asked, “Who is the person that spends every night on this bench?” The user explained that the unknown person slept while “sitting upright,” “dressed in a dark long coat with a hoodie,” and kept “his/her legs crossed.”

SEstar’s query, after three weeks, only got one response, from user Shovel, who in some sort of commiseration posted: “Kind of creepy. But you could leave a note for him.” Helpful, indeed.

Niemeyer still has some way to go before hitting upon the online terrain that will truly nurture the creation of collective, real-world action from online discussions, but he feels he’s on the right track.

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