Co.Create

Meet the Creators: Lexical Gap Is The Trio Behind Instagram Panopticon, “This Is Now”

Marcio Puga, Mauricio Massaia, and Per Thoresson of digital lab Lexical Gap put together a website that aggregates city-specific Instagram images in real time. Here’s why they did that, and what they have planned next.

Some worry that we are getting closer to living in an Orwellian state of surveillance, where everyone will be monitored 24/7. At the same time, however, plenty of citizens are doing the monitoring themselves. A digital lab in Sydney may have figured out the best perch to watch from.

Launched by Sydney-based creative developers Marcio Puga, Mauricio Massaia, and Per Thoresson, This Is Now gives users a real-time look at what is happening in nine different cities, with images culled from Instagram. You can see yellow taxis and tall buildings in New York or palm trees and swimming pools in Los Angeles. In every city, there are pictures of soon-to-be-devoured meals.

This distinct mix of the genuinely interesting with the beyond-tedious will ring true with anyone who already has an Instagram account, but the pull of peering into the ground-level lives of people in far-flung locales has appeal for everybody. While similar projects have shown what people in different areas are wearing, "This Is Now" shows how they’re living. Meet the creators here.


So, who are you?
Marcio Puga: The three of us make up a digital lab called Lexical Gap. I’m Brazilian, I’m 29 years old, and I’ve been fascinated with the Internet since 28800 kbps times. Mauricio Massaia, Per Thoresson, and I all live in Sydney. I’ve been working as an interactive developer with Flash in advertising agencies for over ten years. So we’ve been always experimenting with new technologies and trying to learn new things. Now we’re focused on innovation and simple ideas using cutting-edge technologies.

What inspired you to create "This Is Now"?
Mauricio Massaia: It started two months ago as a prototype using Instagram real-time feed. We were just playing around with the Instagram public API and we decided to create Sydney-Now to watch the activity around us in Sydney on Instagram. We ended up getting very addicted to the experiment. Soon our friends got addicted to the project too, and in few days there were hundreds of people watching Sydney. Sydney-Now was publicly launched on the July 25 and with the dawn of the 2012 Olympics, London was the next logical city to be launched. That went live last Friday the 27th of July 2012 as the opening ceremony of the 2012 games begun.

What has the response been, and what have you learned?
Marcio Puga: So far, we’ve experienced very positive feedback—everyone seems to love it! Our reports shows over 450, 000 pageviews overall. Over a million photos have been viewed and about 650,000 photos have been clicked through. We were definitely not expecting or predicting that amount of attention. We’ve learned a lot on how to handle massive traffic on the servers (special thanks to the Nodejitsu guys!) and how to keep things simple and human (the temptation of adding dozens of features is huge).

What are you looking to do next?
Mauricio Massaia: We’re currently working on expanding the project to cover breaking news in areas such as Syria, where there is a growing dependence on crowd-sourced information. The images can give real time reports from people in the midst of the action. Suddenly everyone has the ability to tell their story to the world.

Have any surprising findings come up as a result?
Per Thoresson: There are way more "social media experts" in the world than we thought.

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