INTERFACE/LANDSCAPE 2016 New Media Exhibition




Brazil, 2016 | Babak Fakhamzadeh and Ian Barry


Babak Fakhamzadeh and Ian Barry’s Kompl invites users to become flâneurs — but one guided by technology rather than psychology.

Popularized in nineteenth-century France, flâneurs were strollers or idlers who ignored the mores of their time to explore the wonders of modernity. Flâneurs simultaneously observed and participated in culture rather than standing to the side and decrying it, as luddites of today rail against digital technologies.

In fact, the mobile app is a new media reboot of the idea that inspired the antiquated form of the printed guidebook. It serves travelers who want to bypass tourism for a different kind of experience, one based on customization and automation yet designed to facilitate unexpected situations along a journey that is often more interesting than arriving at a destination.

Rather than using numerical ratings or walking directions to guide the user, the app alerts participants to nearby destinations and requires the user to find their own route to them.

As a consequence, the journey unfolds as a kind of GPS-assisted Brownian flânerie. By providing only the distance and direction for each potential destination, as opposed to superimposing all destinations on a base map of the city, users explore their surroundings on their own terms. They almost accidentally avoid the crowded convergence normally facilitated by guidebooks and more conventional apps.

Adding playfulness to the experience, participants can choose a “character” or “interest'” to aid the user in their urban discovery, collecting locations that match their chosen interest and “level up,” allowing participants to “play the city'” in a way that's akin to a “Pokémon Go for the real world.”

Finally, Kompl allows users to explore one city virtually by exploring another physically, superimposing their physical movements onto virtual space. As a consequence, interface is liberated from landscape. 

Featured cities include Amsterdam (Netherlands), Bogotá (Colombia), Cape Town (South Africa), Damascus (Syria), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Lhasa (Tibet), Marrakech (Morocco), Mombasa (Kenya), Montreal (Canada), New York (USA), Rome (Italy), São Paulo (Brazil), San Francisco (USA), and Timbuktu (Mali). Organic growth allows users to vote for the next cities up for inclusion.


Babak Fakhamzadeh has been working in Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) since 2001. He brought photo-marathons to Africa and won the Highway Africa new media award with Ismail Farouk in 2007. In 2012, he won the World Summit Award with Eduardo Cachucho. In 2016, he won the Prêmio Vladimir Herzog de Anisitia e Direitos Humanos with Agência Pública. He also created what was probably the first mobile phone-based city tour in 2004 and first QR-code assisted smartphone-based city tour in 2009. His Lorem Ipsum of images currently used around 3 million times per month. Fakhamzadeh and Farouk’s SowetoUprisings.Com was featured in FLEFF’s ubuntu.kuqala in 2008. Cachucho and Fakhamzadeh served on the jury for FLEFF’s Viral Dissonance in 2014.

Ian Barry is a polyglot backend developer, based in London, with extensive experience creating complex solutions for Tesco, Bookatable, QVC and others.