Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Identity and the Movement of Stars

On the news today is the newly discovered rotating dining room built by the roman ruler Nero about 2000 years ago. He reigned from AD 54 to 68. It seems to be an extraordinary discovery in terms of architecture, as archeologist have not seen pillars of similar size in any other ancient roman structure before. The newly discovered structural pillars are about four meters in diameter, the BBC reports.
The Telegraph has details of the interior, writing “The hall is said to have had a revolving wooden floor which allowed guests to survey a ceiling painted with stars and equipped with panels from which flower petals and perfume would shower onto the tables below. ”
The use of the structure was interpreted with the help of written source describing such a rotating room. The dining area was described by the ancient historian Suetonius in his Lives of the Caesars. He wrote, “The chief banqueting room was circular and revolved perpetually, night and day, in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies,”

The rotation mechanism is imagined to have been powered by streams of water to archive the continuous movement.
Observing the characteristics and the movement of stars and the moon has a long tradition. A lot of this has influenced human culture from the beginning and the identification with these elements has gone as far the assignment of the zodiac sign to periods of the year. In a lot of cultures the rules, king or Pharaoh are identified as good like and to demonstrate such a relationship this dining room must have impressed the guests. The close relationship of with these influential objects where a source of power, but also firmness and dynamic, a great source to shape the desired identity. In an earlier post on the early Egyptian concept of the rebirth this subject is also explored.
However, as we know from our experience the movement of these bodies is rather slow in comparison to the speed of human activity. Often we have difficulties to actually adapt to such large scale movement as for example the tide. It is too slow to actively recognize and then suddenly is different. As to imitate the movement of stars or to be in sync with the rhythm of day and night the mechanism would need to be rather sophisticated to slow down with the use of gears or similar. I believe it was rather a conceptual imitation and therefore would require the guests to understand the concept.

Image by minasodaboy on flickr - the panorama on the Schlithorn

Today a number of similar dining rooms exist al over the world mainly in famous locations, such as on top of the mountain - the Schilthorn restaurant Piz Gloria in Switzerland location for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service - the Space Needle’s restaurant in Seattle, or the restaurant on the CN Tower in Toronto,
As an element of identity it was and still is a great feature.

GPS Tracks Running in 3DS Max

The visualization of the UrbanDiary GPS tracks has bee a big topic earlier this year. So far Google Earth was used as a rendering engine and the animations produced where screen grabs. A rather crude and straight forward way of creating an animation.
However the process seemed to make sense as the G Globe is working well with GPS data.
Now, a new to for visualizing the tracks has been developed here at CASA. Richard Milton has written little script to import GPS tracks directly into 3D Studio Max. It reads of the gpx. file and creates a spline for the path, a marker object and time frames for each point.
There is still some tweaking to be done with the time interpretation, especially regarding multiple tracks, but as a proof of concept it work.
I have only just put out a crappy clip with 10 tracks, but the machine is working on a better version and I will update the post.
In a next step the idea would be to also import the Virtual London model and start visualizing the use of the urban form.

Image by urbanTick

3dsMaxGPStest from urbanTick on Vimeo.

Music by watermeron on

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Getting Lost With the GPS

When have you gotten lost for the last time? It must have been a while. The art of getting lost has got lost itself nowadays. The sense of not knowing the exact direction to a familiar object, place or location can be very unpleasant. On the other hand it can be very reliving. If you are prepared to accept that you have lost control over the situation or at least the location you might find yourself enjoying it.
The idea of stoling through the city, not directed by a specific destination is a concept introduced by the Situationists. The aimless wandering or derive, as it is called in the Situationist writing, can even be a method to observe the city.
However, people also get lost not on purpose. The marketing campaign of a number of companies make us aware of a lot of possibilities we could get lost and with this fuel a lot of people’s fears of the immediate surrounding. In car navigation has become the number one gadget in car sales, it has overtaken the air condition feature or the CD player.

Image by Fischer Portugal for Honda / promoting Honda’s Compact Navigation System.

People seem to enjoy being talked through the environment, and then it all depends on the voice. I assume gadget developers put a lot of thought into the voices they offer as the direction instructor. Even how it is said must be important. In a recent interview Bob Dylan has announced that he is in talks with GPS manufacturers to lend his voice for a next generation of Gadget. Click here for a sample of his voice. I am still waiting for the vice over that starts shouting at someone who just missed the turn for the fourth time. “You twat, can’t you follow instructions! I said turn LEFT!” The other way round, people shouting at the in-car-navigation-system are probably quite common.
The BBC has recently collected a number of stories of people getting lost with the GPS. Due to a software fault : ) the GPS will not correct your spelling mistakes. And it seems that people quite often misspell their destination. And a little knowledge is still needed to distinguish between Capri and Capri, as a Swedish couple have learned after they arrived in the Industrial Town of Capri instead of the island Capri in Italy. via GPSCity

GPS from DustFilms on Vimeo.

Monday, 28 September 2009


Most of us travel daily to work and usually it happens that at the same time thousands of fellow travelers do the same. The phenomenon is called commute and occurs in most places where there are more than two people living. There is concession in the bathroom, in front of the lift at the parking exit, down the road, up the road, on the crossroad, at the zebra crossing, at the building entrance (batch reader not working today?) and of course around the coffee machine.
But it is part of how we have set up our world and it seems to be a successful for businesses.

COMMUTE from Brian Stansfield on Vimeo.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Plymouth Mapping Workshop - Program

To day we’ll be mapping Plymouth. Well Plymouth ha been mapped before, but I think it is a great location for this sort of exercise. It has such a complicated history with twists and beds and its identity is still strong. A large part of this identity is directly derived from its residents self image. Plymouth has always been a very strong-minded region and it still is. This has also something cheeky and irrationals, which results in, a weird place with lovely people.
It is the end of the world, though, geographically, also economically and fashionably. I have to stress that this is not only to be understood in a negative sense. There are some very beautiful aspects to it. Take the great 60ies, 70ies, and 80ies buildings. These ugly grey monsters in the identity-lacking city, it makes a great collection. Or take the hopeless reinvention of Plymouth with the Abercrombie Plan, a great piece of late modernist urban planning that was already dated, but has never really arrived at it’s location. Plymouth is still trying to implement it, although by now it has lost its head, its arms, its legs ... But most of all you have to be there and feel for your self. The atmosphere is incredible, it is one of the places with the most spatial misunderstandings and the result is literally breath taking.
I am looking forward to the results.

Below the input slides to summarize the topics we will be working on.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Mapping the Everyday - Mapping Workshop

I am invited for a workshop at University of Plymouth, Faculty of Art, School of Architecture. The topic is mapping and the aim is to introduce the students in a one-day workshop to various techniques. We are a team of four guest tutors; the series is organized by Bob Brown, Master of Architecture Program Leader.
My contribution is under the subject of the narrative in the city and entitled the “Mapping the Everyday - The Spatial Extension of Routines“. This workshop provides an opportunity to test the ideas and concepts in the context of the UrbanDiary project. One of the key concepts developed from the UD tracking project is the idea of individual space creation resulting in a continuous, spatial narrative. Through the movement and experience of the body one creates a story, which in turn is creating memory and identity, not on only for the individual, but for the city as a collective.
As an introduction I will be giving a short presentation about the research work I have been doing over the past year.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Nearest Tube - Augmented Reality Applications for the iPhone

With the latest iPhone software update, version 3.1, the long awaited augmented reality applications finally have arrived on the iPhone platform. Already a month back acrossair’s Nearest Tube application was hyped on the net and in the news, but now it rather quietly was introduced. It featured on the blog before here.
It is now available on the itunes app store for £1.19. I wonder how a software price of 1.19 is calculated?
Together with it came a bunch of similar public transport applications for example the London Bus application for £ 0.59 by presslite.
Of course both developers cover a range of cities with their apps, where you have to by the app for each city separately, of course.
Presslite does cover, London, Paris, Berlin, Lyon, Moscow, Washington, Marseille, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Madrid, Amsterdam, Beijing and Hong-Kong. Acrossair on the other hand covers New York and London.
I can imagine that it is a battle over this field, as potentially there are a lot of customers. It is for the commuters, but also for tourists and then it is for everyone else who is in the city. I guess that the companies assume that nearly everyone needs their app. I don’t think it is that simple, though. For one, not everyone has the gadget to actually use the software and two; the idea of getting lost in the city is a myth. The believe that everyone in the city needs this sort of navigation aid is based on the idea that no one knows their way round and constantly get lost. Well, in a large city such as London it is impossible to know every corner, but I believe that people know their daily route quite well and are perfectly capable of navigating along familiar trails. Only when it comes to out of routine activities on unfamiliar territory navigation aids are use. For example in most cars here in London you can spot an A-Z on the back seat.
However, back to the functionality of the applications, the Nearest Tube works beautifully, it is as simple as it gets, both, in terms of graphics and functions. You tab the icon it opens and shows as a camera overlay the direction to the tube stations. The only thing you have to confirm is an iPhone operating system specific question, because the program wants to use the location information to locate the position, so the user has initially to confirm that the software is allowed to do so. Other than this there is no button, no developer logo, no info or about, nothing - how nice! You can, however, tab on the displayed tube sign and it will take you to Google Maps and shows the direct route to get there. It is a five star application; it does what it is meant to do and nothing more.
The London Bus on the other hand, does not convince at this stage. It claims to give you bus route information in London, but actually it is limited to central London and to a fraction of the bus lines and only covering major bus stops. Those are basically the tube stations. Although there are a number of bus stops on Tottenham Court Road it directs you either to Tottenham Court Road Station on the South end of the road or to Warren Street Station on the North end of the road. Out side the centre, I tried to use it to get in to work this morning around Tufnell Park; the software would not even register the location and therefore not even give information about distant stations.
It also features Augmented Reality but only as an additional visualisation, where as Nearest Tube only builds on AR. London Bus is map based with the option to use AR and it is not as neat as the acrossair version.
So Nearest Tube is cool, London Bus is not so cool.

Image by urbanTick - Nearest Tube information in my bathroom

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

PLY365 - Graphic Published

A new UCL publication landed on my desk today with a note to thank for my contribution. Although I did not know I am contributing, I was pleased to see the PLY365 track record being published.
I remembered that I have submitted a graphic to the annual UCL Grad SChool image competition last year. I haven’t won anything ack then and now it is published in the new Grad School Handbook 2009/10.

Image by urbanTIck - the Art of Research page 12/13

At the same time this data set was the first material to be published on this blog back in october 2008. I only had completed the recording in Plymouth and moved to London. The original image can be found here. I continued recording my movement with the GPS device and the latest map, London 365, can be found here.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The Way Things Go - Urban Interlock

One thing leads to another - it could be called a sentence of very old wisdom. But somehow it is also part of our daily experience. A lot of the actions we take will have some form of impact on how we do something afterwards.
As for my day there are some elements that are interlocked. I need the key as I leave the house to lock the door, I can take the tube that would be faster, but on the bus I can read something and it is not as crowded, both ways I need my travel card to get on. The packed lunch depends on the left over of the evening before and the daily hits on the blog depend on what time I upload the new post. Early is good for European readers, whereas later it will be picked up by readers overseas. On the way back the transport issue applies again and if I am late because I wanted to write this additional email, I have to take the tube to get home on time where I will need the key to let myself in.
Our decisions are not only driven by what it is, but by the consequences it might have. I suppose this is called planning.
Still, there are a lot of moments when things are not going according to plan and even this will influence everything there after. Here in Britain, superstition has quite a tradition. Things like not walking under leaders, black cats, numbers and so on are part of people’s decision making process moment by moment.

On an individual daily level it might look as described above. These aspects apply to the whole range of scales too though. On the level of city infrastructure an incident can have the same consequences. An accident on a road in central London will disrupt the commute of thousands of commuters. Greater events, such as 10 cm snow can bring the city to a stand still. However, it somehow works most days and this is all we care for. The city can be imagined as gigantic machinery with hundreds of thousand little elements switches and circuits that work in sync. The most quoted visualization in this context is probably Metropolis, the city machine.

Image film still - Metropolis 1927 by Fritz Lang

What actually happened behind he scene of the real city and how it all works together hardly anyone cares, maybe no one even knows. For a large city it is hard to imagine, that there is one person that REALLY knows why and how everything interlocks. Imagine if this person were superstitious, would the city still work? This would probably turn the whole city into fear over a certain aspect.
This might even be the case with London. Everyone is very excited about 2012 with the Olympics to be held here in London. But on the other hand it does put on a lot of pressure and certainly sparks some fear.

However the aspect of interlocking events have been subject to great works in the world of art. The artists Peter Fischli und David Weiss created the famous movie “Der Lauf der Dinge” (The Way Things Go) in 1987. Similar to a chain reaction a motion is unleashed that travels through a setting, constantly changing its form, shape and character. On youtube the full movie is available in three parts. Surprisingly the movie manages to build up a tension carried by curiosity over the just 30 minutes. As a metaphor for an urban machine it works rather well.

Part 01

Part 02

Part 03

The same topic has been used for a car advert by Honda. It is obviously modeled on the above original. There are even some direct quotes.

A very recent interpretation of the theme was hyped on the internet the last week. This time a fundamental shift has taken place. From the very physical and body / object centered original the latest interpretation has replaced the physical aspect with ... technology I suppose. The different elements do not touch to pass the motion on any longer. It is all magic here. Nevertheless it is a great demonstration of RFID technology.

Nearness from timo on Vimeo.

Through metro

Even though some of the fundamental aspects of the original “Der Lauf der Dinge” is missing here does it very much resemble the daily life of interlocked actions. It is not so much the curiosity, but the familiarity that builds up the tension in this new example. It is realized by Nearness, a collaboration of Berg and Timo.

Friday, 18 September 2009

MArch Annual Show 2009 - CurioCities

Image by MArch Urban Design - Invitation Flyer

The Bartlett School of Architecture calls for the MArch Annual Show 2009. The Master of Arts course students present their work at the Wates House, 22 Gordon Street. The bash starts from 17h30 on the ground floor of the Wates House. Work presented will be from both, MArch Architecture students as well as MArch Urban Design students.
The Urban Design students present their work under the title CurioCities. They have been working on the topic of Urban Mutations and produced an impressive wealth of project. As usual each students background played a key role and helped shaping the diversity again archived
in this years fifty something projects. Some project impressions can be found on UD-unit-06.

Image by Zahra Aziz, urban curiosity and memory

Image by urbanTick - SpeeD Daria Shipukhina and Stavroula Papafotiou, Adaptive toolkit for urban growth. Tactile urbanism.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The BLDGBLOG Book - How to Talk About Architecture

For the last couple of days I am carrying the BLDGBLOG book in my bag. It joined some other books and papers I should read, but instead just keep carrying around believing I might read it. It somehow makes me feel reassured that if there is a chance to read I would read this or that in the bag.
The book is not some sort of normal book, it is the book that came out of a blog and not just one blog, but the blog. It is the book summarizing work previously published on the by Geoff Manaugh.
The book has been announced on BLDGBLOG for quite a while together with images and content. I only just didn’t buy until very recently. To take a few things up front, it is actually smaller than I expected it to be. Don’t know why, maybe because of the “size” (in a number of respects) of the blog I subconsciously expected a massive book. It isn’t and that is good. It wouldn’t fit in my bag with the other stuff and it wouldn’t be a book anymore, but a bible sort of thing. Reading on the back cover of the book though one could think it is some sort of bible. A number of supposedly competent or famous people hype the book together with the author. Not sure what to think about this, it is either a funny joke in the sense of a critical statement or a marketing thing by the publisher. The second would be sad so I go for the first one.
Turning the blog into a book I suppose is a difficult move. Not from a, people can read it for free on the internet why should they buy the book sort of perspective, but because of the differences in the media format. Digital is not physical and the book definitely is physical.
To make the leap between the two media some defining decisions have to be taken in order to allow the new “product” to establish its own character. I have to say I was disappointed when I first held it in my hands at the local store, where it was the only copy. Even though had had deliberately planned to go in and buy it I was thinking about putting it right back on to the shelf and postpone the purchase. But I didn’t, payed and put it in my bag. There have been these moments ever since were I have read little bits and pieces in the book purely out of curiosity and I have, over the days flipping and reading, grown to like the book. If you have similar concerns regarding the book I suggest you start reading with the little notes spread in light font as an additional column towards the gutter of the book. These are short and hilariously funny, condensed information with critical personal thoughts and experiences. At least or me this was the way to get into the flow of the book. As a result I have take the book out of the bag frequently.

Image by urbanTick - The BLDGBLOG book chapter four title spread

To continue on the flow of the book, it is structured in five chapters presumably the main areas of interest. The articles are published with no information regarding time of publication on the blog, tags or any other blog unique information. This is confusing at first because it reads familiar but orientation is completely different. Once used to it is frees from the constant pressure imposed by the blogging environment to link, tie and jump in order not to miss out on the latest. Finally the read of BLDGBLOG is relaxing.
I have to say that I find the chapter titles not immensely catching for my personal interest, but the structure provided helps orientating. I am not convinced that they really summarize the variety of interests and views connections and summaries presented in the writing. However the content is what you’d expect, it is a great read, funny, challenging and definitely gets you thinking. It gets you thinking about the world, architecture, landscape, maybe the sound or the underground world, but most important it get you thinking about your personal world. What are you doing right now, what is happening around you, how do you connect to this and that and what would you do next?
For me this is the real achievement and that is why it is worth turning a blog into a book. The blog for me cannot reach the same level of personal involvement.
I realize I haven’t really said much about the context and the text almost sounds like one of the hypes on the back of the book if not as condensed. Maybe they have a point there.
To give away a few pearls of the content that I really enjoyed I will list a few good moments. First have to go the little notes and posts on the inside of most of the pages, printed in light font. They are a very light red with a very heavy after taste. For example there is the story about the wind and Geoff’s experiments with the car windows to adjust the noise the incoming wind makes. He describes how he finds out by trial and error how to adjust the opening in order to be able to listen to the radio while driving. He goes on to dream about orchestrating the same exercise in a house or even a neighborhood in order to get the wind blowing through the complicated system of doors, windows and fans to make your wind chime in the basement to ring. Have a read on page 128 this is great literature. There are also great short texts where Geoff reports fact in a manner of innocence that gets your face blush red, like “Olympic Climatology” on page 133.
For the larger (printed) pieces the interviews are important elements. I think they are really interesting and together with the images probably are the most directly linked pieces to the chapters of the book.
While reading the book you will familiarize with the construction of most of the texts that are composed in a manner of reporting facts and events in the first few lines but then weaving them further into a comprehensive picture of an imaginative future. This is probably what Geoff means in the introduction when he says: “I‘ve often joked that BLDGBLOG is organized around on thing only: the pleasure principle. ... - because it’s fun, and the juxtaposition might take you somewhere. Most importantly, follow your line of interest.” (Page 11)

Image by urbanTick - The BLDGBLOG book page spread

Manaugh, G., 2009. The BLDGBLOG Book, Chronicle Books.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

After the Rain - One Foot TimeLapse

A very beautiful timeLapse by Chase Rees on life in the garden when it rains. The little animals really like the rain and as it rains they all come out and slitter over leaves, rocks and branches to find something to eat or just to hang out with some friends on an old tree stump.
These one foot creatures are beautiful in the rain and seeing this it suddenly makes a lot of sense why they come out in the rain.
There already was a whole series of animal tracking on this blog and this could be another new post tracking the one footed housekeepers, would be nice.

Scuttle Snails from Chase Rees on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Time-Space Seminar in Newcastle

This will be a short summary of yesterdays ESRC seminar with the title Time-Space and Life-Course. It is the fifth and last seminar in a series over two years. It is chaired by Helen Jarvis from the University of Newcastle. Unfortunately it is the first seminar I have been to so I won’t be able to comment on the progress and the rest of the work that has been resented and discussed over this time period. As it was the last seminar the topic of the series as a whole and retrospective views have come up quite frequent. It has provided some insight on what has happened and how things could be related in a wider context. For a full brief of the seminar series have a look at the synopsis page.
This is a type up during the presentations and discussions so bare with me regarding formulation and construction of sentences. It might often be more sort of fragments and notes than actual sentences but hopefully it brings the content across anyway.

We are starting the day with live connection to Australia. The researcher Lyndall Strazdins introduce her presentation “Time Scarcity - Another health inequity” After the introduction though the presentation is run on a DVD locally.
This already is a really interesting setting under the time aspect. What time is it right now in Australia? I don’t know just from the top of my head. It is roughly on the other side of the world. After looking it up on the internet, they are actually nine hours ahead down under, this means at the time of presentation eleven UK time it is around eight o’clock at Australian National University in Canberra.
In her research she is looking at the length of time in particular the perception of the length of time. This is investigated by symptoms such as stress, busyness, and boredom? As her focus is on health the side of medical symptoms and impact on the body are important.
When moving on to the policy side of her talk she shows the example of the march for the 8 hour day (Australia- 8 hour rest, 8 hour, sleep, 8 hour education) in Australia that took place in Melbourne in 1866.

Image from wikipedia - Eight Hour Day Banner, Melbourne, 1856

She is pointing out that nowadays in connection with the shifting time budget-spending pattern, there are 8 hours missing for childcare. She points out that there is a great desire to look after children increasingly also from men. In a series of graphs tough, she also points out that the amount of work time in relation to time spent on child care is still only reduced by women, while men keep on working long hours. This implies that they want to add this part of the time budget on to the leisure or educational time but not cutting back on work presumably. She then goes on to ask whether this time inequality impact on women’s health? In an example from the States, the quality of food was used to improve women’s. This health food involved some extended preparation time, as it was prepared from raw ingredients. The impact on the change of food preparation was an additional 2 hours that somehow had the reverse effect, as the stress level rose.
Regarding to public health and efforts to improve it, she has found that respondents often quote not enough time as the main argument for not exercising, resting or using public transport. Lyndall concludes from this, to improve the public health, policies are needed to integrate time aspects as a health resource.
For the discussion and question session skype is switched back on to allow real time responses.
Time poverty as a term is quite interesting. It seems to be related to developed and undeveloped economies. A large study in Germany has looked at time poverty ad developed a new multidimensional description of poverty.
There was also the question in how far already existing underlying health condition affect peoples use of time, such as inability to manage time and end up being even more stressed. Lyndall argues that, beyond underlying conditions, she found hat income is directly related to personal time management resulting in a health impact.
A further questions comes back to the policy aspect of activities in time can be stacked and multiplied resulting in multitasking. If addressed in policy does it really capture the problem if time is integrated in policy? There might be some other aspects related to this? Here, Lyndall replies that it might be related to the redefinition of activities into a combined time, such a walk your kids, or jog while on the mobile phone. Research has shown that women actually already do multitask in their leisure time. Doing childcare, socializing, ....
From my perspective, I am missing here the space dimension. How do the distance, location and travel time affect the time budget? Location of cheaper homes for poorer families and distance to work or health care access.

Nancy Worth - Conceptualizing time space and space over the life course - PhD at Newcastle School of Geography, Faculty of Environment.
She Give a very compact overview of the past four seminars in the first part of her presentation. This give a very good impression of what the series was and draws out the context of the work presented on the day. IT was to compact and brief to actually follow and summarize on the spot, so I apologize for the lack of information her. But you can probably find some information on past seminars on the web by starting here.
Some interesting terms she dropped while talking about previously presented papers though I managed to write down:
The concept of different times, illustrated by the difference between child and adult time-space. Adults are oriented to result and intersection of traces (meetings, goals), were as children’s “young” time-space are more self oriented and less production orientated.
Time is produced by everyday practice.
The term GeoNarrative introduced by Kahn understanding the daily routines of everyday life. You can see here the direct link to the UD project and other topics related to urbanNarrative.
Nancy also mentioned a very interesting project of long term life course research, Capturing the life course in a documentary “the up series” reconnecting with people every seven years and documenting the progress.
Nancy also asks the question towards the end whether theory on space and time can be more than just clock time or distance space. Throwing up terms such as embodied time, lived time,..
From the audience some more reflexions on the past seminar series are provided. For example religion as a fractal of everyday life time-space, how did the seminar series relate to this question?

Eric Laurier - Mobile Technologies and the Coordination of Daily Life - University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences (he’s got this fancy slide swap braking down the slides into the RGB colours)
He starts with Hagerstand’s space-time diagram, focusing on bends and twits in the daily course, while criticizing the sort of logistics or particle feel of it. Moving on to examples of time-space research tools, he starts with the family calendar pointing out time restrictions similar to those as discussed by Carlstein and Hagerstrand. Also pointing at the moral order of the timetable. He also mentions that his own child started school this month throwing over the family calendar.
Showing work using mobile phones and pointing out the summons morality of the phone as a device similar to a baby crying. Someone will have to get up and answer it. The interesting aspect here would be the new mobility and location aspect of phone and calls while on the move, either one party or all. I suppose the more recent opening question is not any longer how are you, but were are you? He comes back to this point at a later stage. Eric then shows parts of his own work, starting with Habitable Cars an ESRC project. He plays a brilliant clip staring a family going to work/school in the morning - the routines of five family members have to be coordinated during this time in the car and all are issued their tasks. Te mother is leading the timetable while driving the car, briefing all members including the husband in the front seat. What a beautiful scene!
An other project called Location Family Values: A Field of Trial of the Whereabouts Clock is logging family members by mobile phones transmitted into the kitchen and ssigning all family members to activities. He provides insight by playing an audio file of an anxious mother talking about how this has helped her to visualize where the children are and that they have arrived at the destination. The device would also allow sending messages directly into the kitchen to exchanging information - but what for? The interesting aspect is probably the location of the device it self in the kitchen to mark the home location and the space to relate to.
He also points out that the tracking rise the question about observation. Just like questions around the UD project.
The device originally features only three locations where a status is displayed. The titles did also change meaning though, for individual families, meaning school at certain days as a location on other days it means playing football. There is a lot of flexibility while pointing in the direction of routine.
Going back to the old days with family phones as a very defined location in the family home. Related to the installation with notepaper, blackboard and telephone directory. Pointing out that the place here is very well defined and it is more of a place to place call, where as the mobile phone it turns more into a person to person phone call. (Is this true? Why should this be more personal?)
He is then finally jumping to the iPhone and the facebook application as something between the terms of timetable, diary, notes, messages and so ford. Modeling social network using these kin of applications makes Hagerstrandian geographers quite exciting to map information. His interest seems to be more in the area of how people use it and how respond and activity is generated from.
Questions and comments session comes back to restrictions and proposes to look at travel patterns in terms of dependencies of movement and restrictions probably. A second comment pick up the more nostalgic view through what might be the Differences between the patterns of pre mobile phones to now mobile phones area. As fifty years ago children could leave the house in the morning returning six or eight hours later. Where as now leaving the house needs checking back. Related to has the technology produced more anxiousness? This is probably directly a response to the whereabouts clock project.

At this point I might run out of battery power soon... POWER!
Later, back up with some juice...

The afternoon session starts with a panel discussion being introduced also to collect a pool of ideas to take the series into a next step and also looking at a publication. So there can be something expected in terms of a product, probably next year.
It is then again a review of previous paper with the panel member all reflecting on three previous papers in relation to their own work on the topic. Again this is going to be brief summary of the panel session.
Eric Lurier throws up the thought that the research on everyday is very much about not to overlook the simple hidden information that we are so much used to see that is easily overlooked. Steve Cummins picks up on this and relates it to routine activities that had more impact in the older days, 70ies. The meaning of marked days and church going and so on. The setting nowadays is very different and the routines have changed and opened up? He quotes Elisabeth (earlier paper) with the idea of sequencing and going on to analyze the individual and the collective in term of sequencing related to being selfish.
Recent time data analysis seems to show that the time spent together of men and women seem to come closer.
Rhythms over the different scales might not be comparable. Steve also throws up the thought about a nested concept of time in terms of scale. Especially in connection to life course as a concept of time how far can we go in terms of time perception from childhood to late age? - What does that mean in terms of tracking and travel distance?
Miles Tightis then talking about his research on walking and cycling and reasons why people choose to do so. He is doing walkalongs while they speak to participants on what they actually experience and how they take decision. (Could be an interesting part of the UD project)
He also has done some GPS tracking looking at tracks relating them to socio spatial aspects of the environment participants travel through. He raises the question of the sampling, how can it cover representative group, a problem I am currently facing in my research work.
He also has got a great example/story on routines and repetition and how he times his walking speed to meet the sequence created by the series of traffic light on the way from the train station to his office every morning.
Rachel Pain picks up on the issue of sample and represented groups. The panel agrees that previous papers presented have mainly looked at middle class settings and they conclude on academics being part of this and them liking to reflect upon themselves. She then also raises critique on the recent WOW techniques and visual methods, such as GIS and GPS, technology and so on. There is a WOW effect in the first place but afterwards reminds the question on but what now? There seems to be a lack of theory, contextual work and methods to approach or take the questions further.
During the discussion/question session some additional points are raised from interdisciplinary, founding to the definition of terms used in the discussion such as space-time, time-space. Also the uncertainty of the result or application of this field of research, if there is something such as time research and the question whether we are on the way to nothing with this discussion, even though or because everyone is currently talking about this from artists to scientists.

During the afternoon tea brake the host of the event, the Culture Lab University of Newcastle gives tours on their recent research projects in technology. We are moving on to get a motion capturing demonstration. The culture lab here at Newcastle University has some very expensive equipment to track and trace markers in 3d space. It is similar to the technology used in large-scale Hollywood animation films for the imitation of body movement, facial expression and gestures.
Downstairs in the interactive technology room of the culture lab, some newly developed touch screen tables are demonstrated and the ambient kitchen project. In the lab they have installed a kitchen that is equipped with sensors to respond to chefs actions. For example by using RFID technology the information projected onto the kitchen wall can suggest recipes corresponding to the ingredients placed on the work top. The project team aims at using the kitchen in an environment with elderly people and mental health patients to help them keeping up their routines and activities.

Image by urbanTick - Motion capturing installation at Culture Lab University of Newcastle

Image by urbanTick - Interactive worktops for collaborative work at Culture Lab University of Newcastle

Some thoughts on the day from my experince. There has been a lot of retrospective talking across the series. It is creating a sort of framework and context for the work presented as I pointed out in the introduction. However it is demanding for first time attendees. On the other hand it probably also highlight the fact that n overarching concept of time related research is actually missing and the community of researchers in this field lacks this overarching understanding of each others approach. In this sense, papers presented where all bits and pieces of the greater picture.
To aim for a publication of the series to this reflection and contextualization of he aspects make sense.
There has been surprisingly a lot of in depth critique and unwillingness to understand technology as pat of this investigation. I do agree that a lot if not most of the currently “exciting” project and works in the area of technology are born out of the technology itself aiming back at the technology without creating some sort of context. Nevertheless the technologies are so fast entering into everyday life (at least for the middle class) that neglecting this area of research by the technology by social researcher, geographers and health experts will definitely put them in a bad position to continue. Even in this, the time aspect is a topic and related to technology time has definitely speed up.
Picking up on the idea of slow and fast time I was surprised to hear so much about the old days. The old days and the current days as a concept of time organizations shines through in a number of contributions. This definitely raises the question if there is a real concept missing? Maybe even beyond this there is a lack of language and terms to talk bout time and to exchange ideas and concepts. In this respect the seminar and especially the series, as far as I can judge from the reviews, has and can in the future contribute quite a bit to the discussion around time.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Conference and Update on Digital Architecture

I will be in Newcastle on Monday at a seminar on ”exploring the temporal and spatial ordering of daily life“ in Newcastle. It is the fifth seminar of a series organized by ESRC. Details can be found here.
I am hoping to blog some content during the day on what has been discussed.

The previous post on the exhibition “Hinterland“ featuring digital project by architecture students. The exhibition is now open on the ground floor of the new ARUP building at 8 Fitzroy Street in London. It is a rather small exhibition but with some brilliant work on display. There are also a few videos and animations of great quality. I really liked the models best. My favorite is the map book with the strange object spreading across it.

Image by urbanTick - Project by Johan Voordouw

Image by urbanTick - Project by Johan Voordouw - the structure actually enters into the books and cutouts reveal maps underneath

It is definitely worth going a long to the exhibition to see what has been produced at the London schools over the past years.
The exhibition goes along with a conference that will take place tomorrow, see earlier post.

Friday, 11 September 2009

GPS Real World Gaming

The urban environment has become a playground. Not only recently but together with the availability of mobile technology and location based information there was a steep rise of digitally supported large scale urban games. Since the mid nineties those sort of games have been developed. First by geeks and small communities, together with universities that had a computer science department. Nowadays the games slowly become commercialized. Only this week there was a large event on the South Bank here in London organized by Hasbro. They unveiled a new Monopoly game called “Monopoly City Streets” that uses the whole world as a play board. For this Hasbro has teamed up with Google.
It is based on Google Maps and any road can be clicked and bought, provided you have enough money. A lot of the road here in London have already been bought up and their value is rising. The road I live in is already at 1’600’000 something. Players can then also start building on the roads they own (it is a bit strange to build on the road, but I assume it is more of a technical problem). So you get this castles, energy plants and high-rises blocking the road. But it looks funny. THe task is to become the riches developer by the end of January 2010.

Image taken from Monopoly City Streets - Screenshots of the game board

A more of an interactive game in the real world is fast foot. It has won this years best mobile gaming award. It is built around GPS tracking and rather simple. It is for 4 to 5 players and played in a 1 km radius. One guy is X and the rest of the players are the runner trying to catch X.

One of the most popular eighties games Pacman has also a real world version called Pacmanhatten.

Image taken from Augentedblog - Pacmanhattan

Thursday, 10 September 2009

360 Photography - Boroughs go for Google Street view

In the context of the Small World time Lapse series I was obviously interested in what else is going on in this field of panoramic photography. Just by chance I also came across new smart camera cars in the neighborhood. I approached them and we had a chat about their work.
They were expecting me to ask about Google Street View. They responded by apologizing for not working for Google and it turned out they work for the London based company 360viewmax (it was printed in rather big letter all over the small car) and they are doing a job for Islington council. It appears that the council has discovered the value of Street View for their purpose. They want to use it for maintenance survey. What that is I haven’t really figured out.
How it works is quit complicated at it involves two people in the car. There is a secondary quite big writing on the back of the small car: “Caution this vehicle stops frequently“. Meaning what it says, the car stops every 20 meters or so to take a picture. It is kind of done manually. Beside the driver the second person in the car has a laptop with GIS information on a map. The location of the image is, I believe manually input into the GIS system. GPS as they have told me is only used for rough navigation as they say it is not accurate enough. Compared to this the Google cars just drive along the road and take photographs on the go. The argument of 360viewmax is that they want to deliver high quality images with a lot of detail. The installation on the roof of the car is three Nikon p6000 cameras. Funny enough the cameras have a built in GPS module but it is not use.
However, there is a cool demonstration of it on the 360viewmax webpage (I had some issues with Firefox this morning when I tried it, but it worked on Safari). You can click into an Islington neighborhood and down to street level to jump into bubbles of 360 panoramas. The interface is rather crude and located somewhere in a GIS technical engineer kind of world. Maybe they develop at some point a neat designed consumer interface.

Images by 360viewmax - screenshot - plan overview, panorama, zoomed in on a car

There has been this huge debate about privacy around Google Street View and they where forced to blur faces and number plates. In this council version of Street View however these elements are not blurred and number plates can be read for example.
In terms of Google Street View, it has sparked a lot of controversy, especially around the launch of it in a new area. I remember the fuzz about it in London for a week, when it first launched earlier this year. And just a month ago the launch in Switzerland sparked the same discussion. Now in London there is hardly any comment on it in the news, apart from the odd use of the service to visualize a location. Also in everyday conversation the fear for losing privacy has been replaced by curiosity and acknowledgment. People speak about it as a useful tool, mainly saying: it is great to see a location that you are not at. Then they bring the excuse of planning for a journey and it would help to orientate in unfamiliar surrounding. We’ll it might do but come on it does not really replace being there. It is related to the phenomenon of the photograph and the discussion of truth. In general photographs are believed to be a true image of reality and therefore Google Street View is in this view a digital replication of the actual scenery at this location. So it urges the question whether it is live and people can be seen, because people identify with it so intensively that it becomes a virtual reality.
However if you are interested to know where the real Google Street View cars drive a t the moment Google has finally disclosed this information. Not in detail, but you get an idea what areas are getting mapped at the moment and the chances are that you come across a Google camera car. You can click here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mapping Distance and Time

Time as an element of space (simplification) is a tricky thing. Mapping the time is even worse. It pops up here and there and some nice example have been developed recently, mainly in connection with digital application. A series of posts on this blog have been dedicated to this problem. There was an early one on aquarium and one on different aproaches that I have tried with my data and an other one with examples of software to deal with this.

Image from strange maps - Dicken and Lloyd 1981

Interesting on those time space maps really is how a distorted image emerges. Space, or better the shape we know looks different as distances become longer or shorter due to the aspect of time it takes to travel it. On the above map the South East of England almost vanishes as it is quite accessible from London where as western and northern areas are quite stretched out.
Since 1981 the Eurostar Tunnel has been opened and travel times to mainland Europe have changed. Paris is only just under two hours away from London these days. For the construction of Euralille the leading planning office OMA has produced a set of nice graphics visualizing how Europe moves closer together with the Eurostar and TGV network expansion.
Time can also be a very interesting on a smaller scale. Again OMA used it during the planning of a project in Yokohama. It was part of the programming process. Mapping the different uses over twenty-four hours gave a good insight on how the development will be used. Density and location are adjusted as needed.

Image taken from S M L XL Project - Euralille Project and Yokohama project timetable.

The use of technology such as GIS, database and mapping services such as Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or Open Street Map have give rise to a new breed of interactive time maps on the internet. One such example on London commuting times can be seen here. You can use the two sliders above the map to adjust desired travel time and property prices. The visualization is based on excluding information. The map does not distort as seen above, the sliders basically simply direct a black overlay that turns areas of the map invisible. In this sense it is a rather simple visualization. But it gives a good sense of the geographical area that a certain time frame applies to. Mainly for map reading trained people though. For others this might just add to the confusion. The simple travel times provided by London transport might be, in most cases more helpful. In terms of accuracy one can argue here, that there will be a delay or any sort of other complication anyway and it hugely depends on what time of the day you are actually traveling. So basically the time frame for the time frame would be important.
In short the perception of travel time is a very important factor. This is probably more important than the actual travel time. TFL somehow has the problem, that people expect it to be slow and unreliable and this probably affects the perception of travel time dramatically.

Image by

BBCone Has produced an animation of crime over time in Oxford. They are looking at a week and document how the amount of crime builds up. Again it is based on a normal map and colour dots fade in and out to indicate locations and a time slider on the top gives information about the time of the day and the day of the week.

Image by BBCone - Oxford crime map over time

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

360 VR Panoramic London View


Images by The monument View Project - Screen shots on 2009-08-11

Looking back at the London Small World clip I produced a few weeks ago, there is some contextual stuff that should be published along side.
One such project is the London Monument View. It is quite simply what the title suggest and in short the 365/24/7 version of London Small World. It is a camera with a 360 degree lens that is installed on top of Monument in London. It gives a live webcam image and also a previous day time lapse.
It is an art project by Chris Meigh-Andrews installed in 2008 during the renovation of the Monument. The idea is to process the images according to environmental data. In detail this means the orientation of the images corresponds with the wind direction, the air temperature influences the colour tone and the wind speed the speed of the image stream.
The construction on top of the monument looks like this; funny enough the glass jar in the middle is the actual lens case, so quite small and the weather station taking a lot of space.

PastedGraphic.scg3nhOfXSMC.jpgPastedGraphic3.c0FoW0tikpHm.jpgPastedGraphic1.fYZwub0Oo3u1.jpgImages by Chris Meight-Andrews - Finished installation, environmental sensors, lens VR360

The environmental sensing equipment is the same as Andy Hudson-Smith over at digitalurban uses. He has a live page that also works on the iPhone.
To see today’s Monument panorama go here there is also a log book where you can access any data in 2009. If you are interested in today’s time lapse click here you probably have to wait a second for the clip to load.

Friday, 4 September 2009

London 365 - One Year of GPS Tracks in London

It is already one year that I am in London this month. So it is time to look back at my personal track record and see where I have been. Of course this goes in comparison with last years 365PLY - One Year Plymouth.
It is the same time span, but the amount of data has increased dramatically due to the use of the new device. Plymouth has been recorded with the Garmin Foretrex 201, whereas London has been partially collected with the Garmin Forerunner 405. The 405 records about a third more points, meaning that the data volume is at around 150’000 location points compared to only 60’000 in Plymouth.
The drawing that appears on top of the London urban fabric is my interaction with the urban fabric by finding my way. Interesting how it acts as a memory trigger. By following the line I can bring up images in my mind about what happened there.
Interesting that I have only been on the north side of the river. There are visits to the Tate Modern, Waterloo Train Station or the South Bank, but that’s about it. Already in my previous London record the pattern was very much the same. Traveling between Kentish Town and Bloomsbury. By looking at the collection and comparing it to Greater London, I haven’t exactly managed to see the whole lot. But I don’t remember my year as been boring at all.
It is more or less the same pattern that also has shown up in the UrbanDiary records, although they are recorded over the period of two month only. This longer period suggests that the emerging pattern is rather stable.
Image by UrbanTick - click on the image for full resolution version.

Just updated the map, I have to confess that I missed part of the beginning dating late 2008. Other than me probably no one would have noticed anyway, because it is really hard to spot what is what.
There are some particular interesting areas on the map. One is Regents Park and London ZOO. I have been quite often to ZSL and those visits draw like this.

Image by UrbanTick - ZoomIn London Zoo ZSL

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Digital Architecture London - Conference

Digital Architecture is definitely gona be a very exciting conference. It takes place in London on September the 21st. It is part of the Digital Hinterlands exhibition showing from September 08th to October 02nd. The exhibition features the best student projects from Architectural Association, the Bartlett, Royal College of Art, and University of Westminster.

Image by Nick Szczepaniak

The conference on the other hand features the teachers and professionals to talk about their experience and work. The venue is at the Building Centre in Bloomsbury, London. It includes a lot of famous, here is a list of all the speakers:

Geoff Manaugh (BLDGBLOG), Murray Fraser (Westminster), Neil Spiller (the Bartlett), Tony Dunne, Marcos Cruz (the Bartlett, Westminster), Rachel Wingfield, Matt Webb, Tobi Schneidler, Stephen Gage (the Bartlett), Patrik Schumacher (Zaha Hadid), Marjan Colletti, Alvin Huang, Daniel Bosia, Hanif Kara, Charles Walker, Michael Stacey

The conference is organized in four sessions entitled: Digital Architecture & Space, Digital Architecture & Bio-Technology, Digital Architecture & Interaction, Digital Architecture & Form, Digital Architecture & Fabrication
Starting from 08h30 and ending around 19h00 it is gona be a long day, but have a look at the program.