Monday, 30 November 2009

UD Track Map - Update

The latest UrbanDiary map is here, update 2009-11-27. This now includes twenty participants, each tracked over the period of two month. It adds a number of new highlighted routes that mark individual routines. The density of the centre has risen again and strengthens the centralistic structure of routine trips. However there are now also more one of trips to paint a more detailed picture of the London network.
Out of the twenty participants one stands out with a not centric oriented routine. In this case it is a more radial shape produced, with one of’s leading into the centre. If you compare it on the ‘what shape are you?’ it stands out for its orientation - it is square 2/5.
More UrbanDiary updates on the facebook page - become a fan!

Image by urbanTick for UrbanDiary - Tracking map showing twenty participants by colour, updated 2009-11-27

Friday, 27 November 2009

Tilt-Shift or Shift-Tilt?

This is a really surprising timelapse tilt shift clip. Something that leaves you puzzled for the approaching weekend. Anyway enjoy, it might inspire you for some work over the weekend.
It is done by UpperFirst a studio working in the field of motion graphics and film. They have some more infos on how it is produced online HERE.

Colorama - Makeover from Upper First on Vimeo.

Whate Shape Are You? - Update

As an update to the ‘what shape are you?’ post, here are some new shapes. The Project now counts twenty participants so we also have twenty shapes.
All shapes are produced over the period of two month and are represented here at the same scale.
As previously noted these ‘drawings’ depend on the location of important destination relative to one another and on mode of transport as well as frequency. The mental picture of the city that each individual builds up while interacting with the urban fabric is tremendously different. Linking back to the visualisation ‘The Naked City’ the phsychogeography of the city is very much dependant or a result of this as produced through the derive.

Image by urbanTick for UrbanDiary - (click for large version) - Different shapes produces by participants of the UrbanDiary project over the same period of time.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

New Graphs - The Activity During the Week

Finally I took the time to reprocess the UrbanDiary graphs. Since the last time the study sample has grown from 12 to twenty. This is a good sample size and will give a different picture. However it is to say, that the sample is not as consistent as it was with the first batch. They have all undertaken the study more or less during the same time frame, where as now the sample is spread over the period of half a year or more. Nevertheless the individual tracking time remains the same at two month continuously.
Also there is to note, that this time the graphs have been calculated slightly differently. Where as before it was purely on a count basis, this time it is based on the activity percentage per time unit for each participant. This accounts for the effect of one particular active event has on the overall picture.

The weekly graph remains the same. There is significantly less activity during the week days than there is on Saturdays. Even Sunday remains in line with the rest of the week. Why on Saturday participants record almost twice the amount of activity I don’t know at the moment. Is has something to do with outdoor activity, probably some sports.

Image by urbanTick for UrbanDiary - Activity graph per day of the week for twenty participants.

While looking at the weekly pattern, the peaks remain largely the same. There is the nine o’clock peak for the morning rush hour and the six o’clock peak for the evening rush hour. There is also the after peak hour both for the morning and the evening.
Clearer in this graph now is the fact that there are more afternoon activities than morning activity. This most likely has to do with the weekend, particularly the Saturday. I suspect that the large chunk of Saturday recordings are based on afternoon activities.

Image by urbanTick for UrbanDiary - Activity graph per 24 hours of one day for twenty participants.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Every year the festivals return and bring a special character to the streets. A nice timeLapse of the Parade in Aberdeen. It has some really nice night time shots. As Adam says:“Look out for reindeer, pipers, giant swans, mascots, red-hats and big yellow trucks.”

Aberdeen Parade Timelapse from Adam Proctor on Vimeo.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Space is What we Use? - boxSpace

The discussion around space is a complex topic and it seems that architects and planners are amongst the people having the biggest difficulties defining it. The reason might be lent two the fact that they have to deal with a unequal pair or space as in the construction of physical objects as well as the creation of space as a resulting void. This shall not be read as a final definition of the nature of space. It is only a attempt to collect some examples on the discussion around space.
I would like to start with the widely accepted idea of the figure ground representation of built form. I believe this technique is derived from the Nolli plan of Rome, invented by Giambattista Nolli and published in 1748. In essence it is the representation of physical form in black, leaving the void (space) in between white.

Image taken from the Nolli Map Engine 1.0 by James Tice and Eric Steiner

You guessed it, this is the ultimate claim of objectivity implemented in the plan. However, usually it is claimed o be in use only for visualisation and communication purposes. Nevertheless it also contains the implementation of truth and the establishment of power through the plan.
Bill Hillier describes space in his book ‘Space is the Machine’ 1996 as: “Space is, however, a more inherently difficult topic than physical form, for two reasons. First, space is vacancy rather than thing, so even its bodily nature is not obvious, and cannot be taken for granted in the way that we think we can take objects for granted” (Hillier 1996, p 26). He continues however with “Space is quite simply, what we use in buildings” (Hillier 1996, p 28). And finally he comes up with an astonishing example of a spatial description (and this is the reason it stands in this context to the Nolli plan).

Image by Hillier, taken from Space is the Machine, Fig 1.22 on page 30

For me this image represents two things. For one this is the statement of intent to follow the tradition of the Nolli figure-ground representation as the visualisation for space, and secondly it raises the question of what exists outside the black line. To some extend, I think, the question is answered with the implied assumption that space is taken in a Euclidean sense as a container, a box that you can put things in and arrange them - boxSpace.
In architecture many famous example of the employment of the Nolli Plan can be found. See for example Ado Rossi.
His take on architecture and the representation has largely influenced the Soglio study and the in this context developed representation techniques. The study on alpine architecture in the village of Soglio in Switzerland was conducted by the Institute of Architecture of the University of Applied Science Basel and lead by Michael Alder.

Image taken from ‘Soglio - Siedlungen und Bauten’ - Ground Floor whole settlement

This example takes the idea of figure-ground to the level of the settlement. It completely relies on the rule of accessibility as the guide for spatial representation. In this sense it is what Hillier is talking about in his example. Space is the vacancy between for the human body impenetrable material (I should say object here I guess). In this sense you could probably also call it an accessibility map or a walking guide.
This is then how Hillier introduces the space syntax concept of space description, as a sequence of, for the human body, accessible spaces.
He says: “...related space, almost by definition, cannot be seen all at once, but require movement from one to other to experience the whole” (Hillier 1996, p 26). Interesting here for me is that to some extend this raises some critique on the figure-ground idea of space, as it employees movement ‘to experience the whole’. But more of this in a following post.

As a physical manifestation of this concept here an example I recently came across on A Daily Dose of Architecture. In some sense this is the above space Box concept in built, including the fabrication and installation process.

Images by FNP - The project ‘S(ch)austall’ as published by DBZ-online

Alder, M. & Giovanoli, D., 1997. Soglio: Siedlungen und Bauten / Insediamenti e construzioni 2nd ed., Birkhäuser Basel.
Hillier, B., 1996. Space Is the Machine: A Configurational Theory of Architecture, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Tilt-Shift Tourists

This guy of San Francisco has produced a neat short timeLapse with his DIY-homemade tilt-shift lens. He has got instruction on how to build it yourself. So to say it is a real tilt-shift experience. He says:“Classic (but real) tilt-shift cheese: tiny boats and tiny people in Fishermans Wharf. Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco is a certified tourist trap, and most locals avoid it. However, if you are a photo geek it's an absolute riot because there is almost always something interesting happening there to get pictures of.”
Audio credit: "My Baby Just Cares for Me", Nina Simone

Plungercammed: Tiny Fishermans Wharf from Bhautik Joshi on Vimeo.

Kevin Lynch Online

A lot of the Kevin Lynch material has now been digitalised and put on line by the MIT. The objects in this collection relate to Kevin Lynch's study The Perceptual Form of the City, conducted in Boston, Massachusetts from 1954-1959. The study was done under the direction of Lynch and Professor Gyorgy Kepes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Urban and Regional Studies. Their research findings were the foundation of Lynch's theories on city planning discussed in his seminal work The Image of the City.
It sais on the page: “The collection includes photographs and records from the Boston phase of the project. The nearly 2,000 black & white photographs, shot by Nishan Bichajian, assistant to Professor Kepes, document the Boston urban environment during the mid-1950s prior to urban renewal. The records document the planning, preparation, and progress of the project (1951-1956), and the research process and findings (1954-1959)”.
Some stuff can be accessed at the on the dome site. There is also a large collection of black and white photographs that the MIT has f[put online on flickr. See the slideshow below.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Lunch Time TimeLapse

Once more a nice timelapse for the approaching weekend. I think the title of the clip actually is a bit misleading, or a t least it unveils to much of the detail about making it. However the coours and the blending in is really nice and makes you wana go to Liverpool street for a lunch break.

Lunch-Time-Lapse Thursday 09-04-09 from Ace Renegade on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Five AR Apps for the iPhone

Augmented Reality (AR) is the buzz word of the year. At least it is in connection with the latest mobile gadgets. Everything these days is AR, even though most apps are not strictly AR. What is on the market at the moment is simply information overlaid on the camera viewfinder screen. There is no image recognition involved yet.
All it is information pulled from a server based on the location and displayed according to the orientation of the device. The device makes use of positioning system, either GPS or assisted through mobile phone antennas or wire less hotspot and it uses the ‘compass’ to define the devices orientation.
So what are currently the best applications available for the iPhone? As hinted in the first line, currently every service starts offering a AR visualisation. For example Brightkite, we featured on the blog HERE, was one of the first to make use of the Layar platform, but also others like urbanSpoon jumped on the train. Very early on applications for Wiki content were developed.

The first one to await Apples approval to go on the itunes store was Acrossair’s nearest tube. It was announce in August 2009, but then delayed as they had to wait for the iPhone 3.1 software update and was finally released in mid September 2009.
And I have to say for me this is still one of the best apps. It is the cleanest app you can probably find, Acrossair as a logo or brand can nowhere be found and it is all about the information. No clutter and no distraction, this is simply five star - download ">HERE, costs £1.19.

Image by urbanTick - iPhone screenshot Nearest Tube by Acrossair

Wikitude World Browser is the app for the Wikipedia content. It is similarly clean as the Nearest Tube app, but lakes the clarity by the POI’s (point of interests icons). They are tiny and all exactly the same. Four stars - the app is free, download HERE.

Image by urbanTick - iPhone screenshot Wikitude

iLiving by metaio, looks like a interesting app. I have not yet tried it, but it seems as if this one almost allows for the most interactive and truly AR joy. You can actually place furniture in the viewfinder. Through this you can find out if the new sofa fits with the curtains your mother in law has brought round yesterday night as a gift. It looks promising in terms of the narrative, but the 3D elements are horrible... However this could be an other five star - download HERE, costs £1.79.

Image by metaio - screenshots before and after as well as the object library

Peak.Ar by Salzburg Research is the outdoor and mountain specialist application. It give you the name and the height of the mountain and hills around you. Simple but nice as an app. It is free, but the design could be a bit sleeker. Four stars - download HERE for free.


Images by urbanTick - screenshot, you can see I live somewhere around Primrose Hill

AugMeasure by2020, is a AR app that helps you measure something when you don’t have a meter handy. As useful as the iHandy Level is suppose but why not. An app that actually has some hands on approach to it... it is free, four stars - download HERE for free.

Images by urbanTick - screenshot AugMeasure

TweetThru is a great twitter app that makes use of the AR API of the iPhone. However, it is not strictly AR in the sense of the rest of the application as it does actually not overlay information, but simply the text you type. Why would you want this, you might ask. Well it is really handy to see where you are going, if you are one of these people like me, constantly typing on the iPhone while walking on the street. Again five stars - download HERE for free.

Image by urbanTick - iPhone screenshot TweetThru

Even though it is not AR it is as much AR as the rest of the apps. This highlight the fact that actually it is all a bit of hype with little content. There is a whole range of games emerging too. But it is early days and you only get ridiculous stuff like first person shooter to gun down the person you see in the viewfinder (I am certain the developer has never thought of school shootings and stuff) or you can throw tomatoes, eggs or even spit at objects and people you can see through the camera lens.
The technology is great and it is impressive the first time you see it, but so far I haven’t found it useful. We are all still waiting for this cracking application to come along...
For a first run, you can have a go your self at information service using AR. There are a number of services and platforms emerging. Layar is one of them featured on the blog earlier HERE. But also Wikitude is offering or the Junaio platform.

New City Clip

As an update on the new city presentation here is the MoMa clip documenting the project.

New City

To continue from the post on the origin of architecture, which I have to admit wrote in a haste, there is an interesting talk by Greg Lynn on his project ‘New City’. It continues the debate with a lot of critique on the contemporary state of the city, but especially critique on the way the city is thought of, not only if we take virtual representations as indicators of the general understanding of urban aspects.

Image by imaginary forces - Screenshot taken from NewCity clip - the New City toroids.

Earlier this year Greg Lynn has given a talk that was broadcasted in the Seed Design talks series with the title ‘New City’. He was talking about a recent project he had on exhibition at the MoMa. It was the idea of developing a virtual world from an architectural point of view. His analysis of existing spatial and especially architectural representation in virtual worlds is quit interesting. I do not really have virtual world experience, like Second Life or something, but this is to some extend down to the visual representation. To me the graphics are simply ridiculous, why should I use this to represent my virtual self if I cannot identify myself with it? I can however identify with the graphical language used by Lynn. But then I think, this represents a very specific social grouping thorough factors like, culture, education, background, financial situation, location and so on. Whether you choose one over the other is not an as free decision as we might like to think of it as.
However this might be a side line of the debate, in terms of the evolution it is obvious that Lynn very cleverly positions his work in this context. His introduction makes good use of and plays well with the expectations of the audience. He knows exactly what this social group is looking for.

The most interesting aspect Lynn is talking about in this presentation to me is his critique on the spatial configuration. He says: “The world is not...ah..its not a globe. I mean I do think... I, I, do think Google Earth is fabulous, but the idea that you go on the internet to see what the world looks like and you find this kind of 15th Century globe sitting there, that you spin around on it on an axis, is ... is very strange to me. (at 05.50 in the seeds clip”
So what the come up with is a series of rings called toroids, that are interlocked to replace the globe. it is an interesting idea and has a logic to it as he is talking about it. However there is definitely critique in terms of space, distance, separation and so on. However the visualisations are pretty sexy and this is probably what it needs to be.
However what I am really not convinced by is the actual representation of architecture. This has a long way to go. It looks at the moment like space box renderings. They are following a gravity model to structure activities, but the dealing with the actual form of something needs to be developed.
Especially in the context of the concepts of space and time as social conventions. The current model of space and time could be described as being based on the idea of a market place as the definition of a location and a time. However this would also needed to be radically rethought in this proposal, especially as Lynn introduces this new city as “a new sort of encyclopedia”. This would move the framework from the trade focus towards a focus of knowledge and this might generate a space time construction based on the library as the location and the past as the time.
However have a look at the talk it is only 20 something minutes so a good clip for the lunch brake. Seed Design Series

Here is an interview with Greg Lynn where he discusses the propsal.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Origin of Architecture - Nest Building

Architectural anthropology is described as: ‘At the end of the sixties, in the course of the so-called 'crisis of modern architecture' a movement of architectural theoreticians greatly stimulated by Amos Rapoport's 'Built Form and Culture' (1969) began to widen their horizon into the ethnology of architecture’ (Egentre, 1990).
In this sense it is the research into the history of architecture. Together with an illustration of five lines of architectural evolution it is presented as a comprehensive body of work into the understanding of how architecture developed into a technological sophisticated science. But essentially it argues that as long as humans (even great apes) had a urge to adjust the environment to suit specific needs.
Interesting to me seems the argument that architecture can be traced back to the nest building of great apes. However this will definitely be challenged with questions around design and the idea of a discipline of architecture as opposed to individual temporal structures. However this is probably an argumentation of modernist understanding of the ‘plan’. Nevertheless I would argue that between temporal structures of ‘night beds’ constructed by apes and a detailed concept of space and time lies a big gap. It might be down to a few million years of evolution, I don’t know.
The argument is logic, however I would remind that a lot of species build nests or construct temporal structures. Even more beyond the nest usually animals have a clear concept of space and the idea of ‘owned space’ in the sense of a territorial behavior. This territory is marked for example by a black bird singing or a cat spraying. In this context the argument might look different.

Image by Nold Egenter - The plate indicates a Macro-Theory of the Evolution of Habitat and Architecture and at the same time the Evolution of Culture

For the argumentation and presentation of architectural project a lot of leaps an crazy combinations are undertaken. And recently nests have seen a rise in popularity, but I have not heard H&dM arguing for their Olympic stadium that the shape is the origin of architecture. However it would fit.

Image taken from creative class - the bird nest at night

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Book - The Functional City - Update

Nai Publishers have kindly supplied me with a brand new print of the ‘Functional City’. Some of you might remember the earlier review of the book. The copy I had was printed with a Dutch introduction, whilst the book was in English. The new copy has just arrived and I would like to update this review with a look at the introduction.
The introduction sets out the context of the book and especially focuses on the role van Esteren plays, both within the modernist CIAM group as well as in the book. This is important as the book does both at the same time. It redraws activities of CIAM but also focuses on van Esteren as, at times, the CIAM’s chairman. The introduction makes cleaver use of an event, the exhibition ‘The Functional City’ that took place in 1935 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Along this, presented as the climax of the CIAM activities the events are rolled up from the back to give broad overview of the details to following in the book.
One large, some 5m long ‘historical table’ graphically visualised the history of the city. Surprisingly it showed the development of the city as a result of economical, technical and social forces. This is surprising in so far, that in general the term ‘social’ and ‘functional’ does not necessarily go well together. But maybe this also points out that the modernist understanding of ‘functional’ was in fact not as machine like a we construct it.
The material and the way it was prepared showed clearly the guiding principle of the CIAM, ‘first the analysis and only afterwards the synthetic work, the design’
Van Esteren stated that ‘the expression ‘functional city’ best conveys what we expect from a well designed city’. He took the human body as a metaphor to explain how the health of the whole is important for individual elements to function properly.
Van Esteren pointed out that the architects contribution to urban design was necessary for the designing of good extension plans. His main concern where residential districts and its facilities. He justified the architects involvement in urban planning with ‘he (the architect) is the one who determines the physiognomy of the plan.’ He goes on explaining ‘the goal is to archive an equilibrium of all of the factors that are of importance for the people to enjoy living their lives. These insights, based on the results of the previous congresses, inexorably drove us to urban planning.’ Interesting here is that it appears as if the group is trying to justify it move towards urban planning. They saw them selves as architects in the first place, but now took on a different field. This might have two aspects to it. One is that the exclusivity of the architect as the maestro and genius designing a house for a most probably rich customer is not exactly mass compatible. Most people will never be in the position to afford this sort exclusivity. And secondly the impact (and if you want satisfaction) is not nearly as a large of an individual building as if you take on the whole city. In conjunction with this goes the installment of truth with the plan and the resulting power.
I think this should not be seen as a negative aspect to modernist movement, but rather the discovery of the responsibility of planning. The exhibition probably showed above all the struggle with a newly discovered possibility, both factual and emotional.
In this sense the ‘Functional City’ can be seen, as the introduction to the book points out, as Berlage’s conception architecture as a social art.

The idea of the ‘Functional City’ is as I think in relation to today’s conception of the city crucial. Also regarding the topic of cycles the idea of the urbanMachine is based on this construction. I have now just finished a paper on this subject for my upgrade early next month. I will post bits and pieces of it here in the coming weeks.

Image by Cornelis van Esteren, taken from - Title ‘Het Algemeen Uitbreidingsplan van Amsterdam’ (the extension plan for Amsterdam.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A Day in the Life of the City

An attempt to mimic the daylight in the city. The project is realised as an A-level art project by the student jamatkins. The sound scape is also quite nice, so turn your headphones up.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Character Maps

Mental maps have recently featured quite a lot on the blog here. It is an interesting field, even though currently they are not very popular in planning and urban design. It seems almost as if they are seen as late sixties stuff and have some sort of hippie touch to them, which puts a lot of people of.
However, I believe they are very interesting in connection with the late seventies Hagertrand time-space aquarium. Both techniques have some points of critic to them. The space-time aquarium is very top down, from a distant observers point of view, disconnecting the subject completely from its surrounding through the rising of the path and denying any sort of procedural creation of the individual. The mental map on the other hand is not objective enough, too subjective and ‘inaccurate’, very difficult to summarize.
The aspect of time is in both approaches very static. Even the time-space diagram, from my view, is very much thought of in a linear way, time as an undefined never ending arrow. This leaves the focus on the space.
As a conclusion it would be interesting to have a time focused visualisation and with it we might get a different view on the spatial aspect.
A funny representation is the following summary of movie characters by XKCD. It solely focuses on the time aspect in relation to the narrative. In this respect it completely lacks the spatial aspect and the loops and hoops are to me not directly plausible, but nevertheless this is interesting.
Regarding the UrbanDiary project, it would be interesting to come up with a similar approach and visualise the relationship of spatial encounters in a similar linear fashion.

Image by XKCD - click on image for large version

Thanks to Matt from wiseristhepath for he link.

--An update to the blog post-----Thanks to Chris for pointing it out

Daniel McLaren has already implemented a dynamic version of the above visualisation. He worked in flash. Head over to his page to see it in action.

Image by Daniel McLaren - Screenshots

Friday, 6 November 2009

Construction timeLapse

TimeLapse are always nice and here is a really nice example of old school photography squeezed into an animation finally with the new technique. Further more it fits into the chapter of urbanMachine and is the actual manifestation of on e of Antonio Sant’Elia’s futurist drawings outlining the urban utopia.

Image by Antonio Sant'Elia via Wikipedia

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Snail on the Slope - a Narrative in Structures and Lines

Image by tadar

The narrative is currently a big topic in the construction of my research project. The creation of the narrative through activity as a constant process, currently guides the conception of the study. The idea really is to get to grips with the creation of time and space as temporal phenomena. If we employ the narrative as the structural element this might become possible.
This has to be seen in the context of the urbanDiary tracking project and the time-space aquarium as the approach in time geography. The narrative here describes the time-space aquarium as a whole, containing similar trajectories. But since a number of narratives can fit in to a story it allows for the combination of multiple time-space aquariums with different time and space parameters.
The narrative in a sense is purely structural and simply describing the way the body of content is organised. It is organised along an inner coherency.
As a visualisation of the concept ‘the snail on the slope’ is very interesting, since it works with a strong focus on the form aspect of the narrative. The movie is actually based on a novel and the sequences of processes are generate for each chapter. THe novel was initially written by the Strugatsky brothers. FOr the visualisation processing was use.

The Snail on the Slope from tadar on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

IDRN conference - Review

A review of yesterdays conference on health mapping will give you some insight on the current state of mapping practice in health research and related areas. The day overall was interesting and my poster presentation went well, there were some interesting discussions. The city migration behavior of individuals seemed interesting for health researchers. However the day was packed with talks and that was the main bit.

The first speaker will be Dr Russell Stothard from the Natural History Museum. He is talking about the use of GPS. His talk has the title ‘Using GPS/GIS for Schistosomiasis research - building a better picture of exposure to water contact sites’.
First he is pointing out that actually it is possible to geotag an image. Well this is a start. He introduces us to handheld devices available to time and location stamp data such as images. This probably sets the context of the conference. It is a different field than we are used to. He goes on about the GPS system on how global positioning works. He is working in Africa and this might give a different setting. However somehow I get the feeling that there is still a mystical aura to the continent, you could maybe still get lost down there. He moves on to talk us through the Garmin devices available and there he mentions a nice expression for the back tracking setting, Bread-crumbing. How cool is this. This might lend a new title to the urbanDiary project as we are bread-crumbing across the city.
The fact that there is not a GPS camera at current is presented as very sad, but actually there might be software solutions for this?
Interestingly he then starts talking about the location as such and the following slide is titled ‘so precisely knowing where things are has never been easier’. Furthermore he points out that actually the location might not be the actual site of where something is, so to say location is not location.
He show some of the examples he is working on. It is about a disease in Africa that is using a snail as a host. He is working on the East coast of South Africa. Snail species are quite difficult to tell apart, and the disease is picky, living only in one type of snails. So they have to go out and collect the snails take them back to the laboratory to determine what species it is. The location information therefore is important to reconnect the sample with the area of collection. It is a lot about mapping the source (snails) and the impact of the disease. Part of their conclusion then is that the spatial distance from the water source, where the snail hosts live, results in a higher possibility of having the infection. Largely the research is about the lifecycle of the disease.
He also shows a nice device iGotU. This device was used to track 20 people of a village. They are tracking the people to determine the amount of risk they are exposed to. There are also time aspects as there are only certain times of the day where the snails shed to release the larvae to infect people. He shows a timelapse of the peoples movement over a two day period. This tracking determined quite clearly the contact these people have with the water. It is a very nice example for the use of GPS. However the standard questions remain what does that actually say. Is this just a scientific There are the strong cycles these people follow, but somehow these aspects have not yet penetrated the research. If the nail has a cycle and the people have a cycle you can mach these up? There might be a chance to change the peoples habits to prevent them from getting infected. This might not be as simple as they mostly rely on fishing and this in turn requires a naturally determined schedule in order to get a good catch.

Next speaker is David Aanensen from the Imperial College London talking about ‘ - tools for mapping infectious disease epidemiology’. Introducing us to Google Maps use in health research. He also points out there are other services including OSM. So Mash-Ups are the hot key word. He introduces a series of mashups that he has worked on mapping gene sequences, if I have understood him right. He is talking rather casually. The live demo of his websites makes him rather nervous, surprisingly. But it worked well and he was able to demonstrate how it works comparing a set of genes across different countries, by a manual selection done in the mashup.
The big question with thee mash-ups probably really is the accessibility for further research. It is mainly a visualisations the public world wide web, but what now. How can other researcher collaborate or use the provided data? It looks nice but the usability is not yet clear. Do the for example offer an API, for other people to access the data and mash it up? He then shows an other example that to some extend partially answers the question. A platform that can be accessed to produce maps. It is based on a copy past eel data input field to import data and map it.
He moves on to demonstrate a mobile device application he has developed. Especially for the android. The app does allow to input data, adding GPS location and sync is with a web server. Also directly mapping it on a map. It additionally allows for pulling data from the server to see the new records in context or deciding on where to collect more data. He summarizes the limitations of the technologies. The big problem is the battery live, but also the network coverage and the costs, both for the handset and the contract.
He mentions in the end that they have actually just release an iPhone app - lets check EpiCollect on the app store. Haven’t been able to find it so far.

It follows Dr Mat Fisher again from Imperial College London. His talk is entitled ‘Using Google Earth to identify populations and invasions in emerging fungal infections’.
He uses the mapping to predict and an link it to analysis, pattern and process. He stresses that the mapping does not tell us anything unless we have a clear design of the research of what to get out. He shows a clear example of spatial spread of a disease in southern middle America over time. Spreading from 1987 from Costa Rica to Panama City in 2008. So he then uses global mapping based on Google Maps to ma the other occurrence of the disease on this scale. This makes a lot of sense if you can combine it with other environmental data available globally, such as whether and climate data.
Identifying potentially vulnerable locations is very important as the disease is highly spreadable and deadly for amphibians. He provides an example of the extinction of the ‘Spring from that happened this year after the introduction of the disease in March 2009, and by now he frog is belied to be extinct. The protection of these identified areas with similar condition is key.
He shows an example of his work hunting frogs across Europe. For the data storage he is in fact using Google docs. He is even using the KML function provided by the Google Docs. Even though it is limited to some four hundred examples.
The output is clearly spatial. However this could have been expected as for one he is collecting spatial data and for two animal habitat are spatial determined by conditions. To verify the spatial data he is using the barcode technique. They go ahead and determine the gene of the infection and can show that they are locally connected and individually introduced.
So the result shows that the infection is related to UVB, min. temperature and longitude.
In an additional example he shows time based location data of samples from the UK and visualises the spread of a virus in amphibians across the UK from 2001 to 2008.

After the coffee brake speaks Dr Marianne Sinka and Mr Will Temperley, University of Oxford about ‘Mapping the geographical distribution of the Anopheles vectors’.
What are the aspect of mapping malaria data are producing predictable global distribution together with a summary of bionomics, as well as compare the data. She explains how the initial database of vector transitory animals is generated form existing publication sources. Basically she has subscribed to any malaria related publication source by email and gets news to put directly into the data base if related to animal species samples and locations of those. Additionally they add spatial information to the database. Together with a group of experts with detailed knowledge of the locations they have produced area coverage maps.
In terms of technology they are using PostgreSQL data base, combining excel and shape files. Accessing the database is via Python. For the web based stuff they are using Django and Python, but are now developing a Java an Google tool kit based version because of the demand on dynamic content.
Together with spatial, physical data I suppose, and climate data they can model potential areas where a certain species can be found, As a result they are aiming at publishing papers this year on the first set of maps.

Talk by Dr Richard Myers, Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections with the title ‘ Web based GIS mapping of molecular / epidemiological database. They are working on Swine Flu, TB an so on. He runs us through the functional diagram of his functional database. Data Input - Data Storage- User Interface - Data Retrieval and Data Analysis.
For his talk he identified a set of three areas that are important to be looked at to produce a good web based mapping application. The most important aspect he stresses is the why and what you want to get out of the mapping exercise, as the web based formation has its limitations. The two other ones are data and sampling also in terms of the reliability of the data. Interestingly he points out the identification problem with small scale data. They are working with postcode level data. On this level individuals can not be identified , but the zoom factor is important, as they don’t want to have individuals identified in a location.
For the website application they are using flash for the visualisation. It looks nice but he points out some downsides to it. It is slow and currently low resolution as well as limited capacity to show multiple data sets.
So he moves on to show examples of Google Maps. His list o pros and cons of using Google Maps for the mapping is rather long on the other hand. The surprising result is the slowness of it that he points out.
What cannot be displayed on web enable databases. He concludes with a list containing, confidentiality data, dynamic data, local out brakes, detailed analysis and so on. And the list of what is possible is as long, most technological based here though.

Navigation through London comes after lunch presentation it is Tim Fendley, Applied Information Group from Legible London – a way finding system for London. He starts with an introduction to navigating London with some hilarious examples of guidance through the city. He continuous with the examples of psychogeography and the urban islands.
It is for a change a really refreshing talk with a lot of energy and joke. It points out how dry and dull the rest of the day was.
He then runs us through how they have developed and introduces the new navigation elements. The structure for the new navigation system is all based on the naming of locations. There is also a very detailed process to actually develop the maps and navigation aids. Defining the named areas is tricky and a statement of position. The whole system appears very much connected to the tube stations, as it seems to mainly address the tourists and visitors. It is true that the tube is a simple way to navigate London and building on this is one way of tackling the problem. But I think it still has to proof its use for local people. However as they focus at the moment on central London most people going around there are in fact visitors. It will be interesting if this gets rolled out over London and how people learn to navigate their neighborhood.

Chris Phillips of MapAction is talking about, would you guess it, ‘Maps in Action’. Subtitle ‘Disaster mapping at the front lines’. They are working with a rapid responds mapping team. They get deployed within hours of a disaster to the location. They claims to be local within 24 hours. From the equipment box: laptop, GIS, Google Maps/Earth, printer, GPS and camera. There is actually an UN respond team, but it takes them about 4 to five days to get their container shipped into the area.
They are working all over the world and the work is obviously very much appreciated by locals suffering from the event. Usually afterwards they are hired to train locals for continuing the job and to prepare for an similar event. He points out the importance of spatial information in struck areas beside all the equipment. And he mainly draws o the visual aspect of the information and these implicitly to understand the information as compared to text information. The title is interesting - ‘everything happens somewhere’ - as a justification of his work, but it might be also his philosophy. He draws on the aspect of solving the chaos. He also points to some volunteer mapping project like john the map cartographer - mapping towns on his bicycle. Actually this was a promotion talk for mapping, concluding with everyone can map and everyone should map actually.

Peter Yang & Tian-Wei Sheu, National Taichung University, Taiwan with ‘An Effective Use of Social Network Analysis for the Study of Taiwanese Employees' Mental Health at Work’.
He is focusing on the social network analysis and the aspects of health. The term social capital seems relevant, but hard to define. His use of the analysis is rather focused on networks. He identified five types. Dispersion, Durability, homogeneity, intensity and reciprocity. To get the data he used questionnaires. For the analysis he is using the UCINET 5 for Windows. However the important finding here is probably that location information is not only about maps, but also about networks and connections, crossing points and so on.

The last presentation for the conference is given by Dr Mikaela Keller, Harvard Medical School, USA on ‘Mapping the influenza A H1N1 outbreak’. Unfortunately my macBook run out of battery and I had a chance to follow her talk in more detail. To take it up front she also showed a iPhone application for the project she is working on. It is available on iTunes and simply called heathMap. This is at the same time the project in short, mapping news of diseases. They have invented a internet crawler that works on the basis of text and sentence structure recognition to spot any news in the text, grabbing location and disease transferring it into the database and producing Google Maps mashup with the data. This information is then accessible to the general public. However this is where the critique on the system pulls in. What is the benefit of the information to the general public. And who exactly is this ‘general public’. It goes a step further, as the presented iPhone application actually allows the ‘general public’ to directly submit a ‘case’, including disease (from a suggestive pull down menu that tells you up front it must be swine flu) and location of course. You can even include an photograph of the sick person if you’d like to make a point! I find this very doggy even though the project as a whole has some very interesting aspects. For example the idea of looking at the world as a whole and visualising everyone on the planet as part of the whole.

Somehow I have a creeping feeling that some of this research somehow still has a colonial aspect to it. It is interesting to look into problems of distant locations as some sort of export, but not as working together.
Also all this spatial mapping is pointing towards the time-space problem and the issue with location information. It is in fact tied to the idea of the globe (as in the globe on your desk as a rotating ball on a axis that represents an abstraction of the world) and if this view is outdate the visualisations are too. So what to do? Is the mapping guild in a crisis because everyone is mapping? All this here seems to be riding on the open source mapping wave.

This question is urgent and regarding the take I went to in the evening at the Tate Britain by Doreen Massey a debate around these subjects is ongoing and the question of place and identity are up for challenge, but have to be redefined in the globalised world. I strongly agree with her view on the importance of boundaries for the structuring of places and especially with the argument regarding the human body as the first place it seems obvious to have a definition of the self and the other. And if it is something, it is not something else and this makes the distinction between the two. The main aspect is the way boundaries are set up and maintained in terms of the political dimension.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

IDRN Mapping Conference at the Royal Geographical Society

I will be at the IDRN conference tomorrow at the Royal Geographical Society in London. It is under the title of ‘The use of mapping software & systems in health and academic research’. Mapping in the area of health research has recently become popular. We have seen some experiments earlier this year using data related to the spread of swine flu. Also there is the Google Flu Trends project, monitoring flu outbreaks. Apparently they are pretty good, only I think with Swine Flu they had some problems. Interesting that there is no data available for the United Kingdom on the Google page.
However, I am presenting a poster with the tracking data of the UrbanDiary project. Showing different approaches of visualisation techniques. The normal map using arcGIS, then there is the time-space aquarium viz, done in either Google Earth or GeoTime and the last visualisation is individual movement with the context of the built environment, again using arcGIS.

Image by urbanTick for urbanDiary - click for detailed view

Relocation of concepts and identity

A beautiful short film by Peter Kidger an ex Bartlett students - ‘the Berlin infection’ - is a a mixture of high resolution still photographs and 3D animation. It is an intriguing tale of identity and the assigning of it to particular objects of the urban context.
He produced it as part of his postgraduate diploma in architecture in the unit 15 at the Bartlett School of Architecture in 2006.
On his youtube page you can find some more animations of this kind.

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Daily Cycle With a Small Chance of Change

Let’s start the week with a beautiful tale of routine. It is all going according to plan, back and forward, but wait there might be something different. I noticed this and that and felt quit different for it. We meet, we part, we ignore and still follow the pattern on time.
It is an animation directed by Sola Baptiste, inspired by Josef Albers' work.

L'échange - The exchange from Baptiste Sola on Vimeo.