Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Urban Growth - World Models a Trend

Recently large scale models have come back into fashion and researchers around the globe have started to develop different types of urban grows simulations spanning across urban areas, countries and even started looking at a global scale urban growth models.
Of course one of the precedences is the Bucky world model called the "World Game" or the world peace game. Of course this was based on a Dymaxion Map.

Image taken from genekeyes source: scanned by Gene Keyes from cover of
World Game Report, [28 p.], ©1969, Edwin Schlossberg
Photography by Daniel Gildesgame and Herbert Matter /

It was branded a game, but recently scientists have become much more bold and call it a model. They are also not shy of promises of what could be solved by such a large scale everything incorporating algorithm based predictions.

The main problem back then but even more so nowadays is the base data. With the flood of information we have now it is getting more difficult to manufacture a decent working dataset. And of course it would need to cover the past as well as the current state.

The data, as far as recorded would be available but most likely not in the format and resolution required. So to start a lot of foundation work is required and no one seems willing at them moment to invest in this fundamentally important piece of work. everyone whats to get on with the exciting bit of the prediction, that how one makes money.

Even more interesting to look at some of the few existing visualisations of the past urban growth globally. The New Town Institute has put together a flash based visualisation of world wide urban growth of the past 6000 years. This is quite a good starting point and interesting in it self. Have a look how urban areas evolved, declined and reinvented themselves. The database is also online available.

Visualisaion taken from newtowninstitute

Friday, 24 December 2010

Twitter Art Network - the Big Players

Twitter as an information service has developed rapidly since 2009. Most institutions have by now adopted a twitter account to distribute news and stay in touch with an audience.
Especially in the art world museums and galleries started using the social networking platform, creating important nodes in the twitter univers.

Some art institutions managed to attract a large fellowship with the @Tate for example having about 216,308 followers or the @MoMa with 388,670 followers.

Graph by urbanTick / Major art museums have adopted twitter as a networking and news channel tool. This art institutions twitter social network is constructed from @ tweets and RT tweets as a directed network graph.
Data collected using 140kit and visualised using gephi.

Of course now of interest is how these nodes link in to the wider twitter network and also how they link to each other. There are of course a number of different interests colliding and this reflects the stiff competition to some extend.

From the most recent 2000 twitter messages by each institution a social network graph was generated to visualise how some of the top museums are connected through activity in tweet terms. The graph represents how the institutions interact with other users and how this connects them into an entangled social network.

Graph by urbanTick / Zoom in on details around the New Yorker museums MoMa, New Museum, Guggenheim and the SFMoMa,

The nodes represent twitter users and the edges, connection lines, are established through @ tweets, a public direct message at some other user(s). The second indicator for established connection are the RT, the retweeting of messages by others.

Interesting to see is how the institutions have rather few direct links, but share quite a bit of intermediate twitter users. Especially between the american institutions there are quite some established connections, but also links across the atlantic are establish. Explore the graph in details below using the Google Maps style navigation.

Art Institutions Social Network

Graph by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Art Institutions Social Network - Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top left corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Click HERE for a full screen view.

You can check out the institutions involved on twitter for detailed info on the tweets.
@ZKM, @newmuseum, @tate, @MoMa, @sfmoma, @MOCAlosangeles, @vanabbemuseum, @ModernaMuseet, @mori_art_museum, @centrepompidou, @metmuseum, @guggenheim, @maspmuseu, @V_and_A, @NationalGallery, @npglondon, @_TheWhitechapel

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

London NCL Social Network Graph - interactive

Following up from the New City Landscape maps, where we mapped tweet densities in urban areas around the world, we have now started to look into the socia network aspects of this data set. As a complementary graph to the map the network illustrates how the twitter users are connected through their activities and usage of the platform.

Graph by urbanTick / The London NCL Social Network graph of twitter users. The dataset is defined as geolocated tweets collected over the period of one week in the urban area of London set to a 30 km radius. Click on the image for a larger version on flickr or see the interactive zoomable version HERE.

The network is built from nodes and edges, were the nodes are the twitter users active during the time period of message collection back in May 2010. The edges visualise the connections between these users. From the messages sent connections are established based on activity and interaction. In reality these are the @ messages that are directed at one or more particular user. The second indicator of a connection are the RT messages, the message that have been retweeted by followers of the creator of the initial message.

Graph by urbanTick / Zoom of the London NCL Social Network graph of twitter users. The dataset is defined as geolocated tweets collected over the period of one week in the urban area of London set to a 30 km radius. Click for a larger version on flickr.

Using these two methods the network graph is established as a directed network, meaning that the connection between the nodes has a direction since a message originates from a sender being delivered to a receiver.

The resulting network is built from a total of 17618 nodes and 26445 edges. In the case of this London twitter network not everyone is connected to everyone and about 5400 subnetworks were identified. Furthermore via the colouring the modularity of the network is visualised. Each subgroups has a unique colour shading indicating groups with tighter connections.

London NCL Social Network

Graph by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / London NCL Socia Network - Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top left corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Click HERE for a full screen view.

The sizing of the nodes is derived from the number of connections this particular node has for both incoming and outgoing edges.

For the comparison of the networks we are currently working on graphing out the whole range of NCL across the world in order to establish a analysis parameter set. We'll keep you posted about the progress here.

To compare it, the geolocated London New City Landscape map. It is important to keep in mind that the graphs are not spatially representative as compared to the NCL maps which are properly geolocated.

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / London New City Landscape Click HERE for a full screen view.

Book - Seven Buildings

Living in Britain has definitely one downside, it is very hard to come across inspiring architecture. And by inspiring I mean not a massive large scale development signed off by a 'starchitect', but an intense and truly thought through building that is confident about it self and how it is positioned in the context. This sort of dedicated design work is rare, I guess for a large part of the world were currently buildings are under construction and not yet stopped for the developers are running out of money.

Publications however can help here and showcase the buildings that might be less public and you wouldn't come across on your way to work because you don't live in Switzerland were dedicated architects are apparently still to be found. Anyway, this is what the latest Lars Mueller Publication showcases here. 'What Anchors a House in Itself' by Andreas Fuhrimann and Gabriele Haechler is a monograph showcasing a selection of their projects and these are real beauties.

Image taken from Lars Mueller Publishers photography by Valentin Jeck / Presenhuber House in the village of Vna in the Lower Engadine Valley in Switzerland.

Kind of unusual for a monograph Fuhrimann and Haechler decide to limit the show to seven buildings. Unusual in the sense that most offices tend to try and make the most of a publication by showing off everything, but here the approach is clearly to show quality, and quality is what you get!

These seven buildings ar real buildings, prototyps for dedicated architecture and design work. Of coure the work of Fuhrimann and Haechler has not remained undiscovered before this publications and the buildings have been widely published already, for example in previousy discussed book 'Total Housing' in the Christmas book list. But as Hubertus Adam points out in his critica contribution to the book the work was recognised out side of Switzerland way ahead of the local architecture press. He identifies the the problem as "The two photographs, one with a red sports car and the other with a black sports car, each in front of the angled metal facade, apparently violate Swiss social conventions in which luxury is disguised by means of understatement."

Image taken from afgh / Architects' and Artists' House on the Uetliberg 2002-2003, portrait with black sports car.

The architecture of Fuhrmann and Haechler is no understatement and clearly is pure luxury. This becomes clear while reading in the second part of the book. The close relationship between the architecture of Fuhrmann Haechler to art is portrait both in theoretical practical but also social terms. The projects are usually build for rich artists, curators, art collectors, museum directors or gallery owners. This is clearly an elit these architects are working to create unique objects.
However as the architects themselves as well as the critics stress in the second part of the book which is text based, as opposed to the image based first part, the work is never for but with the client.

Image taken from afgh / Holiday House on the Rigi 2003-2004, the perfect view south-west.

This is one of the most notable architectural monographs of the closing year 2010. Not only but mainly for the seven extremely beautiful and inspiring projects portrayed in full colour, but also because of the contextual discussion of the work of Fuhrimann Haechler in the second part and of course because it is a really nicely designed book with a very clear and simple formal language. Even though it is a paperback this is a treasure. For other great Lars Mueller Publications keep up to date by flowing them on twitter @LarsMuellerBooks.

What a relieve to finally get in the last few days of the year 2010 a book that tells us about beautiful architecture, it really exists out there, keep your eyes open on the way to work in 2011.

Müller, L., 2010. Fuhrimann Hächler: Was ein Haus in sich selbst verankert, Baden: Lars Muller Publishers.

Monday, 20 December 2010

NCL Social Networks

The New City Landscape maps NCL based on twitter messages sent in urban areas represent only one aspect of the data that was collected. For the maps we were focusing on the location at the moment of sending the message.

Now we are looking into the social network of the same data set and visualise how users communicate and how they are interconnected. Using the @'s and RT's in te messages a network was constructed establishing links between users that send directed tweets or retweet someone else's message.

Very quickly these social networks become extremely complicated and computational intensive. The old MacBook here is struggling with the larger networks of London and New York, were there are 20000 or 40000 nodes respectively to be calculated.

However the smaller networks of Paris and Munich draw very nicely in Gephi, the open source graph visualisation software used to render the following images.

The data we are using here was collected over the period of one week and the selection criteria is the geo location. It is a 30km radius around an urban area. This forms the starting point of the network with all the users within this set as seed nodes. Who ever they were in touch with is then added as a secondary node drawing the edges between these nodes.

Munich NCL social network with one very big player standing out, ProSieben. This is one of the big German TV channels.

Image by urbanTick / Social network of Munich twitter users corresponding to the Munich New City Landscape map.
The network is derived from @ and RT twitter messages.
This draws to 772 nodes and 1193 edges.

See the corresponding NCL map HERE.

Paris NCL social network
Image by urbanTick / Social network of Paris twitter users corresponding to the Paris New City Landscape map.
The network is derived from @ and RT twitter messages.
This draws to 4959 nodes and 7390 edges.

And a zoom into the Paris twitterNetwork map (bottom right), showing how the main nodes are linking down to smaller one of nodes.

Image by urbanTick / Zoom of social network of Paris twitter users corresponding to the Paris New City Landscape map.
The network is derived from @ and RT twitter messages.
This draws to 4959 nodes and 7390 edges.

See the corresponding NCL map HERE.

The NCL maps cover a lot more cities, see the world map HERE. As these are processed we'll be showing them here on the bog so stay tuned, some exciting network graphs will come up.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Book - A Christmas List

For the coming Christmas days off the busy work schedule here are a few books that might keep you afloat during family gatherings, long feasts and carol singing. As usual for these days off the plan is to catch up on reading with a number of books and in the end at the sixth or so January we realize nothing got done actually, how frustrating. However, in this list here there is something for everyone and you probably find at least on book that fits and will grab your attention over the festive period for a couple of hours.

The themes covered in this selection of six books range from housing typologies on an architecture level, to urban planning and the export thereof, to a theoretical discussion of mega cites, to the mapping and visualisation of global data sets.




Total Housing: Efficient Alternatives to Sprawl Illustrated
There has been quite some development in the area of housing in the first ten years of this century. Architects have begin to creatively rethink the floor plans and creatively integrate the developing of a housing unit into the thinking process while developing a scheme. Of course this did not always result in comfortable flats, but it definitely changed housing projects. Especially if wee ook at larger scale housing projects, with ten, twenty or even a hundred very similar unit types.

The specific interest definitely came from Europe, mainly offices in the Netherlands, that started experimenting and emphasising the joy of developing good housing schemas. It quickly gained ground and it can be said that now, after ten years, in a good international competition the floor plans are generally a lot more inspiring.

THe publication is rolling out exactly this. A collection of 61 examples of interesting and inspiring housing projects organised by size. This is ranging from a four unit project, B-Camp by Helen & Hard in Stavanger, Norway to the 750 unit project, Linked Hybrid by Steven Holl Architects in Beijing, China.

Each project is documented well with basic data such as m2 and cost and there are different strands of organisation running through the selection in order to develop a referencing system for cross reading. Further more the individual basic housing units of each project are summarised and on a comparison chart and there is a section with detailed construction drawings for a selection of the projects. Basically everything you need as an architect to make this book a perfect tool in the office.

Hoever this is not just for architects this publication, with its flaws in some structuring aspects, really is the most comprehensive and most recent guide to housing and in this sense could play an important role in the discussion on urban sprawl. The discussion however is not included, to be purchased separat.

"Total Housing is a demonstration of the virtues of high and medium density multi-family homes, and an antidote to urban sprawl. The selection of works in Total Housing (in hard copy and on its supplementary website: spans a period coinciding with the height of the housing boom, and consequent bust, experienced in most “developed” economies in the first decade of the 21st century.
From among the vast built production of this period, Total Housing selects 61 projects from 22 countries that exemplify outstanding innovations in construction systems, spatial organization, models of unit aggregation, and integration of the residential program into the complex of functions that make up our cities.
This book is a design manual as much as a reference for future good practices. Its structure follows a simple sequential order of the number of homes included in each project, revealing that interesting design solutions are found in big and small projects alike. The book also contains detailed plans of 17 of the featured projects." (Actar)

Anonymous, 2010. Total Housing: Efficient Alternatives to Sprawl Illustrated., Actar.



The Architecture of Knowledge: The Library of the Future
The library is the classical architecture project for knowledge storage. A room designed to keep in neet rows and columns the books filled with words making up what we know.

With the rais of the computer and digitally produced and stored information this setting is bound to change. This fact plus the increasingly bured boundaries between producers and consumers are the topics this publication discusses. It looks of course at a range of architectural projects, but at the ame time organisation, technology, social and cultural aspect are investigated in depth to create a bigger picture.

Intriguingly, the neat rows of books, shelfs and corridors come under fire. Why not just storing everything in a big heap or in more living room sort of way where books wander around as they are used. Employing RFID technology and iPhone apps would sort out the problem of finding anything in this more dynamic environment.

"What will the library of the future look like? In an age in which information and communication are everywhere and the boundaries between producers and consumers of information are increasingly blurred, the question of what a public library might represent is urgent. The notion of a classical library in an academic environment with a formal collection and a permanent staff is already wavering. As a typology the library enjoys a rich history as an important component of public space within the city. As buildings libraries have always been a popular destination, which is why governments are still keen to employ them to enhance the image of their cities. At the same time, more and more libraries are expanding their scope by offering access to web browsers, on-line retrieval systems and other new media. What form and position will their physical structure need to assume in order to survive the changes that are taking place in this data-saturated realm of society – at present and in the future?

The Architecture of Knowledge offers new insights into this bastion of public knowledge and collective memory as well as fascinating prospects for its future. International experts present concepts of collective knowledge, the notion of public space, thoughts on the relationship between (new) media and (cultural) society, and insights into product management and reception. The result is a fascinating journey into the future of an age-old institution, obligatory reading for architects, librarians and users alike. " (Nai Publishers)

Werft, H.H.V.D., 2010. The Architecture of Knowledge: The Library of the Future Bilingual., NAI Publishers.



Oase #81 - Architecture and Planning in Africa 1950-1970
The three times a year journal was running an issue on last century architecture in Africa. This covers the usual Oase topics of architecture urban design and landscape design and provides in depths contributions by a range of authors. This publication comes in a year were the interest in Africa was for a change word wide and positive. With the Football World Cup being held in South Africa earlier this year there was a lot of detailed attention directed to the otherwise largely generalised continent.

As the Editors point out in the editorial, Africa has also for quite some time been out of the spotlight from a spatial planning point of view. This wasn't always the case. In the late sixties for example there was great interest from european planners and a lot of project were being delivered by European or American companies on quite large scale.

The issue is basically digging out these aspects as it focuses on this period between 1950 and 1970 a very exciting time. A time were modernism was as a sort of general style being exported anda whole range of people started experimenting an implementing their ideas loosely connected to modernism.

There are of course the extending racial conflict deeply involved in al of spatial planning in this context an the publication is a various points uncovering the complicated entanglings between idea, concept, practice, and ideology mixing politically, religious and professionally.

"For the last few years there has been a strong revival of interest in the African city across numerous disciplines, including anthropology, sociology and urban history. Since the mid-1990s, when Rem Koolhaas placed urban conditions in Lagos on the agenda as a research topic, other architects and planners have rediscovered the African continent. Architecture historians and heritage agencies are now also studying modern architecture in Africa, which is largely ignored in overviews of twentiethcentury architecture.

OASE 82 shares this current fascination for modern architecture and planning on the African continent, but also expresses reservations. This edition presents a critical historiography of modernistic architecture from 1950 to 1970, which in many cases still defines the urban landscape in African centres. A photographic project by the young Congolese photographer Sammy Baloji about Avenida Lenine in Maputo, Mozambique, presents a striking profile of twentieth century architecture in a former Portuguese colony." (Nai Publishers)

Lagae, J., Avermaete, T., Bruijn, D. De, October 2010. Oase #81, Nai Publishers



Shanghai New Towns: searching for community and identity in a sprawling metropolis
How to invent identity? this could as well be the subtitle of this publication initiated by and sponsored partially by The International New Town Institute. This problem is well known to everyone who has once attempted to create something from nothing.
There is not nothing, but it is pretended there is nothing and this complicates the problem even more. It results in "How to pretent to invent identity" I guess. However you put it, the dilemma has many aspects and there is no easy way out.

The publication is tackling this problem head on and offeres a well researched and presented context with detailed references historical and contemporary as well as detailed project documentation. The really interesting part however for me are the photo essays. For example the section 'New Citizens' by Chen Taiming from page 321 to 368 nails the problem, clash of identities.

China is expecting a lot of its citizens and this book manages to portrait the struggle of the different disciplines involved, from the politician to the developer the imported planner right to the actual inhabitant or still missing inhabitant.

"Each year, more than 15 million Chinese leave the rural areas of China and move to the cities. This figure exceeds 300,000 in the case of Shanghai. Before 2015, the majority of China’s population will be living in urban areas. Shanghai New Towns documents and analyses the meteoric rate of urbanization of the countryside round Shanghai, most particularly the part played there by new towns and new villages. This decentralized planning model takes its cue from classic examples from Russia and Western Europe. A few pilot new towns have been developed on paper with help from Western designers and then adapted to suit Chinese standards. This book shows how the plans have been put into practice. Photos, essays by Chinese and Western critics and descriptions of projects illustrate what daily life looks like and how these new cities function within the Yangtze River Delta Metropolitan Area as a whole. It dwells at length on the international exchange of knowledge and the differences in method."(010 Publisher)

Hartog, H. den ed., 2010. Shanghai New Towns: Searching for Community and Identity in a Sprawling Metropolis, Rotterdam: 010 Publisher.



Megacities - Exploring a Sustainable Future
This book covers the theoretical field for this christmas selection. It covers the scholarly discussion around urban areas, featuring the main urban thinkers of the beginning of the 21st Century, starting with Peter Hall, Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett and David Harvey, as well as for example Richard Rogers. Te title i not only programatic, but at the same time the name of the foundation based in the Netherlands who has initiated the book. Jan Hoogstad had started the foundation about 15 years back with a small group in an attempt to comprehend the essence of urban growth, up to and including the Megacity level, in a context of global cultura ad economic diversity.

With this publication the foundation focuses, as currently fashionable, on sustainability as indicated by the subtitle. However, this new publications more than just a fashion trend, it is first and foremost a retrospective, marking the anniversary and summarising the great amount of publication, lecturing and seminar work undertaken since the founding of Megacities.

THe ranging chapters are in this sense mostly lectures that have been delivered as part of a previous Megacities conference or event. As a collection it however, makes quite a summary of modern thinking about urban from many different perspectives and characters. This makes for a great read and the publication manages to actually spark a discussion between the different contributions even though they might have been initially separated by time.

"Urbanization has evolved dramatically from monocentric settlements to polycentric networks and megacities of previously inconceivable size and population. This escalation of quantities and scales has ignited a deep and growing fascination for the phenomenon of megacities. The book’s point of departure is to define megacities and understand their processes and systems of organization. From this discussion it aims to glean lessons for researchers, practitioners, politicians and the general public. The Megacities Foundation, which initiated this discussion and book, has set a benchmark in the architectural profession, and has actively encouraged debate on megacities for the last fifteen years by inviting leading international academics and practitioners from the fields of architecture, economics, geography, sociology and urban planning. This book offers a compilation of the best lectures about the definition, evolution, governance and design guidelines of megacities. In addition, it incorporates reflections on what megacities could mean in the Dutch planning context. Megacities is a body of knowledge for comprehending the essence of urban growth and exploring a sustainable future." (010 Publishers)

Buijs, S., Tan, W. & Tunas, D., 2010. Megacities - Exploring a Sustainable Future, 010 Publishers.



Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know
Thi is really the picture book in this selection. If you are more after something to look at than reading from this is your choice. THe knowledge mapped out in pretty maps and illustrations ranging from historic to futuristic 'What we know' and how we know it.

Katy Boerner tries really hard with this full colour and large size 'atlas' to cover this vast and extremely divers area se has discovered here. It i a difficult field but who if not her must really know what we know. Katy Boerner is running the director of the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center at Indiana University.

The idea here is really to draw maps of everything we, the human race has ever known, ranging from publications to patents to conversations. This is of course set very much in an academic context and has a specific American focus since the research is undertaken there.

Nevertheless the project mapps out a vast amount of data sets and bring some spatial order into mountains of data points. This is archived with a lot of network analysis and mapping employing sophisticated mathematical models and algorithms. THe key to this is probably the data handling. Each set contains millions of records and in this sense is ia merely a thought that defines the fina product rather than any manual labour.

And this is then probably also the key issue for the book, this science of science as a rather detached proces has temporarily lost its actual fascination a bit I fear and also the extremely strong personalisation of each documented project can't brush this of. As a important point of critique since this is an 'atlas', the graphics need to be worked on if it wants to be what it is.

Nevertheless this is an initial result of an investigation charting new territory and manages to surprise and enlighten what we probably would never have go close otherwise, a must have for mappers and data freaks.

"Cartographic maps have guided our explorations for centuries, allowing us to navigate the world. Science maps have the potential to guide our search for knowledge in the same way, helping us navigate, understand, and communicate the dynamic and changing structure of science and technology. Allowing us to visualize scientific results, science maps help us make sense of the avalanche of data generated by scientific research today. Atlas of Science, features more than thirty full-page science maps, fifty data charts, a timeline of science-mapping milestones, and 500 color images; it serves as a sumptuous visual index to the evolution of modern science and as an introduction to "the science of science"—charting the trajectory from scientific concept to published results.

Atlas of Science, based on the popular exhibit "Places & Spaces: Mapping Science," describes and displays successful mapping techniques. The heart of the book is a visual feast: Claudius Ptolemy's Cosmographia World Map from 1482; a guide to a PhD thesis that resembles a subway map; "the structure of science" as revealed in a map of citation relationships in papers published in 2002; a periodic table; a history flow visualization of the Wikipedia article on abortion; a globe showing the worldwide distribution of patents; a forecast of earthquake risk; hands-on science maps for kids; and many more. Each entry includes the story behind the map and biographies of its makers.

Not even the most brilliant minds can keep up with today's deluge of scientific results. Science maps show us the landscape of what we know. " (MIT Press)

Borner, K., 2010. Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know, MIT Press.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Worldwide Twitter Traffic

Twitter communications span the globe and the pinpointing of end locations of conversations in this animation shows how the network spans around the planet. It jumps between the hot spots of cities and even continents.
In the description of the project the authors discuss the rather interesting point of the meaning of 'Location in the case of twitter. In fact this not only applies to twitter but many location based services, the here is not always here. "'Location' has 2 meanings in the world of Twitter. It can mean (1) where someone was when they tweeted provided they are using a GPS-enabled smartphone, or (2) where someone lives (users can specify their home location)." (Geography 970)

In a second version the locations were mapped on a rotating globe which give a good impressionof how we communicate around an axis. For details please see Geography 970.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Book - Posting Things, any Thing

The good old post service has had a difficult stand with the raise of the digital message. The romantic love letter as well as the intense debating correspondence has largely shifted into the virtual realm of messages on a computer screen. The main content of mail remaining is legal documents that need to be in physical form or parcels. Things still need to be moved.

What the mail service provides, beyond delivering post, is a web of connection. In fact a very dense and very flexible network with numerous elements, links and nodes. These ranges from a post office, to a distribution and sorting centre to the postman in the street delivering.

Based on a detailed system of code every functional unit in the city i accessible through this web an can connect to any other unit. Quite and important and versatile institution this is. In todays cities we relay on a number of such infrastructure systems constructing and serving the urban landscape, such as power networks and streets. However the mail and address system is probably the most flexible one.

Mail correspondence has a long tradition and is looking through historical works, for example in art or science, the letters between different figures in volved act a an important medium of exchange and stimulation.

In a recent visualisation 'Visualizing the Republic of Letters' developed at Stanford University by Daniel Chang, Yuankai Ge, Shiwei Song, Nicole Coleman, Jon Christensen, and Jeffrey Heer the past correspondance of 55'000 letters by 6400 people over about 200 years has be mapped and animated. The visualisation is based on the e-enlightment project, an electronic database for letters and lives. "Electronic Enlightenment reconstructs the extraordinary web of correspondence that marked the birth of the modern world."

In a recent Princeton Architectural Press publication the topic of the mail and especially the parcel i explored from a very different perspective. The book 'The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects' by John Tingey traces the story of Willie Reginald Bray. It is not just about the person but about the special experiments he staged practically exploring the possibilities of the mail service. Basically he just posted everything and anyone, including himself.

The postal service became very popular with the radical changes in 1840 in prices and structure. The mail needed to be pre payed by the sender (was previously payed by the receiver) and a simplified pricing structure, one penny for a letter in the UK.

Bray however wanted to explore the boundaries of this 'shipping things' on both ends, the side of the object and what could possibly be sent, as well as the coding system, the addresses and the labeling.

Image taken from fingersports / A picture postcard utilised the image as an element of the address. 'To a resident nearest to these rocks'.

These are very interesting parameter of the service. Bray for example developed a series of postcards with coded addresses that required the postman to deceiver the intended receiver. This could be in the form of a rhyme, writing using wax or using symbols. During the high days of the pictue card area he also utilised these pictures as the address, only with the accompanied instruction "to the resident nearest". The actual address was aso of interest to Bray and he experimente with sending letters and postcards to train drivers for example, as a moving destination.

The object posted in the second categorie ranged from onions to dogs and as mentioned himself. It was in February 1900 that he tested the Mail service and again in November 1903 that he posted himself as a 'Person Cyclist' back home. Bray claimed this to be the first time a person has ever been posted.

The book pulls together this rather curious story about a man's efforts to test out the service that links together across the entire country. And this collection possibly highlights the exact difference between the generally linking infrastructure and this postal linking network. It works in both directions and is in this sense a truly interactive service that can be, as Bray demonstrates customised to a large extend.

Tingey, J., 2010. Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects, the, Princeton Architectural Press.

Also thanks to James from spatialanalysis for the letter link.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Book - Mapping the Invisible

The title of this Black Dog Publication seems very general and trendy at firsts glance, but in fact describes the content much better than most other publications. With 'Mapping the Invisible - EU-Roma Gypsies' edited by Lucy Orta, a topic is in depth documented that currently definitely doesn't features on any agenda. A topic concerned with the 'invisible' culture of the Gypsies, 'mapping' out an identity and the condition they currently live in.

Of course both terms here are used in a wider sense than the currently trending meanings. Already for this one is very grateful. 'Mapping' has become a dead term, suffocated by start up app developers and run over by cross-discipline geographers. In the context of this publication additional potential of mapping breathes some live back into a dead corps with a lot of success and in fact very few maps.

Before even talking about any content, the main element of the book are the photographs. This probably wan't intentional and the photographs are neither glossy nor very good, but they tell the story, illustrate factual and narrate emotionally. There are currently very few publications out there that manage a similar intensity using photographs.

Gypsies in Europe
Image taken from Wikipedia / populations of the Romani people by country, showing the "average estimate" published by the Council of Europe[1]. Based on these estimates are the number of seats by country in the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) based in Strasbourg. The size of the wheel symbol represents total population by country (Romania 1.85 million), the shade of each country's background colour represents the percentage of Romani with respect to the total population (Romania 8.5%). The three different green shadings 0%, 5%, 10%

The current state of the Gypsies is documented in five chapters as 'History Migration', 'Human Rights', 'Extreme Poverty', 'Creative Ingenuity' and 'Family Identity'. These topics are simultaneously observed in different European countries, such as Italy, England, Romania, Turkey or Greece. Interestingly each topic is portrait in a spatial context and even though the cuture is largely known as traveling or travelers, the place, here used distinct from space, is always very important. This provides sort of a continuous tread through out the book and continuously pieces start interlocking. However, there is no need to read linearly, thanks to this thread.

What are Gypsies? Wikipedia says this: "The Romani (also Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms; exonym: Gypsy; Romani: Romane or Rromane, depending on the dialect) are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to the Indian Subcontinent.
The Romani are widely dispersed, with their largest concentrated populations in Europe, especially the Roma of Central and Eastern Europe and Anatolia, followed by the Iberian Kale in Southwestern Europe and Southern France. Deported to Brazil by Portugal during the colonial era [16] and via more recent migrations, some people have gone to the Americas and, to a lesser extent, other parts of the world."

The book's effort is summarised in the foreword by Alexander Valntino and Lucy Orta as: "European Roma mapping stemmed fromt he need to know more about the precarious living conditions of the Romani across Europe. Awareness, we believe is an absolut necessary first step towards an auspicious change in the Roma condition." And this is definitely what the term invisible describes, a cultural group disappearing in the in the sea of sub suburb sprawl of individualised housing and generalised industry.

Clearly the Roma people are marginalised and pushed to the edge of society. Hoever, every now and then the Roma culture has played a role in a broader cultural movement as for example in links to the Situationist, who were especially interested in the idea of moving. More recently in 2007 the first Roma pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale was established as discussed with Daniel Baker in the chapter 'Creative Ingenuity'.

Holy Communion
Taken from Valentina Schicardi / A photograph taken from the series on the Holy Communion of the granddaughter.

The book manages to produce a comprehensive documentation, aso for a lay audience, of the Roma culture and the current state of place it is manifesting itself. This is clearly a very sad situation and in all the different countries an unsolved condition without any ideas or concepts in reach for improvement.

This documentation is on the other hand also a clear reflection and the society we live in and how this society we are al part of treats certain groups. You thought slums are something that only exists in faraway, exotic countries, think again. Talking about the latest flashy architecture magazine glossi spread? Read this publication and you'll learn a lot more about what architecture could mean and the role it would play.

This publication is low key and at first glance resembles more a comprehensive study report or a sophisticated thesis. However, this is extremely misleading flipping through will unveil the density and comprehensiveness of the documentation and the liveliness of the images will bring you goos bumps
into your cosy living room. There might be no over designed layout, but the power of the narrative here are simply incredible. A must have for every analytically interested architect as well as all the mapper out there. A wakeup call for the urbanised, western societies for a lot more than the subject at hand. A very important contribution, especially now in this conservatives' dominated political and social climate.

Also read a review of the book at we-make-money-not-art.

Image taken from Radio.CZ / Publication cover.

Orta, L., 2010. Mapping the Invisible: EU-Roma Gypsies, Black Dog Publishing Ltd.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Personalised Urban Space

If we start with Petra Kempf's publication 'You Are The City' we jump straight into the discussion about the personal expression in the urban environment. Clearly this has become dramatically individualised and
and citizens have grown into roles as independent user, aspiring for flexibility and uniqueness.
The technological development in the recent years, month actually, is fuelling these developments. Here individuality turns into solitary and disconnectednes with the latest app telling you whats happening around you. Interaction becoming the biggest thing as long as we don't need to talk to anyone.

The urban landscape is turning from a servicescape in to a stagescape for individuals to produce themselves as the latest celebrity. Interaction becomes one directional, the famous show off to be looked at, the ultimate aspiration.

The individualisation obviously is a very big topic in the media and some recent project are quite cleverly employing this trend to the point of questioning its real existence.

For example the current aviva campaign puts the individual in to the centre. On the website they started a collection of portraits, with the option to draw in your facebook image, as a representation of personal commitment and support. The great thing is the personalised video clip everyone gets as a sort of gift. The uploaded image is embedded in the clip and everyone has the chance to appears big in the city.

In fact aviva actually is running live projections of the submitted images in cities around the world. Some have ended, but on the page you have access to the recorded time lapse.

Another effort is made by the Dentsu London media company. They have recently had some really exciting project utilising the latest technologies with quite visionary content. See for example the iPad illumination clip.

THey were also looking into the personalisation of the city environment and visualised their ideas in two animated clip, sort of augmented visualisations. Their claim goes beyond the content, but this doesn't matter at the moment I guess.

The basic idea is to utilise and augment existing objects and surfaces with personalised content and information. The desire to keep up to date with the latest social networking news, updates, notifications and tweets. Some of the idea are quite interesting, especially the ones that aim at linking the individual back to the physical context. It is very simple, but for example the Dentsu train ticket idea is a different take on the location awareness trend.

There is a lot of potential in this trend to personalise the everyday environment. There might be individual benefit and surprises to be discovered for everyone. However it might be not as new as it would like to be. But it is certainly a new take on the everyday routines and a chance to embed it with the aspired independence and individuality of our current culture. Definitely the city is the playground.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Drift - Morphing City

The ever changing perspective as we navigate the urban landscape is an important feature influencing the perception and in many ways influences how the space we create as we go along are experienced. It's not as if the street is existing, but it is renewed every time as a recreation of itself with a specific take.

Buildings feature in this process consciously as a back drop and the immediate focus is put on the objects whizzing about, to avoid potential collisions. The trajectories of these has to be continuously monitored and one's own path adjusted accordingly. It is a sort of negotiation between the elements that make use of their power to take decisions and with it continuously generate situations.

However, this consuming activity might in the long run is not be the main focus. Unconsciously the main focus might lay on the static frame and the defining elements as parameters of the room for action.

In this beautiful time lapse Theo Tagholm shows an interpretation of this spatiality of places from the perspective of one subject.

As it says in the description "I drift, half awake, half asleep. Moving through the city I recall but have never been to."
The clip is produced by Theo Tagholm, a video artist. He's got some other great video work. As linked here earlier with the clip Still Moving.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Book - Atlas of the Conflict - Making up Borders

The spatial manifestation of presence, such as ownership, power or usage is commonly clearly and durable regulated in stable societies. The practice has sort of merged with the everyday routines and is hardly notable. There might be the odd neighbours dispute over a garden shed, a tree or a parke car but largely the boundaries are in place and not negotiable on a individual or even personal level. In a sense they are accepted as a sort of pre existing spatial institution.
Boundaries do change in shape and ownership. Usually lager pieces, such as plots of land, if they are not public, are traded as a good on the market, payed for and sealed with a contract. So pretty save stuff here.

This is however only a condition and depends on the accepted practice.

In a brand new 010 publication by Malkit Shoshan exactly these conditions and practices are examined. Shoshan meticulous works his way through the spatial extends and manifestations of the Israel-Palestine conflict over the past 100 years. The book 'Atlas of the Conflict - Israel-Palestine' maps out the processed and mechanisms behind the shaping of the area over the past century.

Atlas of the Conflict 02
Image taken from Atlas of the Conflict 010 Publishers / Spread 132-133, chapter 3, showing the pattern of settlements by size.

The conflict is a constant topic in the western news with its ebbs and flows. Sometimes the coverage is more intense and then it fades away again, depending mainly on the involvement of western authorities or individuals. The last wave of prolonged news coverage flicked across our screens this past May 31, as the ship convoy, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to reach the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid and suplies. Over 700 People from 37 different countries were aboard to support the mision, including Britons. The Israeli special force Shayetet 13 brutally stopped the convoy, killed nine of the passengers and injured dozens. The goods did not reach the destination. This act was widely criticized and dominated the news for a couple of day and it faded away again.

However the extend and the implications of this conflict are hard to grasp by following these only doted coverages. The news stories are usually quite narrated and in comparison to this the Atlas of the Conflict ha a very different approach. It is promising to develop an objective overview through mapping and factual documentation. Factual we can most likely expect from the large news channels, but the comprehensive mapping really offers a new perspective on this entangled situation.

This book is not the first attempt to map out this topic. For example there is the 'The Routledge atlas of the Arab-Israeli conflict' and other earlier book dating back to the eighties or early nineties. In this sense it is time for a new publication with a fresh approach.

Atlas of the Conflict 01
Image taken from Atlas of the Conflict 010 Publishers / Spread 414-415, lexicon, showing the evolution of the wall erected by Israel along the border to Palestine.

The collection of maps is extensive. The book boosts a massive 500 maps and illustrations, detailing different aspects. It puts things into places, context and more importantly into relation to each other. The developed context is however very limited, it hardly goes beyond the ever changing borderlines of the Israeli state. It does however go into a lot of detail on the inside of the border line and puts things on the maps such as infrastructures and demographics.

The publication is organised into two parts. The first part is mapping, mapping, mapping, putting the information into beautifully simplified maps, often reduced to icons. In the second part the author presents a lexicon of selected objects, topics, facts and figures to intensify and narrate the topics presented in the maps section. The two sections are interlinked with page numbers to offer option for nonlinear reading of the atlas. This element however works only one way, from the maps section to the lexicon section.

As hinted above the design of this publication are outstanding and do set standards. There is no other way to put it. Behind this is again Joost Grootens who was already responsible for the design of 'Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defense Line', reviewed here earlier. Through out the book the design works with a three colour colour scheme. Blue is used for Israeli information, brown for Palestine information and black for general info. The illustrations are very often reduced in detail and information to be mainly an icon. This is extremely beautiful and makes this publication a pleasure to brows. However it also struggles at times with the odd non fitting design problem, but thats part of the game.

The overall size of the publication is at first surprising. For an atlas it is very small and more a sort of pocket atlas. This especially in comparison to the oversize 'Atlas o the New Dutch Water Defence Line'.

A striking speciality of the publication's approach to document the conflict over the last 100 years is the largely absent topic of religion and individual destiny. Shoshan explains in the introduction how she started investigating the spatiality of the conflict and it can be assumed that it is a very conscious decision to exclude these topics in order to enable a different access to the conflict as a whole.

While reading through the publication and studying the maps, a very strong sense of temporality of space, land and even country started to emerge. Even though the maps and illustrations are very static and by definition exclude temporality, a story of the conflict started to emerge of which spatial practice of an idea was the key player. All of a sudden it became clear that a country, the land and the people are not one and the same thing. But all have their own very different theoretical interpretation and reading, but also practice.

The practices and strategies employed in this conflict appear in this presentation as tools and mechanics of an extremely theoretical vison of a myth to try and bring the three element of country, land and people together.

Atlas of the Conflict 03
Image taken from Atlas of the Conflict 010 Publishers / Spread 154-155, chapter 4, showing two typologies of Israeli spatial practice, the 'Wall and Tower and the 'Moshava'. Both are two ways of settling to claim ownership of the land.

Through out, but foremost in my favorite section, chapter 4, the utilisation and manipulation of the population through spatial planning and strategies is portrayed in depth. Chapter 4 introduces the typologies of settlements on an almost architectural scale and illustrate how individuals are misused for a bigger cause, as pins on a map, as shields, as metaphor, as demonstration, but not as humans.

As a technique of spatiality this illustrates how important or more so fundamental the presence of human being is, to value the spatial dimension. It could be argued that this publication, not intentionally, but as a by product, shows how important the individual act of creation, space making is, as recognised and institutionalised by the Israeli government.

The list of examples and fascinating details that could be put forward here is really long. There are so many moments while reading this book where you go ah..., uh..., yes! and things, you have heard from the sporadic news over the years, all of sudden make sense in a wider context. By definition Shoshan excluded the narratives and stories, but cleans and reassembles the base map for the news, tales, fact, information, tales and events we hear elsewhere. The book might not be as objective as it would like to be, but it as objective as possible an this makes this atlas also worthwhile in another context.

Atlas of the Conflict 03
Image taken from 010 Publishers / Cover of the atlas of the Conflict - Israel-Palestine.

Shoshan, M., 2010. Atlas of the Conflict - Israel-Palestine, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

London 365- 2010 - One Year of GPS Tracking

It is one more year since the last summary of personal tracking was posted. This year it is a consistant 405 tracking record as compared to a mixed device record the previous year. This matters in so far as the 405 performs very well and the data processing job is a simpler for the cleaning part. The down side is that it is slower for the processing part since there are very detailed records with loads of points. THe previeous year can be found at Plymouth365 and oneYearLND_2009.

oneYearLND09-10 London
Image by urbanTick / London overview of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips. For a large version click HERE.

The map also shows the previous year in green, since there is a striking similarity and in order to highlight the differences this seemed to make sense. The similarity goes as far as the two records being more or less the same. I expected a similarity, but not to this extend.

There are differences only on a very small scale. There is one major change in routine that dominates the differences between the two years. My son has started school and the trips to the nursery near the work place have been substituted by trip to drop of or pick him up at the school near our home. This changes the spatial practice and with it the pattern. However it is not as obvious since the directions of movement stayed more or less the same.

Image by urbanTick / London Bloomsbury zoom of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips.

To update the zoom in to the leisure area around Regents Park here is an updated version showing the different visits to ZSL. In 2010 there appear definitely a shift in interest focus. Never been to Australia this year.

As pointed out in last years post, the capacity to recall events using the lines as memory triggers works very well. I can basically over the whole year piece together my steps. Being this for example in the bottom left corner some of these trips to the Natural History Museum, Royal Geographical Society or in Hyde Part visits the Diana Memorial.

Image by urbanTick / London Regents Park zoom of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Book - Self Sufficient City - A Promise

The ecological footprint of todays cities around the world has been subject for debate for a number of years now. With the majority of the worlds population living in cities this is an obvious thing to do in order to to optimise energy consumption to reduce the over usage of recourses.

In the two discussion on the topic Ecological Urbanism here on urbanTick and in parallel on DPR and ULGC we have started to discuss several related topics. Mainly in the second instalment we put a strong focus on spatial implications of this topic.

The same spatial interest was the main focus of a recent competition, the third Advanced Architecture Contest AAC organised by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. The contest series started in 2005 with the topic of 'Self-Sufficient Housing' and has evolved since. The second one was run under the title of 'The Self-Fab House' in 2006 and was then run a third time under the title 'The Self-Sufficiant City'.

Water Fueld
Image taken from bustler / "Finalist “WATER FUEL” which proposed the development of technologies that transforms salt water into energy, generating hydrogen in urban environments, to be utilized for transportation systems and urban consumption. The jury acknowledges this as the integration of energy production systems into an urban context and it’s ability to transform civic environments and foment the generation of energy by means of self sufficiency. These structures have been well designed and are capable of urban landscape integration".

This third competition is now published in book form by Actar as 'Self-sufficient City: Envisioning the Habitat of the Future'. A small handy and compact overview of a selection of the 708 proposals received from a diverse 116 countries.

Clearly already the diversity of these contributions from such a variety of places makes this an interesting read. People with very different background, education and experience are developing idea related to the same topic.

The jury is a divers and prominent with for example Jaime Lerner on the panel. And the selected site is really one of the exciting cities, Barcelona. Here the argument is interesting and makes it very clear what the intention is: 'The competition coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Eixample Plan for Barcelona, drawn up by the engineer Ildefons Cerda, which did so much for the concept of urbanism that served to guide construction of cities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries'.
THere are multiple way to read this of course, but one assumes that the intention is no less than reinventing the way cities are planned and therefor to take on the ultimate modernist, rational and successful (to some extend) planning model, makes sense.

Sky City
Image taken from bustler / "'SKY CITY' designed by Victor Kirillow from Russia which proposed the construction of urban mega structures, in which the city is stacked vertically to protect it’s green spaces, giving access to each level through future transportation systems".

The proposals make for a great read and it is a very useful little book to have in the library to flip through, usually during these down times when the current project is just not moving forward, even though everything is in place and the concerns start to nag on the confidence with which the project was started. Exactly then this book might be of great help and inspiration. And who knows maybe it gives you just the kick to to takle these most pressing questions.

However there is a certain feel of architecture school project to it and of course as usual the projects you like will be documented a little to constraint by page limitations. Nevertheless of approaches and the wealth of different styles and visualisation methods make it very interesting and to me this was equally interesting as the actual title topic of the book.

To actually tacle such a vast amount of projects, the jury did a rather good job and the proposed winners and runner ups are definitely really interesting projects such as the 'Water Fuel' or the 'Sky City'. Not that we haven't seen anything like it before, but a new take on a tempting idea is still great.

Book Cover
Image taken from ayotdesign / The book 'The Self-SUfficient City' by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, published by Actar.

One of the nagging topics here is still not answered or maybe even got a bit forgotten about during the whole process. To me the title of the competition implies a certain reading of the discussion that is widely disputed and would probably be very hard contested as a concept and definitely as something worth archiving. The ide of the city as an independent unit, disconnected from everything else and in the sense proposed by the competition as 'Self-Sufficient'. Can the urban area really be thought of without its links to the surrounding countryside, the wider context of the region, the country or the global links, migrations and flows at least between cities? This sort of ultra localism is probably not very healthy and tries to defeat the systemic reality of the ecological discussion. As Colin Fournier put it beautifully in his contribution to the second Ecological Urbanism series: "one should not lose sight of the fact that it’s very existence has always implied, by definition, the opposite of sustainability. Historically, the splitting of the city from the country was the moment when, both symbolically and materially, the culture of non-sustainability became consecrated and took off".

Anyway, this is a crucial aspect of the current discussion and it is noted that to some extend this is absent from this publication. But maybe it doesn't need to be and maybe it is less noted and influential on an architectural level. The competition does contribute a wealth of thinking, practical thinking to the very theoretical current discussion and this is an very important contribution that needs to be moderated into a more complete, informed and in the end realised reality.

Guallart, V. & Capelli, L., 2010. Self-sufficient City: Envisioning the Habitat of the Future, Actar.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

New City Landscape - the World View

The collection of NCL maps of Urban Areas is growing fast and it is getting difficult to keep track of all the cities we have covered so far. The NCL maps show a virtual landscape generated from geo located tweets sent from within a 30 km radius of the urban centre. In fact, so far we have in order of appearance:

New York, London, Munich, Paris, Moscow, Sydney, San Francisco, Barcelona, Denver, Hong Kong, Beijing and Chongqing. Further more the urban areas that need processing are: Shanghai
New Delhi, Chicago, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, Tehran, Tokyo, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Oslo, Basel, Rome, Guongzhou, Mumbai, Bangalore.

To provide a better overview here is a NCL world map with links to the individual locations. A link is provided to click through to the interactive and zoomable version of the individual urban area map. This will allow to explore the city of interest in more detail.

For a large scale map click HERE.

The data collected from the different cities varies quite a lot and especially the number of geo located tweets is a sort of tricky parameter. It does not correlate with the number of messages sent. The dependencies are more complicated and link probably more to the living standards and income. For example urban areas such as Jakarta and Sao Paolo have high numbers of twitter messages sent, but very few lat/lng referenced messages. This is more to be related to the coverage of smart phones and data charges, where people tend to use the twitter service over a broadband internet connection for free.

However, it is interesting to note that the number of geo located messages sent per unique user tend to be around 10 over the period of one week. Some areas go up to 15 or down to 8, but it is fairly constant across the board.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / The graph is showing the urban areas covered so far in the New City Landscape project, were we generate an activity landscape of an urban area using twitter data. The comparison shows vertical: percentage of geo referenced tweets, horizontal: average geo tweet sent per user, size: number of unique user, lable: urban area code.

The maps were created using our CASA Tweet-O-Meter, in association with DigitalUrban and coded by Steven Gray, this New City Landscape represents location based twitter activity.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

New City Landscape - Barcelona

Barcelona is in terms of twitter activity one of the cities that has a strong central core of high activity. Very similar to for example the London NCL or the Paris NCL maps.
The highest point is just over the Placa de Catalonia with a steep slope down la Rambla to the Roca Columbus. Other places of high activity are around the parliament, here the 'Monte di Parliament Catalonia' and around the Olympic centre on Montjuic.
The overall structures are also visible on the twitter map. The boundary of the sea on the souther side of the urban area and the hills and valleys in the northern part for example. Especially the vallies and how they flow into the centre of the city are reflected in the NCL map with fingers going out along these lines.

Barcelona New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Barcelona New City Landscape -Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view.

The Barcelona map was generated from just over 24'000 lat/long geo located tweets collected the week ending 100715. Those came out of a sample of over 250'000 'Barcelona' twitter messages. Thanks to Joan Serras for the help with the labeling.


With Love - a Portrait

With the days getting shorter and the temperature dropping we enjoy the last few autumn days. With this is is nice looking back to the beautifully warm summer days. Here is one of those heartbreakingly romantic summer day clips. Enjoy the 'Love from Southend-on-Sea' by Philip Bloom, shot with a Sony EX1 and Letus Ultimate. As Philip puts it; " short film that captures the feel of a day at a typical British seaside town". Music is by Charles Trenet "La Mer".
THe beauty of this clip for me is in the way Philip picks up on the characters he spots in the scenes. Lovely arranged with a lot of respect for the individuals, he creates a portrait of them in the scene as a whole. I love it. Watch it in HD and full screen mode.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Life in the Line - A one Minute Clip

The experimenting with the SenseCam over the past summer month was great fun and the various contributors and participants have enjoyed the experience.
We are left with a huge pile of data that needs processing now and besides all the other stuff calling for attention it is sort of a tricky task. In total we snapped over 200'000 still images, that goes together with the data collected with the GPS that we attached to the SensCam. Additionally we of course also have the log files of the cameras own sensors.

To give a preview example of the temperature logged by the TMP sensor of the camera here is a Graph of this summers temperature. It wasn't too bad, was it this summer?

Image by urbanTick / Temperature curve over the recording period during the summer of 2010, as captured by the SenseCam Revue TMP sensor.

In terms of visualisation one of the main and intense aspect is the image processing and in a temporal sense the animation of this timelapse data makes sense. An earlier preview of some of the captured dat can be found HERE, together with some screen shots.

One of the participants, the artist Kai has also now processed the data she collected during one day of the experiment into a 1 minute clip, showing her every move, covering a mad range of activities. For detailed description and the longlist of different activities visit the artists website at 3rdlifekaidie.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Community Remote Sensing - CRS

Notes on the GSA Annual Meeting 2010 in Denver, where I presented a NCL paper during the Community Remote Sensing session.
The session was organised by the Susanne Metlay for the Secure World Foundation and drew together a range of people working on crowd sourcing, online data mining and collaborative mapping. The range of work presented was very broad, but the overarching idea was to bring together these experts and in a concluding plenary discussion the way forward for an emerging field. As an overarching title the term Community Remote Sensing CRS was suggested, hence the title of the session.

Speaking of the variety of presented projects, it ranged from crowd sourcing projects, mainly smart phone based, for mapping and observing the nature environment. For example observations contributing to the national species registry, the mapping the spreading and growth of invasive weeds or the tracking of sessional changes from crowd sourced reports on the state of flowers and threes.
A major group of project was looking at disaster management, with data and information gathering and rapid response. The focus here was on using the crowd as well as the wider science and academic community to quickly mobilise and coordinate recourses in the wake of a disaster event.
A third group of projects focused on distributed systems to generate a wealth of detailed local data by piggybacking on existing resources, such as collecting weather and road information data through a network of vehicle based sensor information.
A fourth area was the mining of existing or online generated information of web services such as social networks.

The Session was opened with a presentation by William Gail from Microsoft Startup Business Group who talked about his vision of a CRS discipline, high lighting the potential as well a the challenges and problems that need to be faced.
Among the main aspects are the question of privacy and ethics, the validation and accuracy of the data as well as the question of ownership. These questions or topics continuously popped up during the whole session in various combinations and contexts.
Gail gave an overview of existing projects and efforts without getting too attached to a certain direction or solution. While trying to setting up CRS as a emerging fields this was essential.

The Virtual Disaster Visualiser VDV software was on the examples focusing on rapid disaster response and offers a platform for viewing, mapping, sharing and handling large quantities of aerial photo based surface information. It for example assists with remote sensing disaster damage assessment and supports the collaboration of numerous contributors and experts. The VDV was developed at the EPIcentre at UCL by Enrica1 Verrucci, Beverley Asams and Tiziana Rossetto.
The software was successfully deployed in the wake of the Haiti earth quake in 2010. The platform was used to coordinate surveys and allowed a team of 150 experts to asses the area of 1000km square within only 96 hours. For this the base data from the satellite processed by SERTIT which documented especially the port au prince area just four hours after the earth quake with a resolution of about 25cm square.

Image taken from National Geographic Blog / Screen view of the Virtual Disaster Viewer.

Two projects from UCLA, presented and co developed by Eric Graham demonstrated the potential of crowd sourced botanical data collections. The 'What's Invasive!' weed project made use of an Android platform application to map and monitor the distribution and growth of invasive weed species in the United States. The idea is to let volunteers submit location based and image information on the weed they happen to find. To do so the software would offer a location based list of weeds that can be reported. With one click the information is submitted to a central server and mapped in real time. The Android app can be downloaded HERE.
The second project called 'Project BudBurst' is focusing on the tracking of the seasons by collecting plant state information. With this application, also Android based, volunteers can log the progress different plant species make over the course of the year. The plant state is submitted via the app to a central server.
The idea is to get people to observe howler example threes grow buds and start flowering on their daily commute and that these observations can be simple and conveniently reported to simplify the contribution to a nation wide project.
The projects have to show some very promising initial results where the mapping is very successful and accurate as comparison studies show. Furthermore the crowd sourcing aspects allow for a widely distributed collection setup with a lot more reports than individual experts would be able to archive. However the project team has identified the challenges to be with the motivation of volunteers for a continuos contribution rather than one off submissions.

Image taken from Project Bud Burt / A loacation mapped with description popping up on te interactive map.

A massive environmental disaster hit the American Gulf Coast around New Orleans in May this year and the extensive oil spill will dominate the area for years in many ways. From food production, for example sea food businesses, to every day natural impact and animal deaths and large scale loss of habitats.
A local initiative to enable the local population to deal with the intense impact is the NGO Luisiana Bucket Brigade. They where in this from day one and they are locals, which means they know the area and especially they know the people. They got involved with the Grassroot mapping project and implemented it as part of their activities in the Gulf area.
The idea is to produced community sourced mappings of the oil spill. The technique was developed at the MIT by
With cheap parts and simple technique the project manages enable nearly everyone to start doing quality mapping. Their Wiki describes all the details of what is required and how to put it in practice.

$100 Satellite: Grassroots Mapping poster

The images captures b the flying camera are later on stitched together to a high resolution image that can be used to produce the maps. The flight device not necessarily needs to be a helium balloon, but also can be a kit, large enough to carry the additional weight of the cam.

Bay Jimmy, Detail 04, 20100722
Image by Cesar Harada & Hunter Daniel / Bay Jimmy, Detail 04, 20100722, for : LA Bucket Brigade |, with :, location : 29.468400 ; -89.911300, time : 2010 July 22 @ 10:30AM

This is of course only a very short and incomplete selection of the presented work. The urbanTIck contribution can be found HERE. The potential of community based data collection has been realised and can be taken a step further coming from the web 2.0 idea. Once more this session demonstrated the diversity of the possibilities for applications and utility. On the other hand it has also clearly visualised the questions that need to be addressed, starting with ethical and privacy issues all the way to ownership and authority.