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— urbantick

May 2009 Monthly archive

Christian Nolde form biomapping has put together a book containing essays around the topic of emotions, mapping, experience and visuals of the city. The book is called Emotional Cartography – the Technologies of the self. It is freely available on the internet as a full quality colour version at emotionalcartography or as a 2mb version here. It is all published under a Creative Commons.
It is edited by Christian and contains a number of essays by other people like, Raqs Media Collective, Marcel van de Drift, Dr Stephen Boyd Davis, Rob van Kranenburg, Sophie Hope and Dr Tom Stafford.

Image from emotionacartography

Christian’s Biomapping projects are great works bringing together both environmental and body informations.
His famous Greenwich Emotion Map was one of the first things I used Google Earth for. The kml can be downloaded here.

Images from biomapping

Here Christian combines informations such as sweat indicator, photographs taken by the participants, location information and comments by the participants.

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The beat as a driving force has been used on this blog already a number of times. It refers to a constant that imposes a rhythm on activities. There is the beat of the drums, the scheduled beat of trains, tubes and buses, the beat of events and shows or the beat of the shopping street with opening times and new trends. In all this we, as individuals are swirled around in a big buzz but still we have and keep our own bet. On to level of our personal body a number of elements beat in sync. There is the heartbeat, the blink of an eye and the breath that keep us going.
In the visualization breathingearth, this body functions are taken onto a global level. Not individually but collectively and in the form of births and deaths. By visualizing the starting beats of the births and the ending beats of the deaths, a global picture of how the earth beats individually might be drawn. How ever sad the death of an individual and how joyous the birth of a new life, the striking thing on this is how continuity emerges.
Animated as flashing dots the map visualizes births and death on the planet in “real time”. Every country on the map features with information on population, birth and death rates. In addition the amount of CO2 produced by country is displayed in black and red.
Get a feel for the beat – click on the image!
Image from breathingearth – click on image to see the animated visualization

Where does the data come from for this visualization? According to the producers, all data used on Breathing Earth is the latest available, as of December 2008. Birth and death rates: 2008 estimates, from the CIA World Factbook. Population data is based on July 2008 estimates from the CIA World Factbook. When Breathing Earth is started, it uses each country’s birth and death rates to calculate how much its population has changed since July 2008, and adjusts its population figure accordingly. To calculate the total world population, Breathing Earth adds up the population figures of all countries. It continues adjusting the various population figures as you watch it, each time a person is born or a person dies.
CO2 emission rates are 2004 figures from the United Nations Statistics Division.

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Another look at the recent interviews does focus on the personal schedule. Part one on mental maps can be found here. To complement the GPS records the individual information regarding the daily program participants have set up, is an important bit to draw a more comprehensive picture.
During the interview participants are asked to note down what their schedule is on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. The daily schedule is an obvious unit, but to put it in a more meaningful context additional units have been chosen.
It turned out that this is usually the longest and most complicated bit of the interview. It seems to be not as simple to explain one’s daily schedule. There are a lot of ifs, ands, ors together with thens and woulds. In short it is presented as a dynamic string of decisions with numerous dependencies. Nevertheless there are strong elements of directory within this pool of fluent decision making. Again the major element is the working week versus the weekend. It is very easy to simplify all this information and boil it down to a few catchy phrases. Too often in the past personal schedules have been described as work, leisure, home. I don’t think this can captures the richness with which participants have talked about their personal routines. Even if on first sight a story sounds simple and organized the perception of it for the individual might be different. To illustrate this an extract of one record.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary – the daily schedule
To put it in a context the weekly time frame can help to understand that there are variations to this. In the example the changes are mainly between workweek and weekend. The focus does represent the personal situation. There are big differences between participants that have dependent children and those that have none.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary – the weekly schedule

Taking the two time frames together it represents the participants “mind map” of weekly activities. Regarding the information one might think there could be large gaps between plans and activities. But actually the two are pretty close. The “mental picture” of our routines is pretty good. Comparing this to participants’ perception of their spatial activities this is surprising. In spatial terms people often think their activities are much more flexible and they are traveling more than they actually are. This has lead to a lot of disappointment during the GPS tracking. (See UrbanDiary week 2)
By generating a schedule from the GPS data we have another record of when activities take place and are able to compare the two. They are pretty similar. The generated schedule plots data per hour and is coloured by weekday. Vertically the amount of activity at the time is shown an is derived from the number of recorded log points.
The two peaks represent the rush hour. The very light colour on top is the activities that took place on Saturdays. Sunday on the other hand is
the darkest colour on the bottom.

​Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary – Weekly schedule generated from GPS records

Regarding the timeframe interaction with the urban form takes place an abstract version of the schedule can help. The following representation has only four units over 24 hours to simplify and make clear where activity takes place, the units are morning, midday, afternoon and evening. Activity that involves spatial interaction on weekdays is basically during the rush hour in the morning and the evening. Other than this there is little activity. The weekend pattern is different in terms that there is afternoon and evening activity, with Saturday being the most active day. (See also the detailed analysis of the daily weekly and monthly pattern of UD participants)

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary – the weekly schedule simplified

The information from the time frame of one year has not proofed to be too interesting. For most of the participants this was a too wide category. It seems not be a unit that a lot of people plan in, although in professional life this is definitely important and annual planning is key. In terms of personal activity few have had planned activities other than the expected Christmas and Easter brakes. Birthdays and holiday were among the other named activities on a yearly scale.
Regarding the city and spatial morphology longer terms are of course interesting, but the connections have probably to be found elsewhere.

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The open source online street atlas Open Street Map is produced by volunteers uploading GPS tracks and adding names and features. To get specific areas mapped, mapping parties are organized. A number of interested people meet up to map the area. It’s a lot of fun and provides a social aspect to the all so lonely occupation of the maper.
The latest mapping party took place in Milton Keynes in the UK and is very well documented on the web. A number of people have participated and they covered quite a lot in a previously for Open Street Map (OSM) unmapped area. In the image below each participant is assigned an individual colour. This trace shows what she/he has been mapping.

Image from wiki.openstreetmap.org

The very nice example also comes as an animation. A Python script makes this possible. Instructions to do so can be found here.
Thanks for the link go to Andrew Crooks from GISagent.

Open street map has provided us with nice animations o their GPS traces before. There was the breath taking clip about OSM world wide earlier this year. A version on vimeo:
OSM 2008: A Year of Edits from ItoWorld on Vimeo.

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The topic of animal tracking has featured on the blog already a few times, starting with a joke for April first. It was a story about tracking frogs in my backyard and it sparkled a number of responses ranging from oh, how are they supposed to mate with this large tracking device, to uh, actually we don’t even know how many of these amphibians live in our back gardens.
So here is an other one, not a joke, but an animal tracking project, tracking your cat! It makes of an interesting combination. Cats are known very loyal and loving animals; they like routine, show up when you feed them and will lie on your computer keyboard when you try to work. There is another side to this cuddly animal. It is a hunter and predator, kills and eats a large variety of small animal and enjoys strolling around. This second side we, as pet holder know very little about. How far do they stroll, where do they hunt and where do they sleep, are some of the questions we might find ourselves thinking about while on the bus to work. Is Spotty maybe enjoying herself at the neighbors, or does the old lady down the road feed her? The cat wouldn’t tell us and we will never know, which is probably good, but there you go here comes the solution. Why not tracking your cat with GPS? (Found through csendsedesign blog)
The solution is Mr. Lee’s CatTracker. A simple GPS tracker that you can put on your cat let it collect some data and then download to the computer put it on Google Earth and most likely you will get some lines around your house, in your back yard and down the street, great!

Image from mr-lee-catcam.de

This is it the tin y device that can be attached via a harness or collar to the cat and of it goes. It is a small pack, containing receiver, battery and antenna. It connects via USB 1.1 runs for approximately 30 hours while saving location points every 30 seconds and has storage capacity for 64000 points. That makes for around 530 hours of tracking… while charging of course. Anyway, would be fun to test the device.

Image from mr-lee-catcam.de

Of course the company does have some more great ideas for pet owners. There is also the catCam. Put a cam on your cat and you can even see what the cat saw. A clip can be seen here.
The page has also lots of tips and trick, including manuals if you are planning to build your own tracking equipment to follow your pet. Bits and peaces are available from their web store.

Having said that, there are scientific pet tracking project. One of them featured not long a go in an article in the Guardian and is looking at cat as predators. Scientist believe that cats “are responsible for the deaths of millions of small wild animals each year” (Guardian from Monday 16th of February) Research is undertaken at the University of Reading and the project including the GPS receivers seems not to have started yet.

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A visualization of world wide air traffic over a 24 hour period.
Amazing, how all these yellow dots swirl over the world map. The expected hotspots, the states and Europe as destinations show up. Although one would expect that we live in a 24 hour society especially regarding air traffic, the day night rhythm directs the number of flights. Flight activities pick up in the early morning hours ad dies out in the late night hours.
At the beginning one can observe how the flight traffic in the states slowly calms down and at the same time with the rise of the morning in Europe the number of flights picks up, enjoy!

The animation was produced to be shown on the high definition 3D-Globe “Orbitarium” in Technorama – The Swiss Science Center in collaboration with Institute of Applied Information Technology InIT, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur. The data used is from 2008.
There is plenty of versions of this animation another one on vimeo.

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A one year project by Eirik Solheim produced this nice timeLapse. It shows a nature scene over the period of one year, from winter to winter, including snow!
A tutorial on how this was shot and processed is available on his blog.

One year in 40 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

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At ETH Zuerich a mobile version of pedestrian detection was developed. It is demonstrated in a clip that featured in a blog post over at technology review. It is stunning how accurate the software is able to distinguish between individuals in these rather crowded scenes. Plus, all is mobile, the camera is mounted in a car and presumably the software runs the analysis live, including these nice little trails the pedestrians leave behind.
Technology was developed by researches from the Computer Vision Laboratory at ETH Zuerich in a collaboration with Toyota.

stills taken from http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1460879066?bctid=22789618001

Two papers related to the project above are available online:
Coupled Object Detection and Tracking from Static Cameras and Moving Vehicles, by Bastian Leibe, Konrad Schindler, Nico Cornelis, and Luc Van Gool
A Mobile Vision System for Robust Multi-Person Tracking, by Andreas Ess1 Bastian Leibe Konrad Schindler Luc Van Gool1, ETH Zurich, Switzerland 2KU Leuven, Belgium

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A stunning TimeLapse unwrapping the day as it continues to click frame by frame.

Timelapse Reel# 3 (RED & 40D footage) from 599 Productions on Vimeo.

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As a second phase of the UrbanDiary project, the data collection focuses on the participants perception of their routine and activity. During semi structured interviews detailed information to accompany and extend the data collected via the GPS device. The selected topics for the interview are personal information such as work status and family status, routine, schedule, spatial knowledge, contextual knowledge, transport, memory of routes and GPS device usage. During the interview the participants are also asked to write down information about their daily, weekly and yearly schedule and also to draw a mental map of their travel from home to work and back.
Some preliminary observations from on e of the first sketches drawn by a UD participant, looking at mode of transport, sequence of noting down descriptive elements and a comparison to the GPS record of the route.

Mental Map analysis by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary

Of course also the way participants’ use the space given to work on is already very interesting and in this case only the very top of the sheet was used. Participants are asked to comment on what they draw and the transcript of this helps to interpret the drawing, for example regarding the sequence or comments they have made about their feelings in connection with a certain element.
The first two analysis diagrams look at relationship of mode of transports (top) and sequence of map creation (bottom), both based on the participants meal map. What looks like another of the GPS records is more of a dot-to-dot doodle.
Mode of transport in this example is bus journeys and walking. Comparing this to the GPS record (left) it is clearly visible that the length of the bus journey is different. In the mental map the walked part is in much more detail represented than the bus journey.

This is only to give a quick update on the UD project. The amount of data that these interviews provide for the project will keep me busy for a while. The next update will be on a comparison of schedules.

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