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June, 2010 Monthly archive

Strong concepts and approaches in planning, shaping and maintaining urban areas are very scarce these days and it is more a ‘we figure it out by ourselves’ climate. At least if one dwells in the romanic admiration of past epochs. Looking back, from a different standpoint, puts a different perspective on things and relating this to current or upcoming tasks, one is tempted to believe everything was simpler and better in the old days. (But it was not! as a statement to move on.) Still the lack of a strategy, an overall idea or a concept one can relate projects, processes and task to is a problem. Not so much for the quality of the output or the individual project, but for the discipline and the communication. So much effort needs to be put in for the translation or the connection that too often this is neglected. In this sense it hinders the progress, the richness and the ability to react on different levels.
A approach that has been recently dug out and is now published in a book with a lot of contextual information and supported by case studyes illustrating the point is by Luuk Boelens ‘The Urban COnnection – An actor relational approach to urban planning‘ published by 010 Publishers. The concept of an actor oriented practice contrasts directly with the traditional retrospective analysis of studies. The benefit is the concrete aspects of the examples as well as the suggestions and solution orientated conclusions well suited for a globalising but fragmenting world. Speaking of globalisation, this, I believe, forms an important part of the context in which this publication stands. On one hand reflected in the choice of case studies represented in the ‘referencial argument’ presented as ‘boxes’ or special inter chapters, looking at Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth, the Pearl River Delta, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. On the other hand this reflects the topics raised in the current debate concerned with global phenomena as well as the vanishing identity of local areas.
This is obvious a massive task, but strikingly successful. By touching on and integrating a multidisciplinary perspective on planning, economics, social geography and governance this starts to paint a holistic picture. Explained in a few words, Jaqueline Cramer, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning, tried to summarise the concept as: “It’s not them, it’s just a whole lot of us.”
For me this is the central and most important argument for a new approach, claiming back owner ship of the urban areas, the spaces and landscapes. It is not a service out there that we enjoy, its not a shopping mall and its not a place we payed for an entry ticket! On the contrary as Cramer puts it it is us, we make the city.
This of course brings with it the responsibility a;; of us have to carry, the most normal thing in the world, one could argue, has become the privilege of the elite role models.
The content of the publication is structured in two parts. First as a ‘scientific argument’ in five chapters: ‘Dutch spatial planningin transition’, ‘Main and brainport planning 2.0’, ‘Transnational communities’, ‘Institutional order via association’ and ‘Outlines for a new planning future’. This is followed by the second part of the earlier mentioned ‘Referential argument’ in two chapters: ‘A relational tale of metropolises’ and ‘References as suggestion for further research’.

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Image by 010 Publishers / Spread 60-61 ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

The examples in the ‘boxes’ examine one example each in specific detail and wider context. The first box focuses on Rotterdam: from staple port to main port and further. Here the usual historical facts and stories are presented, but with a special focus on the actors. In a lot of detail the individuals or companies are portrayed to find out about their role and actions in a wider context. This not only makes the story a lot more interesting but actually allows for an additional perspective. It does require to some extend a courageous stand to tackle the historic problem with this sort of a standpoint, since the author has to leave the tall platform of objectivity and take on a more subjective position. This is, as beautifully demonstrated here, however very beneficial.

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Image by 010 Publishers / Spread 108-109 ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

In the chapter transnational communities South America stands a the centre with a focus on Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo who both are largely immigrant cities, not least based on the fact both are founded by European Colonials, the Spanish and Portuguese respectively. These immigrants forme large communities in these urban areas and in general identify clearly with the place. This is for me a very interesting point of view that is argued here, how these transnational communities play a major role in the running of these cities portrayed as actors and not as usual as part of the problem. This completely changes the picture and disarms all the standard arguments and solutions on the spot. A joy, opening new perspectives that were thought to be lost in the haystack.

A book that outlines an approach that doe not only sound promising but actually looks promising. The richness of examples and concrete conclusions and suggestions make this a perfect starting point for experts of the trans disciplinary field and global community to change their minds and perspectives. For many I imagine this will be spoken from the heart. Finally something to hold in the hands as a ‘leitmotif’ for everyday practice.

The book can also be found online at Google Books for a first read, but as usual the previe is restricted in parts.

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Image by 010 Publishers / Book cover ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

Boelens, L., 2009. The Urban Connection: An Actor-relational Approach to Urban Planning, 010 Publishers.

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‘How are you?’ a phrase used constantly at meeting someone. Rarely the response is anything other than a ‘fine’. The relationship between location or activity and mood has been subject for lots of research projects, for example the early mental maps by Peter Gould and Rodney White of desired locations to life, Christian Nold’s BioMapping or Sorin Matei’s Maps of Los Angeles spaces.
With the Glow iPhone app the latest persona mood is georeferenced and contributes to a location based mood map. It offeres a palett of features, leaving the actual mood meter bit almost behind. Anyway, what you get is a map, a AR view window and a bunch of sharing options, including twitter and facebook.
The mood is then visualised with an outwards fading blob of glowing reds, purples and blues. Looks neat and makes you feel almost a bit better.
To see the map you first have to contribute your current mood status. The AR looks particularly promising with its superimposed colour schema.
Check it out and add your moods to the cloud, the app is free.

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Image by urbanTick / Screen shots from the mood app GLOW for the iPhone. Location based sharing of your current mood.

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Tokyo the dense city with the many lights, buzzing streets and total anonymity in the crowd. Or as here the beautiful place, sitting in context between speed rail and the colour changing sky.

Produced by Stefan Werc on a Canon 7D, music, Broadcast 2000 “get up and go” broadcast2000.co.uk

Get up and go from Stefan Werc on Vimeo.

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It is really something that is the aesthetic of the time. Thin black endless wiggly lines on an abstract white background, densifying here, loosening up here only to cuddle in an other heap of completely tangled up strings over her. These abstract patterns are visually fascinating, but why this is, I am not sure. One thing is the abstraction from an obvious continuos activity of some sort, the presence of an invisible repetition, of which one is sure must be there and the forming pattern of density and mess.
We have, over the last two, three years learned to recognise these sort of drawings as movement line. Movement of people and animals perhaps, but movement lines quite different from other movement paths previously visualised such as the path of the sun or planets, the movement of shadows or water. It contains the aspects of immediate and real-time decision on the spot, the reaction to a range of influences from large scale, distant events, to the immediate surrounding and interactions with other static or moving objects. It represents in this sense a process as a string of events that were actively dealt with. This aspect of process or in this context better ‘creation’ – in the sense of creating as you go along, of individual actions influenced by background, experience and personality – is a unique characteristic that usually is either underestimated and erase-simplified or over estimated by putting it as random. What exactly is its role in a denser aggregated context?

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Image by urbanTick / Movement tracking over the period of 1.9 hours working in the evening on some posts and mapping tasks. The activity is captured as curser positions using the software IOGraphica.

The visualisation here, come very close to what has been described above, but actually it does not represent any physical movement, it is a simple track map of the curser activity on the computer screen. There are similarities, however the context is extremely confined and designed to work and relate in a specific way. Nevertheless it produces visually interesting images. And if your bored and dont have time to go for a walk, a stole and drift thought the city, let you mouse curser do it for you. The too is called IOGraphica was deveoped by Anatoly Zenkov and Andrey Shipilov and is currently available in v0.9. A tool to run in the background and track you workday at the desk. One started it records each location of the curser as well as the duration, draws lines between them and upon request visualises the time spent per location as growing black dots. Only a few options available but nicely presented.
Download from HERE. See some more visuals on flickr.

Thanks to Paul M. fo the link

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A long awaited book with the tremendously interesting subject of time and mapping is finally out. Princeton Architectural Press has published a beautiful scholarly book by the two professors Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton, ‘Cartography of Time – A History of the Timeline‘ Beautiful in this case means not only the layout is nice, but this also extend to the presentation, material, text and depth and presentation of research.
Alone the collection of examples is astonishing and can serve as a visual encyclopaedia. I happily spend hours just browsing the pages and dive here and there in contextual texts of one of the illustrations.
The timing for this publication seems perfect. Time is a hotter topic than ever, from science labs to the work place to everyday live. Every service has a temporal aspect these days.
The content is presented in eight chapters, that seem to fit with the content maybe because it has multiple meanings. For one it represents loosely history, but also the history of the book as the process of developing and writing it and at the same time imposes structure to large groups of aspects. It starts with genealogy charts and develops over linear history charts to end in the chapter ‘Big Time’ where arrangements of long term timescales up to the current days are presented. Even though we take the timeline as a given tool of communication, the authors demonstrate here how this understanding was developed and how it came to be so intuitive.

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Image taken from Cartographies of Time p120 / Joseph Priestley, 1769, A New Chart of History.

The examples shown are documented and explained with of lot of care for details and put in context. A lot of te examples are beautiful coloured in with watercolours, showing these quiet but present colours of green yellow, red and blue. Most examples are linear, but some are circular or even three dimensional. It features John Sparks’ 1931 ‘The Histomap’ but also R. Buckminster Fuller’s 1943 ‘Profile of the Industrial Revolution as Exposed by theChronological Rate of Acquisition of the Basic Inventory of Cosmic Absolutes‘ and his 1963 ‘Shrinking of our Planet by Man’s Increased Travel And COmmunication Speed Around the Globe’.
The book puts a lot of emphasis on the graphics and representation techniques. So not surprising, the first book quoted is Eduard Tufte’s ‘The Visual Display of Quantitative Information’
and the second is from the same author, ‘Beautiful Evidence’.
The publication makes it clear in the first sentence what the content is about: “While historical texts have long been subject to critical analysis, the formal and historical problem posed by graphic representation of time have largely been ignored.” (p.10) The authors introduce two terms for one subject, History = Time. Very few publications actually state their intentions this clearly and usually try to benefit from some vague outlines. ‘Cartographies of Time’ really is a history book, as the authors themselves admit in the lecture.

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Image taken from Cartographies of Time p24 / Manuscipt timeline for Olaf Stapledon’s classic 1930 science fiction novel, ‘Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future.

For me, in this sense, the title of the book can be a little misleading and the move to declare time and history the same is questionable. For me there are overlaps and one (history) benefits from the other (time – especially concepts of linear times as in the sense of a time ‘line’ line). However the publication incudes representation of time that go beyond a pure history representation. For example it features Charls Josephs Minard’s 1860s graph depicting Napleon’s assult on Russia, a first sketches of ideas and devices to capture many frames in immediate sequence as developed by Muybridge and Marey in , ‘201 Days’ artwork by Katie Lewis where she mapped body sensation over a period of time on an abstract map or the ‘Historical Atlas’ by Eduard Quin published in 1828 depicting the spatial extension of the known world at different points in time using clouds as a graphical metaphor of the unknown.
Those examples for me indicate that there is a lot more to the aspect of time than the traditionally linear approach often chosen by historians. But at the same time history is not history and in the meaning of the word, for me, has more to do with story than line. In a sense I picture history and mapping history especially, similar to J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ map of Middle-earth and accurat representation of an idea. TIme and time concepts are very much representations of a social and scientific understanding or concept. I am aware that this is a big discussion and authos such as Zerubavel or Thrift have written extensively about it.

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Image taken from Cartographies of Time p128 / Eduard Quin, ‘An Historical Atlas’. The European known Earth shown through clouds from the birth of Christ to the death of Constantine, A.D. 337. In full color from Scandinavia and Morocco to Korea.

However even though it is absent from this publication here, it was stated by the authors at the very beginning and this publication has its strength, as highlighted above, in very different areas.
This is a book about the graphical representation of history, told along a brilliantly selected chain of examples and the physical extend of it clearly shows that this is enough. Further more, the content demonstrates that this book contributes a significant elements, again as identified by the authors, to the field of time research as well as the discussion, for witch debating the subject again in this case is not necessary.
But maybe there is room for a sister publication on the representation of time in other fields, for example time, space, maths, religion, …

For additional reviews see the one on Bibliodyssey or information and a audio record of the lecture given by the authors at the book launch party organised by Cabinet.

Rosenberg, D. & Grafton, A., 2010. Cartographies of Time, Princeton Architectural Press, New York.

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We have been monitoring different cities’ tweeting habits over the past months using the Tweet-O-Meter. This project is developed together with DigitalUrban and was coded by Steven Gray. Earlier we had covered a London Weekend (HERE, HERE, HERE) and now we are looking at four cities. Those are New York, London, Paris and Munich over the period of one week.
The data is derived from tweets sent via a mobile device from an app that includes the location at the time of sending the message. We see large differences between the overall tweeting as well as in the mobile usage of twitter. London and New York generally send about the same amount of tweets, New York however has about twice the amont of mobile users compared to London.

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Image by urbanTick / New York tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

From the pool of tweets covering the city we have generated the New City Landscapes as a form of tweetography. Here the landscape features corresponds with the twitter activity of locals. THe mountains rise over active locations and cliffs drop down in to calm vallies flowing out to tweet deserts. Through out the emerging landscape features have been renamed to reflect the conditions.
The data is based on information collected over a seven day week last month. SOme temporal graphs will follow. There are obviously differences in temporal activities, but the New City Landscape is an overview of the logged time frame as a whole.

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Image by urbanTick / New York tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density – Zoom.

Charactering New York along the New City Landscape we can distinguish a massif of mountains from Fordham Heights southwards over the Central Harlem Rock, dropping down into Central Park to steeply rise up to the Timesquare Peak a long a ridge to the NYU Top to the Chinatown Head, where it starts dropping down the Financial Cliff. Towards the East the Manhattan Bridge Ditch separates this massif from the Brooklyn set of peaks. Were it starts with the Downtown Peak towards Bedford Hill, turning south over Ocean Hill, Rugby Ridge down towards Flatlands into the Mill Bassin Curve, dropping into the Jamaica Bay Pit. Another smaller group of hills form around the Jamaica Hills, Rosedale Hill and JFK Terminal 4 Point. For more details refer to the detailed map. Special thanks to John Reads for helping out with local knowledge.

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Image by urbanTick / London tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

London has compared to New York a centralised Peak structure with the Soho Mountain as its peak. The massif here falls from this point in all directions with a north ridge going along the Camden Ridge across Arsenal Point, Finsbury Park Ridge to the Tottenham Hill. This line ends with the Edmonton Peak at the Ponders End. Further outside singular peaks can be found such as the Heathrow Peak, the Selsdon Peak or the Chaffordon Hundred Hill in the East.

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Image by urbanTick / London tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density – Zoom.

We are still working on other maps. Munich and Paris are under way and more are to come soon. The language translation is tricky but with the help of specialists we might get that together.
Here a Munich preview.

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Image by urbanTick / Munich tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

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Update 2010-06-04

Paris is now joining the other three cities. Here is the New City Landscape map of the Ille de France. Special thanks go to Annick for helping out with the terminology.

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Image by urbanTick / Paris tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density. Click map for a detailed version.

And the zoom-in as a preview

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Image by urbanTick / Paris tweetography, the New City Landscsape generated from tweet density – Zoom.

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It is online since last week, the Geotaggers’ World Atlas derived from geo taged photographs on flickr and picasa. Eric Fischer has put together a series of 100 World cities mapped out by the click of cameras of locals and tourists. By acessing the API’s of both flickr and picasa Fischer was able to process thousands of images per location.
Fischer doesn’t only plot the location, but takes traces movement by individual photographer including sort of classifying the mode of transport by speed derived from the time stamps. The differen colours read as: black is less than 7 mph (11 km/h), red is less than 19 mph (30 km/h), blue is less than 43 mph (69 km/h) – car, and green is faster.
This is an amazing collection rendered on top of an OSM background layer. Check out the rest of the cities in the flickr set.

The Geotaggers' World Atlas #12: Vancouver
Image by Eric Fischer / The Vancouver Duck, derived from geotaged flickr and picasa photographs. The colouring corresponds to speed of traveling between the different pictures.

Thanks for the link to Matt from Wiser is the Path.

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2010-06-09 UPDATE

Eric has processed the data further and created a second set of maps of the world cities using the same sources. This time the focus is on who takes the picture and what is this persons relationship to the place. He works with thee categories, local, tourist and not to determine. This highlights the areas of which only locals take snaps in read and areas were predominantly locals, blue, take pictures. Very obvious there are places tourists just don’t go to on a short visit to an unknown place, for a number of reasons. This can be lack of knowledge, not knowing the directions or not interested. On the other hand high profile places might not be very interesting for locals. In a lot of the maps large areas are actually covered in blue where locals document their city. New set can be found on flickr.

Locals and Tourists #11 (GTWA #12): Vancouver
Image by Eric Fischer / The Vancouver Duck, derived from geotaged flickr and picasa photographs. Blue points on the map are pictures taken by locals (people who have taken pictures in this city dated over a range of a month or more).
Red points are pictures taken by tourists (people who seem to be a local of a different city and who took pictures in this city for less than a month).
Yellow points are pictures where it can’t be determined whether or not the photographer was a tourist (because they haven’t taken pictures anywhere for over a month). They are probably tourists but might just not post many pictures at all.

Thanks for the link to Ralph Bartel

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