web analytics

— urbantick

Tag "analysis"

What has the study of urban phenomenons in common with medical examination? Both could be described as studying a ‘body’ and trying to find explanations of it’s ‘functions’ in the wider context of ‘elements’. This is in both areas a rather practical and realists view with a dramatic functionalists angle.

The rational definition of the city as a body, as for example discussed HERE, has its fascination and many famous urbanists are or have linked to this visualisation. It does convey a certain familiarity in its illustration. However it is far from an abstraction and thus is not very helpful. It only shifts the problem in question from one complex into the other one.

CT Brain Scan
Image taken from Wikipedia / Computed tomography of human brain, from base of the skull to top. Taken with intravenous contrast medium.

However, since both fields are struggling with their respective complexity it could be an option to transfer techniques for examination. This is what Martin Krieger proposes in his new book ‘Urban Tomographies‘ published by University of Pennsylvania Press 2011. Krieger proposes to transfer the techniques of exploring phenomenons through a large number of examples as for example used in CT scans, a technique where organs or other ‘elements’ are envisioned through numerous individual slice images. It is used to generate a three-dimensional image of the inside of an object from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation.

Basically many small frames are used to piece together the larger whole. This is useful since organs can be visualised and examined without actually having to open. These sort of scans are often used in parts of the human body like the brain where surgery is extremely difficult.

Transferring this technique, with all the necessary alterations, to the field of urban analysis is an intriguing proposal. Especially in the context of the current hype of massive data sets and large scale collections, the term tomography seems an appropriate umbrella. It already has its coining which is relatively balanced. However literally translated it would be closer to something like a laydar scan or mesh model used for 3d representation of urban environments such as in the lates OVI Map 3D.

Krieger’s interpretation or migration however, is going further and proposed a more applied and somehow qualitative rooted interpretation of the concept. Many little documentations of the topic to investigate will together represent the larger whole not only physical but also socially and culturally. He explains: “Urban tomography, with its dense and multiple perspectives in space and time and type, allows for exploratory analysis of the world in front of us. … Multiple perspectives viewed in parallel, and re-viewed, allow for seeing it all, again and again, so that you begin to figure out what it is you are seeing: flows, phenomena, types – not individuals.”

Urban Tomographies Cover
Image taken from Urban Tomographies / Urban Tomographies store front

In his investigations Krieger focuses on Los angeles and includes photography as his main method or study. Besides this he also integrates sounds and the recording thereof into his investigations.

The book begins by introducing tomographic methods and the principles behind them, which are taken from phenomenological philosophy. It draws from the examples of Lee Friedlander and Walker Evans, as well as Denis Diderot, Charles Marville, and Eugène Atget, who documented the many facets of Paris life in three crucial periods. Rather than focus on singular, extraordinary figures and events as do most documentarians, Krieger looks instead at the typical, presenting multiple specific images that call attention to people and activities usually rendered invisible by commonality. He took tens of thousands of photographs of industrial sites, markets, electrical distributing stations, and storefront churches throughout Los Angeles. He also recorded the city’s ambient sounds, from the calls of a tamale vendor to the buzz of a workshop saw. Krieger considers these samples from the urban sensorium in this innovative volume, resulting in a thoughtful illumination of the interplay of people with and within the built environment. With numerous maps and photographs, as well as Krieger’s unique insights, Urban Tomographies provides an unusually representative and rounded view of the city.

Urban Tomographies Cover
Image taken from Urban Tomographies / Book cover.

Krieger, M.H., 2011. Urban Tomographies, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Read More

This is sort of movie time at urbanTick. Before you press play here, get your popcorn ready and fill your bottle with whatever. The movie you are going to watch is a dramatic 53:57 long, but it is definitely worth it. The most comprehensive documentation at the moment about the visualisation trend we are currently already in the middle of. ‘Journalism in the Age of Data’ is produced by Geoff McGhee: “Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?”

It covers everything, mainly graphics of course, but also technology, narratives, truth, journalism, documentation, colour, interaction and of course data. Data in many forms and shades. This ranging from free data to collected data, data gathering, data collection, data storage, data cleaning, data preparation, data, data, data, data…

Flight paths
Image by Aaron Koblin / Flight paths over the United States. The colours represent the plane model.

It is great how they get the producers of the visualisations to talk about their work, the movement and the critiques. This makes it a rather personal documentation. Of course you also get to see the best visualisations of the past two years. Of course some of them you have seen here on urbanTick before, including for example the ‘Movie Character Interaction Charts‘ by XKCD, or of course the US flight path maps by Aaron Koblin. But now, GO!

And a note here, you can watch a ‘fuller’ version directly at datajournalism.stanford.edu. It is shown together with additional material and comments as a sort of interactive version.

Read More

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.

Read More

Predicting the future is a trade of its own. What the future holds has been a mysterie fascinating man kind since the early days. With predicting you can either get it right or wrong. The closest to the prediction probably comes the planning approach. This is applied widely in science and planning. A specific concept of scenario planning was developed in the 60’s. The idea is to analyse the current situation and test possible future options. Along ‘factual’ parameters a solution corridor can be defined, within which the options can take place. Defining factors can be policies, time requirements or resources.

the Afghan Conflict, old 164cm x 70cm Print

Image taken from the Afghan Conflict / Detail. Stay or Leave?.

A very beautiful example of this technique was recently developed in the context of a Politikvisualisierung lecture in winter 2009/2010 at the Fachhochschule Potsdam. The Afghan Conflict is concerned with possible scenarios for the future of Afghanistan. The country is still in the prime light of the world as everyone follows the developments. The informations are often disconnected and mainly focused on military activities. To see some of the elements cleanly arranged and put in relation to one another makes it possible to orientate.

the Afghan Conflict, old 164cm x 70cm Print

Image taken from the Afghan Conflict / View of the print, old 164cm x 70cm Print.

“The Afghan Conflict – A Map of Possible Scenarios starts with the current Timeline, a single line on the map. Which then splits into more and more possible future scenarios currently discussed. The scenarios split and join, or lead to other ones according to events that may take place or decisions made. The design is pure and minimalistic, using only lines and typographic elements, which does not resemble the ugliness of a war, but helps understanding a complex structure of problems without being visually manipulated by polemic images.”

The work is developed by Pierre la Baume, Karen Hentschel and Marc Tiedemann. They can be contacted via info [at] theafghanconflict .de
In the prezy below you can explore the resulting map in its totality.

.prezi-player { width: 580px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; }

Found via datavisualization.ch

Read More

The city has many different faces and as we all know it cannot be described in one sentence or one equation. It also is not a computer chip, although some recent master plans might have a formal similarity, nor is it a single organism growing for one purpose. It is more of a collective consisting of individuals capable of creating, deciding and moving. It is organized, as one currently would describe it, in networks and some of the elements of the collective are private where as other are public, in the sense of providing service to a larger group of the collective. Within the network these services manifest in infrastructure serving the public. In a number of ways this infrastructure tells a large part of the story about the collective or the city as such. In the sense of ‘Show me your infrastructure and I tell you who you are.’ the book ‘Infrastructural City – Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles‘ edited by Kazys Varnelis and published by Actar tells the story of an urban area. This specific focus reveilles so much about the society that invented it, it is fascinating and sometimes shocking. From mobile phone tower camouflaged as palm trees to engineered tarmac graffiti everything is revealed and sets the context to the 21st century society.

Image by urbanTick / Book spread.

The analysis comes in three parts, Landscape, Fabric and Objects. The titles do not obvious characterize the content though. I haven’t really figured out what the organisation is. This, however doesn’t matter because you should read them all, or the reader can jump from one to another and back. It is not a necessarily linear read and this is a relief, because its content is extremely dense.
The detailed descriptions are accomplished with three elements describing the linear city. Lane Barden follows linear infrastructure elements and explores the city. This gives a very specific angle on the subject, but also helps high lighting due to the focus. The lines are documented by a map and sequential photographs as well as a little bit of background text. In a very calm and focused way the city takes shape along these lines. The elements are, the river, the street – Wilshire Boulevard and the trench – freight transport.

Image by urbanTick / Book spread.

In ‘Counting (on) Change’ Roger Sherman describes and illustrated the pace at which change takes place and how planning and design professionals fall behind the latest trends and are doomed to react rather than help shape the future. He sais: “For architects, the time has come to recognize, finally, that contemporary urbanism is better rethought around conceptions of progress and potential – via design strategies for unfolding the future – rather than by another utopian horizon.” In a series of detailed diagrams the negotiations and changes over land and ownership at a number of scales.
The book ends with a report on probably the biggest and most vital piece of infrastructure in the city of Los Angeles. ‘The Trench’ is the ten miles long transport corridor Bringing the arriving goods from the port out of the city to distribution centres that will feed the rest of North America. The specs are impressive, more than $200 billion in cargo are transported on this route, but it is largely unnoticed as a feature in the city. It used to be a dominating feature due to its rail crossings and activity of the trains, but nowadays all the trains run in a fifty feet wide and thirty-three feet deep cut on a lower city level out of sight. And still it is probably the main artery of the city. Lane Barden sais: “It would be realistic to argue that the trench is central to the everyday efficiency of global capitalism.”
In this sense, the city might as well be a machine.

This is a book on urban infrastructure that not only describes the elements, but positions them in a social and cultural city context. The approach is not about isolating elements to simplify it, rather it is about piecing it together to help shape an understanding of the whole. It really is a book about the city, the city of the everyday.

For other reviews see: archidose or we-make-money-not-art.

Varnelis, K., 2009. The Infrastructural City. Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, Barcelona: Actar.

Read More

I will be at the Bartlett School of Architecture to give a talk on Narrative and Time. It will be for the MArch Urban Design students. I have put together elements of my current research work to explore the aspects of the narrative as a specific aspect of time as well as an tool to visualise time. The idea of the story plays an increasing importance in my work. It came up through the tracking project UrbanDiary and now plays an important role in the latest work on Twitter and the Tweet-O-Meter, where the stories old start the spatial investigation.
With this presentation the focus is on the everyday, the ordinary and how we are involve or selves in daily stories as we navigate the passage of time in space. The second part of the presentation focuses on examples of how a narrative can directly be employed for a project. The simpler the story the better and the more powerful the pictures painted. Examples are Senones, a revitalisation project for a small former industrial ‘city’ in France. Where three character played the lead role to explain and illustrate four future scenarios for the valley. Also the Nearness clip, as an interpretation of the ‘Ein Lauf der Dinge’ by Fischli und Weiss. Or there is also the BluDot chair tracking project, furniture stories in New York.
It has changed quite a bit since there is now more data on for example the twitter project. On the other hand there is for this specific talk also an element introducing some of the tools used to handle the data. This will be a range from Google Maps, My Maps, Google Earth to proper GIS. I am not really a professional on any of them, simply a user. Thanks for input on this part go to Dan over at Volunteered Geographic Information.

Read More

Together with the tweet-O-meter project run at CASA as part of the NeISS research project we have collected location tagged tweets around London (M25). As described in an earlier post on this HERE, the idea is to capture the urban narrative. The current data covers a whole weekend from Friday evening to Monday morning and the set holds some 380’000 individual tweets. However this brakes down to 60’000 truly geo referenced tweets, by 5’500 individual users. The thing is, that these are only the mobile tweets and they are captured only if the locations sharing is activated in the twitter profile. Still this makes an average of 10.6 tweets per mobile user over the weekend. Overall we have 39’222 individual users witch makes some 9.7 tweets. So the mobile users seem to message slightly more, but not significantly as one could maybe expect.
In terms of density per location as one could expect the focus is in the centre. There are local hotspots as the weekend progresses, such as Kings Cross and Old Street. But then there seems to be a accumulation of density along the transport lines into and out of the centre.
To visualise the temporality of the data tweets are in the below clip output as a message cloud rising and hovering above London. It is a simple time-space aquarium were the time is plotted as the hight information. The later in the weekend the tweet is sent the higher above the city it floats. As the density develops the low times can be clearly spotted, when it thins out the lines and London sleeps. The animation is rendered in Google Earth, with the KML file brought in through a VB script from Excel. Once set up this is quite a flexible combination. However, the KML file can get quite big, since there is a lot of information contained with all the messages.

Read More

Physicist Albert-László Barabási, well known for his work on network theory, has tuned his attention in a recent paper to the human movement. In the latest issue of Science 19 February 2010
Vol 327, Issue 5968, his paper ‘Limits of Predictability in Human Mobility‘ reports the research work undertaken with 50’000 anonymized mobile phone user data.
Barabási has don a lot of work on networks as early as 1999 were he coined the term Scale Free Networks, describing a type of networks with major hubs, such as for example the world wide web. In his barabasilab at Northeastern University, Centre for Complex Network Research a number of network related project are researched.

Image taken from The University of Chicago / Diagram of a scale-free network that contains components with a highly diverse level of connectivity. Some components form highly interconnected hubs, while other components have few connections, and there are many levels of interconnectivity in between.

However in this recent work the focus is on the predictability of human movement. The authors say: “By measuring the entropy of each individual’s trajectory, we find a 93% potential predictability in user mobility across the whole base. Despite the significant differences in the travel patterns, we find a remarkable lack of variability.” The work was intended to close a gap in the approaches to modeling human behavior. Despite personally we rarely perceive our actions as random, the existing models are largely based on the factors of random movement. The paper demonstrated that even though the activities, distances and motivations for individual movement might be very divers and different the predictability of an individuals location is not. They all have very similar predictability values, ranging between 80 % and 92 %. AOL News titles their article on the work “Study Makes It Official: People Are So Predictable” implying that this must be soooo boring.

Image taken from AOL News / These diagrams represent the movements of two mobile phone users. The one on the left shows that the person moved between 22 different cell towers during a three-month period, and placed 52 percent of his calls from one area; the other subject hit 76 spots, and was much less rooted.

This might be very surprising news for most people. The fact that there is so much less changing and spontaneity might seem unrealistic, but a similar impression was given by the data collected with the UrbanDiary project last year. Even though this was a really small sample, the fact that individuals travel most of the time along their known routes, between only a few hot spots clearly emerged. This can also be seen visualised in the What Shape are You? renders. Also Hagerstand’s work pointed in to this direction arguing that the ‘Constraints’ are too strong for too many out of rhythm activities.
Barabási already undertook similar work with mobile phone data in 2008, which war published as an article in nature, by Gonzalez MC, Hidalgo CA, Barabasi A-L. with the title ‘Understanding individual human mobility patterns’. In this article they analysed data of 100’000 mobile phones. Was the media coverage back then (two years) very much concerned about privacy issues related to the data source, for example NYTimes is this less of an issue. Nevertheless it is obvious that the researchers try to play it save by mentioning about ten times in the article that they work with anonymized data.
The argument is largely the same in both articles and the finding too. In both papers the researchers show their surprise about the outcome, that the movement can be predicted. However to my surprise they stick to their study and do not draw any strong links to routines and rhythms of personal habits. You can listen to a podcast where Barabási talks about this research.
In the more recent paper they conclude “At a more fundamental level, they also indicate that, despite our deep-rooted desire for change and spontaneity, our daily mobility is, in fact, characterized by a deep-rooted regularity.”
I believe that the former, spontaneity, is very much a cultural phenomenon similar to the urge to stay young. The later, regularity, is the provider of identity and orientation resulting in stability and safety and therefor fundamental to human everyday life. Interesting should be Barabási’s upcomming new book Burst on “The Hidden Patterns Behind Everything We Do”.

Read More

While living in the era of knowledge the visualisation of content has become ever so important. At least this is what current trends suggest. At the same time incredible and powerful tools are available to do so and synthesis new knowledge as a result. The spiral is turning fast especially in the field of digital or web based knowledge. However there are a few people out there that produces very high quality syntheses with intriguing visualisations. One of my favorit is BLPRNT.
Only recently BLPRNT has put online the visual comparison between two speeches by President Obama on the same topic. One speech was given in July 2009 in Cairo and the second one in Tokyo, during Obama’s far east trip in November 2009. It is all produced using processing 1.0 an open source tool. The project featured in an article on cluster.
It works on the basis of word comparison. The word in the centre is shared by both texts, the size of each word shows how often it is used and text snippets show the context of words or word groups.

Image by BLPRNT taken from cluster, more can be found on BLPRNT’s flickr page.

BLPRNT has earlier developed the tool to compare two texts on a different subject. For this project a clip demonstrate how the software works.

Two Sides of the Same Story: Laskas & Gladwell on CTE & the NFL from blprnt on Vimeo.

Read More

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

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

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

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

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

Read More