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

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

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

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

Seedmagazine.com Seed Design Series

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

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Last weeks the most disturbing science news headline was “How the city hurts your brain” circulating as new research that proves the evil of cities. The original article can be found at the Boston Globe.
It all starts with a very innocent introduction where the author says: “The City has always been an engine of intellectual life, from the 18th-century coffeehouses of London, where citizens gathered to discuss chemistry and radical politics, to the Left Bank bars of modern Paris, where Pablo Picasso held forth on modern art. Without the metropolis, we might not have had the great art of Shakespeare or James Joyce; even Einstein was inspired by commuter trains.” From this point it goes down hill. From spreading cholera to the argument that the before named artists eventually moved out of the city, concluding “ … [the city] it’s also a deeply unnatural and overwhelming place” We’ll that is a statement, DEEPLY UNNATURAL! However, as we try to grasp the extend of the devastating news, the authors are quick with analysis and of course solution. It is all down to the city affecting the brain and a few minutes on the busy street will blow your memory and you start suffering from reduced self control (what does that mean?). Again with a very pointy argument, “that’s why Picasso left Paris”. The excuse comes in the form of the acceptance that “The mind is a limited machine” while still concluding this, the first solution comes in the form of “One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature”. I am aware that this is not actually a solution , but rather an other analysis or hypothesis, but in its tone directly implies to be a solution. And it does not stop there it straight goes through the wall with the sledge hammer solving ALL! the problems: “…that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard”.
WOW, now I feel much better and I am convinced we live in a better world.
It however comes to the first element I do actually very much agree with the authors, the fact that this kind of research comes exactly in time with the news (and of course the media coverage and interpretation) that now over 50% of the world’s population live in cities. Unfortunately it dives right back down with a sweet but unrealistic naive worldview of: “For a species that evolved to live in small, primate tribes on the African savannah, such a migration marks a dramatic shift. Instead of inhabiting wide-open spaces, we’re crowded into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic, and millions of strangers.”

I think I stop here, because the article goes on for another four pages, I hope I have missed the point of the article and if some of you read it all through, please let me know what I missed. The ‘leave a comment’ field can be found at the end of the post.

But actually there is another reason to stop at this point, because this one point is very interesting and important. We are living in a mainly urbanised world. Most of us live in urban areas and rising. The UN predicts some 70-80% by 2050. “The United Nation Population Fund, UN agency, says in a new report that humanity will have to undergo a “revolution in thinking” to deal with a doubling of urban populations in Africa and Asia. The UN continues to say that the number of people in African and Asian cities will grow by 1.7 billion by the year 2030. And worldwide, the number of city dwellers will reach five billion or 60 per cent of the world’s population (citymayors)“
‘Revolution in thinking’ is probably a more appropriate suggestion than to point out how bad our (western) cities are. Western city here is important if not to say European, because this is what I believe the above article is referring to. Conditions in other ‘urban’ areas in the world are dramatically different from what westerners call ’a city’. And I mean, to dig out a cholera example is pathetic. According to Wikipedia the first cholera pandemic reached London and Paris in 1832, a second one in 1849, the third Europe skipped, fourth in 1854 and a fifth in 1866 that was locally very much condemned as by then London was just about to finish its new water and sewage system (I guess it is still the same, but that is another topic). However you can see that since 1866 dramatic chances in the urban environment were introduced. I am aware that I also imply a lot here, but to bring it across in a similar style: the city was a much worse place. (We all know that this is a very difficult way to express thought about historical events and while being aware of the implications of the distorted and constructed past as seen from the present,
it might be much more complex, but we’ll keep things simple her for today.) To come back to the new challenge of the dramatic growth in urban population – a doubling of the city population in Asia and Africa – another example might be of interest. Thinking back to the last urban crisis this latest and now upcoming reaction very much reminds me of Haussmann’s renovation of in Paris or Ebenezer Howard with the Garden City.In fact both came after the Cholera pandemics. I am pretty sure, actually I was only waiting for the first such news to appear, that we ill see a lot of reactions to the ‘city problem’ coming down a similar route as the article quoted in the beginning of this post. It is all bad and we have to reinvent to solve it. Urban designer will be very quick to jump to Howard’s idea of the Garden City to have a readymade solution. Someone will dig it out.

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Image from Wikipedia – as published in “Garden Cities of tomorrow”, Sonnenschein publishing, 1902

However to make it clear, I am not playing down the urgent and extend of the raising question. In the contrary, it is an urgent matter, especially because the urban planning profession in general and urban design and architecture (I add them here because they all think they can do both anyway) in particular is in an identity crisis with no consistent concepts available at present. The only thing that buzzes around is sustainability, but it’s got no content to it.

In an article on io9 Chanda Phelan presents how apocalyptic stories have changed in the past 200 years. She explains ”It’s not the idea of Ending itself that has faded – that will be around until we are actually mopped off the face of the Earth. It’s the actual moment of disaster, the blood and guts and fire, that has been losing ground in stories of the End. Post-apocalyptic fiction is a 200-year-old trend, and for 170 of those years, the ways writers imagined the end were pretty transparently a reflection of whatever was going on around them – nuclear war, environmental concerns, etc. In the mid-1990s, though, everything just turned into a big muddle. Suddenly, we’d get a post-apocalyptic world whose demise was never explained. It was just a big question mark.“ And she also points out that actually it was never about the end, but the new beginning. However she analyses that in the last 30 years there has been a decreasing interest in the why and how of the end, very often simply assuming that there was an end. Presumable, from my reading of it, the apocalypse was never about, it actually ends, but about narrating a sin or something stylised ‘problematic’ to actually urge people to change something in the present. Implying ”if you don’t behave now, something disastrous might, could possibly, eventually, maybe happen“. And in this sense skipping this part of the apocalypse is indeed a very dramatic change.

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Image by Stephanie Fox – How the Apocalypse Will Happen – A Literary Chart

In this sense the attitude to the posed urban growth question would be, let’s skip the growth, the infrastructure demand, logistics, flows, identity, morphology, material, organisation, atmosphere, form, transport, colour, work, resource, governing, social, knowledge, communication, finance, and so on question and just build a New Cities for some 80 million people or maybe better a set of Garden cities, each with some 58’246.1 residents ?

So what to do?

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Some 25’000 visitors on urbanTick today… over actually!

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urbanTick – Graph blog visits per hour, per day and per day per hour

The blog remain stable on the high numbers of visitors over the summer month. It started to increase in May and visitor numbers now are stable around 155 per day over the week.
Regarding the graph, it represents three sets of data in three rings. From inside to outside, he inner bit is the visits per day per hour. The big peaks are still around midday, mid afternoon and four in the morning representing the shift between Europe and America. The middle ring is representing the number of visits per day. Differences here between weekdays and weekends, where the mid week is still a bit between than the beginning and the end. Wednesday remains the most popular day, closely followed by Tuesday. The weekends generally have about half the visitors of these popular days, so it is a dramatic difference. The last ring is the total visits per hour. The peaks are mainly the same as last times, the overall line is smother however with less wiggles.
The topic of body and city as proposed was the topic for the summer and I am just finishing a working paper on this. Some stuff will of course also go on to the blog. A second working paper focusing on the urbanDiary project is also under way. Here a lot of bits and pieces have already featured on the blog, but some stuff is still to come.
I am currently working on my upgrade and will give a presentation, sort of a mini viva either next month or in December. For this I am trying to finish the two papers.
There is also a publication of this blog coming up. Having this platform for a year now, I am planning to publish extracts of it. For this I have joined up with a bunch of researcher working on related topics and they will contribute a short essay to each section. It is all under way and should be ready towards the end of the month. I don’t want to give a way too much of this but the structure of the publication will be roughly:
urbanDiary        urbanMachine        urbanNarrative        timeSpace        bodySpace        LocInfo        Review

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Some 10’000 visitors on urban tick… over actually.graph_24H-totalAll_090713.eJtH2Njs7vho.jpg
Image by UrbanTick

UrbanTick has become more popular and from 5’000 visits in just two month the 10’000 visitors mark was reached. I have to confess, that I have done a lot more promotion for the blog during this time, including writing more regular posts. I am aiming at one post a day, not strict but more or less.
The graphs look a bit different this time. I merged all three graphs into one. Looks better and is more complicated to read. So for those who’d rather have it in short, the data it self has changed. There is a much bigger peach over lunch now. The big peak at noon is largely influenced by I a one off event, where the blog hat over 160 hits within one hour. At least this shows the record from sitemeter. I cannot remember having seen this, but there you are. This also brings the Tuesday high up, although Wednesday remains the most popular day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are within 100 visitors the leading days of the week. The weekend is pretty low compared to the weekdays, less than half the visitors. During the course of the day, it is the morning for European visitors and after four for the US visitors.

I usually used this post to talk about the direction the research will be going in the next few month, but this time the period was so short, I have hardly started the stuff I proposed last time. So, the direction will stay the same, towards a city of body experience.
And a note about the blog, I have lost the comment link in the html of my site at some point. Sorry about that, I will try to put it back anytime soon, as I am very interested to hear about your comments!

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Image by UrbanTick using Autodesk Map 3D

Following an earlier post about the UrbanDiary data in Autodesk Map 3D, I would like to talk about further development on this topic.
The plan was to generate the UrbanDiary maps using this software and with this move towards a more automated workflow from GPS data to map with maintaining the level of possible graphical intervention.
As described in the earlier post data from the database could be connected and be represented in the software including context data. Simple manipulations and representations of the data could be made easily in Map 3D and actually I grew a little bit fond of the software although I did not like AutoCAD when I last had to use it. So I was determent to stick to this and work it all through in this one application.
Unfortunately, too soon I seemed to exceed the capacity of the software.

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Image by UrbanTick using Autodesk Map 3D

Following the processing of the UrbanDiary interviews the task is to develop a combination of interview/mental map data and the GPS/map data. The idea is to look at the work related spatial movement with a special focus on the mental map features.
It turned out that the number of recorded GPS points per participant combined with the building, street and land use information is too much for Map 3D to handle. It started to crash continuously; up to the state I was not possible to open a file.
The method I used was maybe not the most economic one but seem simple to me. From the GPS points I defined a buffer to establish a zone of “experience”, which I intersected with the base map to only be working with relevant information.

The issue in Map3D led to the move across to ArcGIS, which appeared to be comfortable with the data. It also turned out that the same steps of work are quite simple achievable, although a little less intuitive. This reaches down to the export for Illustrator. Map 3D translate much simpler into Illustrator with its native dxf format. In ArcGIS, I could not manage to produce a workable file that remained distinct in terms of features. So I had to rely on the map export using about 12000 dpi. Proper maps will follow as they are processed in Illustrator.

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Image by UrbanTick using ArcGIS and exported to Illustrator

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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!
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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.

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Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary – the daily schedule
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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.

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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.

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​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)

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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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5000 visitors so far on UrbanTick! Great stuff and thank you all for the interest in the work hat is presented in this spot. 5000 is a good number to look back again at what the number say and how the graph draws this time, plus looking at the content so far and what will come up for the near future.
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Image from Sitemeter.com

The content of this blog was aimed at rhythms and cycles in its description. These topics have been rather on the sideline and the focus was more on GPS and tracking stuff. This has mainly to do with the UrbanDiary project that is still ongoing, which generated this interest. For the future the intensity towards GPS and specifically tracking will remain, plus more posts more directly aimed at cycle and rhythm research as well as the additional topic of the body in relation to rhythm, routine and the body. Body will relate on one hand to the human body with the physical experience of space and time and on the other hand directly to the city and the urban morphology as space and time. This addition shall enable the research to start evolve a not so traditional view of the city as a result of motion and change rather than the traditional fix points and space containers.
Regarding the blog’s visitors, so far the peaks have been similar at 15h00 and 22h00 with the mid weekdays being most popular.

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Image by UrbanTick

There is a slight shift in the days, it not Thursday with the most visitors, but Wednesday now. It is still at 15h00 in the mid afternoon when it peaks, but then it basically stays up until 22h00, whereas the late night and the morning stays relatively calm.

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Six month into writing this blog it hits the 2500 visitors mark. The last post on this was back in mid January where it hit the 1000 visitors mark and now it is more than double this number. This is very good news.
Again there were some very supportive links to the work on this bog and the work was quoted on a number of other blogs including digitalurban and GISagent, many thanks to them.
The graphs with the stats updates from sitemeter show a surprisingly similar picture. There is almost no change in the visitor’s pattern in terms of hour of the day looking at the total visits per hour. It is again this peak around three in the afternoon and a second one around ten in the evening. The later one could probably be America with the time difference ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ that they also visit around three in the afternoon local time.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
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Image by urbanTick for urbanDiary

The visitors per week day look​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​also similar, the mid week days are popular, with Thursday having the lead, where as the weekend is rather quiet.

The last update on this was followed by an outlook for this project. One point was on collecting tracking data of a number of individuals and the other point was regarding an option to build up an online community to collect much more data to dandify the picture of urban cycles.
The tracking of participants has started as the UrbanDiary project and it is already one month that fourteen individuals collect data of their daily activities. This pre study is going well and the data is very good.
For the second point the UrbanDiary project has now a facebook page!

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It is updated with news from this blog, but mainly with news from the UrbanDiary project and enables participants and people being interested in this topic to share information and experience directly. The page is accessible to facebook member and to non-members so you can bookmark it and following it even if you are not on facebook.

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Today I have finally got round to install and try the software GeoTime on my computer here. Oculous kindly offered a license to run some trials on with my data.
It installed all very smoothly and the process is straight forward. I had to click through a few pages of the tutorial files to get the data to appear in GeoTime, but here it is.

​Image by urbanTick – data Plymouth365 – full extend (I should use a cleaned up data set, those GPS errors pop out too much…)

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Image by urbanTick – Data Plymouth365, zoomed in to the city, very colour full

It is the same data set used in visualizations earlier, as in Plymouth aquarium.
The data was imported using excel and following some advice from the tutorial pages. GeoTime seems to be very picky with the kml files. I didn’t get one of those to show. Exporting to kmz works fine and looks good in Google Earth. The exported file is truly time tagged, this means the time feature can be used and the data can be replayed. ​
Image by UrbanTick – GeoTime export to Google Earth

Some analysis functions sound really interesting. I finally got the meeting analysis function to work. This would be very interesting, have to work on this.
Great are the isolating features, where it is possible to only display data with certain characteristics, for example a time frame.


​Image by urbanTick – data Plymouth365

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Image by urbanTick

There is more to come, this will occupy the next weeks to work trough my data with this new tool.

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