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Tag "crowdsourcing"

The internet has opened up new resources for funding opportunities. Platforms to advertise projects and find sponsors and funders are developing fast. On such platform is Kickstarter, where developers can promote their project and ask for funding to develop prototyps and deliver products. Others are Go4funds, JustGiving or Profunder. They all have their specialities and niches but essentially they are all about projects and proposals that need to be funded.

A new project called Spacehive has come up in the UK with its own niche in this popular funding circus. The focus is on building projects as they call it neighbourhood improvement projects. As it says on the page “For people with inspiring project ideas, Spacehive allows you to pitch for support and funding from your community. For everyone else it’s a refreshingly easy way to transform where you live: just find a project you like and pledge a donation. If it gets funded, it gets built!”

The founder Chris Gourlay describes the Spacehive as the world’s first online funding platform for neighbourhood improvement projects. The project went live only last December (2011-12-07) and has so far listed a total of seven projects. These range from a Rooftop Aquatic Farm to a Dog Training Facility to the Community Centre project in Glyncoch.

As far as the projects range so do the costs. The platform has no cost restriction or a minimum. For examples the community centre wants to raise some £792,578 and the Revive North Pond project needs £42,320 or the Stokwell Urban Oasis needs only £2,952.

So far none of the projects have been successful. In fact the Glyncoch centre will be the first project to hit the dead line on the 30st of March. The projects currently needs a further £23’000 to go ahead next month. The next 22 days will be nerve racking for the project officials who desperately want their project to go ahead.

Infrastructure as architecture
Image taken from gka.org / The existing community centre in Glyncoch built in 1977. Could do with an update no question about that.

The media has already responded to the project and BBC has reported from Glyncoch after Steven Fry has tweeted about it. The social media is quick in picking stuff like this up and once more Twitter was the media of choice to discover the Spacehive platform. With over 4 million followers Steven Fry tweeting about it is great promotion and the community hopes this will bring the project the remaining money in funds they are short.

The projects are however not purely community funded. The Glyncoch project for examples has already had funding of 95% when is was listed on the Spacehive platform. This funding is Government money the village was promised for a new community centre. Only the remaining £30’000 the project team is trying to raise on the internet for the new centre to serve the 4’125 strong community.

Infrastructure as architecture
Image taken from spacehive.com / The newly proposed community centre for Glyncoch to be built for 7. There are no plans of or drawings, mentions of a program or what kind of facilities exactly it will offer. Its only a simple SketchUp image showig some building form the outside. Very difficult to see how it will unfold its qualities but it seems to be enough to try and rais substantial amounts of money.

Getting the public involved in local projects is nothing new interesting however, is the way the new trend on the internet is pushing terminologies and understandings of such projects. What does it mean if such a project for a community centre that is desperately needed is now promoted a crowd funded project. How does that change the responsibility previously carried by official government bodies and what does such a model mean for the next generation of urban project?

Platforms for crowd funded projects are nothing new as we have discussed above. THey work for software and app development, for products and now also have their big platform for art, but does it work for community projects? Can such a model replace the states responsibility to deliver and maintain standards in communities including infrastructure and facilities like a community centre.

The current UK Government will be very pleased if such a funding process takes off and becomes a model for other community project. It will mean that even in the delivery for public projects competition and free market can be introduced. Cameron could try and argue that the best promotion team could win any community the much deserved project with the add-on of ,if they can’t, they don’t deserve it. Let the crowd decide who needs what. It fits perfectly with the Tories plan to run schools privately as academies, privatise the police as outsources services to private security providers and now also let public projects be delivered privately.

Infrastructure as architecture
Image taken from spacehive.com / A project for A Roof-top Aquaponic Farm for London! producing fish and vegetables is one of the other projects looking for funders on the Spacehive platform. This project will need £45,602 to go ahead. The project is promoted by urbanFarmersUK a project related to urbanfarmers.ch a Group based in Zuerich, Switzerland.

A state and especially a planning and urban development does’t work like that. Values, excellence and quality are not something that is naturally delivered in the free market. Urban planners and practitioners have to stand for such qualities with their expertise. The future of our cities is not to be placed in the hands of lay people, for such important tasks experts should be put in place to develop such plans for the interest of the community.

The deliver should similarly be payed by the state or the local government using the taxes. People already pay a contribution to the community and this should be directed into such projects. The people from Glyncoch have all payed their tax towards this community centre and its not the point to now turn around and say well we are 30’000 short so all of your pay £10 extra and it will get payed. They already have payed!

Further more developing such funding options for urban development will change the responsibilities. The government will no longer be in charge and therefore also looses the power to controle what is happening. Who will be setting the standards and guidelines if the new road or bridge or dump is crowd funded? It will be very easy for large companies and businesses to manipulate such a process and get it don their way whilst ignoring all regulations and guidelines by pretending to work with the community.

Especially here in the UK it will be dramatic since the current development frameworks already are heavily influenced by private interests with the local authority and the government having very weak measures and tools to develop a community based vision. Other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have much better developed frameworks and instruments for urban planning and community development.

It will be vital to strengthen the public official in delivering such community projects and bring back authority to plan ahead and deliver. This is the only way for consistent and sustainable development of the communities through out the country. The public can privatise these responsibilities they have to remain in the powers of the authorities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$100 Satellite: Grassroots Mapping poster

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

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

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

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I will be at the CRESC ‘The Social Life od Methods’ conference in Oxford today. The conference takes place at St. Huges College and covers different aspects of methods in social sciences.

I am presenting a joint ‘CASA’ paper focusing on data mining and crowd sourcing. The team behind it is Andy Hudson-Smith from Digital Urban, Richard Milton, Steven Gray and myself. We are focusing on the development of tools that make use of the recent wave of digital social networking tools and methods.

For the first time it is possible to gather large scale social data sets containing detailed information about activity, interests and network of thousands of individuals. This is extremely exciting and interesting for spatial analysis. The city is not just a built artefact, but a living structure continuously changing with the inhabitants shaping it. Using this data we can start to understand the immediate connection between the environment and individual a well as collective decision making and opinion.

Image by urbanTick / A visualisation of my over 1200 facebook connections and how they are connected, using the Gephi software.

To illustrate this I will be using three recent projects that we have developed here at CASA. It will feature the ‘Mood Mapper’ turned into MapTube. The brand new Survey Mapper system that allows everyone to set up a survey and get the result on a map and the New City Landscapes generated from tweets sent in an urban area.

From the abstract:

The paper describes how we are harnessing the power of Web 2.0 and related technologies to create new methods to collect, map and visualise geocoded data as an aid to further our understanding of social, spatial and temporal change in cities. The authors begin with an insight into the ‘Ask’ survey system developed as part of the National infrastructure for e-Social Simulation (NeISS) project. ‘Ask’ provides social scientists with series of online tools to collect and visualise data in near real-time allowing the creation of ‘mood maps’ linked to a backend geographic information system. We examine the systems use to date, specifically by the BBC, and the implications of allowing anyone to survey the world, continent, nation, city or indeed street via our social survey system.

The authors expand on the concept with the additional of data mining social networks such as Twitter to collect, map and analyse social related data. Developed around the populist name ‘Tweet-o-Meter’ we have developed a system to mine data within a 30 km range of urban areas, focusing on New York, London, Paris, Munich, Tokyo, Moscow, Sydney, Toronto, San Francisco, Barcelona and Oslo. The system mines all geo-located Tweets creating a vast database of social science data and numerous challenges for both visualization and analysis. The paper concludes by arguing that data mining has notable potential to aid our understanding of the complex social, spatial and temporal structures of the city environment.

Image by urbanTick / Moscow New City Landscape, explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view.

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How do we identify our selves with the spaces we use and how do we navigate with the many obstacles the urban environment contains?
Living in the city means to constantly negotiate spaces as well as navigate space. This becomes more difficult under the density aspect as well as the mobility aspects. Also the cycles of change are very short and frequent adaptations require constant reorientation.
Aspects of repetition and routine play an important role in the navigation of everyday situations. Being familiar with the aspects makes this task a lot easier. However, as soon as there are changes, new features or temporary obstacles, those have to be integrated.
Even more difficult such tasks are for people with disabilities. Here people also have to deal with obstacles built into the urban landscape, simply because someone ignored additional needs.
Megafon is a project to investigate and map these obstacles using collaborative and user generated methods.

Image by megafon.net / Geneva obstacle map 2008. Based on Google Maps with clickable content. Click on image for the interactive map.

They work with focus groups and equip their participants with a camera and GPS to document their experiences in everyday situations. The images were uploaded directly to the internet feeding in to a realtime map of the city. Two of these cities are Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland. The resulting maps a very detailed and visualise a very specific perspective on the city.

Image by wired.co.uk / Screenshot of the live tube map
Image by megafon.net / Barcelona obstacle map 2006.

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We life in a fast world and a visual world. Information is consumed anytime everywhere. Information and with it knowledge has become one of the worlds resource. The battle around it is mainly about the visualisation.
In a stunning publication Nai Publishers have dedicated a book to one of the founders of our contemporary understanding of visualisation. Don’t worry if you haven’t known him before very few actually have. His name is Otto Neurath. The book with the title ‘Otto Neurath – The Language of the Global Polis‘ by Nader Vossoughain tells the story of this Austrian sociologist who did not fear any topic or occupation to follow his interest. Neurath is an incredible vital and versatile scholar, practitioner, politician, theoretician, developer or craftsman. What we maybe don’t know is his work, but remarkably it feels somewhat familiar, as if we’d known it.

Image by Otto Neurath, taken form gis and science where you can find a collection of Neurath’s illustrations.

The publication is in the tradition of Nai publishers a truly nice designed piece and it has this surprising twist to it, it is a hardcover but in the form of a paperback, I love it.
The book redraws Neurath’s life along his work and engagements. It puts a special focus on his collaborations with well known figures of his time, such as Le Corbusier or Corneis Van Eesteren. The later’s work was also currently published by Nai Publishers in the book ‘The Functional City‘ also reviewed on urbanTick (1, 2). The author has chosen to structure the book along three major topics under which Neurath’s work can be organised, community, democracy and globalism. It gives a good sense of the broadness of Neurath’s work and involvement. However it can be confusing as this structure is not chronological, but the content is still based on his life. So duplication and repetition can no be avoided. Nevertheless this also has an upside and can for the observant reader lead to some hidden ‘Pulp Fiction’ moments, were the same situation is seen from different vantage points.

Image by Gerd Arntz u. Otto Neurath, Collection International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam taken from artnews / Mengenvergleiche.

The title of the book basically already hints at most of the aspects of Neurath’s work. The ‘language’ points to Neurath’s work on a ‘language of symbols’ making knowledge and information accessible to all and with it empowering everyone to take part in social and political discussions and decisions. ‘Global’ has to be read in the sense of everyone, Neuraths vision as described in the book at a number of occasions really was to reach everyone, especially making data accessible to underprivileged groups of society. ‘Polis’ finally summarises Neurath’s interest for the city, settlement or aspects of spatial organisation of society in general. This is, as you have guessed, at the same time summarised the three chapters in a nutshell.

Image taken from the book ‘Otto Neurath – The Language of the Global Polis’ (p 64) / “Neurath felt that cut-outs allowed the masses to feel as though they were participating in the production of knowledge, which was central to his philosophy of reform in general”

But be aware the book is a lot richer and if it were a thriller the many twists and bends would be highlighted. And really this is what it is, because it is modelled on Neurath’s life there are jobs and projects that just didn’t work out, especially in connection with the war and other dramatical political changes in Europe at the time. Neurath seemed to have been involved in almost all of them. So don’t miss the section with his detailed biography that is attached towards the end. Together with the index, a section on detailed notes and epilogue a this is a publication that leaves little to desire.

In 2008 there was also an exhibition at Stroom den Haag on Otto Neurath curated by Nader Vossoughain. A lot of the content i still accessible on line, including a video interview with the curator.

The modern day version of Neurath’s icons or isotyes can be for example found at AIGA, the professional association for design, at the Isotype Institute or seen in use for a chart visualising the war in Iraq by the NYTimes.

As seen, still today, some will claim even more so, the visualisation is the very big topic. Together with the computer and finally with the internet increasingly unbelievable amounts on data a created, recreated and shared. Large collections only now with the contemporary technology become accessible. Recently the public claimed successfully to free data sources and open them up for public access, e.g. data in the UK and London specifically –London data store. Not that the general public can handle or understand all this information but currently they have the power to put on enough pressure. But globally visualisation is the hot topic. In all areas but also specifically in politics a traditional field of facts argumentation.

Vossoughian, N., 2008. Otto Neurath – The Language of the Global Polis, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.
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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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A project to map Barcelona by bike by Martha Skinner has caught our attention. BiCi_N is a project based on the GPS tracks collected by riders of the new Barcelona rental bikes. Barcelona has this great rental schema called bicing, where frequently everywhere in the city large bike racks are placed with parked bikes and anyone can just grab a bike and explore the city, return it to any other station you wish.
The project BiCi_N in still in its test phase at not yet up and running, but some first tests haven been under way. A two week trial period took place last year and some material of this is now online.

Image from wikimedia – Estacio bicing bcn.jpg

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