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Tag "urbanDiary"
This week at the Institut Architektur at FHNW we started new fieldwork for a GPS tracking project in Basel, Switzerland. Earlier the UrbanDiary project already tracked individuals everyday movements in the same urban context. See HERE and HERE for posts. With the new project the perspective is still on movement in the urban context, but the motivation is very different. Whilst the travel in the earlier project was guided by a handful of personally important hotspot locations business connections guide the routing in the KurierT project. The trackers are carried by the professional bicycle messengers of the KurierZentrale Basel. What we are looking at are business connections and how they link across the city.

Image taken from KurierZentrale / Bicycle messenger in action.

The bicycle couriers are probably the jguys with the best local knowledge there are to be found for any city. From their daily experience of navigating the streets and blocks specific non physical aspects are expected to influence the decision making process. This includes traffic, terrain, season or weather maybe. As part of this project we are planning to look into these influencing aspects.

On the other hand another interest is on how the service the couriers provide describes the city. In many ways the activity of delivering mail between different locations creates a network of connections. This describes the city in terms of links. Beyond the locations of the sender and receiver, the interesting part is in how this connection physically manifests in an optimised routing provided by the courier. As part of the project the aim is to develop these relationships into a descriptive atlas of the city linking the aspects of a social network to the physical conditions of the link.


Image by urbanTick for KurierT / Routing around Basel showing the tracks of one courier over two days. Software used Cartogaphica.

The couriers offer a range of services. Whilst most of the jobs are small parcels and letters between different businesses in the city, there are jobs in the wider region of Basel or heavier loads for which the couriers change from bicycle to a car. Beside the business services the couriers have a meal service over lunch and in the evening around dinner time. From a selections of restaurants in the city meals can be ordered and get them delivered.

This combination of business and private services makes the data collected ver rich in that we not only have a picture of the business contacts but also see a shift in activities and cover residential areas. This extended business model covers more areas in the city and the expected black spots in the urban fragment not covered by the couriers’ movements are dramatically reduced. The resulting overview covers a very particular perspective on the city and generalisation is limited, but within the particular setting the results are expected to provide valuable insight in urban connections, urban networks and routing. In terms of planning this has practical application for example in the provision of cycle routes for the general public.


Image by urbanTick for KurierT / Routing around Basel showing the tracks of one courier over two days. The tracks are coloured according to speed. Red is slow and white is fast, above 30. The background shows a point density indicating locations and high traffic areas. Software used Cartogaphica.

The temporal aspect of traveling the city is particularly part of the bicycle messenger daily business. Besides safely getting from A to B the speed of delivery is crucial and directly influences not only the customer satisfaction but the daily salary of the rider. From a research perspective these constraints are interesting as to how accessible the different areas of the city actually are. The data will be analysed towards the time cost of travel from a whole range of origins. Based on speed and and travel time the results can be summarised in a time zone map of the city, indicating accessibility.

Ultimately the results are expected to feed into a description of urban space. This description will be focused towards physical quality and identity of place. In comparison to existing political defined neighbourhoods the results form this study are expected to lead to an alternative description of urban areas based on connection and time.

The project is developed in collaboration with the Institut Vermessung und Geoinformation. For the analysis one of the tools developed at the institute called See You will be used. The online GIS system analyses GPS tracks based on point density and stationary time. The GPS tracks are interpreted as heat map and hotspots are marked by the system based on the analysis of stationary time. These can be filtered based on duration. In the example below for example the no 1 (bottom of the picture) identifies the location of the KurierZentrale offices as the most important location of the map. The riders start from here and return back to after the shift.


Image by urbanTick for KurierT / Routing around Basel showing the tracks of one courier over two days. The online GIS service SeeYou developed by the Institut Vermessung und Geoinformation at FHNW is used for the visualisation. Tracks shown as a heat map. As background the OSM service is used. The numbers highlight important locations as interpreted by the system automatically.

The project runs over the next couple of month and results will be posted along the way. A report is expected towards the end of the year. Continuous updates will be posted here, so stay tuned. A detailed project desription can be found online at the Institut Architektur.

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I will be giving a lecture today at the Bartlett School of Architecture to the MA Urban Design course students. The course is directed by Professor Colin Fournier.
My talk will focus on the spatial dimension of narratives and time in everyday urban live. The different topics discussed are Repetition, with an introduction to the machine city and different types of cycles to create an identity of the place, Time as a framework of organisation, Space as a result of body physicality and experience, Pattern as a combination of time and space and a conception of place as mental maps to Morphology as the physical result of the narrative created.
As illustration material serves the data collected via the twitter microblogging site, the New City Landscape maps, as well as urbanDiary GPS tracking data.

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The experimenting with the SenseCam over the past summer month was great fun and the various contributors and participants have enjoyed the experience.
We are left with a huge pile of data that needs processing now and besides all the other stuff calling for attention it is sort of a tricky task. In total we snapped over 200’000 still images, that goes together with the data collected with the GPS that we attached to the SensCam. Additionally we of course also have the log files of the cameras own sensors.

To give a preview example of the temperature logged by the TMP sensor of the camera here is a Graph of this summers temperature. It wasn’t too bad, was it this summer?

Image by urbanTick / Temperature curve over the recording period during the summer of 2010, as captured by the SenseCam Revue TMP sensor.

In terms of visualisation one of the main and intense aspect is the image processing and in a temporal sense the animation of this timelapse data makes sense. An earlier preview of some of the captured dat can be found HERE, together with some screen shots.

One of the participants, the artist Kai has also now processed the data she collected during one day of the experiment into a 1 minute clip, showing her every move, covering a mad range of activities. For detailed description and the longlist of different activities visit the artists website at 3rdlifekaidie.

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The data collection in Basel is well under way and the second series of participants are now collecting data for the study. For ten people we already have a complete set of two month of tracking data using the new GPS trackers.

There are a number of very interesting observations that has been made also in comparison with the previous study undertaken in London. The scale differences are striking what is a regular commute is completely different. It might be on average one hour for Londoner, but is probably stretched for Basler if it is thirty minutes. As a consequence work and leisure journeys do tend to much more similar in Basel than in London where certain trips have a stronger specification.
However there are a lot of similarities too. Foremost the extension of the direct and persistent interaction in the urban realm is very much directed and selective. There is in both cases a strong local activity around the ‘known’ territory.

The study was also presented to representatives of the Basel Department of Town Planning who were interested to hear about the research undertaken. A summary of the presentation can be previewed below, it is in German though, but there are enough images to illustrate and communicate.

Essentially it explains the method and uses illustration taken from all three sample studies in London, Plymouth and London. The Basel data is still in development so only some preliminary information could be provided. However the maps ‘drawn’ by the participants using the GPS, beautifully illustrate the focus each individual puts on the city.

Image by urbanTick / Visualisation of GPS tracked movement in Basel, Switzerland. The nine different individuals have been tracked over a longer period and it beautifully shows the individual focus on the city that is developed.

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The UrbanDiary project lay dormant for a while after its write up in the CASA working paper 151. However it is back on track with a new set of participants currently tracking their every move. The biggest problem to overcome was the equipment, we simply did not have the recourses to keep it going on a larger scale. Throughout there were two GPS devices in use, but now we have again expanded and twelve GPS loggers are currently used simultaneously.

The area of study this time is not London. The idea is to set up a comparison between two locations. Currently the tracking location is the wider region around and of course in the city of Basel, Switzerland. Earlier posts on Basel can be found HERE and HERE.

It is a region of about 1’000’000 people The tourism office even puts it to 3.5m) and in this sense small compared to London, but in the Swiss context this is rather big. Basel-Stadt (the city of Basle) is the third largest city in Switzerland with 165’000 inhabitants.

TEB Besiedlung und Landschaftsgliederung
Image taken from TEB / The Basel region with green space (unbuilt land), urbanised land (grey) and water (blue). In dark grey is shown the urbanised land until 1960 and in light grey the urbanised land until the year 2000.

Basel is located right at the border to Germany and France. The region therefore covers all three countries. This is represented in the TEB, the ‘Trinationalen Eurodistrict Basel’ (the Three National Euro (not sure what Euro stands for) District Basel). This planing group is working across the borders and is put together from representatives of all three countries. For Basel as the main regional centre these connection sare very important as is the city for the region. In this sense the simbiosis of the different elements (culturally, politically and practical) will be an interesting aspect of the study in terms of spatial analysis.

The mix of participants is again, as was the London sample, a mixed group. It is put together of different age groups, interests and occupations. It will probably not be exactly the same mix, but similar. The idea is to also get some twenty participants in total to have a comparable amount of data.

The data is collected and stored locally on the device and it wil take a while untile we can download the new data and start analys and visualise. So for now this project has to run for about a month until the first data samples will be available. However I do have some very few days of sample tracks that will give an idea of the travel patterns that can be expected in this new location.

Image by urbanTick for UrbanDiary / Preliminary GPS tracking data in the region of Basel, Switzerland. The data is based on three participants over a couple of days, data is unprocessed. THe large C shape in the centre corresponds with the shape of the river in the main urban area in the TEB overview above.

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It has taken a while but now the first track records coming out of the UrbanDiary project are ported and can be visualised with processing. This is really an awesome tool to work with, however there is still a lot of hiccups and stuff to learn for me. So with a lot of trial and error I managed to get this one going. It is based on some stuff Steven M. Ottens has put together for his visualisations of GPS tracks HERE.
For this lot of data, it replay the recordings of seven participants of the UrbanDiary project. THese were recorded between April and August 2009. The setting is Greater London and you can most probably start guessing a few location that get highlighted as the drawing progresses. Some of the denser locations are;
However there are still some problems with the time component of the data as well as the transparency.
From a processing point of view it makes use of the tomc GPX library.

Music Ooze by Klez on mp3unsigned.com

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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”.

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The paper was published on the CASA page already in December last year. That was as a boring ‘first have to download’ pdf format.
Now, this is cool, it is available on Issuu, conveniently embedded and you can flip through right here, share it with friends and so on.
So there you go, now you can casually flip through and see if your interested to read more, if so click on the fullscreen button and you’ll enjoy it large.

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I will be at the Stadtkolloquium workshop for the next two days. The Stadtkolloquium is an international PhD workshop for and with PhD students here at UCL. A divers range of research topics related to the city and urban aspects of space will be up for discussion.
I will be presenting a paper with he title ‘UrbanDiary – The Temporal Narrative of Space or the Construction of the Collective and its Visualisation’. The main focus will be on the last part of the manufactured title construction, the construction of a collective and visualisation aspects of temporal data.

A brief summary will form the introduction to enable everyone to understand the extent of the investigation as well as to grasp what field work has so far been undertaken. This set the background for the explanations and ultimately the discussion to follow. The focus of the explanatory part is held on the experience and perception of space. The aim is to build up, on one hand the methods and ways of investigation and mapping , as well as on the other hand introduce the concept of the narrative. Along the story of individual experience, the narrative of the space and ultimately the city is redrawn. It is not so much the mark on the city, but the mark the city leaves on the individual that interests. It is hoped that this also clarifies the position. However, the aspect of the body and is left out of this discussion. This is mainly to not confuse the direction of the discussion.
The Discussion part is dived in to two section, the possibility of a collective construction and the visualisation of the findings. Earlier is illustrated with track records shown on a city level including and connecting to the immediate urban morphology, followed by the UD London map. The new twitter weekend map is then used to illustrate other sources of data that could be interpreted as collective. However this is mainly thought as a starting point for the discussion around the construction of a collective and its value compared to the individual data.
With a activity graph based on time and amount of activity, the transition to the topic of the visualisation is introduced. Also the time-space aquarium will be up for debate and an animated UD London map.

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The UrbanDiary working paper has just been published on the CASA publication page. It is a write up of the GPS tracking study undertaken during 2009 with twenty participants. Each one was tracked for a period of two month. The paper outlines the methodology the concepts, such as mental maps and also examines technical aspects of GPS. A main focus is on the aspect of visualisation of this kind of temporal data.
Thanks for supporting this project go to Garmin for supplying the Forerunner 405’s and especially all the participants of the study.
Details on urbanTick can be found on this blog/urbanDiary or on the UrbanDiary facebook page – become a fan!
Now to the content of the paper, abstract: “This working paper investigates aspects of time in an urban environment, specifically the cycles and routines of everyday life in the city. As part of the UrbanDiary project (urbantick.blogspot.com), we explore a preliminary study to trace citizen’s spatial habits in individual movement utilising GPS devices with the aim of capturing the beat and rhythm of the city. The data collected includes time and location, to visualise individual activity, along with a series of personal statements on how individuals “use” and experience the city. In this paper, the intent is to explore the context of the UrbanDiary project as well as examine the methodology and technical aspects of tracking with a focus on the comparison of different visualisation techniques. We conclude with a visualisation of the collected data, specifically where the aspect of time is developed and explored so that we might outline a new approach to visualising the city in the sense of a collective, constantly renewed space. “
The actual paper can be downloaded from HERE and detailed information are on the CASA publication page.

Image by CASA – working paper 151 cover (part)

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