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Tag "visualisation"

The busy city is one of them in recent years much overused mental images. It is busy of course and major hubs such as London even more so. The rise of mapping and visualisation since 2005 supplied a wealth of actual images and renderings illustrating the busyness of urban areas in colour and depth, not just in numbers.

Traffic is, of course, one of the foremost topics here perfectly lending itself to the subject. It is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy though using the rush hour to illustrate the madness of the daily migration. There you are, look at how busy the busiest airport in the world is.

That is the conundrum much of the recent debate around urban area management is facing. It is revolving around the established assumptions continuously enforcing them unable to break the spell to reach beyond. If we keep looking at the numbers, lines and trailing dots not much is coming from it any longer. Even the excitement is subsiding, and insight is scarce.

Where are the real hocks to wring some insight from the pool of information? Is it visions that are lacking or the absence of a coherent urban concept to frame the question?

Video taken from the Guardian / Layers of London air traffic build up over 24 hours – video animation. “A video animation shows the layers of air traffic associated with each of London’s five major airports over a 24-hour period. Made in July last year the visualisation illustrates the buildup of more than 3,000 flights a day handled by air traffic controllers as well as more passing over the capital”.

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What do we see, when we see the world? In today’s world transcended by digital technology and flooded with representations, models and mashups the question of ‘what are we looking at?’ becomes more important. The many layers of data and visualisations in many cases start clouding the subject or in some cases appears completely detached from it and develop a dynamic of their own.

The kind of critiques are nothing new and have been heard through out the past decade. How perception is manipulated with information has been discussed for example in the book How to lie with Maps by H.J. de Blij , 1992. Here de Blij presents examples of representations and how they are used to favour certain aspects. Or also indeed The Power of Maps by Denis Wood, 1992, You are Here by Katharine Harmon, 2003 or the Atlas of Radical Cartography edited by Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel, 2008, to name a few of the recent cartography/mapping books of the recent years.

In a new Zone Books publication Close up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics Laura Kurgan presents her research work and offers a theoretical discussion on the usage and employment of representations. Whilst most of the presented works have been seen around the web in the past few years, the book offers a bunch of new perspectives by bringing the series of works together and wrapping them in a theoretical discussion. Laura Kurgan is Associate Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning at Columbia University, where she is Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab and Director of Visual Studies.

Whilst Lying with Maps focused heavily on the map and its technical aspect such as projection, Kurgan goes deeper and explores the fundamental relationship between the visual and a visualisation as much as the technicality of production. The projects presented n the book take the read far beyond the mere representation of physical geography. The author emphasises the power within the techniques of spatial representation and unmasks the promise of truth associated with such representations of abstract knowledge.

Million Dollar Block
Image taken from the NASA / This photo of “Earthrise” over the lunar horizon was taken by the Apollo 8 crew in December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space.

The introduction to the book summarises this approach in a very nice way. Kurgan presents the series of ‘Blue Marble’ photographs released by NASA over the past 55 years and discussed the evolution from the initial ‘Earth Rise’ photograph actually taken by the astronaut on the Apollo 8 mission orbiting the moon to the 2012 version ‘Blue Marble: The Next Generation 2012’ assembled “from data collected by the Visible/Infrared Image Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NNP satellite in six orbits over eight hours”.

Million Dollar Block
Image taken from spatialinformationdesignlab.org / Million Dollar Block by Laura Kurgan and Spacial Information Design Lab. Map shows Government spending on incarcerate of individuals per block. Bright red represents more than 1 million $ of spending a year.

The example puts upfront the discussion and the shift from a photograph take from outer space, but still ‘as seen by the human eye’ through the lens of a camera to the ‘360-degree composite, made of data collected and assembled over time, wrapped around a wireframe sphere to produce views dynamically selectable and constantly updatable.

The second part featuring projects developed over the past 20 or so years take the reader from basic and playful but very intellectual GPS experiments to ware zones in Bosnia, Iraq and Kuwait and to inner city migration facts. Its a tour de force with a lot of depth. Definitely a book for anyone interested in the representation of spatial data.

book cover
Image taken from the MIT Press / Book cover.

Kurgan, L., 2013. Close up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics, New York: Zone Books.

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The Olympics are in town and about to kick off tonight in a packed Olympic Stadium out in Stratford. The last week was all about gearing up to for London to this big event. There were a few new changes, including the Olympic lanes for official traffic, but also simple things like chaining the timing of traffic lights for example.

Image taken from zimbio / The Olympic Rings 2012 being shipped up the Thames past the O2.

Image taken from msn.car / The official Olympics 2012 London car.

However so far things are running smoothly if only the weather plays along. But then a bit of the very British weather won’t harm the good spirit, it’s the Olympics!

The venues are reported to be all set. The velodrome was one of the first venues to be finished already last year. Now the Olympic Stadium is open, the Aquatics centre plus the little venues. Also the observation tower in the Olympic Park is open to visitors, at extra cot unfortunately.

Image taken from London2012 / The Olympic Park as of July 2012. Compare to earlier stages for example in previous posts on urbanTick.

London has prepared through out the city a massive events program to go alongside the Olympic Games. There are cultural events like the Tate is running at the newly opened Tanks or of course the official Olympic Festival with a massive program of arts and culture events through out the Olympics.

The sponsors have all their own way of being present at the games. Coke has set up a pavilion that is at the same time a musical instrument. The facade is built from sensor equipped cushions and visitors can play tunes by interacting with the facade of the pavilion.

EDF, also one of the big sponsors is running a special light show on their very own London Eye. Every evening the light on this big London attraction will have a light show on display that is governed by the mood of the nation.

Image taken from gizmag / The London Eye with the Energy of the Nation light show in progress, earlier this week.

The installation is using Twitter data to feel the pulse of the nation through out the day and summarise it in the evening for a show of flashing lights and colours. The data from Twitter is analysed regarding the positive or negative content of the message. The overall count of this rating is then via an algorithm transformed into the pattern of light and colour displayed on the wheel.

For the Energy of the Nation project, EDF is work with Mike Thelwall, from the University of Wolverhampton and SOSO design company on this project, to light up the London Eye with a daily custom light show.

Talking about Twitter data visualisation another one, pretty unrelated to the Olympics has been put together recently by Nikhil Bobb. Its a lens flare sort of visual effect to let the tweets blink up on a map. Looks very nice and the map is interactive and you don’t have to wait until the evening to enjoy it. You can check it out round the clock fro London from HERE. Other cities are in the list on the left if you want to travel the world on a lens flare trip. Via Living Geography.

Image by urbanTick / Tweet flare visualisation of real time tweets by Nikhil Bobb.

Let the Games Begin!

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I am giving a presentation to the MRes course at CASA, UCL today. There are two part to this lecture. The first part is covering the PhD research with a focus on the city and an overview of the methods of investigation that have been used. It is organised along the main topics of Time, Space, Morphology and Networks, but also covers Ethics and Mental Maps or Identity as aspects.

The second part really is a tutorial explaining the production of the New City Landscape maps. It covers pretty much all the steps from the preparation of the raw CSV file to the export of the map from Illustrator. A large aspect is the data handling in ArcGIS and how to perform the analysis as well as the exporting and inter compatibility with other software. Arc just doesn’t produce any pretty results so it is essential to extend the workflow to other software packages. Softwares used: TextEdit, ArcGIS, Illustrator, Google Earth, Cartographica.

Andy Hudson-Smith over at DigitalUrban will pick up with a third part and a second part to this tutorial talking through how he developed a 3D model of the landscape map and visualised it in Lumion. The result of this workflow is embedded below.

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NASA satellites are observing the wild fires around the world. From satellite images the occurrence and spreading of bush fires are clearly visible. In a summary of the fires over the last ten years

The visualisations show fire observations made by the MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, instruments onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The data on fires is combined with satellite views of vegetation and snow cover to show how fires relate to seasonal changes. This is really the interesting part. The visualisation beautifully shows the change over a long time period and the movements in the landscape based on the shift, growth and burning of nature. Even though bush fires are devastating disasters the visualisation shows ohw they integrate with the other elements.

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Ever wondered why the suggestions on shopping websites such as amazon or ebay more often than not appeal to you? Most links are targeted and do related to recent activity linking activity and interest together.

Amazon’s recommendations for products especially books works as a network of relations and starts to groups together similar interest areas. This is based on cross user activity and behaviour with a learning environment. One purchase leads to another and so on.

Christocper Warnow has looked int o creating a network visualisation for the amazon recommendation service and has written a Processing app making use of the open source Gephi API. The tool can take a web link to a book on amazon and create a network around it for up to 100 recommendations associated with the publication.

The tool can be downloaded HERE for a test. It rus in real time and the process of building the network is unfolding on screen, quite interesting to follow. The tool allows for zooming in/out and hovering for information as well as an pdf export function of the created network visualisation.

Image by Christopher Warnow / Recommendation network on amazon.de for Linked

Image by Christopher Warnow / Recommendation network on amazon.com for Linked

Interesting are the differences between the amazon online stores. Warnow points out that there are connection recommendation differences between for example the .de and the .com store in some examples: “I wanted to compare the recommendations given by amazon.de and amazon.com. And another surprise waited. The milieus looked different. The Germans are connecting postmodernism with Deleuze, the buyers from amazon.com are thinking more about the French situationist movement. I tested it again with the awesome book Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. The similarities are the complex theory and network dynamics. But the differences are interesting as well. The English milieus contain politics and collective systems, where as the Germans are more into successful marketing and economics.”

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The spatial dimension of reading is an interesting aspect in so far as to how far it can actually become the main subject. A lot of narratives make extensive use of space and lace description and the location is often as important as the characters who really come to live from the description of spatial interaction and as to how they are set in the place.

There are genres based on location both from the stories, but also based on the authors. With for example a Scandinavian tradition for crime thriller and detective story. But how could this spatial aspect be translated to organise books?

lit location based literature research
Image taken from lit.sebastianmeier / The interaction tool is the touch table with the map and the wheel for navigation. At the top is a bare showing search result for books and stories.

A student project called lit from the University of Potsdam in Germany (2010), Urban Layers module (SS 2010) (WS 2010), came up with an interactive software design for location based literacy research. It was developed by Jan-Erik Stange and Sebastian Meier supervised by Till Nagel. The tool was developed for a touch table interface providing direct interaction and handling. The project won a Core77 design award in the category Interactive, Web and Mobile.

lit location based literature research
Image taken from lit.sebastianmeier / The map showing the sequence as to how the locations are the stage for the story.

On a large map background the location can play a number of different roles. For one it can define a search criteria, by defining places or boundaries to find books. Location however, can then also play the key role from within the book and the software can show the locations this story plays at. For this the project has developed a visualisation to link the linear book text and dots on the map. It is achieved by using an interaction wheel, showing the text as a circle, and drawing lines to the dots. This way the sequence becomes clear and everything can still happen at the centre of the table.

lit location based literature research
Image taken from lit.sebastianmeier / The map now showing two books in different colour to visually compare.

It is then possible to show the sequence also on the map connecting the dots, thus providing a spati narrative. Further more additional books can be brought in and be compared to one another based on the location.

Via Wrightbrian3, via the Atlantic

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This weekend from today the Alphaville Festival is under way providing a platform for digital media and art to be shown, discussed and explored across different venues in East London.

It is the third year for this growing digital-media platform and this years theme is “Zeitgeist, from digital to post-digital. This is very much picking up on how Negroponte put it already back in 1998 in WIRED “The digital revolution is over”.

Alphaville 2011 Cell
Image taken from Alphaville / ‘Cell’, concept by James Alliban and Keiichi Matsuda (2011)

The 2011 edition provides an online and live platform to explore, test and disseminate new deas, emerging trends, collaborations and groundbreaking works. Running from 22-25 September the programme presents social media and interactive art, open labs, meet-ups, talks, workshops and screenings alongside with live music, visual performances and parties. Taking place longside the London Design Festival, the 2011 edition enables a network of satellite events spreading across different London boroughs and links with other European cities such as Madrid (Twin Gallery) and Brussels & The Hague (Todays Art). Selected venues include Netil House, Rich Mix, Space Studios, Vortex Jazz Club, XOYO, Hearn Street Warehouse and Whitechapel Gallery. The festival programme also connects east and west London thorough a link with the V&A Digital Design Weekend.

Alphaville 2011 Bitquid
Image taken from Alphaville / Bitquid by Jeroen Holthuis (Photo by Ansis Starks)

The festival will have gathering artists, creative coders, new media technologists, designers, architects, professionals,
musicians, researchers and academics, some of the key names are: Tom Uglow (Google Creative
Labs), Marius Watz, Filip Visnjic (Creative Applications), Man Bartlett, Daito Manabe, Moritz
Stefaner, Keiichi Matsuda, James Alliban, Pantha Du Prince, Matthew Dear, Jon Hopkins,
Jacaszek and Kangding Ray.

There is a range of events including performances, talks and exhibitions. On Saturday 13h00 I will be giving a talk t the Innovation Space in Netil House. Networked Cities I will be discussing some of the Twitter visualisation we have created for the NCL project. This wil mainly focus on Ljubljana, Den Haag and Brussels in terms of activity, network and spatial diversity.

A map to find the different venues can be found below. Tickts can be bougt at the venues or online HERE. To get a previe HERE is and interview with PANTHA DU PRINCE who will be playing at the festival or a sound mix teaser below.

Alpha-ville Festival 2011 Mix by Alpha-ville

View Larger Map

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The main buzz word of the 2011 discussion in urban and spatial research is networks. Networks start to appear everywhere and everything is linked in to most other things. This is however, in fact not new. The network discussion has started at least ten or fifteen years ago.

It is very fascinating how network are entering the repertoire of scientists and with the tools to construct analyse and draw them more and more data is analysed towards its network structure. Some of the platfomrs like Gephi or Cytoscape, but also the integration of network analysis capacity with existing software such a GeoTime in version 5.1 makes this emerging branch accessible to a wider research community. The basic elements of nodes as the actors and links as the activity are a pretty simple, but very powerful way of describing very complex structures.

Some three interesting examples of recent weeks shall be presented in the following. The examples chosen are very divers, but show how the term and the idea is unfolding in many disciplines leading to new discoveries of previous unknown aspect. This is not to dismiss anything known previously, but to add another puzzle piece to the picture from a ‘network’ perspective.

15m social network
Image taken from 15m.bifi.es / The figure represents the evolution of the network of Twitter users that exchange messages during the 10 days following the beginning (May 15, 2011) of camp in Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain. Each node in the network represents an individual, and the node size is proportional to the total number of messages he/she sent or received in the period analyzed. Two nodes are connected if they have exchanged at least one message. The colors encode the “age” of the node: the first active users are represented in yellow, while black color is used for the latecomers..

Social network analysis i probably the biggest and most obvious branch of network analysis. Since the concept of social connection is part of our everyday experience this is the area easies accessible for a general audience. With the data from digital social networks becoming available as for example the NCLn maps using Twitter show or also the Facebook global connection by Paul Buttler it is opening new possibilities for social sciences. The overwhelmingly massive amount of detail could potentially provide a different understanding of social mechanisms.

The project by he BIFI (Institute for Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems) is focusing on Twitter data collected between end of April and beginning of May 2011 during the youth movement 15m in Spain. The researchers have collected data over a period of three weeks as the activities are unfolding on Twitter across the country. The visualisation show how the information spreads across the digital social network, more and more groups joining in pushing the converation and the use of specific # hash tags as indicators. In total, 581.749 messages coming from 87.569 users were identified and used for the study.

Clip taken from 15m.bifi.es / video is a visual representation of the tweets exchanged between users involved in the 15M movement. All the information received/generated reflect the actual spreading dynamics in the period analysed.

Another obvious source of network information is to be found in science itself, mapping out the collaboration across the world. The institutions or the individual research groups can act as nodes and a collaboration is establishing a link between the nodes. Similar scientific citation are another established source of network data.

A lot of this work has been collected and presented in the MIT publications Atlas of Science by Katy Boerner. An online version of a research collaboration from 2005 to 2009 network is computed by Olivier H. Beauchesne at Science-Metrix, Inc. At wired explains “analysed the extracts of all of these articles to find where there was collaboration. So if a Cambridge University researcher published a paper with a colleague at the University of Arizona then that would create the pairing of Cambridge and Tuscon.”

global science collaborations
Image taken from flowingdata / Map showing global science collaborations. Click for full screen interactive version.

In a third example scientist have discovered network of trees. In which the threes are actively exchanging and scientists believe that this network provides an advantage to connected trees over unconnected tree of the same species in the same area. The soundfoundation explains: “Graduate student Kevin Beiler has found that all trees in dry interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs, much like the hub of a spoked wheel, where younger trees establish within the mycorrhizal network of the old trees.” The original presentation can be found here. It is pretty amazing that networks form such a fashion between plants previously thought of as static and dull in a spatial activity sense.

Tree network
Image taken from abject.ca / Map showing connected and unconnected trees in the study area.

The networks can extend to many other areas and the built environment being on of them. Just like the trees the buildings are al interconnected with a network of cables and pipes, services and goods, linking across the city and the country. In this context one of the obvious example is the transport network and how a bus service links to a tub service bringing you to your destination via a short walk some gates and Oyster card operated barriers. At CASA, Jon Reads is currently working with some Oyster Card data visualising and analysing public transport networks across London. There is definitely more to come in this area in the next few weeks and month.

London public transport network
Image taken from Simulacra Bog / Map showing Central London Detail of public transport network based on TfL segments.

Networks will be with us for the foreseeable future being stronger an stronger embedded in out everyday thinking of objects and actions. It is definitely linking into a growing awareness of connectivity very much in line with the current sustainability debate as well as the of similar age system thinking theories.

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Temporal dimensions are only visible as fractions and over a very small scale. There are very clear limitations to the recognition of temporal changes to the human senses. This ranges from about 18 frames per second to the movement of a snail. Everything that is faster or slower is only to be registereed in comparison to a reference point.

Like the slow movement of the tide with ebb and flow it is one of the natural rhythms beyond the direct human perception. It can be registered for example by reference points such a the sand castel that is washed away by the water or the appearance of rocks and sand banks.

With the help of timeLapse photography phenomenon at the slow range of the spectrum beyond the capacity of the human eye can be visualised. This is for example the growth of plants and the changes in plant size and orientation.

This is generally not only down to the capacity of registration, technically, by the eye, but also to the very different speed of the human character. The capacity can reach out to aspects such as for example patience or concentration. At slow motion distraction are pretty influential and make the registration pretty hard.

Adam Gregory show in his clip ‘Asparagus’ exactly this sort of movement as the growth of asparagus in the field. It shows an amazing change and movement speed up and easier to recognise. It unveils a a process normally not accessible by the naked eye.

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