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— urbantick

July 2010 Monthly archive

I will be giving a presentation tonight in Moscow at the Strelka Institute for Architecture, Media and Design.
We will have some special guest linking in via Skype. This will be Ralph Barthel to talk about the chalenges of the Tales of Things project and later on Steven Gray explaining more about Tweet-O-Meter, twitter mining and the brand new Survey Mapper tool.

The presentation is organised into parts, first looking at technology and urban sensing using virtual media data and in the second part will be focusing on the experiential part of the city and every day narratives.

Most of the examples you can find scattered across the urbanTick blog, but are here collected.
One additional feature for tonight is the New City Landscape map for Moscow. For the occasion we have generated a new tweetography map for the capital of Russia. We will put it live in the style of London, Paris, New York and Munich tomorrow.

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The dynamic and changing character of the social media data was the big topic today. We discussed the different conceptions of time in everyday life, culture, religion, science and society as well as the implications of working with dynamic data in general. Similar the processing programming was focused on the implementation of first sketches of visualisations. However there were a lot of difficulties to be solved surrounding the data as well as the platforms. Especially the clash of the character sets was something that needed to be resolved for every step.

The times here in Russia run a bit different everything is even later than it would be in London. Days stat at mid day lunch doesn’t exist and dinner comes in around ten. Almost a 6 hour, quarter of a day shift. At the same time Moscow seems to be very quiet. COming from the busy London streets into a real hot, summery Moscow is like a full stop. Street appear extremely wide for the few cars and crossroads wast. The sort of dimensions you even think twice about crossing even with the green man showing.

Screen shot 2010-07-25 at 22.18.01
Image taken from GoEa Aerial imagery / Datcha housing area around Moscow.

Driving round the centre, Kremlin, makes one wonder where everyone is, where the traffic is. They must be around the corner at the red light and will any second flood the roads around you? No, actually not, there is no one. Summer in Moscow, especially on weekends is quite calm. People prefer to go out to the country side where they ave their ‘дача‘, ‘Landhaus’, second home, summer house. This seems to be a very strong tradition and this cyclical moving out of the city during the summer period is very popular. An estimated 25% of the families living in urbann areas actually have such a country house.

Also Vladimir Putin has his Dacha, like many of the new Russian elite. However with this boom the tradition changed form the soviet stile garden house buit from wood in to brick and concreet, multy story buildings.

Screen shot 2010-07-25 at 22.18.22
Image taken from GoEa Aerial imagery / Datcha housing area around Moscow.

The popularity shows on the map and vast areas around Moscow and presumably also the other Russian cities are covered with this country style houses. On aerial imagery, from the distance it almost looks a bit similar to allotments. And in fact this is what the house surrounding land was used for a few decades ago. It was one of the main sources for people living in the city for fresh vegetables and similar goods.

The typology is loosely grid based and it seems that only very recently, currently in development, planners have adopted the ‘Cul-de-sac‘, suburban style of layout typology, unfortunately.

Again for the records the presentation:

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After having missed the official start of the workshop yesterday I joined the workshop team. Today was not only very hot but also very productive. Moscow is some 39C, maybe more depending on the source. So the water spender machines are in constan use and the cartridges have to be changed frequently.

Topics for today were processing, processing and processing. In between we had some short exercises concerning the interactions between virtual and real spaces. With this we want the students to start investigating in many directions and from the beginning to mix both worlds. YOu can follow the progress either on the workshop facebook page anOtherWorkshop, or on twitter @anOtherWorkshop with the #vvsr tag.

In a simple string of actions parameters for twitter mining were extracted from virtual user generated online information that was recreated and reinterpreted and put back online. The resulting stories of object and place produced a list of key search terms. Surprisingly there were many very successful search terms found in this way maybe no one would have thought of otherwise. It turned out that cleaning and smoke and pipe are actually very popular words in the world of Russian twitter users.

In a simple processing query, the terms were requested through the twitter api and visualised according to the day of the week, in columns and time of the day, in rows.

keyword "труба" ("pipe")
Image taken from the flickr account of anOtherWorkshop, generated by Yulia and Masha / This is using the Russian search term “труба” (“pipe”). Basically through out the week people are talking about pipe.

The tool that offers the most direct interface between the real world and the virtual literally is the Tales of Things. The platform to link memories, stories and thought via virtual content to any real world object. Obviously the students liked this hands on and easy accessible tool and started to log their stories.

There is the wonder full tale of the ghost of the house, who lives on in one of the buildings on the island and sort of leads it in to a positive future (from his seat in the rain pipes). Or there is the sad-sweet description of the girl/young lady who’s face is printed on the chocolate bar that used to be produced on site on the island, or the confusion created by words if they are used in the same sense in a different context.

Image taken from the flickr account of anOtherWorkshop, generated by Zvezdnii and his colleague / The “object” – chocolate bar, sportig the girl on the cover. It is actually a rather disturbing facial expression if you think about it for a moment.

The day was rounded off with a late night lecture at Strelka by Hans Ulrich Obrist starting only after 10 pm local time. The talk is covered by urbanTick on twitter.

Just for the records the input presentation given today.

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The urbanTick blog will be written from Moscow for the coming week. I will be involved in a workshop at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design.
The workshop goes under the title ‘AG: Virtual Versus Real’ and we will be investigating the interface between the virtual social networking activity and the real world location. The workshop will integrate mapping, programming and visualising.

From the website ‘Virtual reality is becoming a part of the factual everyday life. In the video game Second Life one can build an ideal house, watch an on-line lecture by Zaha Hadid, and even visit offices of established architectural bureaus. Facebook allows us to follow schedules of designers and architects, and Twitter even makes them as close as your friends.
What is the influence of virtual spaces on real ones? How are design and architecture of the virtual space different from those of the real space? In this session we will discuss how Internet influences our society and the city environment, what happens in on-line gaming and social networks, and what practical benefits they can bring?’

Image taken from New Scientist / The mood of the nation at midday and 11 pm EST (Image: Alan Mislove/Sune Lehmann/Yong-Yeol Ahn/Jukka-Pekka Onnela/J. Niels Rosenquist, 2010).

This is a very hot topic currently and a lot of great visualisations have been produced and a couple of research projects are using it already as a data source. The Tweet-O-Meter and the New Landscape Maps developed here at CASA are only one of them. Another research project is the ‘Puls of the Nation: U.S. Mood Throughout the Day inferred from Twitter‘ currently discussed in the New Scientist.

In the context of Moscow this will be very interesting since the underground network actually has coverage for the mobile phone network. So it is possible to tweet from underground. This will definitely change the landscape. Influenced by this contextless black tube space and the monotony of commuting are the best breeding ground for virtual interaction and remote social networking.

Moscow Metro Map
Image taken from bonCherry / Moscow Metro Map.

With the workshop we want to look closely at these phenomenon and work out in detail the conditions in the urban fabric that allow for this virtual-real interface and the implications for architecture. For a long time the virtual worlds have fascinated architects and it is established practice in the conception of architecture. However, in the use of architecture this has only been discovered.
The workshop will cover mapping of the urban context according to virtual activity and involve programming and practical real world exercise. The strategy is explorative based, since we don’t know yet about the finding but it will go beyond a merely virtual assemblage of information.
The New Landscape maps are a starting point but we really want to learn something aout the tactility of the physical location and investigate the conditions and changes this practice brings for architecture. The workshop is run by Daniel Dendra together with Imannuel Koh and myself.

So if you happen to be around in Moscow just pop in and see what we are doing, Strelka is located directly in the centre of Moscow on the island Balchug just opposite the Kremlin.

Since Strelka is a new school, headed by Rem Koolhas and his OMA/AMO team, they put in a lot of effort an have managed to put together a very impressive line up of big names for lectures. There is Peter Cook, tonight actually, Odile Decq, Colin Fournier, Bjarke Ingels, Michael Schindhelm, and many more.

Image taken from Wikipedia / River Moskva, downtown Moscow, 1852 map.

Recently with the New City Landscape maps there was a lot of taking around this topic on this blog. This will continue with two additional sets of maps coming up. First set with the cities of Moscow, Barcelona, San Francisco and Sydney. This will be followed by a set with Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Toronto.

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The latest Serpentine Summer Pavilion opened last week on the 10th of July. Find last years post HERE.It is designed buy the French architect Jen Nouvel and probably one of his first structures in Britain.
It is red, actually really red! According to Nouvel, ‘the red accelerates the green, the green accelerates the red.’ This highlights the importance of the context. Being there, in the park, is being part of the context and there is no escape of either red nor green. Even though most of the Hydepark is actually rather more brown than green currently, the Serpentine is really quite green. Limiting the colour palet to just one colour and this being red simplifies this contextual relationship and makes it even more present.

Image by urbanTick / The Serpentine Summer Pavilion 2010 by Jean Nouvel – red and geen : inside and outside.

The structure is actually not only temporal in its conception, but also in its realisation. It is based on the beams and pillars to carry large roll-up red sun screens. Practically it constantly changes its shape and extend (also see video on Vimeo with a timelapse). Nouvel plays with the levels too. To the Serpentine Galerie, the pavilion is slightly lowered. Depending on the position of the sun screens the visitor can see a the large red roof framed by the green canopies of the trees, or if the roof is rolled up, the green can be seen through the structure. Also on the interior of the pavilion the levels are used. There are tables and seats lowered in to the grown in the back of the cafe, sort of in the 60s style. In terms of materials Nouvel sticks to his love of industrial products and for example uses red and green outdoor rubber or porous polymeric athletics track surface for the flooring.
For a contextual review read the Independent article on the pavilion. Archidose covers the pavilion with a few images too. Overall the reaction s haven’t been to excited. However, I found the colour contrast really fascinating.

The contrast of the red and green is so great that it defines the inside and outside definite. Even thought the structure is completely open the distinction could not be greater. I is sort of impossible to blur the line between the green and red and it at times appears to mirror the opposite colour. It created a distance between the inside and outside and looking out is definitely the preferred direction. The red framing of the geen is easier on the eye.

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One hundred years apart and still people are fascinated with three dimensional representations of the city they live in.
In 1910 a London guide book was published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & CO., Ltd. & Love & Malcomson, Ltd., at Dane Street, Holborn, W.C. illustrating the capital in 20 Birsd-Eye Views of the Principal Streets. It also includes a Large Folding Map and an updated, coloured Tube Map. The Price – one shilling.


The book opens to describe London with the lines: ‘In this vast metropolisthere are to be seen individuals, families, tribes of pretty nearly every race on the habitable globe, of almost every tongue and dialect, of every colour and complexion, of every faith, religion, persuasion, and opinion – howsoever eccentric.'(London in 1910, p. B) At the time London had some 7 million inhabitants, putting it ahead of New York with 4.5 million and Paris of 2.8 million. And the book states that London adds about 108 people daily to ‘her’ population.
It is a guidebook with the different areas portrait in detail including historical aspects such as details of the Trafalgar Battle to introduce the Nelson Column on Trafalgar Square and so on. However, in terms of layout is is rather a text book.

Images taken Yell.com / A view from Trafalgar Square in London down Charing Cross road towards Whitehall and Westminster.

The publication must have been partly financed also with advertising. There are some really nice examples in this book, of companies selling curtains, or flats for renting and so on. This too gives a pretty good impression of the passage of time compared to todays advertisement. Similar the prices, a hotel prices its rooms at 9s per day. This wold nowadays be more like £110.
The Birds-Eye Views are the main feature of this publication and they are quite impressive. Note sure though how they have been drawn. Whether from the top of some roofs or entirely as sort of imagined hovering over the houses.
In comparison the new Yell.com maps service is rendered from aerial imagery and gives the option to view the city in 3D. ‘The 3D maps were created from actual film footage shot from light aeroplanes using sophisticated aerospace technology, which is then merged with other film taken from ground level’ according to the Yell press release. ‘Its technology appears to drape multi-directional aerial imagery over 3D point cloud. It offers true 360 degree view of objects on the ground and the map also has a control to adjust the tilt of the camera to the horizon’ acording to allThingsSpatial.

Images taken from London 1910 and Yell.com / A direct comparison of the Tottenham Court Road area in 1910 on the left and 2010 on the right. For a detailed 1910 scan of the illustration go to flickr, for the 2010 version go to yell.com/maps

Very interesting how this has changed the perception of many. The city has in a relatively short period of time become the completely visualised space with uncountable attempts to capture it all. This has somehow shifted the perception form it being a space one can explore and discover and has the luxury to be surprised by new features. However this has changed into a we know it all attitude with the dreadful surprise being something one doesn’t know.

Thanks for bringing the book over to my neighbour Steve. We’ll be trying to generate those 3D flights.

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The twitter activity varies over the course of the day as shown in an earlier post on Tweet Times. So far we were using the timeRose to visualise the temporal activity.
The data used here is based on the geo located tweets collected for the New City Landscape maps of New York, Paris, London and Munich. I have now produced a simple contour for each hour of the day. This shows the activity over the period of 24 hours, with all days superimposed. This visualisation only looks at the data collected for Munich. The detailed New City Landscape map of Munich can be found HERE. In Munich there are some hotspots that are constantly active over the course of the day, like the airport terminals in the top right hand corner and of course the centre. Then there is a lot of fluctuation around the center and ocasional spots on the outskirts. For orientation purpose I have put in major green features and the water line.

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The art collective Observatorium is creating Big Pieces and these art works are always about location and time. Usually time in the sense of ‘time out’ or simply resting.
They have now published a book with 010 Publishers covering the twelve of their installations they have realised in the past twelve years. As a side note, maybe we could also start speculating about te topic of time and the meaning of twelve as a number?
The book is ‘Big Pieces of Time : Observatorium‘.
As the work is described in the introduction, summarises most of the intentions: “Ideally, the sculpture will provide a focus, a point of arrival and of redirection; it gives the countryside or town a space and a symbol, something that invites and stimulates people into action or contemplation. If the art can accomplish anything, then it is above all to create time and space for attention – attention and curiosity towards the outside worlds, towards – the interior resonances we experience. It presents an environment that highlights the imponderability of the world around us.”
The twelve pieces are monumental and even by looking at the images in the book this can be felt. Take the project ‘Das Hallenhaus‘, a steel construction outlining a building. It is erected on a platform on top of a hill with beautiful views, a place to be.

Hallenhaus Observatorium
Image taken from stroom.nl / Image of the Hallenhaus.

It is a mazing how Observatorium manages to create this tension between place and context and everything without the salesman attitude of selling art. In fact art is the lat thing one think about while looking at this work presented in the book and I imagine this to be an even stronger aspect of the real live installations. There is something very natural, self explaining and normal to it.
This goes along with a statement by the art collective: “The work is not finished until someone uses it” (Observatorium on their project ‘Square for De LeiJ, Judical Juvenile Institution De Leij, Vught, 2003). One of the projects that beautifully demonstrates the process the art piece is involved after it is actually finished. How this project has changed with it being used is not disimilar from an other built work, be it architecture or landscaping.

The beauty about the book are the photographs documenting the work. Using the full format of the book an additional story is narrated with the images. In fact one could argue that this is a picture book book. As mentioned above the monumentality of the projects is captured beautifully, with a seriousness and a self-evidence rarely seen in project documentation. However this is mainly down to the monumentality of the installations and the other aspects of participation, community work, actual activity and action is harder to document. Cleverly here the text takes over this part and rounds the publication to a slow motion whale, a super-size book that brings you a time-out, time to recharge and enjoy. It is not about art but about the involvement, the possibilities and the dreams.

Big Pieces of Time, Cover
Image taken from the Observatorium blog / BIG PIECES OF TIME – Observatorium, Designed by Karelse & Den Besten, English, 288 pp / 326 x 240 mm / hardcover, price € 39.50, ISBN 978 90 6450 680 2.

de Camp, G., Dekker, A. & Reutelingsperger, R., 2010. Observatorium: Big Pieces of Time, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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A new GPS drawing project by Jeremy Wood (earlier on uT with the dog drawings and the dragon) has hit the online news. A contextual landscape map drawn by walking the landscape and tracing it with a GPS. Couldn’t be more simple as engadget points out: “walk around in the defined area with a GPS unit and end up with a 1:1 scale map of where he walked.”
The concept is very similar to Open Street Map (OSM). Take a GPS and with the recordings you can trace landscape features, OSM traces the streets and a visualisation of the data collected produces a map.
However Wood’s approach is interesting in so far as that he attempts to already process the landscape features in regards to the output map by using the trace to mimic mapping symbols. This provides an enhanced readability of the outcome.
Did he actually climb over fences and invade peoples gardens to achieve this? The map covers the Campus of the University of Warwick with some 238 miles of path over 17 days. Wood recalls: “Security was called on me twice on separate occasions and I lost count of how many times I happened to trigger an automatic sliding door.” More images on the artists page.

Traverse Me
Image by Jeremy Wood taken from GPSdrawing.com / Traverse Me is a map drawn by walking across campus with a GPS device to invite the viewer to see a different landscape to that which surrounds them. It questions the possibilities of where they are and inspires a personal reading of their movements and explorations of the campus. Commissioned by the Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre.

Tanks for the link to Ralph Barthel, via engadget and infosthetics.

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Pictures are mostly taken as a sort of memory aid, and as the action describes it ‘taken’ suggests it menas to pocket something, owning it and bringing it home. We have learned to relate to images and use them efficiently as triggers for memories, to tell stories and evoke associations. Further more they have grown in to the culture in a sense that photographs reveil our identity and tell as much about us as they do tell about the culture we belong to. They are a lot more than a colourful paper or a bunch of pixels. Beside the identity and cultural value especially fascinating are the aspects of time and space. Clearly and with this tool aspects of subjective and/or social time can be comfortably visualised. in an earlier post on time I sort of struggled to relate the multitude of times to the work in spatial analysis, simply because there is no tradition of incorporating anything other than Newtons one dimensional, directed arrow. The multitude of times however seems perfectly well fited for the subject of Photographs.
Sandra Abegglen over at everydayClick and a researcher at Goldsmith working with photographs states: “In brief, family portraits (and also other photographs) are only partly about the visual, because they contain a lot more information. They are (time) documents. They show how it was, how it is and how it can be in the future. As Barthes (1984:96) states, ‘…the photograph tells me the death in the future’.”
How time distorts as we look at photographs from our childhood is a familiar experience even though few will have actively reflected on it. We can see ourselves at multiple different Birthdays of ourselves and flip through the years see oneself grow up and from the past right to the resent and straight trough to the further and the next birthday the photographs narrate it perfectly.
Spatially a similar mental process is involved. The image shows only a fraction of the real context of the scene. And still we can construct the spatial dimension, lift the elements up from the flat paper and extend the scenery. Old places become familiar again, the scene comes to live. Interestingly the recognition of places works well as a visualisation for the passage of time and in this sense the spatial dimension of photographs is very closely tied to the temporal dimension. Almost as if the time we extract from the photograph helps to build up the spatial dimension.
The spatiality of the final photograph is embedded in the spatial activity of actually taking the image. We stand back, align the perspective and compose the shapes and characters in the frame, what for the perfect lighting to enter the scene and click, click, click.

Video found via Timo Arnall’s Research Blog

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