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— urbantick

November 2010 Monthly archive

The title of this Black Dog Publication seems very general and trendy at firsts glance, but in fact describes the content much better than most other publications. With ‘Mapping the Invisible – EU-Roma Gypsies‘ edited by Lucy Orta, a topic is in depth documented that currently definitely doesn’t features on any agenda. A topic concerned with the ‘invisible’ culture of the Gypsies, ‘mapping’ out an identity and the condition they currently live in.

Of course both terms here are used in a wider sense than the currently trending meanings. Already for this one is very grateful. ‘Mapping’ has become a dead term, suffocated by start up app developers and run over by cross-discipline geographers. In the context of this publication additional potential of mapping breathes some live back into a dead corps with a lot of success and in fact very few maps.

Before even talking about any content, the main element of the book are the photographs. This probably wan’t intentional and the photographs are neither glossy nor very good, but they tell the story, illustrate factual and narrate emotionally. There are currently very few publications out there that manage a similar intensity using photographs.

Gypsies in Europe
Image taken from Wikipedia / populations of the Romani people by country, showing the “average estimate” published by the Council of Europe[1]. Based on these estimates are the number of seats by country in the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) based in Strasbourg. The size of the wheel symbol represents total population by country (Romania 1.85 million), the shade of each country’s background colour represents the percentage of Romani with respect to the total population (Romania 8.5%). The three different green shadings 0%, 5%, 10%

The current state of the Gypsies is documented in five chapters as ‘History Migration’, ‘Human Rights’, ‘Extreme Poverty’, ‘Creative Ingenuity’ and ‘Family Identity’. These topics are simultaneously observed in different European countries, such as Italy, England, Romania, Turkey or Greece. Interestingly each topic is portrait in a spatial context and even though the cuture is largely known as traveling or travelers, the place, here used distinct from space, is always very important. This provides sort of a continuous tread through out the book and continuously pieces start interlocking. However, there is no need to read linearly, thanks to this thread.

What are Gypsies? Wikipedia says this: “The Romani (also Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms; exonym: Gypsy; Romani: Romane or Rromane, depending on the dialect) are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to the Indian Subcontinent.
The Romani are widely dispersed, with their largest concentrated populations in Europe, especially the Roma of Central and Eastern Europe and Anatolia, followed by the Iberian Kale in Southwestern Europe and Southern France. Deported to Brazil by Portugal during the colonial era [16] and via more recent migrations, some people have gone to the Americas and, to a lesser extent, other parts of the world.”

The book’s effort is summarised in the foreword by Alexander Valntino and Lucy Orta as: “European Roma mapping stemmed fromt he need to know more about the precarious living conditions of the Romani across Europe. Awareness, we believe is an absolut necessary first step towards an auspicious change in the Roma condition.” And this is definitely what the term invisible describes, a cultural group disappearing in the in the sea of sub suburb sprawl of individualised housing and generalised industry.

Clearly the Roma people are marginalised and pushed to the edge of society. Hoever, every now and then the Roma culture has played a role in a broader cultural movement as for example in links to the Situationist, who were especially interested in the idea of moving. More recently in 2007 the first Roma pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale was established as discussed with Daniel Baker in the chapter ‘Creative Ingenuity’.

Holy Communion
Taken from Valentina Schicardi / A photograph taken from the series on the Holy Communion of the granddaughter.

The book manages to produce a comprehensive documentation, aso for a lay audience, of the Roma culture and the current state of place it is manifesting itself. This is clearly a very sad situation and in all the different countries an unsolved condition without any ideas or concepts in reach for improvement.

This documentation is on the other hand also a clear reflection and the society we live in and how this society we are al part of treats certain groups. You thought slums are something that only exists in faraway, exotic countries, think again. Talking about the latest flashy architecture magazine glossi spread? Read this publication and you’ll learn a lot more about what architecture could mean and the role it would play.

This publication is low key and at first glance resembles more a comprehensive study report or a sophisticated thesis. However, this is extremely misleading flipping through will unveil the density and comprehensiveness of the documentation and the liveliness of the images will bring you goos bumps
into your cosy living room. There might be no over designed layout, but the power of the narrative here are simply incredible. A must have for every analytically interested architect as well as all the mapper out there. A wakeup call for the urbanised, western societies for a lot more than the subject at hand. A very important contribution, especially now in this conservatives’ dominated political and social climate.

Also read a review of the book at we-make-money-not-art.

Image taken from Radio.CZ / Publication cover.

Orta, L., 2010. Mapping the Invisible: EU-Roma Gypsies, Black Dog Publishing Ltd.

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If we start with Petra Kempf’s publication ‘You Are The City‘ we jump straight into the discussion about the personal expression in the urban environment. Clearly this has become dramatically individualised and
and citizens have grown into roles as independent user, aspiring for flexibility and uniqueness.
The technological development in the recent years, month actually, is fuelling these developments. Here individuality turns into solitary and disconnectednes with the latest app telling you whats happening around you. Interaction becoming the biggest thing as long as we don’t need to talk to anyone.

The urban landscape is turning from a servicescape in to a stagescape for individuals to produce themselves as the latest celebrity. Interaction becomes one directional, the famous show off to be looked at, the ultimate aspiration.

The individualisation obviously is a very big topic in the media and some recent project are quite cleverly employing this trend to the point of questioning its real existence.

For example the current aviva campaign puts the individual in to the centre. On the website http://www.youarethebigpicture.com/ they started a collection of portraits, with the option to draw in your facebook image, as a representation of personal commitment and support. The great thing is the personalised video clip everyone gets as a sort of gift. The uploaded image is embedded in the clip and everyone has the chance to appears big in the city.

In fact aviva actually is running live projections of the submitted images in cities around the world. Some have ended, but on the page you have access to the recorded time lapse.

Another effort is made by the Dentsu London media company. They have recently had some really exciting project utilising the latest technologies with quite visionary content. See for example the iPad illumination clip.

THey were also looking into the personalisation of the city environment and visualised their ideas in two animated clip, sort of augmented visualisations. Their claim goes beyond the content, but this doesn’t matter at the moment I guess.

The basic idea is to utilise and augment existing objects and surfaces with personalised content and information. The desire to keep up to date with the latest social networking news, updates, notifications and tweets. Some of the idea are quite interesting, especially the ones that aim at linking the individual back to the physical context. It is very simple, but for example the Dentsu train ticket idea is a different take on the location awareness trend.

There is a lot of potential in this trend to personalise the everyday environment. There might be individual benefit and surprises to be discovered for everyone. However it might be not as new as it would like to be. But it is certainly a new take on the everyday routines and a chance to embed it with the aspired independence and individuality of our current culture. Definitely the city is the playground.

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The ever changing perspective as we navigate the urban landscape is an important feature influencing the perception and in many ways influences how the space we create as we go along are experienced. It’s not as if the street is existing, but it is renewed every time as a recreation of itself with a specific take.

Buildings feature in this process consciously as a back drop and the immediate focus is put on the objects whizzing about, to avoid potential collisions. The trajectories of these has to be continuously monitored and one’s own path adjusted accordingly. It is a sort of negotiation between the elements that make use of their power to take decisions and with it continuously generate situations.

However, this consuming activity might in the long run is not be the main focus. Unconsciously the main focus might lay on the static frame and the defining elements as parameters of the room for action.

In this beautiful time lapse Theo Tagholm shows an interpretation of this spatiality of places from the perspective of one subject.

As it says in the description “I drift, half awake, half asleep. Moving through the city I recall but have never been to.”
The clip is produced by Theo Tagholm, a video artist. He’s got some other great video work. As linked here earlier with the clip Still Moving.

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The spatial manifestation of presence, such as ownership, power or usage is commonly clearly and durable regulated in stable societies. The practice has sort of merged with the everyday routines and is hardly notable. There might be the odd neighbours dispute over a garden shed, a tree or a parke car but largely the boundaries are in place and not negotiable on a individual or even personal level. In a sense they are accepted as a sort of pre existing spatial institution.
Boundaries do change in shape and ownership. Usually lager pieces, such as plots of land, if they are not public, are traded as a good on the market, payed for and sealed with a contract. So pretty save stuff here.

This is however only a condition and depends on the accepted practice.

In a brand new 010 publication by Malkit Shoshan exactly these conditions and practices are examined. Shoshan meticulous works his way through the spatial extends and manifestations of the Israel-Palestine conflict over the past 100 years. The book ‘Atlas of the Conflict – Israel-Palestine‘ maps out the processed and mechanisms behind the shaping of the area over the past century.

Atlas of the Conflict 02
Image taken from Atlas of the Conflict 010 Publishers / Spread 132-133, chapter 3, showing the pattern of settlements by size.

The conflict is a constant topic in the western news with its ebbs and flows. Sometimes the coverage is more intense and then it fades away again, depending mainly on the involvement of western authorities or individuals. The last wave of prolonged news coverage flicked across our screens this past May 31, as the ship convoy, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to reach the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid and suplies. Over 700 People from 37 different countries were aboard to support the mision, including Britons. The Israeli special force Shayetet 13 brutally stopped the convoy, killed nine of the passengers and injured dozens. The goods did not reach the destination. This act was widely criticized and dominated the news for a couple of day and it faded away again.

However the extend and the implications of this conflict are hard to grasp by following these only doted coverages. The news stories are usually quite narrated and in comparison to this the Atlas of the Conflict ha a very different approach. It is promising to develop an objective overview through mapping and factual documentation. Factual we can most likely expect from the large news channels, but the comprehensive mapping really offers a new perspective on this entangled situation.

This book is not the first attempt to map out this topic. For example there is the ‘The Routledge atlas of the Arab-Israeli conflict‘ and other earlier book dating back to the eighties or early nineties. In this sense it is time for a new publication with a fresh approach.

Atlas of the Conflict 01
Image taken from Atlas of the Conflict 010 Publishers / Spread 414-415, lexicon, showing the evolution of the wall erected by Israel along the border to Palestine.

The collection of maps is extensive. The book boosts a massive 500 maps and illustrations, detailing different aspects. It puts things into places, context and more importantly into relation to each other. The developed context is however very limited, it hardly goes beyond the ever changing borderlines of the Israeli state. It does however go into a lot of detail on the inside of the border line and puts things on the maps such as infrastructures and demographics.

The publication is organised into two parts. The first part is mapping, mapping, mapping, putting the information into beautifully simplified maps, often reduced to icons. In the second part the author presents a lexicon of selected objects, topics, facts and figures to intensify and narrate the topics presented in the maps section. The two sections are interlinked with page numbers to offer option for nonlinear reading of the atlas. This element however works only one way, from the maps section to the lexicon section.

As hinted above the design of this publication are outstanding and do set standards. There is no other way to put it. Behind this is again Joost Grootens who was already responsible for the design of ‘Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defense Line‘, reviewed here earlier. Through out the book the design works with a three colour colour scheme. Blue is used for Israeli information, brown for Palestine information and black for general info. The illustrations are very often reduced in detail and information to be mainly an icon. This is extremely beautiful and makes this publication a pleasure to brows. However it also struggles at times with the odd non fitting design problem, but thats part of the game.

The overall size of the publication is at first surprising. For an atlas it is very small and more a sort of pocket atlas. This especially in comparison to the oversize ‘Atlas o the New Dutch Water Defence Line’.

A striking speciality of the publication’s approach to document the conflict over the last 100 years is the largely absent topic of religion and individual destiny. Shoshan explains in the introduction how she started investigating the spatiality of the conflict and it can be assumed that it is a very conscious decision to exclude these topics in order to enable a different access to the conflict as a whole.

While reading through the publication and studying the maps, a very strong sense of temporality of space, land and even country started to emerge. Even though the maps and illustrations are very static and by definition exclude temporality, a story of the conflict started to emerge of which spatial practice of an idea was the key player. All of a sudden it became clear that a country, the land and the people are not one and the same thing. But all have their own very different theoretical interpretation and reading, but also practice.

The practices and strategies employed in this conflict appear in this presentation as tools and mechanics of an extremely theoretical vison of a myth to try and bring the three element of country, land and people together.

Atlas of the Conflict 03
Image taken from Atlas of the Conflict 010 Publishers / Spread 154-155, chapter 4, showing two typologies of Israeli spatial practice, the ‘Wall and Tower and the ‘Moshava’. Both are two ways of settling to claim ownership of the land.

Through out, but foremost in my favorite section, chapter 4, the utilisation and manipulation of the population through spatial planning and strategies is portrayed in depth. Chapter 4 introduces the typologies of settlements on an almost architectural scale and illustrate how individuals are misused for a bigger cause, as pins on a map, as shields, as metaphor, as demonstration, but not as humans.

As a technique of spatiality this illustrates how important or more so fundamental the presence of human being is, to value the spatial dimension. It could be argued that this publication, not intentionally, but as a by product, shows how important the individual act of creation, space making is, as recognised and institutionalised by the Israeli government.

The list of examples and fascinating details that could be put forward here is really long. There are so many moments while reading this book where you go ah…, uh…, yes! and things, you have heard from the sporadic news over the years, all of sudden make sense in a wider context. By definition Shoshan excluded the narratives and stories, but cleans and reassembles the base map for the news, tales, fact, information, tales and events we hear elsewhere. The book might not be as objective as it would like to be, but it as objective as possible an this makes this atlas also worthwhile in another context.

Atlas of the Conflict 03
Image taken from 010 Publishers / Cover of the atlas of the Conflict – Israel-Palestine.

Shoshan, M., 2010. Atlas of the Conflict – Israel-Palestine, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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It is one more year since the last summary of personal tracking was posted. This year it is a consistant 405 tracking record as compared to a mixed device record the previous year. This matters in so far as the 405 performs very well and the data processing job is a simpler for the cleaning part. The down side is that it is slower for the processing part since there are very detailed records with loads of points. THe previeous year can be found at Plymouth365 and oneYearLND_2009.

oneYearLND09-10 London
Image by urbanTick / London overview of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips. For a large version click HERE.

The map also shows the previous year in green, since there is a striking similarity and in order to highlight the differences this seemed to make sense. The similarity goes as far as the two records being more or less the same. I expected a similarity, but not to this extend.

There are differences only on a very small scale. There is one major change in routine that dominates the differences between the two years. My son has started school and the trips to the nursery near the work place have been substituted by trip to drop of or pick him up at the school near our home. This changes the spatial practice and with it the pattern. However it is not as obvious since the directions of movement stayed more or less the same.

Image by urbanTick / London Bloomsbury zoom of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips.

To update the zoom in to the leisure area around Regents Park here is an updated version showing the different visits to ZSL. In 2010 there appear definitely a shift in interest focus. Never been to Australia this year.

As pointed out in last years post, the capacity to recall events using the lines as memory triggers works very well. I can basically over the whole year piece together my steps. Being this for example in the bottom left corner some of these trips to the Natural History Museum, Royal Geographical Society or in Hyde Part visits the Diana Memorial.

Image by urbanTick / London Regents Park zoom of the 2010 GPS track record. A one year drawing of movement on a daily basis, recording all activities and trips.

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The ecological footprint of todays cities around the world has been subject for debate for a number of years now. With the majority of the worlds population living in cities this is an obvious thing to do in order to to optimise energy consumption to reduce the over usage of recourses.

In the two discussion on the topic Ecological Urbanism here on urbanTick and in parallel on DPR and ULGC we have started to discuss several related topics. Mainly in the second instalment we put a strong focus on spatial implications of this topic.

The same spatial interest was the main focus of a recent competition, the third Advanced Architecture Contest AAC organised by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. The contest series started in 2005 with the topic of ‘Self-Sufficient Housing’ and has evolved since. The second one was run under the title of ‘The Self-Fab House’ in 2006 and was then run a third time under the title ‘The Self-Sufficiant City‘.

Water Fueld
Image taken from bustler / “Finalist “WATER FUEL” which proposed the development of technologies that transforms salt water into energy, generating hydrogen in urban environments, to be utilized for transportation systems and urban consumption. The jury acknowledges this as the integration of energy production systems into an urban context and it’s ability to transform civic environments and foment the generation of energy by means of self sufficiency. These structures have been well designed and are capable of urban landscape integration”.

This third competition is now published in book form by Actar as ‘Self-sufficient City: Envisioning the Habitat of the Future‘. A small handy and compact overview of a selection of the 708 proposals received from a diverse 116 countries.

Clearly already the diversity of these contributions from such a variety of places makes this an interesting read. People with very different background, education and experience are developing idea related to the same topic.

The jury is a divers and prominent with for example Jaime Lerner on the panel. And the selected site is really one of the exciting cities, Barcelona. Here the argument is interesting and makes it very clear what the intention is: ‘The competition coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Eixample Plan for Barcelona, drawn up by the engineer Ildefons Cerda, which did so much for the concept of urbanism that served to guide construction of cities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries’.
THere are multiple way to read this of course, but one assumes that the intention is no less than reinventing the way cities are planned and therefor to take on the ultimate modernist, rational and successful (to some extend) planning model, makes sense.

Sky City
Image taken from bustler / “‘SKY CITY’ designed by Victor Kirillow from Russia which proposed the construction of urban mega structures, in which the city is stacked vertically to protect it’s green spaces, giving access to each level through future transportation systems”.

The proposals make for a great read and it is a very useful little book to have in the library to flip through, usually during these down times when the current project is just not moving forward, even though everything is in place and the concerns start to nag on the confidence with which the project was started. Exactly then this book might be of great help and inspiration. And who knows maybe it gives you just the kick to to takle these most pressing questions.

However there is a certain feel of architecture school project to it and of course as usual the projects you like will be documented a little to constraint by page limitations. Nevertheless of approaches and the wealth of different styles and visualisation methods make it very interesting and to me this was equally interesting as the actual title topic of the book.

To actually tacle such a vast amount of projects, the jury did a rather good job and the proposed winners and runner ups are definitely really interesting projects such as the ‘Water Fuel’ or the ‘Sky City’. Not that we haven’t seen anything like it before, but a new take on a tempting idea is still great.

Book Cover
Image taken from ayotdesign / The book ‘The Self-SUfficient City‘ by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, published by Actar.

One of the nagging topics here is still not answered or maybe even got a bit forgotten about during the whole process. To me the title of the competition implies a certain reading of the discussion that is widely disputed and would probably be very hard contested as a concept and definitely as something worth archiving. The ide of the city as an independent unit, disconnected from everything else and in the sense proposed by the competition as ‘Self-Sufficient’. Can the urban area really be thought of without its links to the surrounding countryside, the wider context of the region, the country or the global links, migrations and flows at least between cities? This sort of ultra localism is probably not very healthy and tries to defeat the systemic reality of the ecological discussion. As Colin Fournier put it beautifully in his contribution to the second Ecological Urbanism series: “one should not lose sight of the fact that it’s very existence has always implied, by definition, the opposite of sustainability. Historically, the splitting of the city from the country was the moment when, both symbolically and materially, the culture of non-sustainability became consecrated and took off”.

Anyway, this is a crucial aspect of the current discussion and it is noted that to some extend this is absent from this publication. But maybe it doesn’t need to be and maybe it is less noted and influential on an architectural level. The competition does contribute a wealth of thinking, practical thinking to the very theoretical current discussion and this is an very important contribution that needs to be moderated into a more complete, informed and in the end realised reality.

Guallart, V. & Capelli, L., 2010. Self-sufficient City: Envisioning the Habitat of the Future, Actar.

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The collection of NCL maps of Urban Areas is growing fast and it is getting difficult to keep track of all the cities we have covered so far. The NCL maps show a virtual landscape generated from geo located tweets sent from within a 30 km radius of the urban centre. In fact, so far we have in order of appearance:

New York, London, Munich, Paris, Moscow, Sydney, San Francisco, Barcelona, Denver, Hong Kong, Beijing and Chongqing. Further more the urban areas that need processing are: Shanghai
New Delhi, Chicago, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, Tehran, Tokyo, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Oslo, Basel, Rome, Guongzhou, Mumbai, Bangalore.

To provide a better overview here is a NCL world map with links to the individual locations. A link is provided to click through to the interactive and zoomable version of the individual urban area map. This will allow to explore the city of interest in more detail.

For a large scale map click HERE.

The data collected from the different cities varies quite a lot and especially the number of geo located tweets is a sort of tricky parameter. It does not correlate with the number of messages sent. The dependencies are more complicated and link probably more to the living standards and income. For example urban areas such as Jakarta and Sao Paolo have high numbers of twitter messages sent, but very few lat/lng referenced messages. This is more to be related to the coverage of smart phones and data charges, where people tend to use the twitter service over a broadband internet connection for free.

However, it is interesting to note that the number of geo located messages sent per unique user tend to be around 10 over the period of one week. Some areas go up to 15 or down to 8, but it is fairly constant across the board.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / The graph is showing the urban areas covered so far in the New City Landscape project, were we generate an activity landscape of an urban area using twitter data. The comparison shows vertical: percentage of geo referenced tweets, horizontal: average geo tweet sent per user, size: number of unique user, lable: urban area code.

The maps were created using our CASA Tweet-O-Meter, in association with DigitalUrban and coded by Steven Gray, this New City Landscape represents location based twitter activity.

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Barcelona is in terms of twitter activity one of the cities that has a strong central core of high activity. Very similar to for example the London NCL or the Paris NCL maps.
The highest point is just over the Placa de Catalonia with a steep slope down la Rambla to the Roca Columbus. Other places of high activity are around the parliament, here the ‘Monte di Parliament Catalonia’ and around the Olympic centre on Montjuic.
The overall structures are also visible on the twitter map. The boundary of the sea on the souther side of the urban area and the hills and valleys in the northern part for example. Especially the vallies and how they flow into the centre of the city are reflected in the NCL map with fingers going out along these lines.

Barcelona New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Barcelona New City Landscape -Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view.

The Barcelona map was generated from just over 24’000 lat/long geo located tweets collected the week ending 100715. Those came out of a sample of over 250’000 ‘Barcelona’ twitter messages. Thanks to Joan Serras for the help with the labeling.


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With the days getting shorter and the temperature dropping we enjoy the last few autumn days. With this is is nice looking back to the beautifully warm summer days. Here is one of those heartbreakingly romantic summer day clips. Enjoy the ‘Love from Southend-on-Sea’ by Philip Bloom, shot with a Sony EX1 and Letus Ultimate. As Philip puts it; ” short film that captures the feel of a day at a typical British seaside town”. Music is by Charles Trenet “La Mer”.
THe beauty of this clip for me is in the way Philip picks up on the characters he spots in the scenes. Lovely arranged with a lot of respect for the individuals, he creates a portrait of them in the scene as a whole. I love it. Watch it in HD and full screen mode.

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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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