web analytics

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Invisible Cities – Web 2.0 for the Desktop

Visualising virtual activity location based and linking it visually to the urban locations it takes place is one of the ideas of New City Landscape (NCL). Using the twitter feed the location based tweets are aggregated and the density is mapped as a virtual landscape. This landscape’s features are named after the corresponding real world places, creating a sense of place and orientation.

However, so far the NCL maps have been static and in retrospect, representing a week worth of data about the specific urban area they portrait.

Around the same time Christian Marc Schmidt has developed a similar approach focusing on Manhattan, but visualising in real time twitter and flickr activity. The density landscape here is mapped using the aerial photos morphing it over rising and falling peaks. He takes the aspect of real time into account and focuses the visualisation on what is happening just now.

Image taken from Invisible City / Aerial view of a topic path with the earliest record selected.

The project has now developed in to a standalone desktop version that can be played around with locally. It connects to twitter and flickr loading the most recent activity of the past 24 hours. The applet is Java based and runs on Mac and Windows.

The landscape is based on the activity, each message or photo is shown as a white dot. Hovering over dots reveals the message and details, plus draws links to previous or following messages. These paths are generated from topics listed on te right hand side of the window. If a node belongs to a topic path, navigation will also appear at the top of the view with previous/next buttons to move chronologically along the path.

Schmidt explains: “Invisible Cities, a project named after the novel by Italo Calvino, aims to provide insight into the composition of urban social networks by surfacing data from online services, geographically mapped, in order to identify the areas of high and low activity. The visualization thus reveals emerging social themes, presented in a three-dimensional spatial environment. It displays individual Twitter status updates and Flickr photos on a geo-registered surface reflecting aggregate activity over time. As data records are accrued, the surface transforms into hills and valleys representing areas with high and low densities of data. Data points are connected in chronological order by paths representing themes extracted from status updates and image metadata.”

Image taken from Invisible City / A selected photo as part of a two-node topic path.

You can download the Java App for MacOSx or Windows. A detailed description pdf can be read HERE and the project website with more screnshots and clips can be found HERE.