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— urbantick

April 2011 Monthly archive

Putting a new school of thought out there is a big thing. Especially in the climate of not having an established ideology or direction, establishing a group with a clear manifesto is extremely difficult.

Currently trends are all over the place and every thing is hyped, but a clear structured and concept lead direction is not established. THere are several technological directions and trends running, from mobile to location based and socia networking, but those don’t go under some ideologically guided interest. Also visualisation, data mining, and temporal aspects are topics currently en-vogue, but again no further big picture.

Duck and Cover
Image by RSAUD taken from Architizer / Duck and Cover: Thinking out of the Big Box. This proposal for a “big box community”, titled Duck-and Cover in reference to its interest in advancing the discourse introduced by Venturi’s Duck and Decorated Shed, puts forth an architectural strategy-cum-business plan which harnesses the vagaries of private investment and NIMBYism to act as a Trojan horse of sorts: one that proffers a new politics of urban community and public life. This project forms part of the chapter ‘Regenerating Economies’.

The last bigger movements were big at the beginning of the last century such as the modernists and ever since ideologies are on the decline. One of the topics that comes closest is maybe the ecological or sustainability topic, but even here it is a very individualistic pursuing of ideas.

Fast Forward Urbanism – Rethinking Architect’s Engagement with the City‘ is the latest Princeton Architectural Press publication challenging this current lack of collective ideology and the group based around the cityLAB at UCLA publish their concepts and thoughts in book form as a “testament to the group’s provokative launch into terrain”. It started back in 2006 with a two day workshop and has extended since.

The publication’s overall theme is the transformation of the city through small architectural projects. The authors Dana Cuff and Roger Sherman argue that “the city appears as a stop-action frame: nothing happens for interminable periods, when suddenly we arrive at built results seemingly by fast-forward, with no clear grasp of how we got there. Like a series of discontinuous jump-cuts, the landscape transforms in a sequence of disorienting new frames where the destabilization is never complete”.

The book is structures in four chapters ‘Recycling Ecoogies’, ‘Rerouting Infrastructure’ and ‘Regeneraing Economies’. Each has as a n introduction creating the context three essays. Each chapter then employes several projects to illustrate the points made and discuss the ideas with more practical context. Some of the project shown are built and others are in planning. Some others are thought experiments.

Fast-Forward Book Cover
Image by urbanTick taken from Fast-Forward Urbanism / Cover of the book ‘Fast-Forward – Rethinking Architecture’s Engagement with the City’ by Dana Cuff and Roger Sherman. Published by Princeton Architecture Press.

Cuff, D. & Sherman, R. eds., 2011. Fastforward Urbanism: Rethinking Architectureʼs Engagement with the City, New York, Princeton Architectural Press.

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London is almost ready for the Royal Wedding later this week on the 29th of April. Preparations have been going on for weeks and the media is completely ull with details and stories covering the latest developments. Prince William is getting married to his long term partner Kate Middleton in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The event is expected to be the biggest of its kind ever and attract a world wide audience of some 2 billion viewers on TV, radio and internet. Copmared the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana aracted a world wide audience of 750 million and the last Superbowl in America set the national audience record at 111 million viewers.

flags along Regent Street
Image taken from the hotmeganews / The flags along Regent Street in London transforming the space and time warping it back to the beginning of the last century.

Of course digital media is part of this these days and the official web page is central to this. However, the twitter feed will come from @clarencehouse. The general twitter tag for the occasion is #rw2011 or the #royalwedding. The official facebook page with 360’000 likes is also covering the events in detail.

Royal Wedding Route
Image taken from the the Sun / The plan of the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey as chosen. Guests and the wedding couple will be traveling along it. Prince William and Kate Middleton will be traveling in the golden carriage if the weather is nice otherwise in a car.

The dressing up of the city as the venue is of course most obvious with the decoration that has been put of in the lead up to the Royal Wedding. Most notably are the coverage of British flags as shown above in Regent Street. It transforms the place completely and give a very different feeling from the usual Christmas decoration. The flag as such still has this official and important touch to it. It almost turns back the time to represent London one hundred or at least fifty years ago with a bit of steam and fog.

Then there is the change in security. It already is a big topic in London anyway but now police have stepped up and security has been tightened. The main focus is on the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey of course, but also other major areas and attractions are being prepared.

Royal Wedding Security
Image taken from the toledoblade / Security is being checked and implemented across London.

There is a lot of money involved an additional guest in London and the UK in general are expected to help boost the economy.
The goverment is also very much involved with a lot of hopes to gain some benefit from the event directly. A number of oficial goverment web page feature the wedding as their current top priority. For example HNE on how to stay save during the Royal Wedding of course or DirectGov with the public service view on it.

With the day being declared an additional day off there is more time for employees to spend money. Merchandising is expected to make huge amounts by selling all the flags and cups and plates. The BBC says: “Restaurateurs and hoteliers can now look forwards to a two year bulge in tourism numbers, with the 2011 wedding to be followed by the 2012 Olympics.” The UK Gift Company, which specialises in Royal items anticipates an upturn in business of about 30% to 40%.

Royal Wedding Seating Plan
Image taken from the BBC / Seating plan for the guest at Westminster Abbey. The structuring of the seating in groups is following clear ordering principles.

The seating is following a detailed ordering system of who is sitting where and next to whom. The arrangements have taken weeks of negotiation and preparations. 1900 guest will be seated. For everyone else there is an app for that, to take you round Westminster Abbey in 3D with a lot of background information. However, it will cost you a few bucks.

Royal Wedding Seating Plan
Image taken from the BBC / Layout of the cutlery on the table for Prince William and Kate’s wedding reception.

Of course the planning of details goes further into details with small gestures and practices. From a city scale right down to how to dress for the wedding, how to greet and of course how to eat. The Royal Wedding has its very own layout of cutlery on the wedding reception table. The BBC has the details on how to manage all the different pieces. However, the BBC comments: “It’s quite simple – start at the outside and work in as the meal progresses”

The guest list has only been released, but very much in the nature of the time has shortly after ben declared public data and the Guardian data blog features it, with the option to download the list as free data. Maybe you get a great viz out of it!

Visualisation using many eyes by IBM / Bubble chart using the open data of the Wedding invitation list, coloured by nationality. Click to interact.

The organisation of the wedding reflects the strong hierarchical organisation of the Royal concept. Both practically and socially, it is a clear structure of ranks with the Queen at the top end and this will be reinforced through practice on the day. Practice is feeding into al elements of the wedding, from invitation to seating, even to traveling, there is a very strict guide on who is leaving when for Westminster Abbey. Of course the most practical way is the addressing of people respecting the individual rank. The five levels after the Royals are: the Duke / Duchess, followed by the Marquess / Marchioness, followed by the Earl / Count or Countess, followed by Viscount / Viscountess, followed by Baron / Baroness, as described by Debretts.

There is a lot more to the Royal Wedding than just a couple getting married. It is not about the two individuals Prince William and Kate Middleton, but about the bigger idea of Royal and State. The event is a far reaching demonstration of a very old aristocratic practice and represents the position of England in general as part of the world.

This demonstration solely is based on practice, routines and established rites and in this case culminate in the wedding ceremony. This is the reason for the practice to be of such importance because only through its celebration it can be established and such an occasion is the perfect practice this structure can celebrate. The bigger idea is the hope that this wedding will put everything in to place.

This of course centres on the Royal family but reaches out from the palace to the wider London area, to national politics, to the society of this country and its related nations, to international politics and ultimately to the world. With this there are a lot of people and groups very keen on getting some positive benefit directly from this ceremony foremost probably the Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party as they are trying to deliver massive financial cuts and keep the people quite, but definitely other such as Boris Johnson for London and the upcoming Olympics 2012 and then of course the rehearsal of hierarchical structures will act as a boost to older traditions and society structures probably feeding into the Big Society idea the conservatives are trying to sell. It of course a big celebration of everything that has rank and name, but it pulls in the normal person too. Formost with the announcement of the Royal Wedding day to be a national bank holiday, an extra day off. With this you’ll be buying a lot of good will. Of course then you also have the representatives and identification figurs featuring at the Royal Wedding, such as the Victoria and David Beckham, Joss Stone, Rowan Atkinson, Guy Ritchie or of course Sir Elton John.

These practices are employing symbols and simple seemingly elements such as flags all the way down Regent Street, but exactly this is what lets people create their identity and reinforces a practice of space and lets the Wedding become a great event.

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Knowledge is the recourse of our times. In the form of data and information, knowledge is not only the current hype it is the main topic in many areas. The best illustration for this is probably the rise of Google as a company focusing entirely on the management of knowledge or the popularity of Wikipedia an open source project of recording and arguably generating knowledge.

This shift is however, not entirely reflected in the way education of the next generation. In most countries the education system suffers great cuts and reduction of financial support. Education and the gaining of knowledge is increasingly by officials put as something every person is responsible of gaining themselves, probably from Google and Wikipedia. This leaves of course a big gab between services and users and a lot of people without the basic capacity to take part in this beautiful new world, keeping it an exclusive domain for few.

Campus and the City
Image taken from e-architect / Science City is the development vision for the university campus of the 21st century. The board of governors of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, or ETH Zurich) formulated a strategic vision as the basis for current and future developments. The campus is required to act as an interface between scholarship and society, somewhere the worlds of business, economics, politics and scholarship can interact. The spatial rendering of this vision is a dense fabric of buildings large and small, squares, courtyards and gardens that provide the ideal environment for research, discussion and development. Thanks to its precisely planned connections to the city and other university facilities, the network also extends to the metropolitan level: from Science City to City of Science. This project features in the book in the section ‘Greenfield Campus’.

On the other hand this also removes knowledge and with it education increasingly from the public space. The remote nature of a lot of education and knowledge building leaves places empty. Through out history campuses were amongst the main elements of place being a major feature of the city. Still today great campuses feature as great attractions and landmarks, even making it into movies.

Nevertheless campuses and places for education, especially higher education still get buit ad are multi billion pound projects. Many are new, but a lot are existing and reinvent themselves. There are of course the archetype campuses Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, but also institutions in the Netherland, such as Delft and Utrecht or in Switzerland the ETH and EPFL campuses and of course in the US for example the MIT campus or the Stanford Research Park amongst many.

‘Campus and the City – Urban Design for the Knowledge Society’ in a gta Verlag publication edited by Kerstin Hoeger and Kees Christianse with contributions by numerous people on the planning and implementation of campuses world wide. The book puts its emphasis on the contextua integration and the potential of syntheses as the generation of place.

Campus and the City
Image taken from supertacular / Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein with the new Herzog de Meuron exhibition building in the foreground. Visible in the back grond is another campus buildings by Frank Gerry. This project features in the book in the section ‘Corporate Campus’.

The book is a result of a conference series inspired by the reorganisation of the ETH Hoenggerberg campus ‘Science City’ in Zuerich, Switzerland. The first conference ‘Campus Design’ was held in 2006 with the following up ‘Competitive Campuses’ with some more events in this series. The conference content has been extended for the book publication with research work undertaken at the Institute for Urban Design (ISB) and was published in 2007.

The discussion around campuses and how to design space for knowledge is very successful at combining different levels as for example architecture with the educational requirements of the new Bologna education plan. This syntheses results in a discussion on urban design that goes much beyond the usual planning context. It is not just for the campus but with the campus in a wider context reaching out to the city and beyond.

Campus and the City
Image taken from supertacular5osa / Mensa Karlsruhe, by J. Mayer H. Architects, is an elastic space, that sits in the center of the Karlsruhe University Campus. As an extension of the already existing facilites, the city of Karlsruhe is building a canteen that will serve the growing number of students. The building becomes the new adress of the campus, negotiating between the identities of three universities as well as between the urban fabric and the Hardtwad forest. The building reacts to this special condition with different stages of porosity. This project features in the book in the section ‘Inner-City Campus’.

The contributions and discussions around specific campuses are structure in four sections. Each section describes a different condition. They can be defined in terms of location as with ‘Inner-City Campus’ or by character as with ‘Greenfield Campus’ or with work conditions and specifications as the section ‘High-Tech Campus’ or also as with the last section on ‘Corporate Campus’ the economic conditions.

Place making has become increasingly difficult, both as a result of the changing technologies but also social configurations. This publication shows in a very practical way how careful examination and far reaching planning can create great places for the network society.

Campus and the City
Image taken from KCAP / Campus and the City book cover.

Hoeger, K., 2007. Campus and the City: Urban Design for the Knowlege Society, Zuerich: gta Verlag.

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Since the introduction of the Google Earth service in 2005 it has been the standart for online virtual 3D representation of the world geographically. The service has been hugely successful and millions of people have explored the world from the desk in their home. The service offers tremendous details via hi-resolution aerial imagery combined with layers of annotated point data. In addition the tool offers, via the KML language, the integration of individual and user generated information and data.

Several services have picked up on Googles success and offer now similar services. These are for example the Nasa World Wind, Microsoft Earth now Bing 3D maps, the UK focused yell.com 3D mapping service or the on Australia focused NearMap service. There were however also earlier virtual globes and mapping services, back then running offline. For example by Microsoft Encarta, 1997 or the 3D Word Atlas, 1998.

Google’s service still is the most popular. It runs on all platforms, which some of the others dont do and it works more or less intuitive. However there is the characteristic Google playful comic design to it which is, especially for the maps rather annoying. From fonts to placemarks the users always have to accept the content to be slightly ridiculous looking. Some of the other services clearly offer competitive features that are a lot better than the Google service can do. Yell has the amazing 3D modeling of the UK with great zooming, angle and rotation functions or NearMap offers the extremely great time slider function. Both functions Google products can do, but nowhere nearly as nice.

Image taken from OVI Maps 3D / San Francisco down town in 3D. In the foreground the Transamerica Pyramid.

Now, Nokia is entering the market of digital globes and 3D mapping by taking the Nokia OVI Maps service 3D with OVI Maps 3D. And it is a great start, the service looks very pretty and the imagery is amazing.

On the Nokia blog it is described as: “Starting with a bird’s-eye view, you can scale up and down and move around objects such as buildings and trees from the desktop, experiencing a virtual but super realistic perspective of new places.

The feature includes 20 cities today, but will expand over time. Cities in the Nordic region includes Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. When visiting Copenhagen or Oslo in Ovi Maps you can also use the new road-level imagery with a detailed 360-degree panoramic view of streets that completes the experience.”

Image taken from OVI Maps 3D / San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid, showing street view bubbles in blue.

To use the 3D feature of te map the installation of a browser plug-in is required. With this the maps come to live and a combination of map, virtual earth and street view is accessible. The integration of the different elements currently work neatly in one direction. From the map view to the 3D view to the Street View. However going the other way can be frustrating, with the position and perspective being changed in the transition.

Nevertheless the detail and information is very good and of high quality. The best benefit is probably a different design approach using better symbols. For example the street view pops up in the 3D view as blue circles that change size as the user hovers over it with the mouse curser. Looks really neat. However, the integration of temporal aspects in both content and imagery is missing from the OVI maps and 3D. The 3D part is currently in beta and there might be quite some changes with the release of the final version.

Image taken from OVI Maps 3D / San Francisco street view at the foot of the Transamerica Pyramid, looking up.

The digital globe covers the terrain modelling across the entire world. However, currently the 3D rendering of buildings is only available for a selection of cities. This list of 20 cities will be extended continously, but so far they have not provided a schedule for this. Also the integration with the OVI API is not yet announced. Here again OVI offers great features the Google API does not. For example a geoShape that draws a circle with a given radius around a point.

Map by urbanTick for NCL / The current location of NCL twitter mappings of urban areas worldwide on the OVI map.

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In most disciplines graphics, as is graphs, are not exactly new. The presentation of data, facts and figures have come to play a important role. Especially with the limited capacities of excel and other spread sheet software this was easy to do, but never really successful. One of the areas graphs play a central role is definitely financing and it is no surprise in this context ‘The Wall Street Journal presents its Guide to Information Graphics – The Dos and Don’ts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures‘.

It is put together by a former student of Edward Tufte, the master of information graphics, Dona M. Wong and published by Norton & Company Inc. She has worked in the industry long enough to know the graphic side of it inside out. This comprehensive guide is looking is great detail at the production, the characteristics and the context of graphs with a specific focus on the representation of financial data.

Talking financial data this is bar or line graphs. This is still probably right and the book does not chalenge this, but puts these tools into a wider context and provides a step by step guide with great detail on how to make the most of these ‘well known’ tools.

The chalenge is great, mainly because this is probably one of the most traditional markets ever. Especially because it has such a long tradition talking a core element through and making suggestions can be a very delicate matter. On the other hand Wong is also challenging the excel practice and up against the overworked executive assistant who has to put together a final report on facts two minuts before the meeting. It’s not laziness but practice that produces these terrible charts.

In this sense Wong reacts to this by making an effort to make the guide look very traditional and simple with a very clear structure. However, the tone of the to dos and don’ts is clearly telling and not suggestive. There is little room for experimentation and invention, the ways to do it are resented about as factual as the bar represents a end of the year sum.

The book talks through all the pitfalls and mistakes commonly made. It has a great introduction highlighting the wider context of chart and the importance of framing, comparison and sectioning. It then looks at font and colour giving some very practical advice on how to avoid the impossibilities in possible combinations. Then it talks through the actual graph types, their strength and weaknesses. After the form, Wang discusses the content and its preparation with the common mistakes made by ignoring some basic math, such as standard deviation, mean and median, distribution and average, but also logarithmic scale and percentage, ending with some money cases. The last chapter is a discussion of problem solving strategies fo ‘tricky situations.

Even if you are a frequent charter this hands on book, focusing on the traditional finance market practice has something to tell you and chance are good it will help you improve the message the next time your rushing the data into a pie chart while eating a donut and taking the stairs to the bar.
After reading this it, knowing the rules, it will be time to find out how to brake them.

Information Graphics
Image taken from mostOfYouAreAverage / The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Donʼts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures – Book cover

Wong, D., 2010. The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Donʼts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures, New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

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It has been unveiled by researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan this week on the o’reilly radar, that the iPhone is actually tracking its location and storing it on in a database file that is updated and synced with the mac. As of know it is believed this feature has been put in with the iOS 4.0 update about a year ago.

Warden and Allan have discovered the file while poking around some log files in the backup of the iPhone data. The file appears to store about a years worth of location data amongst with cell and provider information. The actual values stored are time stamp, latitude, longitude, operator, country code and cell id. This is actually very detailed information on individual whereabouts over long term.

iPhone tracking data
Image taken from peteWarden / Screen shot of the app visualising the data collected by the iPhone. Here a section of south east England with Warden’s personal tracking data.

This data is exactly what the urbanDiary project has been collecting over two month using specialised GPS devices for very detailed tracking and now it appears that every iPone and iPad user has also been doing this. From the urbanDiary project it became clear how interesting this data is for urban research, but in a next step also very much for urban planning on many levels. Taking all these iPhone and iPad users together great information for the future planning of our cities will be available.

However, the discussion is obviously going completely the other way. Privacy and stalking concerns come first. On the Guardian Simon Davies, director of the pressure group Privacy International, said: “This is a worrying discovery. Location is one of the most sensitive elements in anyone’s life – just think where people go in the evening. The existence of that data creates a real threat to privacy. The absence of notice to users or any control option can only stem from an ignorance about privacy at the design stage.”

So far it is unclear whether someone other than the owner has access to the data, more concrete whether the file is being submitted to Apple or any third party. Allan and Warden point out that they haven’t found anything pointing in this direction. However they point out that the information is not being stored accidentally and it is stored unencrypted.

However, the data stored on the iPhone is nothing new. Every service provider stored this information as part of the service. They even had the data of all the users they serve, where as in comparison the iPhone only stores its own information. But the provider data is protected and it takes a court order to access it.

Allan and Warden have put together a software that will find your tracing data on the computer hardrive (if you are an iPhone or iPad users on iOS4) and visualises it for you as shown above or in the clip below. They promis not to transmit any data and that it al happens locally. You are in compete controle of the data and the visualisation. Their page discusses the topic at length with a good Q&A section at the bottom. However, it seem to have a bit of a conservative touch with a strong focus on the concerns around the fact that it has been tracking. So far however, it seem unlikely that someone else has had access tot he data unless they had access tot he computer and if they did there might be much more delicate information they had access to than the location information of your whereabouts. For example the list of your passwords with your online banking details or your correspondence.

There have been speculations about this sort of tracking but there were mainly concerns about some apps installed on the iPhone and that they would transmit the location information to a central server without letting the user know. This would be more of a concern since with the app providers there is a lot less controle and trust than there might be with on big company providing the system.

Mobile phone tracking data
Image taken from FastCompany / Watch a Cell Phone Company Stalk a Customer. That’s every single movement, text, and phone call by Green Party politician Malte Spitz, collected by Deutsche Telekom.

The German newspaper ‘Die Zeit‘ run a story on the tracking data a German politician was able to get from the mobile service provider complaining abou them tracking his moves. And indeed the information is very accurate and also over a long term, six month, similar to the iPhone data. Also TomTom have been collecting the tracking information of all their SatNav users over the past five years. It is at the moment and most likely for the near future the baseline that the location information is going to feature as the main concern of both user and provider. We will see a lot more of these unveilings of location information being stored, transmitted and used. This will be how the twenties in 2000 will be remembered, as the location times.

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As part of the Spill Festival of Performance 2011 at the Barbican, Ryoji Ikeda played a set. It was another installment of his Datamatics Series started back in 2006. The new Datamatics [ver.2.0] series has evolved quite a bit from the first version already played at events around the world including Sonar, Barcelona (2006); Mutek, Mexico City (2007); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2007); RomaEuropa, Rome (2008); Itaú Cultural, Sao Paulo (2009) and Second Nature, Aix-en-Provence (2010) to name a few.

The soundscape is an artwork based on purely mathematical parameters transforming electronic data into sound and visualisations. Ikeda describes it: “Using pure data as a source for sound and visuals, datamatics combines abstract and mimetic presentations of matter, time and space in a powerful and breathtakingly accomplished work.”

Image taken from ryojiikeda.com / data.tron [8K enhanced version] audiovisual installation – 2008-09. Materials – 8 DLP projectors, computers, 9.2ch sound system. Dimensions – W16 x H9 x D9m. Date / Place JAN 1, 2009 – DEC 31, 2010 Deep Space venue, Ars Electronica Center, Linz, AT. Credits – concept, composition: Ryoji ikeda, computer graphics, programming: Tomonaga Tokuyama commissioned by Ars Electronica, 2008-09.

Breathtakingly it definitely is. The installation has you on the edge of the seat from very early on. The level of abstraction, the volume and the frequency of the flickering on screen mount to a experience very close the the limitation of the actually perceivable. After onl ten minutes the first people leave.

This work is clearly set in a wider context of sound art and electronic music. A few references to spring to mind immediately are John Cage as the very early highlight, Daft Punk with the Tron collaboration. Then there are also some more recent web project where data visualisation has turned into very playful results as for example with the Subway Conductor by Alexander Chen.

Interesting are Ikeda’s use of geometrical elements for the visualisation. The main elements obviously are lines, both as geometrical lines but also as animated data lines. The Datamatics 2.0 performance then also starts with a linear setup, first vertical scrolling, then horizontal scrolling. The next element is the data point. Here again in many different variations, including as a node connected to other data points in 2D and 3D. Additional elements are planes and then effects such as spinning, copy and fast forward. With this basic setup the set reminds also of the short story ‘Flatland‘ (if you haven’t read it pdf is available HERE).

Image taken from artshool.cfa / John Cage Liberation of sound.

However the visuals are not limited to the geometric elements. From early on, also with rather simple elements the screen is only showing a flat representation. The visuals are always rendering, an abstract, three dimensional scape. The visuals have clear references, of ist and arrays all the way to interstellar arrangements, the big bang and the glow of a sun with the removing of the geometries keeping only the texts. The audio on the other hand also has its elements that it evokes, from highway traveling to train journeys or rain you’ll find it all in the sounds scapes.

Of course on is curious what sort of data sets Ikeda is using for the performance. Is it a sort of stream like a twitter feed, or is it a more static field like property data, but maybe it is some medical data on DNA sequencing or the time table of the Moscow subway?

At first the performance at the Barbican feat like a film screening, only at the very end as Ikeda rushed from the back onto the stage during the applause it became clear he was actually present and involved in the performance. However how much of it was live and ‘interactive’ remained unclear.

Nevertheless the audience was engaged from early on. Each time the performance released the audience from its strong grip of audio visual bombardment sighs of relieve and cheers spread the ranks. This almost physical link through the intensity of the experience was challenging, but at the same time created a very intimate connection.

A trailer of Ikeda’s Dramatic [er.2.0] set.

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The Fukushima nuclear disaster that is ongoing in Japan as a result of the devastating earthquake and the massive Tsunami has now been reassessed and the severity leve is now raised from level 5 to level 7, the same as Chernobyl. This means it is not just an accident, but the worst case scenario with massiv impact on environment and people on a long term scale.

Long term in this case is really a different matter. Talking nuclear material is blowing all human timescales with numbers beyond anything comprehensible. As the New York Time has put it in a recent story: “The death of a nuclear reactor has a beginning; the world is watching this unfold now on the coast of Japan. But it doesn’t have an end.”

Fukushima Plant
Image taken from socio-economics history, source www.digitalglobe.com / The Fukushima nuclear power plant after the earthquake and tsunami.

The use of nuclear technology around the world has been for the past 70 years and is ongoingly generating nuclear wast for which no real solution has been found as of yet. The wast is continuing to be active and dangerous even as wast and so far simply the only solution is to store the was safely. The problem is the time scale at which a safe storage will need to be found. It is not for a hundred years, not for a thousand years, not ten thousand years, actually no one really knows how long it would need to be. Some say twenty five thousand, that would be the half live of some of the radioactive materials, but it is likely to be a lot longer, Plutonium-239’s half-life is at 24,000 years. Some of the radioactive materials have a half-life of more than 100’000 years. This means a wast storage solution would need to be safe for this amazingly long period.

This brings planning problems with it that are far beyond anything human kind has been challenged with. One of these problems is a practical one that illustrated the dimensions very nicely. How to make sure the storage is known about and safe for the duration of it being there? How to marke the location in a way that people in ten thousand years still can understan they should not be digging in this area because the nuclear waste is still extremely dangerous? This brings very simple questions with it, for example what language do people speak in ten thousand years, or in fifty thousand years? Or maybe what signs would they understand if we don’t know about the language?

Klenze Akropolis
Image taken from wikipedia, source www.digitalglobe.com / One of the very old site and structures dating very, very far back, the Acropolis in the city of Athens. Here in a painting by Leo von Klenze “Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areus Pagus in Athens” (1846).

In comparison cities are about 4000-7000 years old. Some of the very old elements of London are for example about 2000 years old. The oldest cities data back to about 7000 years to the times of the very first permanent settlements. Urban structures have evolved and increased in size, but planning is dramatically short termed in this over all context. Some infrastructures are amongst the long standing elements, like the Roman viaducts for water delivery and of course the longest standing elements are the elements relating to traditions, rites and practices. As of which elements the very fundamental concept of permanent settlement actually rests.

Taking this back to the question of how we can possibly manage to maintain the safety for hundreds of generations from the radioactive waste, it becomes clear how far beyond everything we know this goes. Its not that we have a memory as far back as the earliest cities, but at least this we have a conceptual history for the past 7000 years. However, this is about it, this far in the past a lot of things are pretty blurred and unclear. But what we need here for the radioactive mountain of waste is going a lot further into the future than that. So we better have a pretty good solution, it really is a timeframe more appropriate for mythology.

Image taken from wikipedia, source www.digitalglobe.com / Schematic plan of the WIPP facility with a system of underground tunnels.

The United States of America have in recent years made a move towards a more permanent storage solution. plans for a storage facility in the Yucca Mountain has been put on ice, but the nuclear wast is currently delivered to a Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPP, located approximately 26 miles (42 km) east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in eastern Eddy County, for longterm storage. It is mainly for radioactive wast from the production and testing of nuclear weapons. The project planners do claim the site is safe for at least 10’000 years and have received the official confirmation to run it. Even though this is likely to be not long enough it is a hell of a lot of time.

A film documentary by Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, and Robb Moss, who teaches filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department, is soon to be coming out about this project with very fascinating background information about this US storage project and how the problems were approached.

They have decided on some form of granite pillars to mark the site with some plates describing the danger plu s the dissemination of the information to libraries world wide in order to increase the chance of the information to survive. However this part of the project is not to be placed on site before 2028, so plenty of time to redesign. A call for ideas was run earlier by the ‘Zeitschrift für Semiotik’ in 1982/83 and several ideas were proposed. Including nuclear priesthood, programable DNA or the genetically modified cats that can actually change colour upon coming near radiation.

I guess the call on this is still open and it will remain a challenge to deal with the wast we are producing in many sense but definitely here it is opening dimensions we are incapable of handling using traditional planning tools.

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Zuerich is the an important commercial centre for Switzerland. The city and the regio is home to a lot of international companies, a banking hub and as well as destination for a lot international celebrities or otherwise rich people to enjoying their wealth. With its international airport it maintains well establish international transport connections and let the location play a role in the European and international trade. For not being the political hub of Switzerland it is the busiest and largest agglomeration in the country.

It is however, in an international context a rather small hub with a population for the city and surrounding of just above 800’000 people. After a period of quite some decline of the urban quality in the late eighties and early nineties the city managed to turn these trends around and is since in a constant upwards trend. Zuerich featured for the past couple of years constantly in the top league of international city rankings, gaining points with the quality of urban spaces, ecology and sustainability. In the most recent Mercer 2010 list Zuerich features behind Vienna on the second place, just before Geneva, another Swiss city.

Zuerich New City Landscape
Image by urbanTick for NCL / Zuerich New City Landscape map generated from location based tweets collected over the period of one week. The area covered is within a 30 km radius of Zuerich.

The data for the Zuerich New City Landscape map has been collected earlier this year over the period of one week. In terms of its morphology the Zuerich landscape fits in with other cities showing independant island characteristics like Moscow or Sydney. The Zuerich New City Landscape (NCL) map is generated purely from geolocated tweets, sent over the period of one week using the devices GPS information. This is virtual landscape generated from tweet density sent from within a 30 km radius of Zuerich. NCL is an ongoing project, an world wide overwie of covered loactions can be accessed though HERE.

The ‘Bahnhofspitze’ above the main train statino is definitely the highest feature of the virtual landscape. It probably shows the importance of the city as a hub also for other regions of the country. With its relative proximity of the important cities there is a lot of commuting between the centres and Zuerich plays an important role, attracting a lt of workers on a daily basis from Basel and Bern as well as international. With the train network being extremely sophisticated and reliable it is the transport of choice for most of the traveling between the centres, hence the arrival or point of departure being the important feature.

Zuerich New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Zuerich 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 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.

The timeRose over the twenty four hour period shows the twitter activities in Zuerich overall a mainly during the day. There is a fat mid day bit with people spending some on the platform. It looks as if people send in average only about one message around the lunch brake. Also now we feature data on platform used and language. Here the software of choice is the twitterfeed, followed by the twitter for iPhone app and the web. The twitter for Androids app only features at the very end of the top ten. It seems that Zuerich is a mac dominated market, at least for location based tweeting.

The international context is also supported by the fact that the English leads the table of the top ten used languages. German is only on second place. The top ten list also features Indonesian, Spanish, Dutch and French as group of languages used in the Zuerich area.

Image by urbanTick for NCL / The rose shows the twitter activity over the tweet activity per hour of the day, starting at 00:00 at the top. Here we are showing Zuerich local time. Hence the characteristic dip between three and five o’clock in the morning. Zuerich is a typical midday city with more activity around lunch time. The graphs show the platform of prefernce used to send the tweet and the language set respectively.

The data set is also animated in the aNCL series, coded by Anders Johansson and shows the whole set superimposed over the period of a twenty four hour period. The connecting lines indicate the dissemination of information between the individual users of the data set. Is a message retweeted by a fellow twitterer the visualisation draws a line with a traveling dot between the two location, starting at the initial senders position moving towards the position of retweeting by another twitter user.

Zuerich is in this context not very active at least it is not reflected in this data set. The previously animated San Francisco aNCL showed a lot more activity in this respect.

This animation is developed in collaboratively Anders Johansson and urbanTick. The data was collected using our CASA Tweet-O-Meter tool, coded by Steven Gray, in association with DigitalUrban.

There is more to come. We will be working our way through the NCL data collection of over 70 cities from around the world. Within the next week will be posting the next city to continue this aNCL (animated New City Landscape) series.

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Farming in the urban context has become a buzz term in the last couple of years. During this time it has evolved from Guerilla Gardening to become a proper concept of growing vegetables for consumption within the city.

Large scale aspect of farming as discussed for example in the latest bracket ‘on farming‘ by Actar are also part of this discussion. However the smaller scale project community projects have a lot potential. This both, in therms of the community or neighbourhood and the urban context.

Het Nieuwe Water
Image taken from Brooklyn Grange / View of the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm in the urban context.

Some of these project are based on long term business models and intended to become self sustained, marketing the products and selling it to the community or delivering it to dedicated restaurants.

A great documentary by Petrina Engelke is showcasing some initiatives in New York pushing these concepts and delivering profits in many aspects to a wider community. This ranges from activities, events to teaching and information. For example the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm or the bobonyc restaurant where ingredients are sourced locally very literally.

Large scale urban farming might technically be difficult with its limitation for heavy machinery, leaving it a labour intensive project. However it shows a great potential for community and in this context, labour as a recourse is provided.

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