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Tag "memory"

To continue on the topic of ‘a view from the Road’ another high-speed clip documenting a road trip. Here with 800mph from North Point Hong Kong Island to Mui Wo on Lantau Island. Very interesting how the features of the urban development direct the experience of the trip.
Some examples I picked out to illustrated the idea Lynch used to characterise and describe the urban experience as seen from the road in his book ‘The view From the Road’ (1966). I have increased the contrast on those key images to highlight the landscape feature. One should spend a bit more time on this to do it properly, was just a quick sketch.

Image by urbanTick / screenshots taken from the clip by LantauOnline / The increased contrast highlights the landscape features.

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Simply because it is so nice and I enjoy the snow here in the UK. Isn’t it amazing how the land change and the perception of it shifts from the UK we know to a nordic almost polar region image. The power of the image to evoke memories and preconceptions works even on the level of the map or as here, a satellite photo. To compare here a link to a zoom in on Greenland.
Interesting also how the land is structures. There are various shades of white and I am pretty sure the dark spots are settlements. There are Manchester, Birmingham, Plymouth, Leeds and Glasgow. There might also be the north-west end of London appear between the clouds.
Its a real winter fairy tail on how the country rests under the cover of sweet sugar dust for a while. Spring will come round render the islands green again, summer warms up the air and autumn might bring the brown colours. And hopefully it will come back as the clock strikes the same season again.

Image by rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov / 2010/007 – 01/07 at 11 :50 UTC, Snow across Great Britain, Satellite: Terra / Thanks to Matthew Dance from wiseristhepath for the link

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Memory has a lot to do with repetition. It is a lot easier to remember something if it is a repetitive element that fits whit in a chain of elements. The memory then can be constructed from bits of information along the chain, but without knowing all the exact detail of one element. This applies to actions that become routines because they have been repeated a great number of times in a relative short period of time but this also applies to larger or over a longer period of time stretching events. E.g. memorials or remembering days.
Longer time periods are very difficult for the human brain to structure. We quickly loose orientation and mix up events. Sequencing is here very helpful. To have a string type of aid to line up the events can keep the orientation. This is where the concept of the calendar comes in as a narrating tool to structure events in the past but also in the future. It provides the framework to organise on the basis of time.
However, there are other sources that can be used to aid orientation. For example photographs can be used as memory triggers. A photograph is much more than simply a flat image. Multiple layers are attached to it, including spatial, social and also temporal aspects. This is obviously related to events of the past, but the human brain is able to use these experiences to also project possible events in the future. For example a photograph of last years Christmas Party, triggers memories of this years party and raises expectations for next years big Christmas bash. This conception raises the question to what extend memory is linear and it could be argued, that remembering is not linear at all, but mainly a construction, usually along similar characteristics.
Nevertheless the overarching, accurate calendar system has completely penetrated our everyday life. Everything lines up with this framework and to a large extend our pocket diary is the only point of reference regarding temporal aspects of life. Of course nowadays it is most likely no longer a physical, paper version but rather some sort of software piece on one or all the gadgets in your bag. For a long time these softwares have simply imitated the paper version and only recently they start to develop individual characteristics and possibilities. Take for example dipity.com where events and objects are represented on a horizontal timeline. It will integrate with a lot of different media. not only does it contain text based notes with an assigned time but video, image, links and so on. You can even link a large variety of other sources of activity to it. This can be twitter, facebook, youtube, vimeo, flicker or any RSS source. This is pretty cool and I obviously fell in love with it immediately. Similar service offer friendFeed, daytum or plurk.com.
But it doesn’t stop here. Location is very 2009 and everything has to be tagged with at least a location. dipity is actually quite cleaver and tries automatically to identify the location of events and gets it pretty precise. Regarding location based memory you get a number of additional services such as brightkite but also twitter for example does include latLong now.
There is a large palette of accessible apps for everyone to store memories live and build up a pile of bites referring to your life.

Image by urbanTick – screenshot dipity

The University of Leeds runs a large scale project to collect memories and store them and make the accessible to researchers. The project is run by the School of Sociology and Social Policy under the title TimeScapes. It runs in connection with the BBC where you can find a dedicated page. Leeds runs a series of workshops and conferences on the topic. It seems that the main challenge is not to actually find the memory, rep. the participants to share the memory, but to store it. It requires a multimedia database and this is tricky and becomes even more difficult if it is opened to eternal researchers for data processing.
On the BBC website the memories are strictly presented along an overarching time axis. This seems very rigid and for a start excludes any of the non linear narratives between narratives discussed in the beginning.

Image by UrbanTick – screenshot MemoryShare

However, the obvious problem is how to combine multiple individuals’ memory in a nonlinear fashion. One way is the traditional concept of the calendar as discussed above and as the BBC uses it for the timeScape. Another option could be the locative data, this also provides a shared point of reference. A really interesting project here is the cityOfMemory.org, a web based memory project covering the New York area. Here the numerous memories are linked through the use of the map.

Image by urbanTick – screenshot cityofmemory

>Aldo Rossi “the museum of pain” in “What is to be done with the old cities?“ in Architectural Design no 55, 1989, p 19

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The rise of location information brought us knowledge of where we are ad beyond. Today you’re not only told were you are but also what is around you, how it looks like, how far it is and in which direction. Almost assuming that you are not actually there. This is usually also the selling point. If you can’t find it for example or your still too far away this will give you guidance. However it also demands in-depth engagement of the end user. This is probably the point where all these services have trouble penetrating the everyday.
However, it is still fascinating and if you are into mapping and interested in what happens around you sooner or later aspects of time will start bothering you. Most of the apps feeding your ‘location awareness’ are actually static. They relate to one point in time or assume a permanence.
This is now being addressed with a number of emerging apps, including augmented reality like layar. But also in the area of the actual map information there is a rising wealth of information regarding past location information as in the form of old aerial photos or historic maps. Google has introduced the timeline feature in Google Earth earlier this year with the version 5.0, where you have the ability to access old aerial photos used since the launch of the Google Earth service in 2005. Now it has also swapped to the mobile market and apps for the iPhone are available. On this blog earlier featured the great app Historic Earth which has a huge database of old digital maps from the mother company Historic Map Works. Now the Edinburgh College of Art has developed a new web based mapping service called ‘Walking Through Time’ that is also available for mobile gadgets, such as the android and the iPhone. It looks really promising, with the developers saying: “…our user group is interested in walking through real space whilst following a map from 200 years ago (for example) and being able to tag and attach links to the map that offer historical and contextual information”. Tagging and linking? that is something we are interested, sounds great!
See teaser below.

found via digitalUrban

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One of the main characteristics of the urban environment is the buzz. It is always busy and full of activity rendering any of your own actions anonymous. This is at the same time part of the attraction as a well as the disguise people feel towards the city. There i no escape from the urbanMachine. And right because this atmosphere is so familiar alterations to it usually create quite an impression. We have seen in it movies such as ‘28 days later’ or ‘I am legend’ where the urban area is emptied and single individuals stumble around in search for contact and survival. This works so beautifully because such a situation seems impossible without a major change as our experience tells us that because of the density of activity and the complexity of interrelated cycles it is impossible to hit a moment of silence and calmness in the buzzing city.
These moments are exactly what the photographer Matt Logue managed to capture. Los Angeles as it sleeps, Los Angeles as it is evacuated, Los Angeles at rest, Los Angeles at peace. The astonishing thing is that he managed to capture empty scenes not in close ups and parts, but in long distant shots and overviews. The scary bit are not the missing people, but the indication that activity could happen that doesn’t, like the traffic light that is still on, waiting for a car to come, or the empty swing on the playground, waiting for children to use it.
Matt has worked on this project he calls ‘empty L.A.’ for four years and has no published the result in a book with the same name. A tip for those who are interested, keep clicking on the main image on the book website and it will reveal loads of shots, even though some of them repeat. You can buy it and also get a good preview of the book on Blurb HERE.

Image by Matt Longue

Image by Matt Longue

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It is cold and wet and … winter in London. Besides the christmas lights there is not many things shining bright. However we still have our memories of the past beautiful autumn and summer period, of warm days with sunshine. If you don’t quite remember here is a refresher, a beautiful small world toy version by Christoph Schaarschmidt.

Small Life in Spain from Christoph Schaarschmidt on Vimeo.

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It is already one year that I am in London this month. So it is time to look back at my personal track record and see where I have been. Of course this goes in comparison with last years 365PLY – One Year Plymouth.
It is the same time span, but the amount of data has increased dramatically due to the use of the new device. Plymouth has been recorded with the Garmin Foretrex 201, whereas London has been partially collected with the Garmin Forerunner 405. The 405 records about a third more points, meaning that the data volume is at around 150’000 location points compared to only 60’000 in Plymouth.
The drawing that appears on top of the London urban fabric is my interaction with the urban fabric by finding my way. Interesting how it acts as a memory trigger. By following the line I can bring up images in my mind about what happened there.
Interesting that I have only been on the north side of the river. There are visits to the Tate Modern, Waterloo Train Station or the South Bank, but that’s about it. Already in my previous London record the pattern was very much the same. Traveling between Kentish Town and Bloomsbury. By looking at the collection and comparing it to Greater London, I haven’t exactly managed to see the whole lot. But I don’t remember my year as been boring at all.
It is more or less the same pattern that also has shown up in the UrbanDiary records, although they are recorded over the period of two month only. This longer period suggests that the emerging pattern is rather stable.
Image by UrbanTick – click on the image for full resolution version.

Just updated the map, I have to confess that I missed part of the beginning dating late 2008. Other than me probably no one would have noticed anyway, because it is really hard to spot what is what.
There are some particular interesting areas on the map. One is Regents Park and London ZOO. I have been quite often to ZSL and those visits draw like this.

Image by UrbanTick – ZoomIn London Zoo ZSL

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The book Ortszeit – Local time featured on the blog earlier as a method to investigate the passing of time. Time over a long period is really difficult to document and photography is just one of them, but probably the most widely used.
A similar effect achieves Danny Wills with his photographs. In this case it is not a direct comparison between two photographs taken at the same place at different times as in Ortszeit. Rather it is relying on the individual memory people have of something.

Image by Fantom – Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley

The photographs are about Mike Tyson, more exactly about one of his abandoned house. A lot of people know Mike Tyson as the boxer shown above. A public celebrity with its ups and downs in his career. He has finally retired in 2005 after his comeback in 1995. He spent some time in prison and once bit an opponent’s ear of during a fight. Those are the events you might remember.
There is more to his live of course and there is a lot more time to it than just these highlights. From time to time Tyson is again in the news. Earlier this year he promoted the movie about his life, at one point there was the sad death of one of his young children in the newspaper.
Danny Wills does not show any images of Tyson but rather pictures of one of his houses. It appears do be empty now but still has some of its glory. It speaks of a different time, a time Tyson was on top of his career maybe. It also speaks of the time Tyson was not in front of cameras, the time we don’t really know what he was doing. Maybe there was some “real life” time in between the events?




Images by Danny Wils – Mike Tyson

Head over to Danny’s really nice page to see a lot more photographs of Mike Tyson’s villa.

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In the UrbanDiary Interview I am using mental maps to get participants to express how they navigate the space in the city. Mental map in this context means that participants are asked to draw a sketch of how they remember and would describe the space they are using on a daily bases. In addition to the technical GPS record this personal view has the focus on perception of space based on memory, experience, personal circumstances and current concerns. The sheet is prepared with a title and a box, but is otherwise blank. Participants are completely free on how to draw a “map”. The only rule is not to copy it from a street map or image. In addition they are asked to comment on what they draw, to record the sequence the sketch of their mental images of space is drawn. See earlier posts on the UrbanDiary mental maps here and here.
On of the very famous studies using mental maps is “The Image of the City” by Kevin Lynch. It was carried out over five years and summarized in this 1960 book. Lynch says: “Every citizen has had long associations with some parts of his city, and his image is soaked in memories and meanings.” (Lynch, 1960, p 1) It is a fairly sweet and stereotypical description with a lot of implicit hints to society but expresses that there is some knowledge and meaning in each one of us about the environment we live in and have to navigate through. It is something that is not about North or South, exact distance measurements or overarching, objective descriptions. Rather it is about personal experience, judgment and what is physically and psychically important to the subject. Lynch said, “Most often our perception of the city is not sustained, but rather partial, fragmentary, mixed with other concerns. Nearly every sense is in operation, and the image is the composite of them all.” (Lynch, 1960, p 2)
As early as 1913, Charles Trowbridge commented on how people have different sense of orientation. He concluded two groups of navigators. Some people have imaginary maps in their heads centered upon the location of their homes. They are able to navigate a certain distance on familiar ground, but they would lose orientation in unfamiliar ground. The other group was more described as “egocentric“ and orientated to their own position at the moment. With a better ability to navigate in unfamiliar territory.

The map is just one form of expression of these personal memories and descriptions. But although it is called a map, it has two fundamental differences. It has no scale and no objective direction assigned to it. The drawing lives of its elements and may only stand in this context, e.g. there is no assumed direction pointing towards north unless the author of the map assigns it with an arrow. Nevertheless some features of a map can be borrowed by the participant, such as top down view, symbols, and so on.
Other methods can be a description in words, both as a text or an interview. The Lego Serious Play is an other creative way to expressing memories and perception and a more hand on approach. David Gauntlett from Westminster University is a researcher working with this method.

The instructions to draw a mental map are simple. The focus lies on the content and not the beauty of the sketch, there is no right or wrong. The key is that the sketch is not copied from a map or image but rather drawn from memory.
Lynch introduces the mental map to the participants as follows: “ We would like you to make a quick map of … Make it just as if you were making a rapid description of the city to a stranger, covering all the main features. We don’t expect an accurate drawing – just a rough sketch.” Lynch 1960, p 141)
It is a rather quick exercise and does not require a lot of planning and thinking. In fact from my experience with mental map-making, there are three phases to the creation of the sketch. First is the skeleton phase, it contains most of the important information, objects, direction, names and paths. The second phase puts the flesh on by linking between memories with information and description. This will often trigger some more memories and makes the map rich and representative. The third and last phase is the beauty process, where no more important information is added, but rather the sketch is adjusted and critiqued.

sturgeonsstuff – there is also a podcast about a group of students discuss their mental map of the world and Image The New Yorker magazine – A New Yorker Mental Map, taken from tamibeikelboom.

Mental maps have been used in a variety of spatial research. On one hand there are studies such as Lynches with a focus on the built environment and a rather detailed perception description. On the other hand there are studies to focus on the quality of the environment more in terms of feelings such as desire, stress, fear or happiness. Such a study has been done by David Ley in Philadelphia in 1972 or a current similar project on fear in Los Angeles by Sorin A. Matei, 2003. From participants responds he was able to create a three dimensional surface to represent the amount of fear in the Los Angeles region. This is indicated with red and green colours. While working with children mental maps are also often used as a method of expression. For example in “Environmental fears and dislikes of children in Berlin and Paris” by Olga Nikitina-den Besten, 2008 looks at the absence of children in today’s cities and investigates the highly specialized urban environment from a child’s perspective of safety, fear and joy. The aspect of drawing should not be underestimated. With children, the reaction will ultimately be ok they like drawing so the method is appropriate, but adults often have more difficulties to draw even a simple sketch. Drawing is not something adults necessarily do very often, but children are expected to some drawing.

Image from Environmental fears and dislikes of children in Berlin and Paris by Olga Nikitina-den Besten – A boy, 10 years, from Berlin and a girls, 12 years, from Paris.

An investigation into peoples desire using mental maps is summarized in the book “Mental Maps” by Peter Gould and Rodney White. They are looking at where would people like to life. They asked people: “Suppose you were suddenly given the chance to choose where you would like to live – an entirely free choice that you could make quite independently of the usual constraints of income or job availability. Where would you choose to go?” (Gould, 1974, p 15) From the responses they generated a surface of desire for different areas in the world. Here an example of a 3d model of the UK, where the height indicates the desire. Clearly there is an increase from north to south (model viewpoint is in the north looking south).

Image by Peter Gould and Rodney White, 1974.

To a great extend there is a lot of information contained within the mental maps on how people perceive the space and ultimately how people create their space. The creation of space could be something very personal and through what the essence of mental maps is a very dynamic concept of temporal perception based on mood, concerns and circumstances. As a very abstract concept it could be compared to the creation of space in the virtual world as an orbit around subject in time and space. Space as in social space or individual space is probably not the same as Euclidean space, the way we think about space generally. If we describe space from personal perception and time point of view, the concept of space might be something very different from the space as a box concept.

To extend and intensify the research on mental maps you are all invited to contribute your own, very personal mental maps of the place you live. For this purpose is the flickr group MENTAL MAP at http://www.flickr.com/groups/mentalmap/
It is an open group and you can ad your sketch of the environment you life in. The instructions are outlined above by Kevin Lynch.
You can contribute two types of maps, an overall sketch of the city, town or village you life in and a detailed description of your way to work and back home again. For both it would be great if you include a short description and it is necessary to geotag the image before adding to the group. Otherwise it will be rejected by flickr. The geotag is a rough location in the area of your sketch.
I am thinking about putting all the mental maps together in a publication as a summary of worldwide perception of people’s environments.


A map of all the posted Mental Maps can be seen here. There might not be much there at the moment but hopefully it will grow in the next few weeks.

Gould, P. & White, R., 1974. Mental Maps, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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An upcoming very promising application for the iPhone is the oldMapApp. It is a simple application that let you flip through some old maps. But not just that these are simple scans, they are all geo referenced and layered on top of new online maps. The layers transparency can be adjusted and let your compare now and then. For map freaks and location enthusiasts this will be brilliant. Google does offer a similar thing with the 5.0 version of Google Earth by using the timeline. The oldMapApp does, as the name suggests, offer old historic maps, whereas Google offers only access to old satellite imagery, back from when they started Google Earth.
To browse through the history of a place and follow development patterns is very much a detective game and can reveal a lot about the identity of a place. Also elements of collective memory can be found, so keep our eyes open. The application does use the location information from your phone so it now’s where you are and can display the information in connection to the historic maps. Using the newly build in compass in the iPhone 3GS it even know which direction your are looking.
Old Map App uses a modified version of the excellent open-source route-me mapping framework. Modern maps are courtesy of Open Street Map, which is creating an open-source map of the world.
At the moment, this means in the preview, the app offers only scans from the New York region, dated from the 17th to the 19th centuries. We are of course hoping this will be extended before the release, but for now enjoy the preview:

Found through MapRoom.

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