Friday, 31 July 2009

Book - You are the City


You are the City by Petra Kempf, Lars Mueller Publisher by Birkhaeuser, 2009. A book that is not really a book might be more of a book than many others. This book here is really not a book, it is a box of sheets and a leaflet. The sheets are colour prints on clear acetate. It is a radical take on city planning with very limited to do’s and not to do’s.
This is rather refreshing and the fact that the transparent sheets allow for creative combination of the presented content goes way beyond telling the “reader“ about the new ”must” and ”don’t”, but rather directly involves them to participate and shape a number of distinct perspectives on the discussed topic. There is not much more to be said, is there?
Well there might be, there are questions about the formality of the visuals, the similarity of the representation, the limitation in the selection of tools and forms. One could argue that is the stuff for discussion and aftermath of the book, as it is still the authors take on the subject and it probably is, but the book does not offer any format for this. So the engagement with the reader ends there, were the sheets can be combined.

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Image by UrbanTick

What Birkhaeuser says about the publication: “Cities are hybrid entities based on multilayered and sometimes contradictory organizing principles. As complex networks of geographic, economic, political and cultural segments, they are caught up in a constant process of differentiation. How are we to understand such dynamic processes, especially the complex connections between individuals, whose movements and interactions leave traces in the urban landscape? This publication offers architects, urban planners and general readers interested in city design and growth a novel approach, a mapping tool that creates a framework for understanding the continually changing configuration of the city. With transparent slides, the tool allows one to superimpose various realities like layers and build new urban connections. It invites readers in short to immerse themselves in the complexity of our cities.”

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Image by UrbanTick

The book subtitle is “Observation, organization, and transformation of urban settings”

In regard of the topic of cycles and rhythms in the city, this publication has a similar aim to start describing and understand the city in a dynamic sense. Kempf writes in the introduction titled “To the Curios”: “Cities are an everyday invention. They are informed and imagined by many people at the time. A cities’ form is expressed in a vortex of temporal relations, mirrored in the activities of a collective body o individuals interacting with one another.”
This dynamic approach is also reflected in the naming of the different areas o investigation. The books contains 22 sheets covering four distinct areas, those are: Cosmological Ground; Legislative Agencies; Currents, Flows and Forces; Nodes, Loops and Connections.
The naming ad the approach can provoke links to Lynch. His five elements plan for the city from his “Image of the City” book were: Nodes, Edge, Path, Landmark, District. Five are much simpler to remember ( might be the success of the book) than 22. But obviously there are some more option with a higher number.
It does get complicated though. I can list all of them because I have the leaflet in front of me, but the suggestive and at times literal names are easily confused. But maybe this is not the point. Maybe it is more important to create an image though the naming that guides the combination process. The mix of naming strategies is more confusing. Sometimes it is something like Bus Lines or Airport compared to Information Swirls or Under the Ground. The mix of specific and more poetic names probably makes for the distinct aura of the publication.

Kempf has worked on a very similar project in 2001. Back then she called it Met(r)onymy 1. Images and style are fairly similar. It seems to be something she has started to develop much earlier on.

A very interesting comparison between “You are the City” and an earlier book by Zaha Hadid called “Ubiquitous Urbanism” is made on Kosmograd. The formal relationship of the two projects is striking. Interesting because Petra Kempf is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Colombia, the same institution where Zaha Hadid developed her book.

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Image from Kosmograd

I don’t want to leave it here, because this could really create the wrong impression about the book. It is not a copy of something and it is a well thought approach to something new. It really opens the eyes in terms of planning, design approaches but also graphics and communication, You are the city - the City is you ha not promised something it will not be able to deliver, It is rather a very real promise and a rather lasting impression.
And if not for al these reasons you want to have one by now, there is one more. Put all the acetates on one pile, look into the sheets from an angle though the reflection (this book is horrible to photograph at a university with these kind of cheap lighting) and enjoy the depth, physical and theoretical this publication is able to create just there in front of you. This is worth buying a book for. Is it a book?

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Image by UrbanTick

Kempf, P., 2009. You are the City Pap/Trspy., Baden: Lars Müller Publishers.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

London Day


I have been out with the cameras last week to capture some of the daily motion of the city. The result is a massive amount of pictures and a time laps movie. Taking time laps pictures all day long can seem boring, but actually it was rather interesting. I was using three cameras, a Canon G9 with a ChDK script to allow automated capturing and two iPhones with the timeLapse application installed. This setting already kept me busy looking after the three cameras in the public realm. But I guess more interesting was for once just to stand there and watch the scenery unfold and develop. Usually we are in a hurry and going form A to B, where B is the focus. Very seldom we are strolling and enjoying the moment. While doing this I had some time to just look at the places and the events and I never felt bored. I have to admit, that I went to some very exciting places. One location is around Waterloo Bridge and the London Eye and an other one is St. Paul’s Cathedral. Both are busy places and offer great views. But both places are windy and a great lesson on time lapse photography is, always bring a raincoat. At the location you’re standing it is always gona be windy and in the case of London (for once) it will be raining sooner or later. The point is you don’t wanna miss out on these dramatic clouds moving across the sky as they poor the rain over the city.

London Day from urbanTick on Vimeo.



music Summer Hill by DANGSTA on akmusicvideo.com
And apparently there is a real story board to the movie above...

UCL Grand Challenges - Sustainable Cities


UCL Grand Challenges is part of the UCL Research Strategy. UCL has identified of interdisciplinary importance and where new partnerships can deliver novel achievements. The four identified areas are: Sustainable Cities, Global Health, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.
Palette is the new magazine to bring together and document the work at UCL related to Sustainable Cities. The inaugural issue of Palette has just been printed and UrbanTick features with a short article in section 5 on page 6.
The magazine builds on five sections. Progress reports current activities on the topic that UCL is involved in. Portfolio is a showcase for images produces in the context of research at UCL, perspective is the section for theories and thoughts of leading UCL academics, pages is about publications in this area and the section participation is a bout forthcoming activities.
CASA features with two more articles in this edition, one is by Mike Batty, “How big can a city get?” and there is also a book review on Andrew Hudson-Smith’s “Digital Geography”.
This first issue of the magazine can be downloaded on the Sustainable Cities homepage or here as a 9MB pdf file.


Image The Grand Challenges

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Yearly Creation of Space - the Serpentine Pavilion


Every year during the late summer months, the Serpentine Gallery in London erects a pavilion outside in the park. It is usually a famous architect or an architecture team. There is already a long list of buildings, of whom some have become very famous.
This year it is SANAA, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa from Japan. The pair has developed a very distinct stile and are building icons of buildings all over the world. One of the most recent completed works is the new Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, opened in 2007. This years Serpentine Summer Pavilion is a free flowing open shape and mainly consists of a floor plate and a roof plate. Together with some very thin columns it defines the space. It seems that this kind of spatial experience is rather difficult for most of the visitors and they don’t really know what to do with, in or around it. Most people end up standing around the “object” and look at it.



The project of having a Summer Pavilion started in 2000. Clock wise from the centre.

2009 - SANAA
2008 - Frank Gehry
2007 - Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen
2007 - Zaha Hadid (temporary)
2006 - Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond
2005 - Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura
2004 - MVRDV (not realized)
2003 - Oscar Niemeyer
2002 - Toyo Ito
2001 - Daniel Libeskind
2000 - Zaha Hadid

Last years (2008) Frank Gerry Pavilion in a timeLapse


Monday, 27 July 2009

GPS Tracking Application for the iPhone


Since the GPS module in the iPhone was introduce in the second generation, a lot of applications have been developed and still are.
With the new third generation the software development continues and there are a number of GPS tracking applications that are established and maintained.
There are two elements to these tracking apps. One is the application on the iPhone and the other one is some computer software or online solution to display and manipulate the data collected through the mobile device. In short, the iPhone app is only to collect the data, visualization and manipulation, mainly has to be done on the computer.
I will be discussing three applications for the iPhone. They are Trails by Felix Alamouroux, iTrail by Justin Davis and Everytrail. All of them are compatible with the TrailRunner computer software that has been discussed here earlier and the Everytrail online platform.

The first tracking application that has been reviewed here was the Everytrail application for the iPhone. It is a FREE, simple software that is connected to an online platform for visualizing and sharing tracks. Two screens are offered, one is for data information, e.g. time, speed, location, and the other one is a map view based on Google Maps. The map view shows your position with a red square and the location of photos taken on the way.
Although it is a very simple application there are a few neat feature to it. If you have a login for the Everytrail website you can upload the recorded track directly, including settings like public/private and having it published to twitter (recent feature). The app allows taking pictures, that are automatically geotagged and treated as part of the trip, the track describes. The pictures are uploaded together with the track and can be viewed online. The online track replay function will include the pictures as a slideshow along the track. There is currently no function to import tracks. You can only record and export. Everytrail also has a bike version for the iPhone. It spots larger numbers that can be read more easily on a high speed trail and works in landscape mode.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Image by UrbanTick - Screenshot Everytrail screen, map and settings


Image by everytrail - Screenshot Everytrail Bike Computer.

Trails, developed and maintained by Felix Alamouroux is not quite free, it cost £ 2.39 in the iTunes app store. There is a light version for free, but it is limited to some 5 minutes of tracking. This software has some more functions over the Everytrail. It is possible for example to import data directly. You can access a number of track sites or specify an URL. Standard are Everytrail, Mapmyrun.com and Bikely.com. After choosing the site you can search the public tracks by keyword. The main screen shows the location map, elapsed time, distance and speed. It is possible to save and name waypoints and take pictures.
The Trails app uses Open Street Map data to visualize the location. There are two options one is road, for a simple map and the other one is Terrain and Cycle for a more detailed map. Everytime you zoom in or out on the map is reloads the data and depending on the connection this can be a bit slow. In the map view it is also possible to pull out an altitude profile as an overlay on the map
It is possible to edit the track points individually. Although this is a bit tedious with tracks of more than 400 points it is a neat option to do some rough editing.
The exporting functions are either an email, directly to the Everytrail page or to TrailRunner. The email export will be as a GPX and the export to TrailRunner can be wirelessly to the computer, both have to be connected to the same network.


Image by UrbanTick - Screenshots Track overlay on Open Street Map data.

iTrail is developed by Justin Davis and offers the same functionality as Trails. It also is a paid app and costs £ 1.79 in the iTunes app store.
There is no base map function, but it is possible to edit the track points and name them.
Export functions are: Twitter, TrailRunner, trailmapping.com, Google Docs and iTrail Desktop. The Google docs is basically a GPX text file that needs to be copied and pasted to be used. An other option is the iTrail Desktop application. Here again it is possible to send the data between the iPhone and the computer if both are connected to the same private wi-fi network.


Images by Justin Davis - Screenshots filter - standard screen, Settings, tracking, trail map.

There is no real recommendation for one of these apps. For one it is because they all do the same and work similar and are compatible with the same software. The differences are the design and the range of functionality. This is reflected in the price tag, but seems reasonable. I am quite happy with the free Everytrail app as I only wane record the track. The Trails app is impressive with its range of function and the beautiful design.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Remind Me - A day in the life of


A great take on the subject of everyday routine. “Directed by the French motion graphics studio H5. It features a day in the life of a woman working in the London's Square Mile solely through infographics; this includes labelled close-ups of everyday objects, product lifecycles, schematic diagrams, charts, and is generally illustrated in a simple isometric visual style. ”

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Birth and Death of the Sun - the Daily Cycle in Ancient Egypt


The role of cycles and routines in culture have been explored in various aspects on this blog earlier. From early settlements to the concept of time in terms of units such as days, weeks and month.
One of the cultures that have throughout a very strong concept of repetition in the more literal sense is ancient Egypt, the culture of the Pharaohs. There is so much research on this culture out there and for Europe and especially Britain this has been a deep fascination for centuries. The British Museum is stuffed to the roof with artifacts and knowledge collected in Egypt.
What I want to look at is the “simple“ concept of the birth and death of the sun during the course of one day. Two elements in Egypt have had a fundamental impact on how the Egyptian culture has formed. This is on one hand the Nile as the life spending river that runs through the deathly desert from south to north and the sun that spends the warmth and makes the plants grow that travels from east to west. These two elements might also had a fundamental influence in how orientation and navigation was developed. (Yi-Fu Tuan (1974), Topophilia. Columbia University Press, New York) It is believed, that the Egyptian culture hated the darkness that arose together with the cold as soon as the sun has touched the horizon in the west. The dark and the cold were associated with death, just like the daily death of the sun. As an opposition to this there was the daily birth of the sun as it rose over the horizon in the east. For this miracle the Scarab beetle was responsible. The beetle was an important character that took care of the death and was associated with the Egyptian god, Khepri. He did take care of the sun and made sure, that after she died in the evening she was reborn in the morning in the east. To do so he rolled the sun just like a ball backwards along the sky, just like a Scarab beetle would roll a ball of dung. So the beetle rolled the son during the night from west to east. The Egyptian name for this important insect was ”Kheper“. The scarab beetle was also a symbol of rebirth after death. To believe in being reborn led to the mummification of the dead body, to preserve it for it’s next life. When the Egyptians mummified a body they would remove the heart and put a stone carved like the beetle in its place. Just like the sun would be reborn every day, also humans would be sent back from the death to be reborn. The idea of cycles and repetition as observed in nature was deeply embedded in the culture of ancient Egypt.


Image from labspaces.net

Some sort of visualization with a time lapse of the night sky.

Perseids from powrslave on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Review Apple iPhone


The new iPhone arrived last week, so it is time to look at the new features and of course discuss some first applications.
To say something about the physical design of the device is probably rather personal, but I really liked the shape and feel of the first generation. The new curves have already been introduced with the second generation, but I never really grew to like it. It is all right if you are holding the iPhone in your hand, but if you are using it on flat surface it is rather annoying. Say it lies beside your computer keyboard on the desk, as mine usually does and you want to have a quick look at something. What you do is you press the home button to light up the screen and ...


Image by UrbanTick

The new power plug is amazing. That lovely little knob is exactly what it should be. What I am not sure is, if this till works with the older models. My first generation iPhone still had the little transformer with the plug, any experiences?
The material seems very sensitive to scratches. First thing I did is put on a screen shield. The back I left uncovered so far and the result of only six days is a fairly scratched back. Compared to the metal back the plastic is not very tuff.

A first thing to note is the keyboard, it is very responsive and now available in landscape. This makes typing texts easier and together with the new cut and past feature you have a full up text editing functionality, it even works for images and web content. Who needs more, all the word crap? You feel free and light with such a simple method of typing.
The other important feature is the navigation and the maps. To now have GPS, Maps and the Compass in the phone is very exiting. It works all right and Google maps do a good job. Even very basic navigation from A to B is possible, to getter with on screen instructions. The instructions are not location based and steps have to be switched manually, but nevertheless it is built in. The TomTom navigation was announced earlier this year at the WWDC, see earlier post and will definitely make a big difference. But this will be a paid app. The street view feature full screen is just incredible. Even if you work with the technology in the web and computer daily this is exciting!


Image by UrbanTIck - screenshot street view


Image by UrbanTIck - some of my iPhone screens

A quick look at some London focused applications for the iPhone. Of course we all are only waiting for the augmented reality tube direction application that is developed by acrossair. They are waiting for approval through Apple and for them to make it available in the iTunes store. Should be soon they say.



But in the mean time, there are some basic applications for tube use. There is a lot of free stuff out there so before you pay have a look in the free section and this is exactly what I do for now. Although the apps are usually on £ 0.50 to about £ 2.00, not much. Some research on app usage has shown that additional apps downloaded from the app store are used one for a couple of days, regardless whether free or paid for.
So back to the tube applications for London. I am looking at both, for travel and navigation, but even for journey optimization, TubeExits, if you are not a frequent commuter. It basically tells you to board which carriage in order to be in a good position at arrival.
Most appealing tube map comes with iTrans Tube. It is free and features a tube map that can be navigated, zoomed and a click on the station will bring up information about train times from this particular station. General tube line information is also available from Tube Status or Tube Info. Tube Info lets you access every single station on the line concerned, where as Tube Status only lists information about closures or maintenance. The TubeMap application combines all the above features, but is not very appealing graphically.
So to conclude there are a number of “get around London” applications for free available for the iPhone. I am sure there are more out there and if I come across some additional ones I will ad them. They suit commuters and visitors alike and are a must for everyone in the London area.

Of course for the work related to the blog here, the GPS and tracking applications are the most interesting bit. I have been testing some of them too and will review them later this week. For now I think everytrail still is in the top league. I am using it since the beginning of the year and it works well.

Monday, 20 July 2009

CitySensing - Environmental Sensors Available


Together with the GPS tracking technology also a whole bunch of other sensors are now available in rather small format, cheep prize and can easily be combined. So sensing the environment in a small scale is becoming possible, even popular.
A number of projects are under way. Here I put together some example.
This sort of information is especially interesting to learn more about microclimates. The knowledge regarding fine scale environmental information in cities is relatively low. With the now widely available technology it becomes possible to sense and record the environment as a pedestrian, or a cyclist. This in turn could collect the data to generate a better picture of microclimates.
Mobile phones as electronic devices that a large number of people are carrying around daily could become potentially sensors and record and transmit environmental related information in a large scale.
Research that develops prototypes for this kind of data collection is undertaken at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute by Eric Paulos. “How would it change your ideas about moving around in the world, if you could suddenly sense things you couldn’t see?” he asks. As a respond to this work some Phone manufacturer have already expressed interest, as he reports in the seed magazine.

Probably a good element for DIY made sensors is the Ardurino open source platform, software and hardware. “Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” (From Ardurino.cc)

An environmental sensing project runs in Paris. It is called “la montre verte” and is so far about a “green watch“. It grew out of the idea to mobilize the 1000 fixed environmental sensors around Paris and generate more accurate real time data. So far 30 prototypes of the green watch have been produced and are tested at the moment in Paris.
The team has produced some beautiful visualization from the collected data. It is built on a Google Map with a detailed interactive interface to select and replay the collected data.

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Image from la montre verte

CamMobSens (Cambridge Mobile Urban Sensing) also works on a sensing project similar to the Paris project. So far they have collected data around Cambridge.

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Image from CamMobSense

A short clip of the data can be seen here, a paper has been published on the project.

Nokia is very active and always experimenting with new technologies. Of course they are also developing something related to the topic of extended environmental sensors. They have a dedicated project webpage on http://www.nokia.com/corporate-responsibility/environment. And of course there are also products, not yet ready. It is on the nokia page described as: ”The concept consists of two parts – a wearable sensor unit which can sense and analyze your environment, health, and local weather conditions, and a dedicated mobile phone. The sensor unit will be worn on a wrist or neck strap made from solar cells that provide power to the sensors. NFC (near field communication) technology will relay information by touch from the sensors to the phone or to or to other devices that support NFC technology.“ Nokia’s eco sensor concept:


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Image from nokia

Integrating environmental live data into further digital development on the computer, on this are the people from pachub working. They have developed a plug in for Sketch up to use live sensore information to feed into the SketchUp platform. Information on it i on their blog.

Pachube2SketchUp: plug in realtime sensor & environment data from Pachube on Vimeo.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Ants - the Yearly Effort to Create a New Colony


In my earlier master thesis work on cycles I wrote about different kinds of natural cycles. One of the examples was the yearly event for ant colonies when the drones leave the nest.
Today was this day again, at least in our garden and around the house here in London. Hundreds of ants (black garden ant (Lasius niger)) winged individuals flying in the air in search of a mating partner. Then the female ants loose their wings and find a place to start a new colony, were as the males die.
Both female and male winged ants are produced by the colony as reproducers and it is a big effort for the colony to bring up this large number of individuals that will once ready leave the nest, but are not taking part in the supporting activities.
The date and time they leave the nest depends heavily on the conditions. It is mainly the temperature that is important. This is to ensure that the ants can fly (not raining) and that after the female ants loose their wings they have enough time to find a new nesting place.
“Disparities between local weather conditions can cause nuptial flights to be out of phase amongst widespread populations of L. niger. During long-lasting, hot summers, flights can take place simultaneously across the country, but overcast weather with local patches of sunshine results in a far less synchronised emergence of alates (winged individuals).” (from wikipedia)




Image by urbanTick - ant discarding the wings

Great information on ants on antblog or The Kurt Kuene Antpage. The ant bible would be The Superorganism by Bert Hoelldobler and E.O. Wilson. They do not agree on everything, but they make a great team. They have published a number of books including The Ants in 1997.
Ants have featured earlier this year in a blog post, in relation with tracking and how they leave informations on their trail for fellow ants.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Real Time visualization - App Store Hyperwall


Sales in the iPhone App store have amazed a lot of people. Together with the popularity of the iPhone, or the other way round, the iTunes app store’s sales have rocketed sky high. Around 3000 apps per minute are sold online. A great success for Apple, and even though we are apple fans here, why should this feature on the blog?
Well, interesting is the visualization that has been produced to impress visitors at this years WWDC 2009. A massive Hyperwall with 16 screens shows the live sales directly from the app store (some 5 min delay).

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Image from Appleinsider

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Image from flickr

This visualization is fascinating because it shows the rather virtual activity of the iTunes store. People are downloading applications for their iPhones/iPod touch’s in thousands per minute. The wall visualized live which of the 20’000 most popular app is sold with a blink of this apps icon. The screen is ordered according to colour that makes it look nice, is otherwise probably not helpful. It shows the variety of apps and starting to categorize them would probably only end in a very confusing table with sub tables. As it is live one could probably stand there and buy an app and watch the icon go blink. I can imagine that this could become addictive.
The time in visualization has always been, but has recently become much more important. It still is a very difficult element to usefully integrate, but in this case it serves brilliantly the purpose.
It needs a lot of processing power, as you have read above in apple’s statement. 20 Mac Pro towers are running for this visual, very impressive.

Hyperwall in WWDC 2009, Live from App Store from Imagebakery on Vimeo.



Some more, almost realtime project I came across:
Facebook activity around the globe by facebook “This video showcases a Hackathon project that visualizes all the data Facebook receives.”



Or real time data visualization of data traffic in the network of Deutsche Telecom in Germany

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Image by zumkukuk

Clip can be seen here.

Experiments have also been undertaken by the MIT sensableCity lab. Their best known example is probably the Rome Real TIme work for the Biennale. They were using six different types of real time visuals to draw a comprehensive picture of the city. The data came live from the Italian Telephone company where sent to the US to the MIT lab to be processed and be made available as a download for the mobile stations in Rome. Not strictly real time but with some 10min delay still fairly quick. A similar project was run on Obama’s inauguration day in Washington earlier this year. See earlier post on this blog, but in this case it was not processed immediately.

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Image from senseableCity

The visualization of the cell phone activity during the Madonna concert in August 2006 in Rome.

Rome mobile phone activity from realtime city on Vimeo.



And a second visualization of pedestrian real time activity based on cell phone data.

Pedestrians and public transport in Rome from realtime city on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Brilliant - new Apple iPhone 3GS


The new iPhone 3GS has just arrive on my desk today, this is very exciting! I bought my first generation iPhone back in 2007 on the day it was introduced in the UK not only because it was my birthday. I was really happy with it and to be honest I think I have to get used to this new shape, it looks different.
So what am I gona do with this new toy then?
There are a lot of new feature compared to the iPhone first generation. The GPS and the compass, the cut and past, but also the increased speed and better transfer rates. A lot is new and this is reflected in the applications. There are a lot of applications already out there that deal with ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​space, time, tracking, visualization and so on. I will feature them on the blog, as I go along. So if you are interested in this kind of updates​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​watch this s​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​p​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​a​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​c​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​e​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
It is nothing new, the iPhone has been introduces a few weeks ago, but it’s always nice to get something new isn’t it?

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Nature's Clock -The Rhythm of Life


For now I am looking over to biology to find out about how this filed is approaching the topic of cycles and rhythms.
Your garden tells you the time, if you look closely. First observations on biological clock in plants where made in the 4th century B.C. by Androsthenes of Thasos. He participated in the expeditions by Alexander the Great in Asia. He described the daily movement of the tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica). Its leaves move up during the day and down during the night. A similar movement can be observed in the common bean plant. (Refinetti, R., 2006. Circadian Physiology 2nd ed., Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.)
In 1745 Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish biologist described in his Philosophia Botanica (1751) that different flower species open their flowers at different times of the day. He distinguished between three groups of flowers:

Meteorici - flowers, which change their opening and closing times according to the weather conditions.
Tropici - flowers, which change their times for opening and closing according to the length of the day.
Aequinoctales - flowers, which have fixed times for opening and closing. (Note that these are unaffected by the weather conditions.)

Only Aequinoctales are suitable for use in a flower clock. (After BBC h2g2)

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Image from Wikipedia - book cover “Systema Naturae” by Caroli Linnaei, 1760

The floral clock would be starting from 3 am with the Goatsbeard, followed by a Dwarf Morning Glory at 5 am to a Scarlet Pimpernel at around 9 am to a Day lily at 8 pm you can get flowers to open around the clock. For a full list have a look at Linneaus’ Flower Clock or on Wikipedia. The bees and many other insects must be well aware of such patterns. This might even translate into a busy working schedule inside the beehive as certain dependencies arise. Bees seem to have a clever “dance” to inform other about sources and maybe the time is an important aspect related to this communication? Anyway what I have not found so far, is a clever interpretation of why flowers only open at certain times, but maybe the insects are otherwise just too busy?
Also Michael Jackson had a floral clock on his Neverland Ranch. Although it was not a real floral clock in the sense of a biological clock, it rather is a mechanical clock decorated with flowers.
Maybe in flowers and plants you would have guessed that they respond to the rhythm of the sun, as they directly depend on it for energy and growth. Most of us would also have heard about the flowers that follow the path of the sun, such as the sunflowers, so not much of a surprise. But if looking at mammals, including humans it might come of more of a surprise that similar patterns can be studied.
The key word here is circadian clock. A definition from medterms.com “Circadian: Refers to events occurring within a 24-hour period, in the span of a full (24-hour) day, as in a circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythmicity is a fundamental property possessed by all organisms. These rhythms are driven by an internal time-keeping system: a clock. Changes in the external environment, particularly in the light-dark cycle, entrain this biologic clock. Under constant environmental conditions devoid of time cues, rhythms driven by the clock show a period near, but usually not exactly equal to, 24 hours.” The word "circadian" is a 20th-century invention. It was coined by Franz Halberger in 1959 from the Latin "circa" (around) + "diem" (a day). Halberger was the founder of modern chronobiology and the chronobiology centre and a scientist at University of Minnesota.

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Image by Franz Halberger - book cover “Introduction to Chronobiology” by Franz Halberger,1994

The circadian rhythm was in the eighties mainly studies in relation with sleep and sleep disorder. Scientist were looking at how new born babies need time to grow into the grown up cycle of sleeping at night and being awake during the day, or why teens stay up late and have difficulties getting up in the morning and why elderly people often wake up when it is still pitch black outside but can’t go back to sleep. Extended research, including experiments with people spending weeks in the dark, has shown that the daylight plays a big part in normal sleep pattern. The human body seems to be capable to sync with the light-dark rhythm of the planet. Responsible for keeping track of the time is the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), a bundle of nerves located in the brain’s hypothalamus (see Kim Kiser Minn Med, Nov 2005). This region does not tell the time, it simply keeps track of it. The clock is not centralized but distributed and inherent in all cells, but is regulated to stay in sync. Steven Strogatz describes in his book Sync three different levels of sync related to the human body. The first is on the level of cells that are mutually synchronized. The next level it is the organs that stay in sync. This does not mean that they are all active at the same time, but they each keep their allocated rhythm whit in the system. As the third level Strogatz describes the synchronization between the bodies and the environment around us. On this third level he does no go into detail what this might be and how this might manifest. But logically it must have real life consequences in social space but also physical space.
A gene for the biological clock in a mouse was identified and cloned in 1997, the first such gene to be identified at the molecular level in a mammal.
New research on the circadian clock’s role in the organism suggests that the process controls almost all behaviors and physiology. In a surprising revelation, a new study suggests that the function of ALL genes in mammals is based on circadian rhythms. Up to now scientists believed that about 10 percent only are influenced by the body clock. The importance of the daily rhythm is only now uncovered.
Scientists believe that the main sync to orchestrate the vast number of independent elements that follow this rhythm is the daylight cycle. A number of studies have shown that if not exposed to the cycle of day and night, e.g. stay in the dark for a longer period of time, the sync slowly drifts off. It will automatically reestablish itself once back to exposure. (See article at the dailygalaxy)
New research has now also tried to explain the differences in life span in connection to the circadian rhythm. NYU dental professor Dr. Timothy Bromage was doing research on the growth of tooth enamel when he discovered these cycles of tooth and bone growth. The rhythm seems to vary from organism to organism and seems to have a direct impact on life span. For example, rats have a one-day interval, chimpanzees six, and humans eight. During the 37th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, Bromage said, “The same biological rhythm that controls incremental tooth and bone growth also affects bone and body size and many metabolic processes, including heart and respiration rates. In fact, the rhythm affects an organism’s overall pace of life, and its life span. So, a rat that grows teeth and bone in one-eighth the time of a human also lives faster and dies younger.” (See article at Physorg)
A very interesting field I tapped in here and this short introduction is certainly not covering all the crucial points of circadian rhythms in biology. There is a lot more to discover especially in relation to the third level of sync as described above, where it is about the sync between bodies and the immediate or wider environment. This exactly where my UrbanDiary research should plug in. In this context I see the GPS traces, together with the mental perception of the rhythms and the geographical/physical surrounding.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

1 0 ' 0 0 0 - U R B A N T I C K


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Image by UrbanTick

UrbanTick has become more popular and from 5’000 visits in just two month the 10’000 visitors mark was reached. I have to confess, that I have done a lot more promotion for the blog during this time, including writing more regular posts. I am aiming at one post a day, not strict but more or less.
The graphs look a bit different this time. I merged all three graphs into one. Looks better and is more complicated to read. So for those who’d rather have it in short, the data it self has changed. There is a much bigger peach over lunch now. The big peak at noon is largely influenced by I a one off event, where the blog hat over 160 hits within one hour. At least this shows the record from sitemeter. I cannot remember having seen this, but there you are. This also brings the Tuesday high up, although Wednesday remains the most popular day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are within 100 visitors the leading days of the week. The weekend is pretty low compared to the weekdays, less than half the visitors. During the course of the day, it is the morning for European visitors and after four for the US visitors.

I usually used this post to talk about the direction the research will be going in the next few month, but this time the period was so short, I have hardly started the stuff I proposed last time. So, the direction will stay the same, towards a city of body experience.
And a note about the blog, I have lost the comment link in the html of my site at some point. Sorry about that, I will try to put it back anytime soon, as I am very interested to hear about your comments!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Book - The Functional City


UrbanMachine is a new series on UrbanTick that explores the idea of the city as a machine. It is of course inspired by the topic of cycles and it might be in a sense a literal translation of a clockwork. But even so, there are elements that work in such a way like the public transport, others like water and electricity are just “available” anytime one plugs the plug or opens the tap. What about the waste management or cleaning, maybe public service in general? The aim is to investigate what makes the city tick on the level of very basic, everyday tasks done by regular women and men. It is a bout infrastructure but also the service that keeps this structure in shape, physically and socially.

To start this topic, what better way than to look at the modern city. The modern city has many different faces, but here we are looking at the “real” modern city in the modern sense of the movement of the early 20th century. Maybe modern city could be replaced with “The Functional City”. This term comes even closer to the idea of the urbanMachine, probably this is where the term is inspired from.
The machine was central to a lot of the modern ideas and admired as the ultimate thing and applicable to any task. Le Corbusier admired the ocean liners as complete entities and of course as functional triumph. Some if the liners formal features even play a role in his building designs.
This machinist fetish has lead to dramatic constructions in the modern movement. From buildings to urban theories the function was top of the list. Even today, the city would be compared to a machine by a lot of people, when asked.
In terms of urban design, the functional approach has a very long tradition. The formalization and rationalization of urban spaces has always been part of planning approaches. From early Chinese cities, to Roman layouts, to garden cities, to new towns, the city was compromised into a single perspective. This approach is tightly interwoven with subjects of power, representation and truth. These aspects are also inherent in the modern movement, although they where able to introduce a shift from a personal focus to a more institutionalized reign of the plan as the central holder of truth. Together with this the architect/planner as the creator of the plan slipped into a unique position.
Within this context the term functional city could have a slightly different meaning. It is a more scientific meaning that imposes a great deal of rationality and logic.


Image taken from NAi Publishers

The book “The Functional City - The CIAM and Cornelius van Esteren, 1928 - 1960” edited by Kees Somer brings together the history of the CIAM from 1928 to 1960 with a specific focus on Cornelius van Eesteren as a member of the movement. It is published by NAi Publishers in early 2007.
Before talking about the content, some words on the physical book. It is a large and thick book, one of the category A4+. The design and layout is brilliant, from the font pallet to the implementation and instrumentalization of images. It is one of these books that you just buy after seeing the cover and having read the title you are on the way to the till, where you get a chance to flip your thumb through the pages while you pay.
Coming back to the content, I cant really read the introduction as in my copy it is, together with the books table of content in Dutch. Only from the first chapter on it is written in English, don’t know why.
Anyway, the story starts with the first CIAM congress in La Sarraz, June 1928. From there the forming of the CIAM in relation to other movements of the time is described. It all begins with a chaotic struggle to hold the opposition and find a position. In fact the book show and highlights through out the story that in fact the struggle was part of the CIAM. Things where always rushed and different opinions made it difficult for the group to unfold their impact. But one of the first actual manifestations of the CIAM ideas is probably the “Siedlung am Weissenhof” der Werkbundausstellung Studgart in 1927. The CIAM went through phases, starting from the public housing (Weissenhof) and working through different steps to the urban structure and implied a methodological link between the smallest and the largest spatial unit: the house unit and the city. This led to the catchy triad ‘home-neighborhood-city’(Somer)
In this sense the focus city has grown. This makes sense as the members where all architects and the discipline of urban planner and urban designer was only just invented.
The book is structured into five steps ordered as topics of content and objectives of the group. This is as mentioned before from public housing to urban planning, but on the other hand from CIAM the working group to the limits of collectivity.
In a sense the struggle with cooperation and compromises is the line that runs through the book. Along this the different developments on theorization of urban planning, especially in chapter four “Comparative Urban Planning”, is developed. That the actual representation, mapping, cartography and visual statistics where actual topics of the CIAM was new to me. This is beautifully illustrated with plans and drawings from CIAM members.
The term functional city is part of this “newly develop” approach and consists of four topic. The simple division between the group of housing, recreation, work and traffic. “The structure reflected the situation of scientific urban planning at that moment. ... This modern vision of urban planning was based on the insight hat the most important aspects of social life could be summed up in a nutshell as housing, work and recreation, all linked by traffic” (Van der Would (1983), p 131)
throughs out the book photographs are used as documentation and evidence of activities and persons. This has a beautiful side effect, it illustrates through the course of the book how the members grow old. Not in a voyeuristic sense, but in a more natural sense. This give the course of the CIAM as a movement even more weight in terms of its development and achievement. The young founding members feature on page 18, including Le Corbusier and have visually aged on page 227, Le Corbusier and Cornelius van Eesteren.
This beautiful human portrait makes it a great read beside all the historic facts it redraws the course of drama with real characters.

Somer, K., Van, E.&.V.L.S. & Amsterdam, (., 2007. The Functional City: The CIAM and Cornelis Van Eesteren, 1928-1960, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Urban Mapping - Shoreditch, London - Paperscape


An interesting approach to mapping urban environments, while at the same time highlighting activities. It is a very experimental approach to documenting an urban landscape, the location is Shoreditch in London. How the visualization makes use of different layers, not literally but implicit is great. A lot of things are happening simultaneously in the city, did you know?

Shoreditch, London - paperscape from jeeyun kim on Vimeo.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Cycles of the Moon - Aluna


The fascination with the moon had for a long time now had a bit of low. It is just there on the sky changing somehow a bit everyday and might get recognized in good weather conditions at full moon.
Historically the lunar calendar had a big influence, today the only real lunar calendar is the Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar (wiki). Most calendar in the past where in fact lunisolar. “All these calendars have a variable number of months in a year. The reason for this is that a year is not evenly divisible by an exact number of lunation, so without the addition of intercalary months the seasons would drift each year. This results in a thirteen-month year every two or three years.” (wiki)
The lunar cycles are not in sync with our currently used time units. The lunar day is not 24 hours, but 24 hours and 50 minutes. The most visual impact of this shift is the tide cycle and the fact that the tide is not everyday at the same time, but is roughly 25 minutes later every day.
Aluna now, is a large-scale permanent installation to visualize and communicate the lunar cycles. It is proposed to be built in London in the East India Dock Basin by 2012.
“Aluna is a unique proposal for the world’s first tidal powered Moon Clock. It will change the way we consider time and understand our planet.
Larger than Stonehenge, Aluna’s forty meter wide, five storey high structure is made up of three concentric translucent recycled glass rings. By looking at how each ring is illuminated, you can follow the Moon’s movements, its current phase and the ebb and flow of the tides. This animation of light is called Alunatime.” (alunatime.org)
Three rings of glass will display the wax and the wane of the moon in 29.5 calendar days (largest ring), the rise and sink of the moon in 24 hours and 50 minutes (middle ring) and the ebb and flow of the tide in 6 hours 25 minutes (smallest ring).
A brilliant animation of the sculpture is on the website. It is a 3D rendering, but in sync with the three rings are also displayed the tide of the river Thames and the moon on the sky, absolutely amazing.
For lunar geeks, there is also a Google Gadget for your iGoogle displaying the lunar calendar.

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Image taken from aluna.org by Laura Williams

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Map 3D vs ArcGIS


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Image by UrbanTick using Autodesk Map 3D

Following an earlier post about the UrbanDiary data in Autodesk Map 3D, I would like to talk about further development on this topic.
The plan was to generate the UrbanDiary maps using this software and with this move towards a more automated workflow from GPS data to map with maintaining the level of possible graphical intervention.
As described in the earlier post data from the database could be connected and be represented in the software including context data. Simple manipulations and representations of the data could be made easily in Map 3D and actually I grew a little bit fond of the software although I did not like AutoCAD when I last had to use it. So I was determent to stick to this and work it all through in this one application.
Unfortunately, too soon I seemed to exceed the capacity of the software.

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Image by UrbanTick using Autodesk Map 3D

Following the processing of the UrbanDiary interviews the task is to develop a combination of interview/mental map data and the GPS/map data. The idea is to look at the work related spatial movement with a special focus on the mental map features.
It turned out that the number of recorded GPS points per participant combined with the building, street and land use information is too much for Map 3D to handle. It started to crash continuously; up to the state I was not possible to open a file.
The method I used was maybe not the most economic one but seem simple to me. From the GPS points I defined a buffer to establish a zone of “experience”, which I intersected with the base map to only be working with relevant information.

The issue in Map3D led to the move across to ArcGIS, which appeared to be comfortable with the data. It also turned out that the same steps of work are quite simple achievable, although a little less intuitive. This reaches down to the export for Illustrator. Map 3D translate much simpler into Illustrator with its native dxf format. In ArcGIS, I could not manage to produce a workable file that remained distinct in terms of features. So I had to rely on the map export using about 12000 dpi. Proper maps will follow as they are processed in Illustrator.

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Image by UrbanTick using ArcGIS and exported to Illustrator

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

One Year in Ten Minutes - the Bartlett School of Architecture


The Bartlett summer show has only just closed. It was as usual a great show and very inspirational. It is a long tradition that the Bartlett School of Architecture shows of the work that has been done during the year, of course it is a selection! Each unit from undergrad to diploma are involved and in the last few weeks this is the main focus of the school.
As the show is now over and the work has retreated back in to the Wates House maze what remains is the catalogue and some clips that have been posted online.
Hehe, there we go, there is one particular clip I am talking about, as you might have guessed. The Bartlett Year in ten minutes, another type of timeLapse one year summary - enjoy

Space-Time - Richard Long


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Image taken from richardlong.org - One Hour, a six minute circle walk on Dartmoor 1984

Currently there is a large Richard Long exhibition on at the Tate Britain in London with the “Heaven and Earth“ exhibition until 06 of September 2009. It is the first large exhibition of the British artist in eighteen years. The exhibition features sculptures, large scale mud wall works and old and new photographic and text works. Also important to mention is the addition room with a large collection of his books, where some real jewels of publication can be seen.
Why featuring a landscape artist on the blog in the context of rhythms and movement? There are several reasons ranging from aspects of time, use of space and movement to aspects of mapping and visualization. On the Tate Britain website the work is introduced and traced back to Long’s love of nature and environmental experience.
A lot of his works are temporal, maybe most of them. While working with the landscape obviously the method of documenting the work becomes central. Especially in Long’s work as a lot of his landscape works derive from the interaction of body and landscape or the reaction of the artist to the landscape. The methods he uses to document this interaction range from taking a picture of his interventions to mapping his activities. His installations of large scale stone circles and mud wall drawings can also be seen in the context of documenting. Long brings elements of the nature into the exhibition spaces being totally aware of the transformation related to context.
The aspect of time plays a major role in all works but is particularly present in the photographs that document works he as produced/performed in remote places, like for example ”a line made by walking“.
Long appears in most of his works as the actor and a driven personality. It seems like he just can’t stop doing this. Particularly in his works of walks he is restless and eager to move. Also here the time plays a major role as a defining element, maybe even a tool to stop Long from simply keep on walking. Works such as “One Hour - a sixty minute walk on Darthmoor“ or “A five day walk”.
The mapping of his walks covers a number of additional topics including the aspect of space and space limitation. The geometry of the circle is Longs main element and features in his sculptures, installations, but also his walks as confining or excluding boundaries. In a sense some of his maps can be read as a different type of space-time diagrams.

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Image taken from richardlong.org - A Line Made by Walking, England 1967

Friday, 3 July 2009

Book - Emotional Cartography


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Image taken from Emotional Cartography by Christian Nold

Christian Nold’s book Emotional Cartography has featured on this blog earlier, shortly after it ha been published online. This time `I would like to look back at the book and talk a bit more about the content beside Christians projects.
The book is a collection of essays that tie in with Christian Nold’s Biomapping Project. The six elements basically form the main body of the book and are hold together with some o the Biomapping project visualizations.
The range of contributions ranges from fictional stories (Marcel van der Drift) to theoretical and practical analysis of participative art (Sophy Hope). This really provides a good context for the project even if you haven’t been familiar with Christians work beforehand. In some contributions the text is reprinted, others are specifically written for this publication, but all try hard to relate to the idea of Emotional Cartography.
The striking image that these text point out about the concept paint, is how unique, new and innovative this approach is.
To begin the book the introduction titled “Emotional Cartography - Technology of the Self”, Christian Nold sets out the context, introduces his work and the essays. He is not short in examples and project anecdotes so it is a text that makes you want to know more.
The first essay “Machines Made to Measure: on the Technology of Identity and the Manufacture of Difference” has a strong focus on the body it possibilities and contradictions with the possibility to injure or imprisoning. The identity is explored along examples of body parts of uniqueness, such as fingerprints.
“A Future Love Story” by Marcel van der Drift a picture of futuristic usage of location based information and the extend to which the technology could be directly connected to the human body. It is a rather literal and direct story that draws strongly on present development.
Steven Boyd Davis writes about the interpretation and the subjective stand points in his text “Mapping the unseen: Making Sense of the Subjective Image”. The concept of engaging with these subjective views of location information is very interesting and funny at times. Surprisingly he manages largely to ship around the obvious example of mental maps.
Sophy Hope then brings up the context of the engaging public art in the UK. “Socially Engaged Art: The Conscience of Urban Development” draws out historic and recent examples of this mainly urban phenomenon of participative art projects and how it has come to take on new roles in local community planning.
The book concludes with Tom Stafford exploring the possibilities of the human brain in a following up text entitled “Hacking our Tool for Thought” to his book “Mind Hacks” written for O’Reilly together with Matt Webb. Tom explores the possibility and limitations of the human brain and how it potentially could be hacked. He is also interestingly very much focusing on the aspect of such possibilities for the group and not the individuals. He largely draws directly on the output of some of the Emotional Cartography projects, which provides a good integration and conclusion for the book.
Overall an interesting collection and a good read because it is diverse. Apart from the introduction there is very little about the technological aspects of the Emotional Cartography project. This is refreshing and allows for other focuses to be worked out more prominently. Especially the topic of the body enjoys a great focus although I suspect this was not planned to such an extend.
The book is freely available on the internet as a full quality colour version at emotionalcartography or as a 2mb version here. It is all published under a Creative Commons.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Natural Cycle - the Tide TimeLapse


In terms of cycles the tide is one of the most direct and powerful examples. While being away for a few days I enjoyed roughly fourteen tide cycles. The constance and continuity is very impressive together with the force. Assuming all of us have once tried to defend a sandcastle from the incoming wavs or keeping the little channel connected to the water as the tide goes out. The task is doomed, but only for the moment. There will be a next timeframe where it is possible again, this is the fascinating aspect of the rhythm. The problem with this is that our ability to deal with these time spans is limited. We very much life in the here and now and the speed and repetition of the tide is somehow just about out side our time perception. On one hand it move too slow in order to be properly perceived on a short term basis and it suddenly reaches your towel. On the other hand the cycle of two high tides is too long to be directly related in our experience.
Therefore the timeLapse is a good tool to get to grips with the rhythm, enjoy.

tl_tideHD_090702 from urbanTick on Vimeo.



Music “fire whistle’ by Jorya at mp3unsigned

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

POPFest 2009 at LSE - The Spatial Extension of Everyday Life


I will be at the POPFest 2009 tomorrow, presenting elements of my research work under the title
UrbanDiary - The Spatial Extension of Everyday Life
I will be focusing on the method and the first trial with the GPS data collection, specifically on the individual level. This will mainly focus then on the mental maps and individual perception of routine and space.
The presentation can be seen here as a preview.



The POPFest 2009 is this year at LSE in London, from July 2nd to July 4th. It is a platform for mainly postgrad students to show and discuss their work.
“POPFEST is a population studies conference organised by postgraduates for postgraduates with the aim of providing a relaxed, supportive environment for students to come together to present work and discuss ideas. This is a great opportunity to meet other students studying in the same area, practice your presentation skills and get some useful feedback from your peers.

The conference provides a forum for postgraduate students studying any aspect of population in disciplines including Social Sciences, Demography, Human Geography, Social Anthropology, Social Statistics, Health, Development, Social Policy and other related fields. Presenters have an excellent opportunity to discuss their work in front of their peers and have a chance to get feedback and ideas from fellow researchers. Those not wishing to present can get an idea of the sort of research being conducted by their peers and make valuable contacts for the future.

POPFEST is an ideal spring-board for all postgraduates regardless of their stage of research providing an opportunity to practice ones presentation skills, whether as a paper or poster display, before facing more demanding academic conferences.

PopFest has survived over the past 14 years due to the support and good will of the postgraduate community and the BSPS. For PopFest to continue this support and enthusiasm is essential. The BSPS is very keen to ensure the development of postgraduate population research through PopFest and has confirmed its continuing support to the conference. ”

This years Timetable.

Solar Charger - FreeloaderPro


I have been away for a few days, away from the desk and away from the city and away from my computer and away from some power sockets. Away really from quite a lot of the routines I normally repeat daily or even hourly.
Although I have been away from quite a lot I did not separate from my GPS and my iPhone. So some solutions regarding the power management had to be found. Great idea, solar chargers are available and not any longer really expensive. So I checked out the options and very soon was able to narrow it down to devices that could probably do the job of powering two iPhones, two GPS both Garmins but different plugs, and Camera. Al this over the period of a couple of days so no big deal one might think.
The two options were the powerMonkey and the Freeloader. I got some advice from Andy over at digitalUrban and he was testing the powerMonkey not very successfully a couple of month back, so I made the decision to go for the Freeloader, mainly because the new FreeloaderPro comes with a wide range of adapters for all sorts of devices from iPhone/iPod to mobile phone and PSPs on 5.5 V and can now also charge a wide range of Camera and Camcorder batteries on 9.5 V. Also the option to extend the solar panel with the FreeloaderSupercharger made a lot of sense.
So I went down the road into the nearest Maplin store and bought both, the FreeloaderPro and the FreeloaderSupercharger. Happy and feeling prepared I left all the routine and habits related to the stuff mentioned earlier behind me and head of.
To get straight to the point it was a bit of a disappointment really. I worked out very well in the beginning regarding the FreeloaderPro as a battery to recharge the devices. The FreeloaderPro works as a solar collector and charges its internal battery that on the other hand can then charge the device. Apparently not simultaneously both at the same time, meaning it has to charge itself first and can only then recharge. A bit annoying but there you go. Anyway it worked at first because I did, while following the instructions on the box charge the FreeloaderPro while still at home straight through its USB port to fill its internal battery.
Why do I need to charge my iPhone so frequently, it would normally last for half a week easily you might ask. I just love the little app on my phone that enables timeLapse p​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​hotography and it basically runs all the time and having photos taken back to back seems quite power intensive so the battery runs down ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​quick.
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Image by UrbanTick - left FreeloaderSupercharger charging the FreeloaderPro, right same on the move.

The charging of the GPS, a Garmin Forerunner 405 works all right, is quick and the device full. The iPhone is more o a problem though. It does charge up rather quick trough the USB port, but it would only go up to about three-fourth (having the FreeloaderPro full). This was expected, as the explanations on the website already warned about this issue, but on top of this, the battery run out much quicker. So the iPhone was showing a large green, almost full battery sign, but it would only last for an hour.
The even bigger problem occurred as the FreeloaderPro appeared not to charge up again properly. It would not trough out all the sunny days we had charge for more than half full. Not with the FreeloaderSupercharger connected via USB to it and not on its own either. I tried it for a number of days and the weather could not have been better!
Mid week I had to give in and get my iPhones charged at the normal power socket in the wall. This was probably the low point of it all, as I had really high expectations. Anyway one good thing I discovered afterwards was that the FreeloaderSupercharger works very well on its own for the Garmin Forerunner 405. The 405 come with a USB cable to charge so it can be directly connected and charges up rather quickly to a nearly full 98% with a good seven hour battery live afterwards, This trick does not work for the iPhone, somehow the amount of energy delivered seems not to be high enough for the device to recognize as being charged.
Some side notes on the FreeloaderPro are issues with the status light. It is nearly impossible to see it in the sunlight and where else would you use it? Not even shading it with my hands made a big difference, I usually had to take it under my t-shirt to be able to see if there where any light on and what colour they where at. The other issue is with plugholes and robustness. To me such a device should be built for the outdoor use and the FreeloaderPro certainly does not have that feeling to it. I did not test it towards this but it does not have a very robust feeling to it. And being at the beach with sand Covers for the plugholes would be nice. Also better fit for the cables, while having it attached to the backpack often the USB plugs would disconnect with the movement so after a while you find that it did not charge at all because it got disconnected.
To sum up it has been a bit disappointing as said before, but I still believe in the concept. It is small it is light and it is relatively cheap and it should work.


Image by UrbanTick - left FreeloaderSupercharger charging a Garmin Forerunner 405, right trying the same with an iPhone.

The timeLaps imagery will be ready to be put online soon so you can see what all this struggle was intended to do. - These timeLapse are now online.

There will also be an update on the Freeloaders functionality shortly. I have been in contact with the guys producing them and they have sent me a brand new one. I will update you in a post.