Monday, April 27, 2009


What is the meaning of public space today, or does public space even still exist?

If public space does not exist, how can architects think of new categories of defining space other than public and private?

How can surveillance be used not out of fear or privacy invasion, but as an architectural process for mapping and diagramming a new meaning or understanding of public space?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Considering the Usefulness of the Flaneur

— How has the flaneur changed in our society with the advancement of technology, particularly the internet, social websites and cell phones?

— Can the attitude and the characteristics described by Benjamin be filtered into a way of studying an area, a street, an artwork, or a building by creating a system of observation and experience?

— Could we use the observation powers of the flaneur to assess the efficacy of past works, whether in architecture, art or city planning, and use them in the creation of new works?

— How does the experience of the flaneur translate from being memories, emotions and curiosities into useful data and information?

Monday, April 20, 2009

buzz buzz

“The Geography of Buzz.” - mining photos from Getty Images that chronicled parties, etc on both coasts for a year, beginning in March 2006. The maps show the density of different types of cultural events in New York and Los Angeles.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mock-up Video

The PROXY team just finished doing a mock-up for display at Hatchfest in Asheville, North Carolina. Check it out below!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Join the PROXYproject Collaboration!

We want to include your photo of Florence, Italy in an international exhibit.

Our studio has been invited to participate in the Beyond Media 2009 - "Visions” International Festival in Florence - July 9-17, 2009.

We are collecting images and turning each one into a unique postcard. The cards will be used to create a dynamic, interactive installation. Please join with us and hundreds of collaborators to make this project a reality.

Here's how to help:

collaborate - donate $1 to sponsor your postcard, then upload an image of Florence, Italy:

Yes! I will help

continue - pass this message on to friends and family and become a fan of our Facebook page

thanks for your help!

see the PROXY website for the full story -

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CT scans of popular objects by an "artist-turned-medical student"

This article from the New York Times by Amanda Schaffer features Satre Stuelke a former art professor, now medical student who is using CT scans to have people "think about how things are constructued". You may also visit the artist's website radiologyart.

The Inner Beauty of a McNugget: A Cultural Scan

The New York Times slide show


Friday, March 13, 2009


we've begun to create diagrams exploring the developing relationships within the PROXY installation concept. layers of chronology, personal vs. anonymous communication, active vs. passive collaboration, physical space/movement vs. virtual space/movement and qualitative vs. quantitative are beginning to emerge and solidify.

Installation Proposal Presentation

a pdf of the installation proposal presentation can be viewed and/or downloaded from the the following link:

Installation Proposal Presentation

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


These are a couple renderings I did. They might provide some inspiration for the project.

Monday, March 9, 2009

twitter contributing to "real time" analysis

Continuing the conversation about the internet as a "brain", I found an interesting article on slate.

"By collecting millions of people's immediate thoughts, Twitter is building the Web's best database of "real time" information, these people argue. And that collection might be very valuable..."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Maeve Installation

Mæve installation @ Venice Biennale 2008 from Maeve installation on Vimeo.

Mæve table application from Maeve installation on Vimeo.


Case Studies For Visions

Creates virtual networks of real places with the use of QR codes which are used to tag buildings and urban sites. These codes can be read via mobile phones. The user shoots the codes and logs them in to

Anyone can tag places and create a denCity-site. All relevant information and data links concerning the particular user-request are released cartographically and depend on the desired degree of locality.

"This information exchange layer, through the tags's crosslinkings and referencing among each other, features a multidimensionality which oscillates between the local and the virtual.The tags are digital yet visible marks in the city. At the same time virtual and physical addresses. They establish interfaces between locality and virtuality. (

Art in Odd Places

Providing an opportunity for people in the art world to explore and examine the role public space plays in our society. Using a map, the audience move about the Lower East Side revealing art in places throughout the community.

AIOP 2006 projects examine current public space potential, spaces that have recently been privatized, and the boundaries of public space.

On the interactive map available online (shown here), one can understand the relationships between authors, location, and projects, placed in three correspondent columns, by rolling over each one of the instances.

Sensity is part of "The Emergent City" series of works by Stanza. In this 3rd version of Sensity, Stanza aims at visualizing the dynamic data around his district as an audio visual artwork.

Sensity artworks are made from the data that is collected across the urban and environment infrastructure. A network of sensors, some fixed, and some embedded, collects data which is then published online. The sensors then interpret the micro-data of the interactive city. The output from the sensors displays the emotional state of the city online and the information will be used to create installations and sculptural artifacts.

These artworks made will represent the movement of people, pollution in the air, the vibrations and sounds of buildings, they are in effect emergent social sculptures visualizing the emotional state of the city.


The work is based on the movement of pedestrians on a public space. Some pedestrians walk only on the sidewalk and use the pedestrian crossing for crossing the street, other pedestrians freely make shortcuts on the formally imposed traffic situation. Pedestrian is an artwork in public space that reflects on this movement. It visualizes the real movement of people, and adds a virtual movement based on the assumption that people's mind is not subject to gravity or any other physical limitations.

The movement of pedestrians is recorded with a camera from a high place like the roof of a building. A pattern of movement of the pedestrians is extracted by reworking this recording frame by frame with video animation software: it is as if pedestrians draw lines though the space. From this pattern, some dominant directions can be found. These directions will not be exactly what the urbanist foresaw when designing the public space at the location, but be the real flow, the real use of the city by its inhabitants.

The movement of the pedestrians could be regarded as force-vectors through the space. A person's trajectory from A -> B is nearly never a straight line, as many obstacles are in the way (like buildings), imposed trajectories (pedestrian crossings, sidewalks) and physical limitations (gravity). At this point a question is asked: how would the pedestrians move when they were not limited by anything?

Tracing the Visitor's Eye

Fabien Girardin is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science and Digital Communication at the Interactive Technology Group at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain. His current investigation explores the people perception of discrepencies in the context of collaboration supported by mobile and ubiquitous environments.

In continuation of Fabien's exploration of Flickr geotagged images, he produced the "traces" left in Flickr by tourists and citizens of Barcelona based on around 4000 images taken between October and December 2006.

A trace consists in an ordered set of geotagged images taken by one person in one day. The data and visualizations remain somewhat raw, but there might be a potential to define and confirm patterns of how tourists navigate the urban space. The maps do not carry the sense of time yet to highlight when and where the traces start and end.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I have been thinking about using these photographic devices as a possible jumping point for our discussion as we shape our project.

camera lucidia
camera obscura
claude glass

Questions for Discussion 8

In the excerpt entitled The New Langauge of Cinema, Lev Monovich discusses the evolution of cinematic representation parallel to technological advancements. In the section The New Temporality: The Loop as Narrative Engine, he discusses the traditional linear narrative of cinema; "In contrast, narrative cinema avoids repetition; like modern Western fiction forms in general, it puts forward a notion of human existence as a linear progression through numerous unique events.”

Monovich then draws on the history of the “loop” in computer applications, computer games, and playback interfaces (QuickTime) and asks the question "Can the loop be a new narrative form appropriate for the computer age?” The idea of the “loop as a new narrative form” could have valid application to the study of architecture and the city, specifically a way to evoke the narrative ability of architecture and the systematic study of the city through progressive “loops,” with each loop adding a new layer of information that is collected then graphically represented. “As the practice of computer programming illustrates, the loop and the sequential progression do not have to be considered mutually exclusive.”

The Loop as Narrative: Architecture

Can the narrative ability of architecture be logically explored in the terms of the loop?
Here are a number of projects that contain the two temporal forms (loop and narrative) and have a somewhat linear circulation flow pattern where the pedestrian moves through the building in sequential progression. It should be noted that Monovich lists the Mobius House in his article as an illustration of his argument.

The Danteum; Guiseppe Terragni; Rome; 1942 (never constructed)

The Kunsthal; OMA; Rotterdam, Netherlands; 1992
Mobius House; UN Studio/Van berkel & Bos; Utrecht, Netherlands; 1998
Pontifical Lateran University Library Extension; King Roselli Architects; Rome, Italy; 2006

The Loop as Narrative: The City
Can the mapping of a city be represented or re-played in loop format (multiple loops) so that thoughtful analysis can occur and evolve? Can a narrative about the city emerge out of these multiple layers or loops? Mapping can be thought of as a layering of information that provokes thought about new relationships so can we begin to represent these layers as audio/visual loops that progressively add more information?

The Invisible City: Design in the age of intelligent maps discusses the possibilities of what designers can do with mapping, which can be helpful in thinking of what these “loops” can begin to show. “The act of mapping itself is a process of analysis, discovery, and design. It is a process of finding and giving meaning to information, contextualizing information, and of developing new understandings of the places represented…[mapping can be used for] finding patterns by layering information and letting relationships emerge through the process. As making maps allows relationships and patterns to become intuitively apparent, when data is entered into a GIS, these intuited relationships can be quantitatively verified.”

Lastly, if we begin to think about strategically mapping the city and playing this information back in loops, each loop containing a new layer of information, or maybe just the same information collected at a different time; can we think of these loops as feedback loops that inform the future design of the city? This question goes back to the idea of the city as an emergent organism, that can be studied and learned from, much like computer software or “real-world organisms.” (The Myth of the Ant Queen)

Albert, Saul, Critical Cartography
Manovich, Lev, The New Language of Cinema in the Language of New Media
Varnelis, Kazys and Meisterlin, Leah. The Invisible City: Design in the Age
of Intelligent Maps

(mentioned) The Myth of the Ant Queen from Stephen Johnson's "Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A long Take of 15 miles and overlapping Images and Signs

Today in the New York Times an artist's project is presented, a three day walk on Broadway Street, a long take of overlapped streets, signs, faces, neighborhoods on a continuous film, a continuous story. Photographer Stéphanie de Rougé reads the city, literally through signs combined into sentences, images combined into the story(ies) of “varied backgrounds” together as it is New York City and as captured through the artist’s own movement through the city's “main artery”, Broadway Street while shooting on one continuous film which she advances as choreographed by the imagery in her path. To get the full effect of this immerse reading of the city, watch the short audio slide show.

The NY Times article: The City Visible, Broadway Mosaic
Photographer Stéphanie de Rougé's website

Friday, February 27, 2009

Visions at BEYOND MEDIA Florence, Italy

We have been invited to participate in the SPOTS ON SCHOOLS exhibition in Italy and to represent Clemson University among a group of schools internationally in this event that is part of BEYOND MEDIA, 9th international festival for architecture and media in Florence, Italy. The event, which includes workshops, lectures, exhibits and debates, offers “an exploration, on an international basis, of state-of-the-art and cutting edge researches.” The theme of this event is Visions, as a vehicle for reflecting on “topics of figuration and representation” as a way to “put forward more effective visions which might be useful in tracing the outlines of our possible future.”

In order to envision future possibilities, we must perform thorough studies of our cities as living systems within an urban ecology filtering, transmitting, generating, changing, evolving.

The site of your next project will be the exhibit space in Stazione Leopolda in Florence, the space of the SPOTS ON SCHOOLS exhibit. You are to perform a CT- scan of Florence and visualize this city within a dark space of between 9 sqm to 18 sqm of concentrated exchange and interaction. The living body under analysis is the city of Florence during the week of the exhibit, July 9 – 17.

Our installation will be ephemeral, lasting just one week. How can the life of the city be scaled to fit the exhibition space and transmit something about the life going on outside, inside… how can we use contemporary visualization and mapping tools to “see” Florence much the same way a a CT-scan allows us to see the body in real-time…. blood flow, etc.

What is the procedure for visualizing the inner workings of this body under analysis and what is the relationship of the human cycles and activities to that and as part of that larger intricate system that it occupies, uses and adjusts?
What visions for the future possibilities emerge out of these revelations?

You are to pick up from where we left of with our discussions in seminar and in studio of Urban CT-scan: The City as Body(ies) in Movement and to use this opportunity in Florence, Italy of mapping and building, experiencing and analyzing, observing and sharing for exploring future visions for “reading” and “writing” our cities which engage and understand the city and our bodies as an interconnected living organism. You are to exploit the tools at our disposal and the existing infrastructure of the city in imaginative, witty, and sensible manners.

What role does the city’s existing infrastructure play in the set up of the equipment for scanning? How do you both engage and reveal the cycles of its inhabitants in that set up? What is the visionary potential of the visualization tools at our disposal? How do you scan a city? How do you scan this city in particular? You are to take advantage of the exactitude of information revealed by some of these tools (such as GPS) and in the experiential, empirical understanding acquired by others (such as A/V).

Can this project explore the potentials at hand to take what Etienne-Jules Marey, Eadweard Muybridge were doing in the 1800s with chronophotography and what Frank Gilbreth was doing with chronocyclegraph in the early 1900s to the scale of the collective?

Can this document (a vision) reveal the intimate interconnectivity of our bodies to that of the city to help better adjust gently to that built environment that we change and affect daily. Can we more effectively be part of a working and balanced ecology. What is the potential of this? Is this healthy and is it important? How does the visualization of Florence within the space of Leopolda affect the city itself and how does the city affect its mapping?

The installation within the space at Leopolda, a mapping of the city, a CT-scan should serve as an interactive platform for participatory collective diagnosis and discussions to emerge, occur, begin… during the time of the exhibit, and to serve as a space for visions of possibilities to sharpen, to come into focus, to exist even for just a moment. … a vision, visions to exist.

Beyond Media, Visions. July 9 - 17 Florence, Italy

To Scale: Reversal, the Map as Living Story(ies) 1.4

In A Universal History of Infamy, Jorge Luis Borges speaks of a map, which was the size of the territory, which it mapped. The map was so large that it had to be folded and unfolded and began to deteriorate becoming useless and irrelevant. (42) Why look at this cumbersome map when the information was also in the territory itself? Are we arriving to the full-scale map of this fiction? And is it irrelevant? Or does the map become even more relevant? The Robert Moses three-dimensional map of New York City while not full scale strove for 99% likeness in detail to the reality that it represented. As a huge and elaborate wooden object lit to compress the cycles of the day/night, it remains static and fixed to a fleeted reality. The document while it represents a historical moment in time in the physicality of that city does and did not represent the life and ephemerality of the city except for the fact that it became quickly irrelevant as a tool for urban planning which was its intent. (43) With the technologies that we have available today, we are not only able to represent the city in all of its qualities; realistic and abstract, immersed and removed, qualitative and quantitative but it is also inherent in these processes the representation also being life like, real time, moving and changing. This ease and flexibility allows for constant accuracy. In addition, the map that is produced from below and collectively is inherently and as has been demonstrated more precise. Will we get to an “improved flow of information from citizens to decision-makers, and a strengthening of the form of our built environment”? , (44) and will inhabitants participate more directly in the design of their cities. The city and the map will be ever changing and up-to-date. This document will also be analyzable in its fullness with all of its qualities and therefore the functionality of the body of city and of the human body will be continuously optimized? Does the living map become more relevant by remaining “daily and indefinitely other”? And is the static, fixed, authoritative map dead?

42 Borges, Jorge Luis. A Universal History of Infamy. E P Dutton 1972
43 Ross, Rebecca. Perils of Precision. In Else/where: Mapping New cartographies of Networks and Territories by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, 184-199. University of Minnesota Press 2006 p. 184
44 Ross, Rebecca. Perils of Precision. In Else/where: Mapping New cartographies of Networks and Territories by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, 184-199. University of Minnesota Press 2006 p. 186

To Scale: Reversal, the Map as Living Story(ies) 1.3

The implications of the understanding of the relationship between the body of the city and the human body are immense and necessary at a time when our environment is so quickly changing and being affected by our bodies and our actions, and at a time when we are being so negatively affected by the cities that we have created which do not acknowledge the human body in need of movement and social interaction. We are deprived of our most basic needs and are mostly unaware of it. At both scales these bodies are deficient. Having just returned from a pedestrian city to an automobile city I am quite perceptive of the obesity of the inhabitants of most of our cities and of the almost impossible opportunities for the street level chance encounter and interaction, the tactile meeting of bodies is impossible when always within the confines of a car. Obviously, that same encapsulating vehicle while separating the body from the environment is also polluting the environment with its toxins and those of the infrastructures that are erected daily to deal with its expediential explosion. The convergence of video and GPS and the Internet is already occurring for documentation of extreme sports. These professional athletes want to be able to both map their experiences but also map their performance data. In MotionBased, a recently launched website, athletes are mapping a personal itinerary before a sport event and later uploading the retrieved data of their activity from the GPS device and a synchronized video camera to analyze their performance in great detail in order to improve their performance (41). Could we say that this is a multiplicious version of what Marey and his contemporaries like Eadweard Muybridge were doing in the 1800s with chronophotography. Or even the work of Frank Gilbreth of the 1900s. In this case it is the individuals themselves who are able to analyze their own data, their own movements, deficiencies, forces at work, in order to strive for their optimum performance. The technologies that we have available today empower us. We are not however taking full advantage of these opportunities if we do not engage all of the inhabitants of our cities and not just the professional athletes or sport enthusiasts. Will we understand our deficiencies if we visualize the data of both our bodies and the in relationship to the body of the city as a kind of self diagnosis? This is only possible if we visualized the interiority of our bodies, human and city in all of their qualities?

41 see

To Scale: Reversal, the Map as Living Story(ies) 1.2

While the Amsterdan RealTime, Cabspotting, and BiCi_N projects are speculative, and extremely suggestive at this time, currently there are already applications and life maps that are being used in our everyday. Last year Immersive Media Corp. signed a contract to license street-level images of North American cities to Google Inc. to create an experience based mapping that you move through. "Immersive's Telemmersion® System is a compact, lightweight, unified camera system. The system generates synchronized, high resolution video streams representing a full-motion spherical world that can be experienced live or in a recorded form." (40) In another case, Nokia and Google Earth are competing in the merging of GPS and Net space as both companies understand the importance of how people's physical location affects how they use Net space. Nokia has recently introduced a device (N96) which allows for videos to be shot on location and to be "geotagged" which means that they are uploaded with the their exact physical location into a website similar to Google's YouTube site where people post videos. As a kind of body/city apparatus, the newest feature of this device is a "walk" feature and an "accelometer" feature, which detects shift of direction as the body walks the city. The free internet sharing service "share on Ovi" allows uploading and sharing in a variety of formats in an interactive community similar to the online social networking site Facebook.

40 see Immersive Media Corp.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

To Scale: Reversal, the Map as Living Story(ies) 1.1

While each of Auggie’s photographs in their imagery, a frozen moment of life, a sliver of time (an x-ray, a cut) they are mathematically held to a tempo of daily precision, 8:00 a.m. every morning. However, the accuracy depends in Auggie’s punctuality. In Amsterdam RealTime, the precision is certain as the GPS data is absolute and while no imagery or sounds are captured, an abstract image exposing the routines of the city is created out of the accumulation of movements (lines) through the city. NY A/V is also tied to a choreography that of the mapmaker, from sunrise to sunset for seven days, every fifteen minutes 40 feet forward and the zoom capacity of the audio/video camera. However mechanical time is absolute and it ticks forward regardless of any obstacles along the way. BiCi_N achieves its mathematical accuracy out of its basic framework as an extension of the human body living the city unencumbered by the process. Both of these projects, BiCi_N and NY A/V map, are individual and collective, and are generative and participatory. However, while attempting to be from below and at street level, NY A/V is still presenting one point of view, that of a map-maker conscious of the process, that of an authority as opposed to that of a participant in the city.

In the explorations of the reversal of from above to from below and the merging of drawing and moving image, scale becomes the body in the city as the document itself. In this discussion scale becomes full scale. But more importantly, a single point of view becomes multiple points of views. Rather than from a fixed and dominant point of view the BiCi_N project aims to understand the city from within, from below and from the informal, input of the many. The project collects multiple subjectivities as multiple users (5,000,000 users, 1,500 bikes) “cycle” the city. Cycling as the city cycles, the inhabitants read and write their stories, composing “a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator”. These multiple viewpoints “shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces” will replace the singular totalizing view from above, replacing the map of the static with a map of the ephemeral produced by its occupant for its occupants. By multiplying viewpoints a totalizing map from below is created.

We conducted a study in Barcelona, a sketch version of the larger proposed project. This one involved six users of the city during the period of two weeks using the Bicing transportation system equipped with GPS/audio/video as extensions of their body(ies) into the city, as drawing apparatuses. A collaboration was established with interactive design media firm Zemoga and film director Roy Ettinger as a way to fully explore the potential of this drawing/movie hybrid as well as to explore the potential of the interactivity of this as a living document. We worked on a movie/drawing, on section drawings/movies and on an interactive web site/map. Our biggest discovery was the potential of setting up the framework for a different kind of movie, one that would be written and rewritten by multiple users as they organized real-life footage into their own stories of the city. These movies would generate and regenerate as the city does. It would present the details of life and the collective as fictions of city life. But is this the map? Or does this also suggest a different kind of map? One that is also multiplicious by being edited and transcribed also by real users of the city, a document to be analyzed by many whether in an architectural, urbanistic or whether in a filmic or literary way. The city would be read via “fragments of trajectories” as assembled and organized to tell stories, to compare, to analyze. In this real time, abstract and realistic, mathematical and sensual, drawing/movie, interactive representation of the city, people would enter, connect, distribute, read, draw, and write their city.

Continuous Shot- Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar

Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar

The video is directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), features what appears to be a continuous shot filmed from the window of a speeding train passing through towns and countryside; however the scenery passing by appear exactly in time with the beats and musical elements of the song. The video was shot ten different times during the day to get different gradients. The video was plotted on graph paper before creating the video, eventually modeling the scenery with oranges, forks, tapes, books, glasses and tennis shoes.

First Five

Intriguingly and curiously the first five minutes of a film are often critical for the film and accompanied by excess complexity with regards to cinematography and audio. For the obvious, the first five minutes of film most establish not only a foundation for the film to develop on, but also bring a sense of curiosity and unknowing simply engaging the audience to the point that they will watch the rest of the film.

While all stories have three ingredients including setting, character or characters, and plot it is not a prerequisite that the first few minutes of a film must introduce these or adhere to a particular order to which they might evolve.

Not unlike an architectural procession or approach the first few minutes or steps are spatially and contextually important. Through the examination and dissection of the introduction or the entry I aim to juxtapose the first few minutes of film to architectural design gaining both spatial, narrative, and audio understandings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "Long Take" in a Music Video

Here a video called "Oxford Coma" by the band "Vampire Weekend." The video's director was Richard Ayoade. The video is a long take that is a lot like some of the continuous camera shots in Wes Anderson's work, or Godard before him. I meant to post this earlier but it goes back to the earlier discussions of "Touch of Evil" and the Pier Pasolini "Observations on the Long Take" article reminded me of it.

Questions for Discussion 7. Geospatial Web + Redefining the Basemap

What effects do Geospatial spam have on creating maps that reveal valuable/usable information?

On the other hand is there such a thing as Geospatial spam? Can this information be accepted and filtered to reveal novel informative revelations about the city.

I find tagging very interesting and useful, but what are some of the problems with tagging?
Is it that the formatting of 'tags' are not standardized?
Are 'tags' to vague? For example does turkey refer to the country or the food?

Can the defamiliarization of such mappings effect the reading and perspective we have on the city , or enhance it because of its ability to force people to view the common everyday in a more unique manner?


One in a million and a billion in one, compact and anxious, the matters are fleeting, permanence is fucked. The historical artifact is a trace, a scarred sky above a black, red, grey, or green sphere. Planes are a lie and so is color. Transparency is intimate, but sometimes cold.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Questions for Discussion 6. geospatial web + basemap response

geospatial web:
How do you "tag" content? is it too subjective?

How would you go about implementing LUI in a regulated way? and would there be a way to have "standards" for geo-tagging locations, like Wikipedia?

Would/could this interface be public and available to all people, regardless of socioeconomic status?

Is there a way to objectively define the city as event?

Space is an evolving set of relationships. Aside from the cell-phone and computer, what are some other objects/advances in technology that have defined space?

If the infrastructure of a space is being violated, is that set of roads, sidewalks, or paths, still valuable?

Monday, February 23, 2009

To Scale: Slow and Fast 1.2

“How ill-equipped we are to observe this moving, changing world! Our range of detection is so narrow that we are nearly blind and must use ingenuity to extend our sight. A plant appears unconscious to us but if we visually speed up its movements by time-lapse photography, the plant seems to become a perceiving, reacting animal. Edward Steichen is currently filming the changes of a rosebush. At the other pole with still photography and extremely slow movies, Hans Jenney makes visible the rich, strange world of very rapid vibratory motions. In these previously invisible brief shudderings, we now see complex rhythms, elaborate circulations, fantastic growths, violent disturbances. Is it possible to extend our perceptual reach new artificial means, in order to sense environmental changes that are now beyond that unaided reach? A film compresses twenty-four hours of city changes into three minutes, and a new world is revealed…” Kevin Lynch In Change Made Visible. What Time is this Place? Kevin Lynch, MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England 1972 p. 187

In the case of Gordon’s harvester ants as Johnson points out, what was not understood, what was still invisible was how the ants’ colonies, the global picture of this system, developed over time. This was a problem of scales. The “phenomenon had gone unobserved because people had been thinking about ants – and watching ants in the wrong scale.” Entomologists had been studying the ants “at the scale of weeks and months” but to really understand the cycles of this system they needed to observe them at “the scale of decades”. Gordon who had been observing ant colonies year after year for fifteen years, in about five years began to see what was really happening; “like a stop-motion film of a vine winding its way around a branch, Gordon’s research transformed the way we think of ants by transforming the temporal scale with which we perceived them”. (35)

The footage that was collected in New York City along the length of Broadway Street in the NY A/V mapping project was taken back to the city four years later. This continuous zoom, CT-scan, played at three different speeds within a moving container traveling north on the same axis of the original CT-scan of Manhattan as the inhabitants entered “this encapsulated moment in time” to observe their city from afar (four years later). As they went about their daily activities, the passerby examined and reflected on their city while their presence and activity was “overlapped onto the other speeds of activity previously collected”. (36) New York resident Lorissa Clevenger noted; “this is a great reminder of time and how things seem to never change, and yet how quickly what we have seen changes”. (37) What phenomena will become evident once this document is looked at another scale? What will we see and understand about the cycles of this city in 10 years?

In speaking about the ants, Johnson continues “that larger patterns can emerge out of uncoordinated local actions” and he compares this to the city of Manchester which have “patterns of human movement and decision-making that have been etched into the texture of the city blocks” and that a dialogue that emerges between the city residents and this pattern affects “subsequent decisions”. (38) Like the ants in the Myth of the Ant Queen, he says; “All you need is a thousand of individuals and a few simple rules of interactions…. There’s no need for a Baron Haussmann in this world, just a few repeating patterns of movement, amplified into larger shapes that last for lifetimes…” (39)

35 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 80
36 Skinner, Martha. South to North: Zoom/Section Seven Day Trajectory on Broadway Street. In South edited by Ronald Rael, 30-39. Clemson School of Architecture, 2005, p.38
37 see NY A/V guest book, day 1 Bowling Green, May 30 2005
38 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 40
39 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 41

To Scale: Slow and Fast 1.1

Let us now return to the discussion of the merging of two vocabularies; drawing and moving image and to note that it is not moving image that is being looked at for inspiration, or that the starting point is architectural drawings but that rather the intent is to create a hybrid, a new kind of document which allows these dualities of the realistic and abstract, picturesque and analytical to coexist. In the discussion of this merging, the measuring system is related to both time and distance. Scale is described through time and duration and it is sinuous to speed. Like on a conventional architectural drawing, zooming in is about looking at details, zooming out is about seeing a larger organizational system. Conversely, with moving image zooming in is achieved by slowing down, zooming out is achieved by speeding up.

In Auggie’s story, slowing down allows one to understand the uniqueness of each moment and the many stories told with the images captured with photography over a long period of time, while looking quickly through these images (speeding up) allows us to see the repetition and sameness of these individual moments. In “this contradiction is embodied the two distinct scales that can be revealed in two different speeds” in moving image. This is evident in NY A/V. “By speeding up the footage of the entire length of Broadway Street, we see and understand the physical and ephemeral patterns of the city. We see the transformations of the configurations of the street, the light, the topography and the movements of people and cars. Slowing down the footage allows us to see the details - the activities, the populations, their clothing, what they say and look at, what they express”. (32) At both speeds, we experience the fleeting moments, the temporal. These moments are as Kracauer states in The Establishment of Physical Existence, “…imperceptible were it not for two cinematic techniques: accelerated-motion, which condenses extremely slow and, hence, unobservable developments…and slow motion, which expands movements too fast to be registered”. (33) Speeds with video, like scales in a drawing, allow for different information to be articulated. In the study of a place, extreme slow motion exposes the subtleties of what may be considered banal everyday interactions, slowing down reveals the gestures that would usually remain unseen at normal speed. Like artist Bill Viola’s video/sound installation, The Greeting, which takes the real-time 45-second encounter of two women and stretches into a slow-motion encounter of 10-minutes, this document is in a zoomed-in state, achieving a kind of possession of time. It is a moment so slow that it is “arrested, rendered, stretched, and compressed, in short articulated, we can state that we have possession of it, that we are approaching a new vocabulary of space-time”, as stated by photographer László Moholy-Nagy in Vision in Motion. (34)

32 Skinner, Martha. South to North: Zoom/Section Seven Day Trajectory on Broadway Street. In South edited by Ronald Rael, 30-39. Clemson School of Architecture, 2005, p. 34
33 Kracauer, Sigfried, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 52
34 Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo. Vision in Motion. Chicago: Institute of Design, 1947, p. 247

Thursday, February 19, 2009

mapping "cyber" space

The article I just posted made me start thinking about the internet as a real "space". Right now it seems that everything is very separated and people are isolated within their own online activities.

This thought has risen a few questions for me:

In the future, what could the "space" of the internet become?

What would the "space" feel like? Could there be an architecture to the space?

Will people someday be able to experience connections with an environment online like we can in "real life"?

And, what would this mean for people like us, who think very tangibly about space?

internet as a brain

Here is the article I was referring to at the end of class today:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Questions for Discussion 5. Space-Time Problems / Change Made Visible ?

Interpreting the writings purely by their titles one could interpret these articles to be contrary. However, both articles discuss a retooling and a rethinking of our design and environments simply stating that the speed of things has changed. “Another is the futurists who tried to portray the inner life of things, both animate and inanimate, and to show how it connected to its surroundings” (Change Made Visible, 164). Both articles site futurists and discuss the environment in relation to change, time, and speed. “A new viewpoint in the visual arts is a natural consequence of this age of speed which has to consider the moving eye” (Space-Time Problems, 246). While both articles discuss juxtaposition, layering, montage, inversion, contrast, transparency and light, Change Made Visible optimistically narrates opportunity for intervention within our environments, while Space-Time Problems portrays and architectural ignorance to the changing nature of our lives. Change Made Visible was part narrative fiction and part advocacy for passive environmental stimuli.


Did humans speed things up?

Did nature have trouble relating to nature before we sped it up?

Did the invention and implementation of the internet, automobiles, trains, and planes ultimately manifest our sped up lives and cities?

Is there a problem with the way we relate to our environments?

Should environment or city stimuli be designed passively or actively?

While Change Made Visible gives suggestions on ways to design such as sequence design as a layering of historical artifacts what other ways might we design juxtaposition, contrast, and layering into an environment?

Is awareness of environments complexities one the most critical departure points for the design of environments? This is to say do we need to understand that a very old baroque building looks interesting when juxtaposed against a modern minimalist buildings made of contrasting materials or is that inherent?

Who wrote these articles?

Is motion a derivative of speed and time?

Is speed the derivative of distance and time?

Monday, February 16, 2009

light sketching

Upon reading the "Vision and Motion" article, I remembered this image and wanted to share it. In this photograph, Pablo Picasso is "painting" a Centaur with light. Light sketching is an interesting visual concept to me and one that I intend to explore in my final project.

The following is extracted from "light painting", a Wikipedia article.

The light can either be used to selectively illuminate parts of the subject or to "paint" a picture by shining it directly into the camera lens. Light painting requires a sufficiently slow shutter speed, usually a second or more. Like night photography, it has grown in popularity since the advent of digital cameras because they allow photographers to see the results of their work immediately.

Light painting can take on the characteristics of a quick pencil sketch. Pablo Picasso was photographed in 1949 doing a quick sketch in the air.

Flash lights or light pens can also be used to create Full Bleed images. Different colored lights can be used to project an image on the CCD.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

J.R. Carpenter's Contemporary Art -Mappings-

Art Selector Contemporary Fine art is a great website of artist J.R. Carpenter and his work in mapping. All 4 websites cover a broad range of topics, from mapping sleeping conditions in different areas of Montreal in "Les huit quartiers du sommeil" to mappings of the surrounding neighborhood in "Entre Village" as well as the mapping of fragments of history in Rome and the different categories they fall under. You can visit each of these fully interactive websites by following their links from the website listed below. I especially enjoyed "Entre Village," there is a hand-drawn building on a piece of lined notebook paper, you run the mouse of each of the windows and doors and there is a link to a video of different places within the neighborhood. The colors and textures are rich and well-filmed. It is a simple set-up but contains much information. The last work featured is titled "The Cape." It is a fictional mapping, it contains photos, videos, maps and sounds. It is beautifully laid out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

eat me

This notation was an investigation of our daily lives and eating habits. Using the GPS as a way of revealing our pedestrian travels across campus, we were able to map and analyze our total exercise put forth in the time period of one week. Ironically these brief segments of walking were usually to a destination where we would eat, or get a snack. By recording also what was eaten, we were able to compare the data of the amount of calories consumed to the amount that was burned. From this research we both realized that we should probably pay more attention to what we eat or start walking a lot more.

Living House: idea for final project

I consistently have appreciated housing. I think most architects share a regard or a love for the house. I suppose this is because we sit around our place of residence and scheme and dream of ways we can intervene or manipulate our own little piece of habitat. The house, and our love for it, is probably genetic, further evolved with each generation. Thinking of an office building does not exactly invoke a sense of intimacy or nostalgia. The roots and conceptions of the house are deep and multi-generational. Thoughts. . . . .
-capture: intimacy and individual personality
-translate: the range of economic, social, cultural, ethnicity, and contextual idiosyncrasies of possibly (Pickens, County)
-document: as a style, question, interview, data, quantitative and qualitative
-negotiate: in between, threshold, space outside of the house, relationships, connections, emergence
What is the difference between mapping and diagramming?

Obsessed with Complexity

1896: First public motion picture in United States at Koster & Bials Music Hall (adapted from Wikipedia)
4,000: number of television sets produced in America in 1947 (Koolhass, Mutations, pg513)
14 million: number of television sets produced in America in 1953 (Koolhass, Mutations, pg513)

The moving image or video and its inherent complexities are exponentially dominating the scene. Two weeks ago my roommate and I sat down to watch the film Rope by Alfred Hitchcock. Interrupting the movie because of his boredom my roommate said, “I wonder if this film was completely riveting and action packed in 1948 when first viewed in theaters; I bet this was a really exciting film for the time.” He could not even finish the movie; it lacked excitement, action, speed, and overall complexity. In fact, he did not finish the movie; he left and went downtown for some real action. I wonder if he is right though, were the films of the 50’s riveting for people in the 50’s? If the answer is yes, then it is fair to assume that as a society we have evolved; and now we garner for more; more action, drama, movement, speed, etc. However, I believe that many of us still find entertainment, suspense, and complexity in very simple and static things. The question is not so much which is a better means of portrayal and narrative; sculpture, painting, 2d mapping, 3d mapping, motion picture, or stills? But rather, how do you bring excitement and compel and dynamics to the format you have decided upon as a means of conveying your idea or narrative? Entertainment is non-discriminative of format. Complexity is inherent in everything. It is portraying and depicting the qualities of, that matter.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mathematical and Sensual Knowledge, the Body and the City 1.3

Returning to the moving image aspect of this mapping, historian and architecture critic Anthony Vidler poses the question of whether Walter Benjamin had suggested such a map in his life-long unfinished Arcades Project. In The City as Film in Kracauer, Benjamin, and Eisenstein, Vidler states that Benjamin in his writing of the Arcades Project “opened the possibility of yet another way of reading this work: was it not perhaps the sketch of a screen play for a movie of Paris?” (28)

“Could one not shoot a passionate film of the city plan of Paris? Of the development of its different forms [Gestalten] in temporal succession? Of the condensation of a century-long movement of streets, boulevards, passages, squares, in the space of a half an hour?” Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project

We do not know if that was Benjamin’s intent and we do not know what such a map would have been like, however as has been so far demonstrated, we must explore this filmic potential in the making of our maps. And that of much importance are these filmic, real life experiences in the relationship between the human body and the city body. Film critic and former architect Siegfried Krakauer in Once Again the Street, states that “the flâneur is intoxicated with life in the street” (29) suggesting that he, in this case the strolling inhabitant is obviously affected by the sensory experiences triggered by its immediate environment, the city it travels. In this case, “intoxicated” as if the body has been overdosed by phenomena and the complexity of activities of the city as if substances now moving within the blood flow of the human body.

Krakauer recalls the first film he saw as a child; “What thrilled me so deeply was an ordinary suburban street, filled with lights and shadows which transfigured it. Several trees stood about, and there was in the foreground a puddle reflecting invisible house façades and a piece of sky. Then a breeze moved the shadows, and the façades with the sky below began to waver.” (30) And even though this description comes from his observation of a film, something that had been choreographed by a director, the observation is a typical representation of an everyday moment in the life of any city. Let’s imagine this as a real life perception, something ephemeral and intangible. If captured, is this something that we can chart and even analyze? Could we not calculate the exactitude of those vibrations as mapped by the size, frequency and speed of the ripples in the water?

In that same essay, Krakauer speculates; “perhaps cinema helps us to move form ‘below’ to ‘above’?” (31) and while this is the opposite of what I have been proposing, does it suggest the potential of the below returning us to the above. Does it suggest what the observation of the individual ants interacting tells us about the overall system?

Yes possibly, but what Krakauer is referring to as the ‘above’ in this case is celestial and even spiritual, this being the opposite of sensual and of the body and while contradicting my main argument it also supports it. It emphasizes the flaw of this sole superior point of view as totalizing, abstract, removed and disconnected from the tactile realities of the below experiences and interactions that make up the reality of the city. It is important to also note that Krakauer’s recollection also describes something very physical and sensual; the reflectivity, transparency, movement…the physical aspects of place as affected by each other and as perceived by an inhabitant of the city in that particular moment and space. Let’s now bring the potential of the GPS into this and speculate on the potential also of it deciphering the multiple forces defining that fleeting moment… the wind, the rain, the time of the year, the passing resident and his particular placement on earth in relationship to these elements bringing us back to the importance of looking at these devices, GPS/audio/video, as interrelated and capable of combining the “mathematical” and the “sensual” of these bodies.

28 Kracauer, Sigfried, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 52
29 Vidler, Anthony. Warped Space, Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England 2000. P. 115
30 Kracauer, Sigfried, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 52
31 Kracauer, Sigfried, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. Oxford University Press, 1965, p. xi

Mathematical and Sensual Knowledge, the Body and the City 1.2

The Chronocyclegraph of bricklaying by Frank Gilbreth of 1912 are uncannily similar to the GPS drawings generated by these various city mapping projects. The visualization of the “fine details of hand movement of an assembly worker over time” in the chrnoncyclegraph resembles the accumulation of movements of the city’s individual users in the Amsterdam RealTime, Cabspotting and BiCi_N GPS drawings (26). Both of these types of documents as x-ray looking images reveals ephemeral details of a body in movement. One extreme looks at the activity as related to the human body, the other as related to the body of the city. In the same way that information such as weather, time and topography is derived and graphed from the longitude, latitude location, and altitude information of the city users as marked by the GPS device, the chronocyclegraph, from the Greek term Chronos (time), is itself a graph of cycles in time. This method/device, which continues to be used today in industrial engineering, charts and examines this information in order to improve ease of movement and efficiency. What does this suggest for the potential of the GPS as a device/method between the human body and the city body? Could it lead to the optimal functionality of this intimate relationship? Could it lead to optimal functionality of the city body and to optimal functionality of the human body?

The photographs by scientist and chronophotographer Étienne-Jules Marey are also important references in the discussion of this relationship. His photographs, which also look like x-rays in motion or Cine CT scans and GPS drawings, were significant contributions to the development of cardiology, aviation and moving image. As disparate as these areas seem, they refer to the extreme of scales and fields that I am proposing we merge here and of their latent relationship. Marey started his research by examining the movement of blood in the human body and in 1863 he improved a device from the mid 19th century, which measured blood pressure. He made the Sphygmograph, which was originally designed by German physiologist Karl von Vierordt in 1854, portable as well as able to chart graphically the beat of the heart. He was able to amplify this repetitive internal rhythm of the human body of pulse waves into a drawing. While a version of this device continues to be used today as the “blood pressure cuff” (27) that we all know, the portable GPS is very similar yet it is capable of measuring both the human heart as well as the beat of the city. It is possible to write, measure and analyze both of these drastic scales simultaneously and in relation to each other.

26 see chrnoncyclegraph in wikipedia
27 see chrnoncyclegraph in wikipedia

Mathematical and Sensual Knowledge, the Body and the City 1.1

Let us now return to the cycling term and look at it as an idea of time but also as an activity. Let’s look at it in time as a collector of the routine of the city and let’s look at it as the activity of [bi]cycling and return to the BiCi_N project which collects the cycles of the city via the bicycling activities of its many occupants as they cycle the city. The project writes the movements of the city in time and in movement as the numerous inhabitants of the city live their lives while it also maps the individual rotations and data of each user as they displace themselves within the city. Again, these inhabitants as body(ies) on bikes are equipped with GPS and audio/video extending into the city as mobile GPS/A/V drawing apparatuses drawing the city and their own bodies at full scale and in real time.

With GPS we get the absolute, certain information of the trajectory such as location, altitude, weather, heart rate, cadence, speed, duration... while audio/video captures the perceptive, bodily characteristics of the space such as imagery, ambiance, texture, light, activity, conversations, sounds, expressions, etc. Cycling as the city cycles, the inhabitants read and write their stories vividly and precisely in the BiCi_N project. Described and narrated through the imagery of the scenery and conversations caught on the A/V device and grounded with the details of the data inscribed by GPS, the city is revealed qualitatively and quantitatively as a system of routines and interactions. The city is captured in all of its qualities as “pictorial and sensual, intellectual and mathematical”. The relationship between the human body and the city body become an important point of departure for further exploration, something that has not been explored in the previously mentioned GPS projects, Amsterdam RealTime and Cabspotting.

What do calories burned, heart rate, and body mass mean as related to length and speed of travel, weather, and topography?
And what does latitude and longitude of user, distance to destination, and time, and latitude mean as related to track, bearing and heart rate?

Can we analyze this data of the human body and city body as interrelated an intimately connected? Can we analyze this data the way that a radiologist analyzes a CT-scan?

notation 3 - Body in movement as defined by space and activity

You are to draw your body in motion. using GPS and audio/video. Your notation will describe the activity of the body and the space that it occupies, defines, is defined by. You are to choreograph the set up in a way that allows you to be analytical.

References for inspiration:
Photography; Chronophotography by Marey and Muybridge, Stereoscopic photography by Gilbreth, Photomontage by Matter....
Painting; Nude Descending the Staircase by DuChamp...
Drawing; Traject Pendant un an d’une Jeune FIlle du XVIe arrondisement by Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe
Moving Image; Bullet Time (The Matrix)
Sculpture; Apollo and Dafne by Bernini, Unique forms in the continuity of space by Boccioni, the Walking Man by Rodin...

You may depart and/or reinterpret these examples. They are meant to get you thinking. Keep it simple, yet exploratory. Be rigorous in your thinking. Consider the potential of the tools you will be using and of your body as both a drawing instrument and the subject under analysis. The notation is to be around 30 and 90 seconds but as related to the length of the activity/ movement.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Increasingly we are becoming a society of specialization. The wealth of information and complexity of situations has lead to a necessary specialist. It is difficult if not impossible for one individual to comprehend and be literate in the multi faceted issues that affect nearly all subjects of interest in contemporary society. Because of this we have employed the specialist. We can all agree that information and technology plays a more critical role in all areas of interest and study. How has technology manifested a specialist in architecture? We can clearly see specialization within architecture; architect as programmer, architect as geographer, architect and producer, architect as film maker. While the specialist in many circumstances is very valuable they may be designing themselves for obsolescence. As brought up today in discussion, specialization in fields such as medicine and architecture can be a bit problematic and introverted.


What about pure and simple over analysis? It is one thing to be inquisitive and question ourselves and the world from ourselves or around ourselves and another to over analyze and fixate to point of complete retraction. This is to say that we must be careful when analyzing or dissecting our environments, bodies, and relationships. We lose sight of the beauty and abstraction in our world when we become over analytical. The more we literate our world it seems the more we blind ourselves of the tensions and idiosyncrasies of place and body, we dissolve our curiosities into sciences, and we make literate events that are only perceptible during a fleeting moment. This may seem simple, but simple can be interesting and informative, while retaining complexity. How can we be inquisitive and specific without destroying the very reason most of us love architecture and design. Why do we love architecture and film? Is film specific? So often film is jam packed with audio (music and dialogue), visual (material and place), and emotional interaction it is difficult to imagine a film as explicit? Do we forget that at the root of our interests and passions for film is its preoccupation with entertainment? In many ways it would be exciting to see a bit of return to haphazard entertainment within the arts and architecture. Is our rigor displaced?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Questions for Discussion 4

The Establishment of Physical Existence - Kracauer

Kracauer states that, "films are different in two ways: first they respect reality as it evolves; and do so with aid of cinematic techniques and devices." Their is much talk in the article of the idea of 'realism'. What makes film interesting as an art form is its ability to capture reality, even realities that we may never have the ability to experience.

Can reality possibly become problematic because of the capacity of film is to frame, interpret and shape the reality it depicts?

He goes on to state that, "not all films are realistic (filming someones activities for 24 hours) would be neither interesting nor artistic." This makes me think of current themes in television that deal in the realm of Reality TV. Though they undergo an editing process, they tend to have this 24 hours reality to them.

How is our cultures depiction of realism over time skewed from his interpretation, due to what we are subjected to (reality tv), and the fact that we do find these things interesting?

Film has the ability to inform us of everyday life and serve to document time and place and make connections between aspects of experiences that are often now thought together. "Film ought to proceed like a tourist who, in strolling through the landscape, lets his eyes wander about so that his ultimate image of it will be composed of sundry details and vistas."

What is it about the camera that when behind it begins to reveal the material world in a different perspective, that would otherwise go unnoticed?

If the camera is a tool for recording place, time, movement and event. Are there elements that become skewed and lost information due to the eye behind the camera and the editing process? Does the vision of the person filming begin to take over, in a way to get a specific message across (a 'lie')?

"Unlike paintings, film images encourage such decomposition because of their emphatic concern with raw materials do not get consumed."
Kracauer could not of foreseen what the computers abilities and role it would have on film editing and how it is used to view the physical world.

With a few exceptions has film disintegrated
into our culture, and in a way stopped exploring physical reality, and a world that is unknown? Or has the use of CGI and other digital technologies allowed us to have the opposite effect.?

It might be safe to say that film is the art of our generation, but with this in mind what if any are the problems with this? Is it causing social disconnect or manipulation and misinterpretation of our cultures?

Kracauer does not discuss the idea of mixed or hybrid medias. How can these types of mixed medias add to the linage of expanding the pictorial field?

How can using film techniques as a process make us (architects) multidimensional thinkers in search of new possibilities for cultural and environmental design?

How do you begin to translate and communicate moving image of space, inhabitation, perception, and experience that unfolds over time? (Creating 2 dimensional drawing systems)

Berger suggests that in the beginning of the camera age, people that were subjected to the camera were unaware of the images purpose, and the capacity with which the image would have over time, that is why old photographs are more telling then they are now.

Why is this? Is it because of our consumer driven society, and our relentlessness to pound product driven imagery for the sole purpose not for art but for selling us products?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cycles: From Accumulation to Accuracy 1.1

Amsterdam RealTime and Cabspotting demonstrate the possibility of understanding the city from the accumulation of individual acts. Through the multiplicity of itineraries, the collective order of the city begins to emerge, a map defined not from above but from below, from the interactions of individual inhabitants of the city. Geographer and graphic designer Rebecca Ross in Perils of Precision posits the question; is such a collective map in its accumulative “fuzziness” and x-ray quality even more precise than the maps “presented behind a façade of precision and expertise”. She argues that master builder Robert Moses’s Panorama project, a detailed 3-dimensional model of New York City while being “the most detailed physical map ever made” and while attempting to be used as a “tool for the future of social planning… by being kept up-to-date over time and referred by city leaders as they thought through changes to the city’s master plan”, is not only static, inflexible, quickly irrelevant, but also inaccurate. (22)

“This paradox of representation—in which summary is valued more highly than the experience to which it refers—enables official maps to become information-spaces within which power is accumulated and maintained. Highly detailed maps are presented to culture as if they were flawless reflections of space. In fact, they are more typically accumulations of the maker’s own experience from a single point of view, subject to the limits of space and time.” Ross, Rebecca. Perils of Precision. In Else/where: Mapping New cartographies of Networks and Territories by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, 184-199. University of Minnesota Press 2006 P. 185

Amsterdam RealTime and Cabspotting instead of becoming quickly irrelevant and of the past, regenerate and are constantly up-to-date. They present the potential of a different kind of accuracy, where the map is made accurate out of the accumulation of their users activities in the space of their city in time, they are made accurate and real out of the accumulation of the real life of the cit. Likewise, ants will adjust their behaviors based on their local ground level interaction and its repetition over time as a way of achieving accuracy. Johnson states that “because the decision-making process is spread out over thousands of individuals, the margin of error is vanishingly small… for every ant that happens to overestimate the number of foragers on duty, there is one that underestimates.” (23)

The accurateness in the “fussiness” that Ross speaks about in the Amsterdam RealTime project is what emerges out of accumulation. It is like the blurry yet definite triangle revealed by the routine of the young’s girl in Paris over a year. However in this case the “fussiness” is the collective accumulation of the numerous users of the city and not the accumulation of one single user. More importantly it is the accumulation of ground level reality and not the abstract reflection of an authoritative single mapmaker. The authoritative map in its stillness and inflexibility is stagnant and irrelevant. The authoritative map does not breathe, change or adjust. Is the authoritative map more akin to a dead body?

Ironically, Ross notes that this fussy quality is x-ray looking. (24) It is important to note that it is x-ray acting also as it reveals to us the true inner-workings of the city as a body under analysis. This interiority is visualized through the markings of activity that accumulate as GPS lines that emerge, move and flow like the life of the city and like the systems of a living body under analysis. But are they x-ray acting in that it provides us with a view inside? Are they really sectional views into the interiority of the city and are they analytical?

The Cabspotting project is experimenting with the analytical potential. The site is open for proposals and several artists have already begun analysis of the material in an attempt to understand the social, economical and cultural tendencies that are revealed by such a drawing. (25) While the studies featured on the site gives us a fore view into the possibilities, are these two projects, Amterdam RealTime and Cabspotting really looking inside?

While these two innovative projects are incredibly interesting by attaining the multiplicity of the city and of the multitude of trajectories happening daily and in being temporal and changing as the city does, these documents are still views from afar, they are planometric and flat, and from above and do not possess the picturesque “evoking of lifelike images” aspect of the city. Is it possible to return to the balance between the “intellectual and mathematical” and the “pictorial and sensual knowledge” of the early maps that Lucia Nuti describes?

GPS undoubtedly has the mathematical accuracy and as demonstrated by these two projects, GPS also has the potential of revealing a kind of sensuality of the city through the emerging temporal lines that are suggestive of body movement and activity. However the documents remain mostly abstract and distant and the balance is not yet achieved.

22 Ross, Rebecca. Perils of Precision. In Else/where: Mapping New cartographies of Networks and Territories by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, 184-199. University of Minnesota Press 2006 p. 184
23 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 77
24 Ross, Rebecca. Perils of Precision. In Else/where: Mapping New cartographies of Networks and Territories by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall, 184-199. University of Minnesota Press 2006 p. 186
25 Cabspotting website

Amsterdam RealTime website
Cabspotting website