Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cycles: Collective and Individual 1.3

Recently with the ability of GPS instruments to record human movement in utmost precision, a couple of studies have taken what Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe did with Trajects pendant un an d’une jeune fille du XVIe arrondissement to the scale of the collective. In these experiments the routine of multiple inhabitants of the city are documented. These experiments have the potential of revealing what was discovered by the Gordon’s ant studies that Johnson refers to. The “ants think locally and act locally, but their collective action produces global behavior”. (19)

In 2002 Amsterdam's Waag Society and Artist Esther Polak provided several inhabitants of the City of Amsterdam with these portable (GPS) devices to create Amsterdam RealTime, a plan drawing of this city that emerges out of the movements of the participants as they go about their routines during the period of two months (Fig.). This drawing, like the Louis Kahn example, “does not register streets or blocks of houses, but consists of the sheer movements of real people". (20) In this case it is the pedestrian movement that is captured but not as a frozen moment in time as in Kahn’s studies but as an alive document, moving and changing. Here the document also embodies the temporality that it represents. Here the streets and sidewalks do emerge as white lines, human traces of different densities and qualities as defined by the specifics of city dwellers’ routine and their movement through their city in time. In their abstraction, they visualize the cycles of the city (fig. 4)

19 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 74
20 See Amsterdam RealTime website http://realtime.waag.org/

Amsterdam RealTime website

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