Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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 √Čtienne-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

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