Friday, March 5, 2010


Newer design history posts can be found on

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Design Process of the Radical Map - Amrita Adhikary

American art historian, Roy Rosenweig, in his book The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life, explains that people assemble their experiences into narratives which influences them and allows them to make sense of their lives. In mapping these experiences it helps to come with an approach that honors the individual’s perspective but gives a clear and distilled overview.
In simple words, there are layers of information that can surface through mapping rather than direct experience. The mapping can uncover hidden meaning and derive inferences from simple data. So a map can exhibit obvious data but mapping probes and derives conclusions and nudges hypotheses.
Mapping according to James Corner is ‘uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds’. The possibility to stretch your mind by comparing and synthesizing various data opens up a realm of possibilities and expands your frame of mind. It uses the information from the x and y axis to construct the z axis.
The Operation of Mapping in the New Global Environment
In the move toward globalization, public life is scheduled more through time than according to place. Events in this space occur with such speed and complexity that nothing is certain. Overdose and accessibility to vast information has changed our perception of it making the shocking seem normal and the far, reachable. Mapping in this scenario helps find connections between disconnected information.
So if the act of ordering creates order and mapping creates the map, it is worth considering that mapping as a design process makes explicit, things that are likely to remain hidden until they have been mapped. Mapping according to James Corner has three parts. Field is the graphical system over which the observations (extracts) will be organized. Extracts are the observations that are selected and pulled out from the mileu and plotting incorporates drawing out of new connections among the various extracts within the field. The possibilities for plotting can only be limited by the imagination and curiosity of the designer or investigator of that mapping process.

The Genealogy of Influences
An Outline

In presenting a genealogy of maps which were used as influences for my radical approach to mapping the UT commute, the starting point was Peter Sloterdijk’s The Theory of Spheres. According to him we all exist in separate spheres trying to make connections with other spheres of our lives such as family, school, travel etc. which makes the global. Noting the emotional and vehement tone of the respondents of the UT mapping also connected to the Emotion or Bio-Mappings (TheStockport Emotion Map) by Christian Nold and Julie Mehretu’s Maps of my Life/Sounds of my World.
A Text Cloud, which is a visual depiction of user generated tags or words of a site or activity presented a way of quantifying the common concerns, suggestions, and random thoughts that were expressed by participants when responding to the problems of the commute. This added another facet to the Transparency Map, by Kerry Mitchell which graphed the appearance of the word ‘transparency’ in The New York Times for the last 19 years. The beauty of the Transparency map was the representation of hard data as visul art. Derivations from the UT survey suggested that problems and solutions coexist, which led me to my final influence, the Mandala, a cosmic diagram that represents our relation with the universe.

1. Bubble Map

The UT commute was assembled in a collaborative online document entered by interviewers recording the concerns and suggestions of the participants who were students of the University of Texas, at Austin. On analyzing the data, “potholes” and “mean drivers” jump at you. It makes you stop a moment and think about the bubble that we live in.
In my understanding of Sloterdijk’s sphere theory, each bubble has to connect. In these connections, potholes and mean drivers play a part in making the bridge connecting us to our commute bubble smooth or strained. As I look at it, each participant had his own story which is his point of view. These rants, ramblings, and composed thoughts expose more about how we connect with the other bubbles or spheres of our existence. These connections are also emotional which leads me to my second influence, The Stockport Emotion Map.

2. Emotion Mapping- Stockport
Mapping the intangible is fascinating and important. In 2007, over a period of two months in Stockport, UK, about 200 people took part in six public mapping events. This map collected together and mapped the results of two activities, Drawing Provocations & Emotion Mapping. People were asked to sketch their responses to a variety of serious and humorous provocations about their daily lives such as what really annoys them about Stockport, where they meet their friends, as well as who are the most important and dangerous people in town. All the drawings were geographically positioned where people mentioned them. The second activity involved people walking freely through Stockport equipped with a special device that measured their emotional arousal in relation to their geographical location in the town.
Usually views and opinions are never recorded and forgotten because we think of them as trivial. This map aimed to record the trivial and seemingly meaningless conversations and events of our everyday lives and allowed us to see them all simultaneously.
When we talk about issues, our responses are guarded and neatly packaged, but responding to things is freer. When a thing becomes explicit or public, it becomes an issue and therefore requires a different response. This mapping captures our response to daily things before they become an issue. The student data of UT lends itself to this mapping as the opinions and suggestion are vehement, meaningful, and heartfelt. Perhaps mapping these emotions would expose latent issues of greater importance than just the commute.
3. ‘Map of my life/Sounds of my World’
Map of my life/Sounds of my World’, is a mapping led by Julie Mehretu, where the artist asked the students of East African origin to record the sounds of Minneapolis, where they lived, to draw connections between the home they left behind and the home they inhabited now. The interface was an interactive audio-visual collage of sound bites and photographs contributed by the students. Similarly, in his book ‘Presence of the Past’, Roy Rosenweig, studies how deeply ordinary people are engaged by the past but alienated from history. It is felt that the past is viewed in a very complex way mainly emphasizing the individual’s interpretation of his and his family’s past and ignoring the interpretations of those in other communities. This ‘privatized’ version of their past reinforces barriers. Selective memory can be the bane of communication and peace efforts by resisting rather than promoting change. As in the India - Pakistan conflict, as also in the Middle-East crisis, it is difficult to move away from the atrocities committed against your own group. A rational approach or a middle ground is hard to reach when each group’s private memory is so raw, vivid and imbalanced. In mapping, it would be helpful to come with a view that honors the individual point of view but gives clear and distilled overview of all the stakeholders. This hypothetical map would ideally make your presence visible to others. As an idea it guided the objective of my radical map where one’s input featured and made a difference in the outcome.
4. Text Clouds
Text Cloud is one of the many data visualizations created by scientist and mathematician, Mike Wattenburg. Through his experimental website, Many Eyes, users can upload the data they want to visualize and generate interactive displays. A text cloud is a visualization of word frequency as a ‘weighted list’. It has seen a rise in popularity in analyzing political speeches. The text cloud of President Obama’s inaugural speech made by CNN highlights his main refrain ‘new nation’. Used as a tool it can effectively sort data and remove redundancies to enable a map that does not just exhibit obvious data but probes and derives conclusions. The importance of a tag is shown with font size and color. I saw potential in using it as a tool to substantiate my analysis of the data.
5. The Arrival of Transparency- Kerry Mitchell
Data is represented strikingly in this interactive map which was at the back of my mind for the sheer visual character. Access to infinite information has changed our perception of it and made the bizarre, normal, perhaps heralding a new normalcy.
This visualization that appeared in NY Times, captures instances of the word “transparency” in the Times articles from 1990 to 2009 and is a radial or timepiece graph. The first mention of “transparency” is at the 1 o’clock position. Each ray represents a month; the months proceed clockwise into an explosion of instances of the word. In concept it is similar to the tag cloud or the text cloud.
6. Mandala -The pattern of creation

The Sanskrit word "mandala" means circle. It is seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself. It represents a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite. Most mandalas have four concentric circles symbolizing the enlightenment which the meditating person must gain before she can enter the illuminated palace (centre) through the outermost circle, which is the purifying fire. Mandalas are a powerful tool for bringing the mind to a place of quiet and the soul to a place of connection to the Divine. Meditation on a Mandala may have the potential to change how we see ourselves, our planet, and perhaps even our own life purpose. The harmony of the mandala influenced my final representation of the commute as a spiral where the conflicting directions of the problems and suggestions still show their interconnectedness but disappear, or seem to emanate from one singular point.

Synthesis of the Influences
Radical Map depicting the UT commute
In Mapping the UT commute as a visual depiction of user generated data that quantify the common concerns of the participants and their suggestions for improvement, I also wanted the participants to matter and the mapping to reveal latent issues of the group. There were two directions that I wanted to explore with mapping the commute. The first was a Static map that would represent the concerns over a period of two months which was the time of the data collection. Being true to the data, I wanted to deduct what the main concerns were. Using a text cloud online software ( as a sifting tool, I was able to get an idea of keywords that were mentioned frequently. As discussed earlier, text clouds resonate the idea that is most explicit. Although there is room for error if care is not taken to enter the data correctly so as to minimize noise, a general idea is obtained easily. Using the text cloud as a guide I then went ahead and manually sorted the information to classifying the data as keywords under problems and suggestions. Each problem that was mentioned twice or more was in one category, while a concern or suggestion mentioned more than four times was in another category. The intent was to highlight each concern or suggestion by size and boldness based on the number of times it appeared in the data set.
Outcome of the Synthesis

Depicting Harmony in Conflict-Static Map
Mapping an activity like the UT commute could manifest itself into a map that reflects the feelings regarding the commute and the aspects of it that they love or loathe. The first reflection is of discontentment with the roads, its potholes, and the manic drivers. A lot of emphasis is placed on mean drivers. My map like the Stockport Emotion map or the Twin Cities image/sound map puts value to random thoughts that could actually be plotted to have consequential meanings. Problems and their solutions are integrated and co-exist and gives reason to believe that understanding the problem opens up the pathway for its resolution. The idea of mandala reflected in a cyclone form, where the extreme low pressure at its centre and the counter-clockwise movement of the wind in the Northern Hemisphere brings high winds. Conversely, anti-cyclones bring fair weather because of the high pressure at its core. Together, these spirals represent the positive and negative forces that balance each other. Using this metaphor to represent the UT commute that problems and solutions emanate from the same point, the problems were represented in the counter-clockwise cyclonic movement of the spiral while the clockwise spiral depicted the suggestions in a positive light. I wanted to highlight the positive nature of the suggestions and therefore the brightness of the text was featured.
For the purpose of clarity and perhaps to obtain an overview so that the viewer may make logical deductions from the data, I found the need to précis the information and use it as extracts to plot on the field of the entwined spirals. In the Mehretu map, a similar rationale was used to balance the individual emotions and to distil them and present them as an apt overview. Using the Text cloud as solely a sifting tool to help substantiate my manual analysis of the data to quantify concerns and suggestions, I designed a system where frequently mentioned concerns or suggestions were bigger and bolder and stood out to the viewer. If a map is a depiction of data then this would inform the viewer of the problems and suggestions on the mind of the majority. As a static map, it would be used as a poster of a set of 4 to depict concerns that would presumably differ by the seasons. Placed as a timeline it would reveal a pattern of what really matters in the lives of the students with regard to their commute over the year. Perhaps, like the emotion map it would also uncover latent information that would coax some changes in fields not related to commute. (behavior, all night classes?). Like the mandala, it interacts between entities.
Next Steps
Dynamic Map

Taking the same idea that problems and solutions are interconnected, I wanted to use the medium of real time to depict the relation of problems to solutions as a dynamic map. Users of UT website would be asked to enter information on a site that caters to the commute. Users would be encouraged to enter their concerns, limiting their input to one or two words that best reflect each concern. If it were more than a word they could be separated by a hyphen so that they were perceived as a single word for ease and accuracy. These words would appear on the spiral ranked by the number of times similar words were entered until then. The tail of the spiral draws the most attention and is also most visible. The most mentioned concern would take its prime place at the end of the tail while the ones which were lower in quantity would move down the spiral. Based on the cumulative volume that the word receives, it would be bolder and also occupy a prime place at the tail. Diminishing quantity of entries on that word would move it down the spiral eventually making it disappear. This interplay of information would make the map radiate in a spiral. Words that have seen a peak and are not a concern anymore reflect a resolution or a short memory span. The incentive for the students to participate in this live visual depiction of data is instant realization of where their concern ranks in the mileu. If it is not the main concern, they could also see it trickle down the spiral to take its rightful place. There could be another overlay of information that quantifies concerns that have hit a maximum count into issues needing immediate attention.

There is a thought that the more detailed and life like a map is the more redundant and unnecessary it becomes. Maps, like art must have mystery to have meaning and to make sense.
So is the map only as good as the imagination of the maker? Can the map reveal things that the cartographer had not envisioned?
I believe that the map can take a life of its own once the parameters of the grid and the extractions to be plotted are established.


Corner, James. The Agency of Mapping.
Holmes, Brian. Counter Cartographies.
The Mandala Project: Home Page. Web. .
Rozenweig, Roy. The Presence of the Past.
Sloterdijk, Peter. Theory of Spheres.
"Visualizations: The Art of Times APIs - First Look Blog -" First Look - First Look Blog - Web. 03 Dec. 2009. .
Wattenberg. "Text Clouds." Many Eyes. Web. .
Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds. Web. .

Monday, November 23, 2009

Aging as Data Visualization

Aging as Data Visualization

All objects age.

The aging process records a history of the forces acting upon an object.

The physical manifestations of aging can be read as a type of data visualization.

By analyzing this data visualization we gain a better understanding of not only the object itself but also how the object is used and how it fits into its environment. We can begin to put the object in context.


Public Statues:
The polished part of the bronze statute show where people touch them most often.

Game Path, Worn Carpet, Worn Stairs:
These three are all a type of data visualization for foot traffic.

Tire Wear:

Buttons // Remote Control:

The Neglected Experience of First-Person Mappings


To challenge conventional mapping by utilizing the experiential qualities of the neglected first-person perspective and the authoritative nature of video. While the resulting mapping may not have a comprehensive data-base, it will offer a number of other experiential variables such as speed of travel, traffic patterns, and unique qualities of landscape.

-Discuss operations of mapping in terms of selectivity and drift.

-creation of field, setting of rules, establishment of system

-extraction and isolation

-plotting/setting up of relationships

Geneology of Influences:

C’était un Rendez-vous

Grand Theft Auto

Google Street view,+Austin,+TX+78703&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=43.713406,69.873047&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=2100+Enfield+Rd,+Austin,+Travis,+Texas+78703&ll=30.287161,-97.765489&spn=0.011692,0.017059&z=16&layer=c&cbll=30.287253,-97.765476&panoid=vNsJQeNvFN2lYqGK-DuOCg&cbp=12,260.52,,0,5.11



To recreate our class commuting routes using actual methods originally traveled to make 1st person video.

Continuous videos will be played simultaneously to make a time/distance relationship statement about the variables of each route. Layering will be employed to convey other kinds of information such as color filters to suggest method of travel.

Convergence at the ‘end’ of the video will take place when each commute video ends with a similar framing of the destination.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I aim to explore how the selection and/or visual representation of text can reveal new connections between it and the location(s) it relates to.

Text as Form

  • strips away to bare essentials of text
  • no information necessary to add to the map to make it recognizable (does not mean necessarily functional)
  • factual & functions as traditional maps do, by naming/claiming certain areas
  • reinforces information from traditional maps

Layla Curtis

New York

  • ink on tracing paper (I believe she traced the text from an existing map)
  • little interest in typography; just shows text only & that it is still functional
  • seems very direct & trust-worthy; handwritten but not personal

Jenny Beorkrem

City Neighborhood Posters - Chicago

  • still pretty accurate (in some sense) b/c she’s fitting the text into delineated forms; all right angles
  • single typeface; & clean but with sameness and sterility of traditional maps
  • size & color as ways to differentiate between neighborhoods


Typographic World Map

  • one typeface for all; all caps make it kind of imposing & intense “RUSSIA!!!”
  • distortion of country size is emphasized even more than normal b/c not only comparing the size of the countries & continents to each otther, but you’re also comparing text size

Mark Andrew Webber

City Linoleum Cuts

  • Paris is roughly 5’ x 6’; not sure how big New York is
  • a flow between the different sections of text; interaction that Jenny’s don’t have and feels maybe more accurate with the complete dissolution of borders
  • different typefaces give character to the different locations (but nothing handwritten)

Text as Form/Text as Source

  • Text still fills a more-or-less traditional mapping frame (city, country, etc.)
  • Difference is selection of text is relevant to location, but the text is not traditional mapping information


Missed Connections

  • some obvious visual similarities to Jenny Beorkram’s maps, but using different data
  • of the last hundred or last two weeks of Craigslist Missed Connections posts per state mentioning a specific location at which the connection was missed.

Vera Evstafieva and Andrew Biliter

St. Petersburg: City of Words

  • seems to be hand-illustrated
  • seems more emotional...more of a love note to the city

Ian Huebert

The Literary City

  • Composed of words from poems, songs, stories, etc. that mention San Francisco
  • “loosely” based on St. Petersburg: City of Words map

Mike Boruta

Mouths Open Wide

  • Map of Athens, Ohio, by things he overheard and his own thoughts at a location
  • text selection over text visualization
  • use of type v. handwriting makes it seem more “accurate” & “real”, but conflicting with the recorded information...reduces all the text to the same “feel”
  • interesting to record extremely transitory data, which forces the issue that all maps are using transitory data; this map was never accurate for a single point in time...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Derives - A Genealogy of Sorts

· This project seeks to present a genealogy of sorts that traces the evolution of ‘psycho-geographical’ mapping representations.
Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as

"the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." - (

Another definition is "a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities...just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape." The most important of these strategies is the derive (drift). - (

· The presentation aims to trace the evolution of psycho geograpical derives –

(From acts) intentioned originally as a reaction to the perceived ‘cold unresponsiveness’ of the modernist architectural city when initiated by the Situationists ( among other socio / political concerns)


current day practices that seek to represent and institute a refamiliarization with the physical city ( in its varied forms – architectural, social, natural etc) in an attempt to locate / annotate the meanings associated with everyday physical interactions with it / in it.


Indicate the evolving usage of the ‘derive’ as a methodology to inform upon the individuals position / meaning amidst a changing landscape.

· It also seeks to present/underline the importance of the act of the derive and psycho geographic mapping as an exercise.

While the ideological purposes of the different groups that have practiced ‘derives’ over time have varied, the act of the derive itself and its representation are consistent.

The presentation makes a case for

1. the narrative potential explored by each differing group through the practice of the derive,

2. and its mapping as a method to represent ‘individual’ ‘meanings’ associated with their physical environment.

Lets start with Guy Debord and the Situationists –

What it is -

· An example of mapping the neighborhoods of a city on the ideas of the international Lettrist and Situationist movement.

· The map of Paris has been cut up in different areas that are experienced by the user group as distinct sets/neighborhoods.

· The perceived distance between these areas are visualized by spreading out the pieces of the cut up map. The distance represented does not signify the actual physical distance, but rather the perceived distance of values (social, psychological, attitudinal etc)

· By wandering or drifting (dériver is the French word used) through the city each person can discover his or her own ambient impressions/perceptions of a specific city.

· The red arrows indicate the most frequent used crossings between the islands of the urban construct.

What it does –

· Provide a visual commentary to support the Situationist political and theoretical ideologies.

· Allows for an individual interpretation of the journey through each city, and a unique representation of the experience.

Move on to another similar derive – different in expression…such as –

The Guide Psychographique de OWU by John Krygier

What it is –

· Executed during by five Ohio University students and John Krygier as an experiment in improvisational psycho geography.

· The map was the product of a course – Mapping Weird Stuff – offered at the OWjL (Ohio Wesleyan University Junior League of Columbus) summer camp for gifted and talented middle school students.

· a dérive to get a feel for the campus and its “resonances,” by means of blind-folded and ear-plugged tours through the campus, collecting smells and sounds, as well as texture collection expeditions.

· (see legend of map for ‘collected’ texture icons and also smell and sound icons.)

· (inspired, in part, by Denis Wood’s Narrative Atlas of Boylan Heights project).

What it does –

· Seeks a reorientation of sensory attention in the everyday.

· The derive itself, seeks to focus the experience upon sensory experiences that are lost or diluted in the everyday by the general focus of attention upon destinations.

· An experiment involving students, it seeks to redraw the attention of a youth group to the potential for sensory explorations embedded in the everyday.

The illustrations shown so far present the ‘derive’ as a method employed to assign precedence to the act of individual choice and sensory exploration over regimented urban constructs.

The next map –

The literary psycho geography of Edo/Tokyo by Tjebbe-van-Tijen

What it is -

· A proposal for an interactive map which records (as photographs) the real spaces described in psycho geographic literary texts – Japanese texts.

· Mirroring 'time balls' that represent psycho-geographic moments (time, space and mood) float over a satellite picture of Tokyo and Tokyo Bay. Different balls (psycho-geographic moments) can be chosen...

· A mirroring 'time ball' floats over a satellite picture of Tokyo and Tokyo Bay in a zoom-out overview. The small ball indicates the relative position of an area, which is described. One needs to zoom-in to see a more precise indication. The big 'time ball' shows a recent 'fish eye' view of the area that is described in a literary text .

· One can also "enter" the time ball and see the place described...

What it does –

· By illustrating selected texts by the ‘real’ spaces they describe, the mapping seeks to inform upon the actual physicality of described imageries.

· The derive seeks to focus attention upon the translation of physicality from - real – its expression – and its re discovery …over time

· It translates as an attempt to rediscover one set of the myriad ‘codes’ embedded in the urban environment by man, over time.

While the afore mentioned two illustrations are methods of derive that aim at drawing attention to sensory faculties and historical perspectives, the next illustration seeks to draw attention to and map emotion. And the need to develop a sense of community

The Stockport Emotion Map – Christian Nold

What it is –

· Over a period of two months in summer 2007, about 200 people took part in six public mapping events. This map collects together and shows the results of the two activities: Drawing Provocations & Emotion Mapping

· People were asked to sketch their responses to a variety of serious and humorous provocations about their daily lives such as –

- what really annoys them about Stockport,

- where they meet their friends,

- as well as who are the most important and dangerous people in town.

· Other provocations were focused on the town and its history, river and landmarks.

· The drawings were then scanned and used to create the map.

· The second activity involved people walking freely through Stockport equipped with a special device invented by the artist, that measured their emotional arousal in relation to their geographical location in the town.

· On the map, the walks are represented by thin angular lines tracing the paths that people walked.

· The emotional arousal is represented as a series of pillars at four different heights corresponding to the intensity of emotional arousal.

· Arousal as mentioned here, is not necessarily positive and is intentioned in terms of heightened attention to ones body or surroundings.

· The textual annotations on the map were written by the participants themselves to describe the huge variety of events and sensory stimuli that caused their emotional reactions during their walks.

What it does –

· This map suggests a model for recording the apparently trivial conversations and events of our everyday lives and

allows us to see them all simultaneously without being constrained to a narrowly defined topic.

· When it is possible to see this overview, these apparently disconnected conversations show their true value and form clusters of issues and concerns.

· The mapping of this ‘group derive’ helped realize underlying concerns and reveal avenues for development about the city such as –

- The marginalized history of Stockport – and the locations in the city that could be further developed to encourage a sense of history in the community

- The hidden river Mersey – the apparent lack of awareness of the river due to its being hidden from view by buildings – and a discovery of the potential therein to develop a recognizable sense of identity for the city

- Monolithic shopping – concerns revealed issues about the disappearance of local shops with the influx of ‘chains’ and a consequent loss of the sense of community

- Lack of semi public spaces - and hence loss of potential for community interaction

- Isolation of young people – lack of community / city initiatives to provide opportunities to youngsters for self expression, interaction etc

· While the afore mentioned are documented results derived from the exercise, another important result of the exercise is the exercise itself as a community building exercise, and as a method to initiate a realignment of the participants with the environment they live in – and its issues.

The presentation so far, has tracked the use of the method of the derive and its mapping for expressing personal concerns about the environment, exploring the sensorial attributes of the environment, exploring the connection between the physical environment and its past (in this case literary), to using the method to establish and strength a sense of community related to the environment inhabited. The next illustration, in a similar manner of concern regarding the individuals relationship to the worlds they live in, tries to explore the physical environment using the codes of another environment that the users inhabit – the virtual.

dot walk - social

what it is -

· «.walk» by raises regimentation to an art form by giving instructions for a walk through a city.

· These instructions correspond to an algorithm and can be traced back to a simple computer programme:
1 st street left
2 nd street right
2 nd street left

· A detailed list of the codes provided and their iterations is given here -

· Participants then use the software code provided to initiate a derive in the city.

· Interaction, exchange of code and information occur at points where the paths / algorithms of two participants intersect.

What it does –

· The psycho geographical project «.walk» supplies instructions (software) on how to use a city (hardware).

· The artistic interest in this case is concentrated on the instruction.

· The aforementioned derive – is used as an illustration here to show how the advent of the ‘virtual world’ and increased participation across the platforms of ‘real’ and virtual’ has revealed a need to be able to illustrate our position across both clearly, and to attempt to map the superimposition of the two for the sake of understanding

· Tries to document the weaving of individuals through and between both worlds

· The aforementioned illustration is important in showing the change of direction in the purpose of derives. It marks a point wherein the focus changes from rediscovery of ‘forgotten’ aspects of experience (sensorial, emotional, communal etc) to attempts to ‘locate’ the individual amidst the changing topographies caused by the advent of the world wide web.

Continuing the same line of inquiry, albeit in a different manner, The next illustration seeks to use one aspect of our dual worlds (the virtual) to define the extents of the other – the physical world.

Digital derive in Graz –

What it is -

· Executed in 2006, by the MIT Senseable city lab, Digital Derive harnesses the potential of mobile phones as an affordable, ready-made and ubiquitous medium that allows the city to be sensed and displayed in real-time as a complex, pulsating entity.

· The Real-Time City Map registered and visually rendered the volume and geographic source of cell phone usage in Graz.

· Statistics from the A1 Mobicom Austria network was used to compute locations of users by ‘pinging cell phones as they moved through the city.

· The tracking was initiated upon user approval (by means of an SMS to the network) – giving them the control over the extent of mapping. The tracking was engineered to stop after a 24 hour period as a default setting.

· The Real-Time City Map registered and visually rendered the volume and geographic source of cell phone usage in Graz, thus showcasing a different layer in the use and experience of the city.

What it does –

· Because it is possible to ‘simultaneously ping the cell phones of thousands of users - thereby establishing their precise location in space at a given moment in time - these devices can be used as a highly dynamic tracking tool that describes how the city is used and transformed by its inhabitants.’ -

· The polis is hence interpreted as a ‘shifting entity formed by webs of human interactions in space-time’, rather than simply as a fixed, physical environment.’ -

· The rendering of the peaks & valleys of cell phone usage here is reminiscent of a topographic map, as if a representation of the real geography of the city – which in a sense it is.

· This derive is significant in its attempt to map the shifting sense of ‘geography’ as we make our way through differing platforms – the real and virtual.

The digital derive workshop and Personas, illustrated next, shifts the concerns/ preoccupation of defining ‘location’ with respect to the real and virtual – to attempt an experiment in deriving our ‘self’ from the virtual environment.

Personas and the digital derive workshop

What it is –


· A program that scours the internet looking for characterizing statements about the user to use in its analysis.

· After suitable information is found, the user watches the computer try to make sense of the found references.

· Once it has finished its conclusions the ‘personas vector’ is displayed and annotated with a minimal legend

· Uncanny insights and errors are part of the experience

The workshop –

· The topography of the digital landscape—an intricate web of links and nodes—promotes the kind of randomized exploration and discovery that psycho-graphers find intriguing in the urban environment.

· Traversing the internets information channels, encourages a proclivity to ignore conventional directional cues and stray off course – to drift in a manner of speaking in order to assuage curiosity – analogous to a physical derive the purpose of which would be to heighten awareness of the physical environment.

· Each map serves as a psycho geographical data “portrait” of the participant’s unique experience navigating the web for a period of time.

What it does –

· Shows you how the internet sees you.

· Creates awareness about data mining projects and threat of loss of privacy therein.

· While constrained in its effectiveness as a derive, it is a credible derive – in post rationalization.

· The experiment explores the idea of ‘virtual identities’ – and how users may be misrepresented – and evokes for the users a need to develop a conscious digital presence in light of the derive and its inaccuracies.

· The project presupposes the virtual environment as a platform of active participation and integrated into everyday life’s of consumers and seeks to highlight the presence of the individual and the interpretations of their PERSONAS from their trails upon it.

The next and final illustration – Urban Tapestries – attempts to provide a platform to institute derives that are executed simultaneously across the real and virtual worlds – and presupposes most of the aforementioned as credible concerns, seeking to enable its consumers to address them.

Urban Tapestries - Public Authoring in the Wireless City

What it is –

· Urban Tapestries is the name of a research project and experimental software platform for knowledge mapping and sharing – public authoring – conceived and developed by Proboscis in partnership with collaborators such as the London School of Economics, Birkbeck College, Orange, HP Research labs, France Telecom R&D UK, Ordnance Survey.

· It was begun in late 2002 and completed in Autumn 2004, with a follow-on research program of experiments with local groups and communities called Social Tapestries starting in April 2004 and completed in Summer 2007 (additional publications and outputs will be released in 2008).

· Urban Tapestries investigates how, by combining mobile and internet technologies with geographic information systems, people can 'author' the environment around them; creating a new social anthropology.

· The projects are documented in a variety of ways - from essays, project reports and academic papers to videos, installations and software (interfaces and code.)

What it does –

· The over arching attempt of the project is to engineer a platform that allows for public authoring.

· It proposes to adopt and adapt new and emerging technologies for creating and sharing everyday knowledge and experience.

· In addition to collating contemporary consumer knowledge, it seeks to build up organic, collective memories that trace and embellish different kinds of relationships across places, time and communities.

· The Urban Tapestries software platform enables people to build relationships between places and to associate stories, information, pictures, sounds and videos with them.

· Allows a platform for the ‘anthropology of ourselves’ intentions behind derive mappings.

· Indicates a societal shift towards ‘community expression’ over ‘governmental / institutional’ regimentation.

· Almost as if a realization of the implied goals behind the efforts of the original/early derives.


















· LITERARY PSYCHO-GEOGRAPHY OF EDO/TOKYO & AMSTERDAM - End-Report for the Japan Foundation of the research done by Tjebbe van Tijen in the cadre of the Medium Term Visitors’ Program in Commemoration with the Okinawa/Kyushu Summit 2000 from 2/10/2000 to 28/2/2001

URBAN TAPESTRIES - Public Authoring, Place and Mobility by Giles Lane & Sarah Thelwall with Alice Angus, Victoria Peckett and Nick West, © Proboscis. All Rights Reserved