Tech-spiration – Sense Networks

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Sense Networks is a company developing real-time location-based data for the purpose of predictive analytics. They’ve developed a pretty interesting little app called Citysense that tracks “tribal behaviours” using GPS data. The idea is that it can be used as a tool to navigate socially through your physical space – ie, where are the people who have similar tastes as mine hanging out tonight? What’s interesting about this project, is that it sorts people and activity based on more qualitative data – our tendency to self-sort into cultural ‘tribes’. Visualizing this on a map of the city suddenly reveals a hidden social infrastructure that otherwise could not be seen.


Tech-spiration – Bio Mapping

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Christian Nold is an artist and designer who has been working on a project involving Bio Mapping. What he does is hook up a Galvanized Sensor of his own invention to a subject’s skin, which measures electrical impluse, temperature and moisture to gauge the wearer’s emotions. Then, utilizing GPS it maps this emotional sensory information onto a geographical location. This data can then be used by city planners, scientists, you name it to analyze and influence decision. You can even download the data from the multitude of cities he’s been collecting, from thousands of participants, and analyze it yourself. Pretty cool. There’s not one for Vancouver, though.

All of these technological precedents only go to show the emerging interest in this sort of mapping; how a wide variety of fields (science, urban planning, policy making, art, design, etc) are interested in developing these ways of seeing into the inner life of a city, in order to better understand its complexity and the complexity of those who live within it.

Tech-spiration – Sensity

February 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Sensity is a real-time data gathering network, utilizing GPS and various recording methods to sample areas of a city and make a map of its experience.  It tracks things like the movement of people, sound, pollution, and vibration to gauge an ’emotional temperature’ of the city. What’s great about the project is that it is fairly objective (as much as anything can be) and relies on snippets of data to attempt to reveal an underlying emotional pattern of a busy city. With the multitude of things one could record using devices such as these, it begs the question – so what? So what does this information say, how much can it really say about its inhabitants and the complexities of living in that particular city, and what to do with all this data? The same questions are relevant to our project as well. However, we aim to provide tools for collecting experiential data, and do not perscribe what should be done with it – in some cases, the act of collecting it may be action enough (in that those participating implicitly become aware of the city in a different way) and in others, the use of these tools might be better left to others (such as in architecture or urban planning or policy-making)


Art Inspiration – Goodweather Collective

February 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

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The Goodweather Collective is from right here in Vancouver, BC, and does some very interesting work. Comprised of architects, designers, curators, artists and the like, Goodweather Collective works collaboratively across these disciplines to create projects about the city, and the condition of living in with it. Their projects are varied (from fleece umbrellas to pop bottle barges) and often respond visually to a perceived need within the city. While the tone of what they do is more along the lines of what we wish to do, there seems to be a lack of user-generated content, or research. The voices here are of these working professionals, and not of those who use the city so much. The optimism and collaborative spirit, however, is inspiring and we will take some of this with us as we move forward.

Art Inspiration – Broken City Labs

February 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Broken City Labs is an “artist-led interdisciplinary creative research group that tactically disrupts and engages the city, its communities, and its infrastructures to reimagine the potential for action in the collapsing post-industrial city of Windsor, Ontario.” They embark on creative projects and initiatives to disrupt everday life in a city using tactics akin to guerilla marketing and street art. It seems to operate on the presumption that there is something wrong with their city (Windsor) and its efforts are focused on refocusing on the positive aspects of the city while calling out the things that are failing about it.

While some of their tactics are interesting, and they are definitely confrontational and effective in forcing their viewers to look at their city in a different way, their subversive editorial stance is a little unilateral as well – while some of their content is user generated like what we’re proposing to do, we’d like to take a slightly quieter editorial stance and let the information itself show through.

Vancouver Two Ways

January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ve been looking at different ways to see Vancouver, and in our research we’ve come across two books who take a similar approach to describing the particulars of living in Vancouver. Both written by locals, these books take a historically-based look at the makeup of Vancouver – why things are the way they are, and what that says about our culture.

The first one we looked at was Douglas Coupland’s City of Glass, which combines essays with photographic descriptions of some of the most obvious features of Vancouver – the pot smoking, the sulphur piles, the Skytrain. Coupland strings together anecdote and observation to speak to an audience who doesn’t know anything about Vancouver – in fact, he states that one of his inspirations for the book was borne out of the exhaustion from having to answer the same questions about the city.

Vancouver Matters is another book that takes a more academic approach, by dissecting particular elements in the chemical makeup of the city – anisite and blackberries, for example – and outline the historical and social significance of each.It is an interesting read in that it uncovers the hidden histories and meanings of so much around us that we don’t often consider.

Each of these books, however, takes a strong editorial voice on how to see Vancouver – there is no investigation into how each of these things affect us in our daily lives, and serves to be a unilateral conversation on the matter. This begs the question – does any of these things affect the inhabitants of the city in the intended manner? Does the green glass of the downtown highrises affect the moods and behaviours of those who view them, does it echo the cultural zeitgeist the city planners had in mind? Who is asking the inhabitants, for whom the city was designed, how they felt about the design?

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