Ubiquitous Information in cities: the future of information

The future of information in cities: ubiquitous information, social networks and the emergence of new business models and opportunities, beyond traditional media.

This video was presented at the Eisenhower Fellowship Day 2013 in Italy.

an Emotional Compass: new ideas for wayfinding in cities

Why would we need an Emotional Compass?

And, first of all, what is an Emotional Compass?

“The map is not the territory.” – A. Korzybski

 

“The map is not the thing mapped.” – E.T. Bell

 

“The tale is the map that is the territory.” – N. Gaiman

 

“We say the map is different from the territory. But what is the territory? The territory never gets in at all. […] Always, the process of representation will filter it out so that the mental world is only maps of maps, ad infinitum.” – G. Bateson

When we experience territories, we create stories.

We model these stories using mental maps. These maps have seldom anything to do with what actually lies within the territories themselves. A mental map refers to one person’s point of view perception of their own world, and is influenced by that person’s culture, background, mood and emotional state, instantaneous goals and objectives.

If we move along the streets of my city in a rush, trying to find a certain type of shop or building, our experience will be different than the one we would have had if we were searching for something else.

Focus will change.

We will see certain things and not notice other ones which we would have noticed otherwise.

Some things we will notice because they are familiar, common, or because associate them to memories and narratives. Some will stand out because they react with some element of our culture or background.

All this process continuously goes on as our feelings, emotions, objectives and daily activities change, creating the tactics according to which we traverse places and spaces, to do the things we do.

In the density of cities, this process happens for potentially millions of people at the same time.

In his “the Image of the City”, Kevin Lynch described cities as complex time-based media, symphonies produced by millions of people at the same time in their polyphonic way of acting, moving, interpreting, perceiving and transforming the ambient around themselves: a massive, emergent, real-time, dissonant and randomly harmonic, work of time-based art with millions of authors that change all the time.

In this, our mental maps – the personal representations of the city which we build in our minds to navigate them to fulfil our needs and desires – live a complex life as our perception joins into the great performance of the city.

Dissonance is the essence of the city itself, and represents its complexity, density and opportunities for interaction.

Harmony represents affordances, the things which are recognised and shared by different cultures.

Those elements of the perceptive landscape onto which we can agree upon, which we recognise and attribute compatible meanings, allowing us to collaborate, meet, do things together.

For example, Haken and Portugali have suggested a broad definition of landmarks to refer to any distinguished city elements that shape our mental map. Or as Appleyard, Golledge and Spector who have conducted studies about the imageability of urban elements not because of their visual stimulus but because they possess some personal, historical, or cultural meaning.

These features found within our mental maps enable the possibility to design the affordances of places and spaces. We can use the understanding of what is consistently recognized and understood to design the elements of space/time which will be able to describe to people what is allowed or prohibited, suggested or advised against, possible or imaginable.

Lynch’s concepts of legibility and imageability are closely related to James J. Gibson’s notion of affordances developed in his direct perception theory, according to which the objects of the environment can afford different activities to various individuals and contexts. And, again, in Haken and Portugali, all elements of a city afford remembering, as they shape in the mental maps in human minds.

In a further step in the direction of citizen activation, we can also imagine to make this type of understanding widely known and usable, to enable people to express themselves (and their mental maps of how they perceive the world) more effectively and powerfully.

These possibilistic scenarios have become radically viable with the widespread of ubiquitous technologies. Nomadic devices (such as smartphones) and their applications we are able to merge our physical understanding of the world with the digital one: the two have, in fact, become so interweaved and interconnected as to form a new physicality, visuality and tactility which shape our everyday experiences of the world.

According to Mitchell’s “City of Bits”, McCullough’s Digital Ground, Zook’s and Graham’s DigiPlace we are constantly immersed in emergent networks of interconnected data, information and knowledge which is produced by millions of different sources and subjects in the course of their daily lives.

This data and information radically shapes the ways in which we have learned to work, learn, collaborate, relate, consume and perceive our environment.

If we are strolling in a park and we receive a notification of some sort on our smartphone, the natural environment could instantly transform into an ubiquitous, temporary office.

If we want to make a decision about a certain thing we would like to purchase while in a shop, a quick look online will help define our opinion in ways that can be very powerful.

If we receive a message on our smartphone, our mood could change for the rest of the day.

Situated and ubiquitous information is able to powerfully transform, in real-time, the ways in which we experience places, objects and services, by providing the wide accessibility of other people’s stories, emotions, expectations and visions.

This scenario is the one we have tried to address in our research: the conceptualisation, design and implementation of a tool for urban navigation, in which the emotional, narratives expressed by people while inhabiting and using urban places, spaces and objects become instantly and radically available, accessible and usable.

We used this approach to define a novel vision on the opportunity to design new types of affordances for our cities.

We have decided to start from the idea of a Compass.

You can find a first result of our research here at the following link:

An Emotional Compass Harvesting Geo-located Emotional States from User Generated Content on Social Networks and Using them to Create a Novel Experience of Cities

An Emotional Compass harvesting emotions from social networks

An Emotional Compass harvesting emotions from social networks

Human Ecosystems at the MACRO Museum of Rome for Aperitivi Formativi

What is the Human Ecosystem of the city?

How does it transform with the wide and accessible availability of ubiquitous and nomadic technologies?

How can we capture and visualize the Human Ecosystem of a city?

How can we transform this possibility to represent the Human Ecosystem into the opportunity to perceive its complexity and to perform it, to position ourselves within it and act creating new relations, new opportunities and new, yet unexplored possibilities?

These are some of the themes we will confront with on Tuesday, November 12 2013, at the MACRO Museum of Rome (in via Nizza 138) for a session of Aperitivi Formativi which will revolve around the idea (and project) of the Human Ecosystem.

Here is the Facebook Event of the day: Human Ecosystems at Aperitivi Formativi, at the MACRO Museum

About the Human Ecosystems project:

The Human Ecosystems Project

The Human Ecosystems Project

The main idea driving the philosophy of the project is that with the advent of ubiquitous and nomadic technologies (digital) information has become part of our landscape. The world is wrapped in an everchanging, liquid, emergent membrane of information which people have learned to use to take decisions, express emotions, communicate and, in general, to transform their perception of the world.

It has become, in more than one way, a new sense, a new tactility and a new possibility for performance.

We see this as a “new part of Nature” (or, possibly, an “updated part of Nature”), expressed along the models of the Ecosystem, the whole of the subjects, energies and flows of a certain environment, as described through the relational networks interweaving their lives. A new conception of the Body of the City, to which we will try to operate grabbing inspiration from the idea of Urban Acupuncture, as expressed by Marco Casagrande, and expanded to include the reality of the ubiquitous informational and communicational landscape.

And, thus, we are bringing up a series of projects which deal with both the progressive sedimentation of the ubiquitous infoscape, describing both its ruins, and its emergence. And, with them, the coagulation and continuous evolution/transformation of stories, relationships, emotions. Or, looking to the other direction of the time arrow, to possibility and opportunity.

With these projects we are trying to bring augmented sensibility to the Third Landscape of Information, the Third Infoscape, gathering inspiration from Gilles Clèment.

The project has already started in the city of Rome and, soon, more instances will start in many other cities, establishing conversations with city administrations, organizations and citizens.

Cultur+: an Office for the Ecosystem, for a Smart City and an even Smarter Community

Next steps for the Human Ecosystems project in Rome.

Together with the Council for Culture of the First Municipality of the City of Rome, on November 9th 2013, in Rome at Porta Futuro, from 10am to 5pm, we will be at Cultur+, the second meeting for the Cultural Ecosystem in the city.

Cultur+: the Cultural Ecosystem of the City of Rome

Cultur+: the Cultural Ecosystem of the City of Rome

After the first event, held at the Casa della Cultura in Rome, we have received an enormous amount of feedback, and we have also been doing some thinking on our own, integrating all of the ideas that have been popping up and also designing a set of new concepts.

The day will feature:

  • an official introduction by the the Administration, with Councillor Andrea Valeri that will lead us into the state of the art of the activities and into the discussion (at 10am);
  • Art is Open Source will introduce the recent updates of EC(m1), the Cultural Ecosystem of the City of Rome, with the new ideas that have come up from all the feedbacks, and from the results of different experimentations which we have been doing at local, national and international level; for example with the innovation-centered experiment that we have conducted at the Internet Festival with the Innovation Ecology installation; (at 10:30am)
  • then, at 11am a series of thematic, vertical groups will form around the tables, to explore the opportunities offered by the approach we are following, and by the creation of collaboration practices among all the operators, the citizens and the administration; groups will form on:
    • Performing Arts
    • Communication, Design and Architecture
    • Resources (including funding, European projects, public spaces, and the reuse/recontextualization of existing spaces)
    • Visual Cultures
    • Publishing
    • Multiculturalism
  • this is a first classification we formed for the groups, matching the specific focuses of the administration; we are imagining ways to create additional/different classifications/groupings, and ways in which to allow people to group around their own defined themes and interests, and share the results with the rest of the ecosystem;
  • this activity will go on until 3:45pm, with a break for lunch
  • during this activity a parallel Office for the Ecosystem will be present, through which we will demonstrate one of the possibilities for the Human Ecosystem: what if you city administration offered an Office through which you (or your organization) could position yourself in the Human Ecosystem of your city and learn how navigate, understand and use it to find collaborations, resources, participation and the possibility to confront with common issues? (from 11am to 3:45pm)
  • at 3:50pm a short presentation of the concept of the Office for the Ecosystem will be given by Art is Open Source;
  • at 4pm the groups will take turns in communicating the results they achieved and the objectives which they set forth for the next phases;
  • at 4:30pm the conclusions will be made and the setup for the next meetings will be arranged.

Here is the Facebook Event page for Cultur+

Here is the Facebook Group of the Cultural Ecosystem of Rome

Human Ecosystems in the news on “il Sole 24 Ore”

An article about the Human Ecosystems project appeared today on the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, discussing the installation we presented at the Internet Festival 2013: the Innovation Ecosystem (here are the slides from the workshop we held, in case you missed them)

Here is a scan of the article (click the image for a larger view):

Innovation Ecosystems on "il Sole 24 Ore"

Innovation Ecosystems on “il Sole 24 Ore”