Myriads, Trangression in the Post City: after Ars Electronica 2015

Some times has passed after Ars Electronica 2015, and our participation to its exhibit and to education programme with the Myriads project, part of the Human Ecosystems and of the Ubiquitous Commons.

In this post we wish to share some images from the exhibit, some information and materials about the 15 workshops we held while we were there, and some general considerations and perspectives for the future(s).

Myriads and Ars Electronica: some links


The Myriads Exhibit

The Myriads exhibit constituted an environment in which everything you see/hear/experience is generated through the data massively captured in multiple modalities from the city.

Myriads, the installation overview 2

Myriads, the installation overview 2

Myriads, the installation overview 1

Myriads, the installation overview 1

In this case, data was massively harvested from major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to gain understandings about the myriads of micro histories of the city, as they evolve with people’s behaviours, emotions, movements in the spaces of the city, and their flows of information, knowledge and communication. (the Human Ecosystems technology was used to perform the massive harvesting of this data, and for the use of Natural Language Analysis and Geo-referencing techniques interpret what emotions, movements, behaviours, topics, relations and flows were expressed by the captured messages).

Everything in the space was designed to show the passage from the industrial city to the Third Generation City, the  city of the flows of data, information, knowledge and emotions.

In the exhibit, the data coming from the interpretation of emotions, expressions, gossips, movements and behaviours, become the generative sounds, visuals and knowledge which you could see and access in the projections, screens, speakers, and in the workshops. As in Marco Casagrande‘s definition: the third generation city is the ruin of the industrial city, in which gossip, ruins infrastructures, transforming them into syncretic maps of the flows of citizens and their communications/exchanges in the city.

Myriads, the relations in the city

Myriads, the relations in the city

A large projection showed the most recent relations forming in the city, and expressed through our activities on social networks. Each time someone would comment, reply, or engage in conversations, the network shown on the visualisation would react accordingly. Each dot represents a person (or, better, a user on social networks), each line connecting dots represents a relation, with the line thicker or thinner according to the weight of the relations.

The sound heard in the exhibit space was the result of a data-sonification process which transformed the data of the sequences of emotions, expressed constantly on social networks, into sounds and waveforms.

The result was similar to this one (which is, instead, coming from the city of Rome, with the same process):

In another part of the exhibit four monitors, mounted onto metallic carts which were originally used to move mail envelopes and packages around in the enormous mail handling facility which hosted this year’s Ars Electronica exhibit, the Post City, continuously showed a series of info-aesthetic visualisations.

In the first monitor, the emotional map of the city was shown.

Myriads, map of emotions

Myriads, map of emotions

In the map, the emotions are color coded, and are shown on the map according to the locations in which their concentration was observed, and through a series of social network users (for whom their recent emotional history was represented) and posts (captured from one of the mentioned social networks, and coloured according to the emotion). On the bottom a timeline allowed to view emotions’ evolution through time.

A second visualisation showed the relational ecosystem of the city, as expressed through social networks.

Myriads at Ars Electronica: the relational ecosystem

Myriads at Ars Electronica: the relational ecosystem

While the projected visualisation of the relations in the human ecosystem of the city displayed the most recent relationships, as they formed, this one visualises the most persistent relationships. In this way it is possible to represent the communities (or tribes, as defined in Netnographical theories), the consistent relations which form around themes and topics, the ways in which they evolve through time, and the roles which people assume in these relations, whether they are experts, influencers, amplifiers of messages, hubs or bridges among different communities.

The third visualisation dealt with the use of language.

Myriads at Ars Electronica: words and languages

Myriads at Ars Electronica: words and languages

In this visualisation, the most (and least) common topics are described in terms of the ways in which people use language in discussing them. Which words are used for which topics, and their relations can generate multiple insights, also by observing how the use of languages to refer to certain topics evolves through time. In the visualisation, selected topics are explored in terms of the words used to discuss them, and in the relations among different topics.

The last visualisation expanded this type or observation, and explored the relation among different topics.

Myriads at Ars Electronica: topics relate to each other

Myriads at Ars Electronica: topics relate to each other

In this visualisation (taken from here), the topics are listed on both axis of the matrix (rows and column headers) and if there is a color at the intersections it means that the corresponding topics are discussed together: the brighter the color, the more often this happens. The elements are constantly shifted together to highlight different characteristics: topic clusters (group of topics which are often discussed together); recurrence (showing the frequency with which topics are discussed) and others. These characters are also color-coded, to reflect the most probable groups to which the various topics belong.

The Education Program

At Ars Electronica, the Myriads project included 15 workshop pills: 15 different micro workshops, each one dealing with one specific point of view or perspective which was relevant to the concept of the work.

Myriads, the Workshop Pills, 2

Myriads, the Workshop Pills, 2

Myriads, the Workshop Pills, 3

Myriads, the Workshop Pills, 3

Myriads, the Workshop Pills, 1

Myriads, the Workshop Pills, 1

Each workshop pill was distributed under the form of a dose of the Myriads’ knowledge drug, each containing one micro-slide with the title of the workshop and a link to a set of documentation items which were used in it: from articles, to scientific publications, to software and tools.

These are all of the micro-slides of the workshop-pills:

The workshops covered multiple topics: identity; relational ecosystems; practical examples of generative arts (and the software needed to create it); privacy and surveillance; peer-to-peer ethnography; zombies (and the significance of understanding each era’s monsters). There was also a hidden, mysterious 16th workshop (which some people actually managed to find) going under the title of Jennifer Gabry’s essay “Telepathically Urban“.

Each workshop lasted 20 minutes, giving participants a good overview of the theme, as well as the possibility to choose which workshops to participate to, assembling the, into an educational and experiential path.

These are the slides from the workshop:


We were very satisfied with the results.

As is always our intention, both the exhibit and the education program were a stimulus for people’s perception for possible futures of cities, helping them to build their own imagination, vision and desires beyond mere technologically possible futures, tending toward better understanding of their desirable, imaginable futures, together with other people, their conflicts, agreements, divergences, differences and harmonies.

In this, the education program constituted a major advantage. Workshop participants really seemed to appreciate the effort dedicated to exploring possibilities, going beyond the techno-imaginaries which are currently promoted by industry operators.

People were very engaged, stayed long after the intended 20 minutes duration of the workshops, bringing up interesting and profound conversations. They came back over and over, multiple times, even given the richness of the program at Ars Electronica. This happened for the specific need, expressed by many participants, to confront with the absence of conflict, differences and transgression in the technological discourse about the future of the city.

For example, this was particularly visible and highlighted by the industrialization of mind workshop, and by the identity workshop, where we analysed some of the most critical aspects of the emergence of the experience economies and of the creative economies, as well as in the Ubiquitous Commons workshop, where we learned some models to use to enact participatory actions to propose autonomous alternatives.

In the end, the clear issue was about te importance of the themes which we confronted with in Myriads. They go well beyond the technological features of the “future” cities, and regard human beings’ fundamental rights and desires.

Myriads: transgression in the Post City

This year, Art is Open Source, Human Ecosystems and Ubiquitous Commons will be featured at Ars Electronica, as part of the Post City Kit exhibition, with the Myriads project (part of the wider Ubiquitous Infoscapes project).

From Ars Electronica’s website:

Post City Kit is a toolkit of ideas, strategies, devices and prototypes for the city of the future. The city is – and will remain – a scene of a permanent human life and survival experiment. In condensed form here culture(s), social systems and economic and political policies of their time are coming to light. The Post City Kit Exhibition shows with numerous prototypes and project presentations possible development directions towards the urban habitats for the upcoming human generations.


The Myriads project will be composed of:

  • an exhibit;
  • some Info-dealers;
  • a series of 15 micro-workshops (aka the Workshop Pills).

Let’s see what the project is about, and what you’ll see in Ars Electronica.

The project concept

Big Data is a concept in continuous mutation. The exponential rise of the quantity and quality of data and information which individuals generate every day is the single most important driver of the evolution of the concept of Big Data.

Each of our gestures, movements, relations, transactions, expressions tend to become occasions for the generation of digital data and information.

This happens whether we realize it or not, consciously or unconsciously, in direct, indirect, transparent or completely opaque ways. At the present time, most individuals generate data in ways in which they don’t realize or understand, and which they cannot understand, due to the opacity of collection processes, algorithms, classifications, parameters. They don’t (can’t) know how this information is used: unaccessible profiles are used to generate personalized interfaces, services, advertisements, content. We are constantly becoming the unknowing subjects of social experiments, communication campaigns, national security scrutiny, dots in dashboards and information visualizations.

Individuals are, currently, the only ones who cannot fully benefit from Big Data: to organize themselves; to create meaningful, shared initiatives; to understand more about themselves and about the world around them.

On top of that, when data becomes so detailed that the sample can be as large as the actual population, and it is possible to use complex algorithms to process it, we experience a growing rise in the perception of the possibility to eliminate all risks. Which, of course, has its impacts, in terms of the elimination of the possibility to comprehend and value what is different, unexpected, transgressive, adventurous, possible. This may lead to the deterministic, data-biopolitical scenario which is what we confront with with our projects.

We aim at describing an ubiquitous infoscape, in which data becomes an accessible, usable part of the landscape, just as buildings, trees, roads, and in which it is clear and transparent (although complex and fluid) what is public, private, intimate. In which people are able to express how they wish their data to be used, and can actually use it to construct meaningful actions. We aim to create a participatory, inclusive, performative space, in which people – as individuals and members of society – can express themselves and do things, defining new forms of public/private/intimate spaces which are agible, accessible, usable.

Myriads visualization

Myriads visualization


What is the role of transgression in the Post City?

Myriads of micro-histories in the city massively recombine, interfere, interact, interconnect, forming the life of the city in its continuous mutation, innovation and transgression.

People constantly transgress, reprogramming spaces, time and relations, creating a level of tactical cultural biodiversity which can happen only in the dense urban environments, and which constitutes the wealth and richness of the city.

Elizabeth Grosz defines this process as spatial excess, a new dimension which is able to go beyond preconceptions, prejudices and worries about utility, “beyond the relevance for the present, looking towards the future.” The revelation and discovery of this excess depends on the possibility for transgression.

Excess is in the “problematic”, which is full of potential. The clandestine, the unacknowledged, the unofficial find their survival – beyond crime – in the transgression of social norms and limits. Those same limits which have excluded them in the first place. The recycle trash, appropriate spaces, invent communication channels, create styles, fashions and trends.

They don’t cross borders: they move on them. Moving, they innovate.

Using a term from Massimo Canevacci Ribeiro: innovation is the possibility for methodological indiscipline.

The Myriads project created for Ars Electronica by Human Ecosystems and Ubiquitous Commons establishes a peer-to-peer ethnography of the city: a diffused participatory observation in which the myriads of public micro-histories of the daily life of the city will be captured, transformed into a commons, and performed through art, education, citizen engagement and tactical usage.

The Exhibit

The Myriads exhibit will come under the form of a small real-time museum of the city, in which people will be able to learn more about the city (it will be instanced to observe the city of Linz), and to ask questions to the city, obtaining participatory, polyphonic, emergent answers.

A series of interactive information visualizations will be on show, describing only some of the ways in which people can use this information.

Some will show where data and information are more dense.

Myriads at Ars Electronica, the density of information

Myriads at Ars Electronica, the density of information

Some will show emotional expressions which can be inferred from the ways in which people communicate, or act.

Myriads at Ars Electronica: emotions

Myriads at Ars Electronica: emotions

Some will show the relations running between people, as they emerge from digital interactions.

Myriads at Ars Electronica: the relational ecosystem

Myriads at Ars Electronica: the relational ecosystem

Some will show how topics of discussion or interest are interrelated with one another.

Myriads at Ars Electronica: topics relate to each other

Myriads at Ars Electronica: topics relate to each other

Some will show the languages used, and how they relate with each other, through the ways in which people use and interweave them, with words, sentences, speaking to someone in one language and to someone else in another.

Myriads at Ars Electronica: words and languages

Myriads at Ars Electronica: words and languages

A series of other visualizations will be shown, and some will be created on location, together with workshops participants.

All the information is obtained through social networks, smartphones, network connected devices disseminated in the city and on people’s bodies, and through the fantastic collaboration with Linz’s Open Commons, and Linz Open Data.

To learn more how we collect data and information, and how we confront with the enormous critical implications of these practices, you may want to look at the Human Ecosystems and Ubiquitous Commons websites.

The Info-dealers

In the Myriads space, there will be Info-dealers.

The Info-dealer is a new form of urban dweller, emerging in the ubiquitous public sphere: a thug, a lowlife, a transgressor who lives on the border of society. The Info-dealer is a dealer, he/she knows things; knows what’s going on in the city; knows what “they” don’t, and that’s his/her advantage: the Info-dealer knows the micro-histories of the city. He/she knows how to use them, to do things, to organize people, to make things happen, to know where to get things, who are the best people for a certain topic, who to call, who to engage, what people desire and expect.

Info-dealers stop people and tell them “do you need something?” They operate on people’s desires, imaginations, expectations, wishes, frustrations; they listen and understand what people want, establishing a complicity, an intimate relation with them, to know their desires.

By visiting Myriads you may have the chance to meet one.

Myriads of workshops

Myriads of workshops

Myriads of Knowledge Pills

How is it possible to capture the real-time life of the city, using social networks, sensors, data, wearable devices, Internet of Things, domotics, and other sources of digital information?

How can this process represent the myriads of micro-histories in the city, and their potential for generating diffused knowledge and imaginaries?

How is it possible to use this knowledge, transforming it into the inclusive participatory performance of the co-creation of the city?

What are peer-to-peer ethnography and Digital Urban Acupuncture?

What is the Relational Ecosystem of the city?

How is it possible to define and use new types of identity in these types of processes? Individual, anonymous, collective, nomadic and temporary identities?

What are the implications of these kinds of processes on privacy, surveillance, people’s fundamental rights for assembly, expression, opinion? And how can we turn these issues upside-down, and inside-out, to use this wealth of data in constructive, shared, inclusive ways, to transform the city?

The Myriads of Knowledge Pills workshop series will answer some of these questions.

15 workshop pills.

20 minutes each.

Each micro-workshop deals one “knowledge pill”, delivered by Myriad’s info-dealers, which participants will be able to take with them.

No technical or technological pre-requisite needed. All can (and should) participate.

Everyone can attend just 1 workshop, 2, 3, all of them. They can be experienced singularly, but the more you attend, the more you understand.

This is the list of workshops:

  1. Harvesting data in the city
  2. Humans and Non-Humans living, expressing and performing in the city
  3. Citizens’ micro-histories captured through the devices in their pockets, homes, offices
  4. An introduction to the Third Infoscape
  5. The Relational Ecosystem of cities
  6. Peer-to-Peer Ethnography
  7. Digital Urban Acupuncture for dummies
  8. Identities in the city: individual, collective, anonymous, nomadic, temporary
  9. Human Ecosystems: the real-time life of the city becomes a commons
  10. Ubiquitous Commons: the commons in the age of ubiquitous technologies
  11. Stakhanov: a Big Data oracle to predict your lives, and its implications on privacy and ingenuity
  12. Generating artworks with the data of the real-time life of the city
  13. An Emotional Compass
  14. The Industrialization of the Mind
  15. Zombies. Zombies everywhere. Each age has its “Monsters”. Transgression in the city.

Please look at the program to know times and locations.

See you there! (or back here to know how it went)

Playing with Data: Ubiquitous Commons at King’s College in London

Come with us on June 3rd for a performative, full day workshop at King’s College in London in which we will experiment just how much data we generate as human beings, citizens and members of communities.

Register here!

Using the Human Ecosystems we will learn how to use this data in useful, positive and ethical ways, and how to regain control in deciding how this data should be used, through the Ubiquitous Commons.

These are the details for the workshop:

Workshop title: “Playing with Data in the Ubiquitous Commons”

Held by: Salvatore Iaconesi  and Oriana Persico

When: 3 June 2015 – 10:00-18:00

Where: King’s College London (Strand)

Playing with Data in the Ubiquitous Commons is a  day-long performative workshop using Human Ecosystems–a series of technologies are combined to harvest and analyse public data. We will explore our collective data to gain insight on the flows of communication, information, knowledge exchange, and of the patterns for emotional contagion. Together participants will use techniques such as Natural Language Analysis, Geo-referencing, Machine Learning, Network Analysis, and various Computational Sociology techniques to gather information about the communities in the city, including the places, locations, times, topics, emotions, opinions which they express, and the social architectures which they describe. Outputs will range from a series of research insights; interactive visualizations or installations; game concepts to be enacted with different communities; models for community engagement, and their testing through playful modalities; the description and enactment of meaningful urban rituals which promote public, inclusive collaboration and participation to city life under one or more issues.

The workshop is an interdisciplinary, critical and playful approach to our material assemblages as data-subjects; that is, our ubiquitous data and information generation, which express relations, emotions, locations, opinions, behaviours and the potential inferences therein. Participants will collectively explore the data and present insights. People of all levels of technological expertise are warmly welcome.

Salvatore Iaconesi is an interaction designer, robotics engineer, artist, hacker. TED Fellow 2012, Eisenhower Fellow since 2013 and Yale World Fellow 2014.

Oriana Persico holds a degree in Communication Sciences, is an expert in participatory policies and digital inclusion. She is an artist and writer and she currently teach Digital Design at ISIA Design Florence.

Register here!

Ubiquitous Commons at Cyber Resistance, in Milan

Time again for Cyber Resistance at Il Cantiere in Milan, in April 10-11 2015.

This year we will talk about the Ubquitous Commons: how to claim back your data from online services, and decide how it should be used.

The Ubiquitous Commons is an international research effort dedicated to understanding the transformation of data, information and knowledge in the age of ubiquitous technologies.

It is creating a legal and technological toolkit which will allow people to claim back the information which they constantly and ubiquitously generate during their daily lives through social networks, online services and network-connected devices, and to decide how this data should be used.

Visit the Ubiquitous Commons website to know more about the project.

During Cyber Resistance we will present a first concept prototype of the Ubiquitous Commons, under the form of a browser plugin which allows you to encrypt your data online, and to use the BlockChain to define licenses for it.

You can learn more about the plugin at the Ubiquitous Commons website.

At Cyber Resistance we will be together with: Obaz, Les Liens InvisiblesJasmina Tešanović and her Casa Jasmina as well as the Hacking War Songs performance, Bruce Sterling reading Antonio Caronia, Verde_Giac, Vecna, Riccardo Falcinelli and Benedetto Vecchi.

Ubiquitous Commons at NetFutures 2015

this news article appeared on the Ubiquitous Commons website.

A preview of the Ubiquitous Commons first prototype has been presented at the NetFutures 2015 event held in Brussels, during the CAPS concertation meeting, for the special topic regarding Distributed architectures for decentralised data management.

This, below, is the presentation used at the event:

During the event the first prototype implementation has been released for the Ubiquitous Commons first concept, featuring a browser plugin which allows data-subjects to apply their own licensing schemes to the content they produce online, and to create shared, collaborative dynamics around people’s data and information.

the Ubiquitous Commons reference diagram

the Ubiquitous Commons reference diagram

Ubiquitous Commons presented at NetFutures 2015

Ubiquitous Commons presented at NetFutures 2015