Ubiquitous Commons at Hybrid City conference in Athens: Data to the People

Ubiquitous Commons and Human Ecosystems will be at the “Hybrid City III: Data to the People” conference in Athens, on September 17-19, organised by the University Research Institute of Applied Communication (URIAC), in collaboration with New Technologies Laboratory, of the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, of the University of Athens.

The paper “Data and the City: moving from surveillance and control to the Ubiquitous Commons” will be presented there.

The paper will be available on the conference proceedings, and here on this website.

Here is the abstract:

Social networks and ubiquitous technologies have transformed the ways in which we communicate, learn, work, consume, express emotions, relate to each other, create and share information and knowledge.

Major operators create digitally mediated public and private spaces using hardware and software user interfaces, iconic and symbolic architectures, communication strategies and patterns.

This scenario creates private/public spheres in which users leave digital traces which are used to commoditise human behaviour and expression: for marketing, surveillance, social experiments and more, all without explicit participant consent: current modalities are not sufficient in enabling users to control the ways in which their data is used.

Algorithmic production of information is yet another space in which confusion and opacity are created in people’s perception of how their information will be used: they are not transparent and accountable, and laws, regulations and habits are not structurally able to confront with their continuous, fluid evolution.
This results in the systematic transgression of multiple human rights and expectations. This scenario describes a critical situation which must be confronted with.

In this article we propose a two-phase methodology whose objective is to find resolutive solutions for the presented context, starting from a focus on major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

The first phase is exemplified through a city-based project called Human Ecosystems which, at the time of writing, has been started in multiple cities (Rome, Sao Paulo, Montreal, New Haven, among others).

The project has four steps: re-appropriation; sharing; education; performance.
In the re-appropriation step, public data generated by users on major social networks is harvested and processed, to understand the Relational Ecosystems of the city, and the topic/emotion networks which are expressed by city-dwellers, thus being able to describe information and knowledge flows across communities.

In the sharing stage, all of the harvested and processed information is made available under the form of a source of real-time open data, released under with a peer-production license.

In the education stage, widely accessible workshops are used to engage the population in the understanding of the implications generated by the availability of such data, and of how this data can be used for citizens’ self-organisation, civic action, to understand the cities’ cultures and communities, and for participatory decision-making processes.

In the performance stage, an inclusive laboratory is created in the city in which students, researchers, public administrators, designers, artists and organisations receive support in building these scenarios, understanding them and their critical implications.

In the second phase of the methodology is the Ubiquitous Commons are defined. They come under the form of legal and technological toolkits which describe a “protocol” used to declare the intended use of element of ubiquitous information generated by users. It is an evolution of the concept of the Creative Commons, in the era ubiquitous information and dealing with the qualitative, quantitative, technical, technological and legal implications of these new forms of data.

Multipli-cities: a festival in Rome, poliphonic visions on the city, Human Ecosystems

Join us on February 28-28 2015 in Rome,at the Ex Cartiera Latina ( in beautiful industrial complex deep in the Appia Antica Regional Park, in Via Appia Antica, 42) for the 2NC Fest, Multipli-Cities, a biennial event on urban multimedia narratives, offering a focus on cities and on the opportunities which open up when the city is imagined as a polyphony of voices and expressions. There, we will showcase the most recent updates of Human Ecosystems in Rome.

The festival is organised by Visiva and Naked City Project and will offer a complex setup of conferences, installations, screening and live performances focused on the city, and its multiple points of view.

You can find the full program here.

We will be present with HERO (Human Ecosystems Rome), and in a couple of talks and other sessions.

Human Ecosystems in New Haven

Art is Open Source, Yale World Fellows and the City of New Haven present:

“HENHV” – Human Ecosystems New Haven.
The digital life of a city

Opening Ceremony
December 9th, 2014 | 10.30-11:30am
New Haven City Hall |165 Church St, New Haven
Guests of Honor:
Mayor Tony Harp, Doug Hausladen (City of New Haven), Michael Morand, Professor Alan Plattus, Dr. Michael Cappello (Yale University)

Interactive Exhibit and Closing Party
December 12 | 4:00pm
Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design |15 Prospect St, New Haven

December 4, 2014, New Haven – From December 9-12, New Haven’s City Hall will feature the exhibit “Human Ecosystems New Haven: The Digital Life of the City.” Inaugurated by Mayor Tony Harp, the event marks the launch of a project combining art, research, innovation and real-time open data: one that effectively turns New Haven into a “Human-Driven Smart City.” 

Human Ecosystems: Joy in New Haven

Human Ecosystems: Joy in New Haven


Yale World Fellow Salvatore Iaconesi (philosopher, robotics engineer, artist, hacker and near-future designer) and his partner Oriana Persico (communications scientist, writer, cultural and social analyst) created the global project “Human Ecosystems” in 2013. This year, the project comes to New Haven. Human Ecosystems captures, in real time, public conversations happening on major social networks in 29 languages.

The enormous amount of data harvested from social networks through the Human Ecosystems project can help city administrators, activists, organizers, artists, designers, researchers and citizens explore New Haven in completely new ways. This new source of real-time, open data will be publicly accessible and will remain in New Haven indefinitely.

As citizens, we have no idea how much information we’re producing on an hourly basis,” says Iaconesi. “We produce it everyday with our online expressions, but at the moment it’s only the social network operators, large corporations and secret services worldwide that can access them. With Human Ecosystems we give back this data to the community, creating a new digital commons, and we can teach people how to use it for their own purposes.

Love in New Haven

Love in New Haven

Since their arrival in August, Iaconesi and Persico have worked side by side with the City of New Haven, Yale professors and students, The Grove New Haven and other city organizations and individuals to bring the project to life.

Our desire as humans is to interconnect,” explains Iaconesi. “Through Human Ecosystems, New Haven’s diverse communities of citizens, activists, students, professors, researchers, cultures and organizations can learn, together, how to tap into the massive amount of data available in the Digital Public Space to create awareness, shared knowledge, civic movement, beauty and communal action.

Iaconesi and Persico began collecting data in New Haven in October, and have conducted a series of intensive open workshops across the city in an effort to teach citizens, researchers, artists and students how use the project.

The possibilities are endless,” says Persico. “You can tap into Human Ecosystems and discover the emotions of an entire city. You can find out where there is joy, love, hate, anxiety, or the sense of financial or physical insecurity. You can see where certain communities and cultures gather, how and why they come together or separate and what influences them.

In learning how to use the system, individuals and groups will be able to create art, data visualizations, generate information about the city and its overlapping, ever-connecting communities, conduct research about their town (and its hopes, fears, dreams, needs and more), research complex scientific and social issues, create civic engagement and action, create new forms forms of social innovation practices and services, and discover new ways to organize citizens.

Human Ecosystems Workshop: The Grove, New Haven

Human Ecosystems Workshop: The Grove, New Haven

From December 9-12, an exhibit at New Haven City Hall will allow citizens will to interact with info-visualizations and participate in data-driven activities allowing them to explore New Haven in completely new ways. There is incredible potential, Iaconesi says, for this project to thrive in New Haven.

In partnership with the City and members of the Yale community, Persico and Iaconesi are working to find the project a permanent home in the community – a “Real Time Museum of the City,” which will feature a human data-connected “plantarium,” a learning laboratory and exhibits.

Human Ecosystems has been established in Rome, Sao Paulo, Montreal, Toronto, Cairo, Istanbul and Budapest. In the next few years it will move across the globe, generating scientific research, artworks, community projects, education projects, participatory decision-making and policy shaping tools. But first City Elm.



HENHV is an event created by:

AOS – Art is Open Source; YWF – Yale World Fellows;  The City of New Haven

In collaboration with:

YUDW – Yale Urban Design Workshop; CEID – Yale Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design; CEI – Yale Center For Emotional Intelligence; The Grove; D&I – Yale Design and Innovation Club; PII – Peace Islands Institute; ISYSA – Italian Society of Yale Students and Affiliates

Made possible by:

Yale World Fellows

Yale World Fellows

With the partnerships of:

Yale Urban Design Workshop

Yale Urban Design Workshop

Center for Engineering Innovation and Design

Center for Engineering Innovation and Design

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

The Grove

The Grove

Design & Innovation Club at Yale School of Management

Design & Innovation Club at Yale School of Management

City of New Haven

City of New Haven


with the support of:

Eisenhower Fellowships

Eisenhower Fellowships


Links & Info

Learn more about the PROGRAM and initiatives in town: http://worldfellows.yale.edu/human-ecosystems-new-haven

Learn more about the Human Ecosystems project: http://www.human-ecosystems.com/

Learn more about Salvatore Iaconesi: http://worldfellows.yale.edu/salvatore-iaconesi

Human Ecosystems on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HumanEcosystems


Uma Ramiah, Director of Communications, Yale World Fellows

uma.ramiah@yale.edu | +1 203-432-1916


Human Ecosystems: Hate in New Haven

Human Ecosystems: Hate in New Haven


Human Ecosystems New Haven: Poster

Human Ecosystems New Haven: Poster

Human Ecosystems at TEDxDanubia

Join us in Budapest for TEDxDanubia, where we will present the Human Ecosystems project, and some surprises about the digital lives of cities, the ways in which people express in urban contexts and on the possibility to create a new form of Public Space, in the era of Information, Communication and Knowledge: Ubiquitous Commons!

TEDxDanubia will be held on May 15th 2014,  at the Uránia theater (1088 Budapest, Rákóczi út 21., Hungary).

This year’s theme is “The Age of Uncertainty

From TEDxDanubia’s website:

We live in uncertain times, probably more so than ever before. The pace of change is accelerating, the amount of information and choices is overwhelming. A merging biological and technological revolution is transforming our reality. The gap between rich and poor has widened to unprecedented levels. Population growth and human induced ecological changes are creating unforeseeable risks on a planetary scale. The balance of power is shifting rapidly between East and West, North and South, while the whole planet is becoming defined increasingly by interconnectedness and interdependency, and our capacity to meet the new challenges is greater than ever.

At the same time we are losing sight of or even faith in our traditional reference points and guiding posts. New challenges, new threats and new opportunities await us behind every corner. Opportunities have never been greater and more widespread. But our world is also filled with the sense of crisis of all kinds, from financial to moral, from global to personal. What kind of world are we heading towards? Are we on the brink of a new phase of our evolution? How do we find our own way in this new world? How do we make wise choices in a new and uncharted territory when so much is at stake? How do we find meaning and purpose to our lives? What does progress mean? How do we turn the new and threatening challenges into opportunities?

Among the speakers and performers: Taghi Amirani, Orsolya Nemes, Anna Baróthy, Boggie, Pál Honti, Scott Summit, Gábor Forgács, József Baranyi, Miklós Antal, György Nógrádi, Bobby Sager, Márk Süveg Saiid, Krisztián Nyáry, Marge, Laurie Garrett, Annamária Kádár, Nikhil Goyal, Péter Pozsár, István Kenyeres, Freelusion, Andrew Hessel, Emily Levine, Sena Dagadu.

Emergenza at Internet Festival 2012

Emergenza was presented at the Internet Festival 2012 in Pisa, as an installation and a performance dealing with the future scenarios of our cities, as enabled by the wide and ubiquitous accessibility of digital technologies and networks.

 Human polyphonies for digital-analog cities.

Our planet is a continuous conversation between people, information systems, sensors, digital ecosystems, social networks, objects, natural ecosystems, processes and organizations who use ubiquitous technologies to read and write their points of view on the world, under the form of content, data, information, and to freely recombine them, associate, aggregate and use them, to produce knowledge, wisdom and economies.

This scenario completely and radically transforms our perception of public and private spaces, of citizenship, of intellectual property and copyright, of sustainability, privacy, anonymity, transparency.

The ways in which we work, learn, produce, establish relationships, feel emotions, have fun, and in which we coordinate ourselves and collaborate with each other have already radically changed.

EMERGENZA is an interactive narrative, creating suggestion and emotion, engaging people in this scenario, as applied to the city of Pisa by imagining it into a near future, but using the data, information and tools which are ready and available today, now.

A human-centered smart city which becomes a sustainable place, active, polyphonic, free, resilient, recombinant, emergent.

The title of the project refers to both the “emergent” characteristics of the phenomena which take place in this kind of scenario, and to the “emergency” brought on by the possible dangers and uncertainties of these technological approaches.

Both aspects are analyzed in positive, constructive ways.

The installation

The installation uses three real time visualizations to show the scenario proposed by Emergenza.

Emergenza at Internet Festival, the map

Emergenza at Internet Festival, the map

The first visualization is a map showing, in real time, all the public social network activity (facebook, twitter, instagram harvested) classified using natural language analysis (as seen in the VersuS project), to highlight the ways in which people use social networks to discuss city governance, the environment, emotions, relations and desires. (two specific categories are also shown, describing in realtime the ways in which people use social networks to take part in the festival and also how they participate to the Pixity action, taking place during the festival).

This is the kind of system we use to analyze the digital public discussions which take place in cities, to realize the systems which can be used to create new tools for city governance, urban planning and human relation which operate on peer-to-peer strategies.

This below is the second visualization of the installation:

Emergenze at Internet Festival, the world

Emergenze at Internet Festival, the world

The second visualization is very simple and minimal, and it shows the places which, in real time, are publicly using social network in some ways to interact with the city (of Pisa).

It shows something which we might imagine as being the instantaneous public relations (or influence) established by the city of Pisa with the rest of the world.

Lines connect places which are interacting with the city of Pisa (by talking about the city, by interacting with some of its users…) and colors show the topic domains of these connections (green is environment, blue is commerce, orange is information or updates, etc.).

This is the kind of visualization we use to analyze the influence of a city in respect to other planetary locations, being able to identify opportunities for relationships, collaborations, and the themes which they relate to.

This below is the third visualization composing the installation:

Emergenze at Internet Festival, the circle of relations

Emergenze at Internet Festival, the circle of relations

The last visualization shows the relationships among city dwellers established in real time using social networks.

Each slice on the circle is a social network user. If a line connects two users, it means that they interacted in some way (e.g.: they publicly messaged each other, or one retweeted a message, or a comment was made, etc).

We use this kind of visualization to observe the emergence of communities and spontaneous collaborations among citizens/dwellers, and to identify emergent trends, and to recognize opportunities for collaborations and participatory project design.

The performance

The Emergenza performance was created as a pragmatical experience of this kind of near-future scenario.

To do this, we decided to use an oxymoron: in the future we describe typical television formats such as the “news show” will radically change, if not completely disappear (at least in the way we know them).

We decided to produce a format of a News Show from the future called “Pisa real-time: the news from now“. The format is completely polyphonic, meaning that it is not a standard news show as we’re used to: all news come by interpreting the digital information which is constantly produced by citizens using social networks.

(the images shown below are screenshots of the graphics used during the performance, organized as an on-stage TV show)

So, instead of the weather forecast, there is the emotional forecast of the city.

Emotional forecast in Emergenze Performance

Emotional forecast in Emergenze Performance

Here the emotional expressions are used to create emotional maps of the city much in the same way in which weather forecasts in TV show the presence of clouds, wind and rain, and are used to show the emotional trends which might be appearing in the city, trying to expose important information about the city’s lifestyle.


Then there are the real time user-generated news about the city governance.

Emergenza performance, real time user generated city governance news

Emergenza performance, real time user generated city governance news

In this case, social network activity is interpreted to understand how people discuss city governance relevant themes, such as opinions about public budgets, choice of representatives, city maintenance issues, trash, etc.

All information is shown also as coming outside of the city boundaries, as in this vision the city does not end where the administrative borders are. In the case of Pisa, many comments about the conditions of the public spaces of the city came from tourist reports who had just been in the city.

Emergenza Performance, the multicultural city

Emergenza Performance, the multicultural city

Also important were the news from the multicultural city, showing the various languages and cultures present in the city, and the ways in which they represented themselves and their urban life using social networks, including the timelines of their online discussions and the relative percentages of their sentiment.

An one other part of the format which raised much interest was the part exposing the perception of security and safety, as expressed by people’s expression on social networks.

Emergenza Performance, real-time perceived security

Emergenza Performance, real-time perceived security

Here maps show the locations in which people expressed sense of insecurity and uncertainty.

An interesting surprise was that this kind of analysis proved to be much more intimate than expected, as people were not really discussing about the safety of walking in city streets, but about the safety of their future, jobs and relationships.

To further remark the polyphonic approach, we decided to speak the least possible amount of time during the performance, and we auto-replaced ourselves with messages coming from a series of interesting points of view.

First was the contribution of prof. Alberto Abruzzese:

(extract from “Intervista ad Alberto Abruzzese” by IULM)


Next was prof. Antonio Caronia:

(extract from “Interview with antonio Caronia”, by Alessandro Guerriero for NABANEXT)


Then it was the turn of prof. Massimo Canevacci Ribeiro:

(extract from “F for Fake” created for the book  “REFF. La reinvendione del reale attraverso pratiche di remix, mash up, ricontestualizzazione, reenactment”.”)


And then it was the intervention by Alex Giordano:

(extract from “Alex Giordano” by Internetbenecomune)


And here is a video showing a short speech we gave at the end of the performance (in italian for now) :


We then decided to end the performance asking for a special contribution (in italian):

(realized in collaboration with https://www.eigenlab.org, acting by Alessandro Belsandro Moirano. Directing and editing: Gianmarco Bonavolontà)


Special Thanks

EigenLab, Ilario Gelmetti, Teatro LUX, Adriana De Cesare, Mariangela Della Monica, Edoardo Fleishner and all the Internet Festival staff, all the citizens of the city of Pisa