HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna

After its very first launch in Rome in September 2013 with EC(m1), after the Festival dell’Innovazione in Bari, Human Ecosystems goes back to Italy with a new project sponsored by the City of Bologna, with the support of ANCI – National Association of Italian Municipalities.

The project will start on October 7th 2015. Below the official press release.

HUB - Human Ecosystems Bologna: the emotional map of the city

HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna: the emotional map of the city

HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna

from 7th October to 7th December 2015 at the Urban Center of Bologna shows the

Realtime Life of the City of Collaboration 

Press Conference
12.30AM, Piazza Nettuno 3 – Bologna (Italy)

Who talks about collaboration in Bologna on social networks? And how? What are the more collaborative neighborhoods? Which topics are more discussed by citizens? What emotions are they expressing? Who are the hubs, the influencers, the bridges between communities and the experts of collaboration? In which languages does collaboration happen in town?

By launching the “HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna” project, the City of Bologna opens an unprecedented experiment at the intersection of art, technology, research and open data aiming to foster its collaborative policies.

Supported by ANCI – National Association of Italian Municipalities, the project will show the relational ecosystem of participation, cooperation and collaboration in the City of Bologna in its digital dimension, creating a parallel and complementary track of work to the “Collaborare è Bologna” process, the policies for collaboration promoted by the City administration.

From October 7th to December 7th 2015 an interactive exhibit will animate the spaces of the Urban Center, enabling citizens and visitors to observe the themes, places, emotions and opinions of the “Collaborative Bologna”, as they are addressed and publicly expressed on major social networks by citizens.

Matteo Lepore, Councillor for the Digital Agenda and the Promotion of the City, says: “With this project we intend to concretely experience the use of big data. We have launched the new civic network in Bologna and the city wi-fi, extending the coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with free access, offering high speed connection to schools, theaters and soon to enterprises and homes. We are reaching now the European goals for 2020, with social networks at the center of our innovation policies. We are aware that the digital ecosystem is an infrastructure for development, growth and inclusion. But to make this leap, we have to learn to systematize the data we produce: with HUB, we are going in the right direction, in particular considering the transition of Bologna toward metropolitan area and the public investments to come“.

HUB - Human Ecosystems Bologna: intensity

HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna: intensity

Confronted with maps and social graphs“, say the authors of the project, Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico, “people will be able to observe in real time the public conversations forming the ecosystems of collaboration, and to explore in new ways the digital public space of the city, discovering and creating unexpected connections“.

HUB - Human Ecosystems Bologna: relational ecosystens

HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna: relational ecosystems

Antonella Galdi, General Deputy Secretary and  Technological Innovation and Culture Head of ANCI, states that “the project is likely to be replicated in other cities and contexts. We look forward to a trial that could “read” the city in a new way, aware of the need to use every possible tool to improve the analysis of public policies in urban territories. Moreover, this initiative is able to highlight the role of art and culture in innovation processes and, at the same time, to create new spaces, instruments, forms of relationship and involvement of citizens“.

HUB - Human Ecosystems Bologna: topics and relations among topics

HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna: topics and relations among topics

At the end of the exhibit, the collected data will be released as set of Open Data. A new immaterial commons available to citizens, researchers, civil society and administration, opening an innovative experimentation in the field of open data policies, in which “citizens become sensors, with their interactions and everyday expressions in the new and controversial public space formed by social networks” continue Iaconesi and Persico.

According to Pina Civitella, Head Innovation Unit of the City of Bologna, the project creates “an innovative data source that provides significant opportunities for the development of value-added services for citizens, businesses, public administration, and for experimenting new forms of civic activation“.

HUB - Human Ecosystems Bologna: thematic correlations

HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna: thematic correlations

Human Ecosystems is a city-based international project already experimented across several cities worldwide, including Sao Paulo, New Haven, Toronto, Montreal. Christian Iaione, Director of “LabGov – LABoratory for the GOVernance of the Commons” and Coordinator of CO-Bologna, points up that “the project represents the digital and organisational pillar of CO-Bologna, a program supported by the Fondazione del Monte and the City of Bologna, aiming to turn Bologna in an open and collaborative city: a collective institution empowering individuals, businesses, civil society organisations, schools and the University to care for and regenerate the city as a commons, as well as to cultivate their abilities and potential“.


HE – Human Ecosystems

“Collaborare è Bologna”

“Human Ecosystems @Ars Electronica 2015”, on “Fastforward 2” by Motherboard, 1° episode

Human Ecosystems in S. Paulo (BR), documentary by Universidade Metodista

Human Ecosystems in New Haven (USA), documentary by YWF – Yale World Fellows

HUB – Human Ecosystems Bologna is a project promoted by:

the City of Bologna

with the support of:

LabGov – LABoratory for the GOVernance of the Commons
ANCI – Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani

Concept and Realization:
HE – Human Ecosystems / AOS – Art is Open Source (S. Iaconesi; O. Persico)

Ubiquitous Commons at Smart City Exhibition in Bologna

Data as Commons. This will be the focus of our intervention at Smart City Exhibition 2015 in Bologna, on October 16th 2015, at 9:30.

What happens when data becomes a commons? How can we build the high quality relational environment which is needed for citizens to effectively manage commons? What data can become a commons? How can we create inclusive, collaborative economies of multiple types through data commons? What impacts can these kinds of processes have on a city and its community? How can the practices of daily life change through data commons?

These are only some of the issues which we’ll confront with in Ubiquitous Commons‘ intervention at the Smart City Exhibition:

We will talk about them with Gianni Dominici (General Director of Forum PA), Andrea Borruso (Open Data Sicilia), Pina Civitella (Responsible for Information Systems Development at the City Administration of Bologna), Christian Iaione (LabGov),Bruno Monti (Manager of the GIS Unit at the City Administration in Milan), Ilaria Vitellio (CEO at Mappina).

Read more HERE on Ubiquitous Commons.

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.

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.

Images of the Human Ecosystems in Sao Paulo: the real-time museum of the city

As appeared here in Human Ecosystems: here are some images of the Real Time Museum of the city in Sao Paulo, and of the first workshop which we held there.

More information here:

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The photo set can be found on Flickr: Human Ecosystems on Flickr