Real Time Cairo: the real-time digital life of the city of Cairo, Egypt
To harvest all the data generated through social networks in a city.
Each day we use social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare as public spaces in which we express ourselves, our feelings and emotions, our perception of the spaces around us, our desires, wishes and expectations.
Or, such as in Cairo, Egypt, right now, to express our dissent, to enact our freedoms, and to inform of the difficult situations in which we find ourselves and with the communities we live in.
But social networks are not public spaces.
They are privately owned digital spaces whose strategies and interests have nothing to share with public space.
Through hundreds (if not thousands) of years of development of our cultures we have learned to form our expectation about what is public space, how it works and what to expect from it. We have developed shared ways by which we have collectively shaped our idea of what is a public space, and how to change its rules.
On social networks this does not apply.
A simple, unilateral, change in the terms of service of any of these networks/spaces can radically change the ownership and modalities according to which the information that we publish and share is used and leveraged, possibly giving rise to its exploitation, censorship, business usage.
But everything in these networks/spaces is designed to augment our understanding of them as public spaces and, thus, to apply or expectation of how public spaces work to them.
- on one side, we perceive a public space in which to express ourselves, expecting that it will function according to our understanding of the ways in which public spaces work;
- on the other side we have private spaces whose objective is to mimic the ways in which public spaces work, so that people use them, increasing business
The intent is to create the availability of tools by which to re-appropriate information published on what we perceive to be our digital public spaces, and to make it available for visualization, aggregation, etc: to establish a novel source of Open Data in our cities by gathering all the conversations that take place in our digital public spaces, to allow people to use them to understand their cities and to imagine shared practices and methodologies to use this information, making it accessible and usable by everyone, not only by social network service providers.
The interface shows
- the map, with the information popping up as soon as people in Cairo publish it using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare (information that is not geo-referenced using the networks’ tools is harvested as well, but it does not show on the map)
- a tag cloud of the most used words in the last 80 minutes
- some statistics showing the number of messages and users who published information in the latest 80 minutes, and in what languages they write
- a timeline, allowing the comparison of the number of messages posted during each hour of the last few days
We are still developing elements of the project (more updates will come soon) including:
- an API through which to download all of the dataset (or only parts of it, selected by date range, source, keywords etc)
- a visualization to show the human geography/topography of the city
The source code will be released under GPL as soon as we are able to finish adding these first few pieces.