Jiang Liu introduces the SENSEable City Lab of MIT, that investigates if a new type of urban planning derives from the triangle of People, Cities and Technology.
- In Rome, mobile phone location data combined with data from public transport bus lines show the mismatch between population density and the availability of infrastructure.
- In Amsterdam the number of short messenges sent by mobile phones during New Year’s Eve can be mapped in a 3D-visual allowing authorities to manage massive movement of people, see below:
- In New York, mapping international long distance calls show global connectivity (London is well connected with New York, Chinese cities are not!). Also: differences between different NY neighbourhoods become visible.
Collecting data to show existing trends is step one. Step two is the adaptation of urban design. The third step is the creation of cities where technology does not only create different designs, but also changes behavioural patterns. In Copenhagen, the SENSEable City Lab introduced specially preparated hybrid e-bikes that function as mobile sensing units. The “Copenhagen Wheel” allows its users to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when they need ‘a bit of a boost’. But it also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion and road conditions in real-time.
This means the Copenhagen Wheel collects data that lead to new behavioural patterns.
As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is capturing your effort level and information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide, NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes, to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously
if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of environmental information from which we can all benefit.
Video below: talk by Jiang Liu at ‘Designing the Hybrid City’
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Additional notes by Michiel de Lange
Jiang Liu presented a large number of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab visualization projects. Unlike Ohyoon’s GPS tracking where data was collected by temporarily equipping a selected group of urbanites with GPS devices, many of the SENSEable City Lab projects use aggregated data that mobile phone users already generate, often without their knowledge. These projects reveal what normally remains invisible in a double sense. (I’ll leave aside that these visualizations conceal at the same time: they ignore a human perspective of the city, as addressed by Christian Nold, and in an earlier post). Not only are the geographies of communication visualized and displayed on maps, also revealed is the fact that we all scatter informational ‘footprints’ by moving around the city (¹). As often, this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand this promises great potential to optimize the planning/regulation of mobility systems like waste processing, traffic, and increased bandwidth demands during special events. On the other hand, when this information allows “authorities to manage massive movement of people”, as Roggeveen and Hulshof note above, issues of privacy, power and control arise. For regimes this may be an ideal method to detect sudden ‘mob’ gatherings. It also directly challenges the right for citizens in public places to be anonymous to institutions like the state. For instance, in the Netherlands the police have more than once obtained mobile phone numbers from telecom providers to use them for ‘SMS bombardments’ in order to find perpetrators of soccer hooliganism. In one case, 17.000 people who had been near a stadium in Rotterdam between certain hours received a text message in which they were asked for cooperation (²).
note 1: The term ‘footprinting’ is used by Mimi Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Ken Anderson in their article “Portable Objects in Three Global Cities: The Personalization of Urban Places” (PDF, 300 KB; see a review on this website). Ito, M., Okabe, D., & Anderson, K. (2009). Portable Objects in Three Global Cities: The Personalization of Urban Places. In R. S. Ling & S. W. Campbell (Eds.), The reconstruction of space and time: mobile communication practices (pp. 67-87). New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.