Archived entries for Rest of You

LAST Documentation

I wandered around the city taking readings with the Locative Ambient Sensor Triptych. The light, sound, and air quality data I collected informed the manipulation of video images corresponding to those places. Thus far, I’ve created an arrangement of three scenes: Flushing, Sunnyside, and Rhinebeck, NY. From here the project can be expanded to encompass more locations.

I’m pleased with the visual and functional aspects of this project’s realization. It would be good to see each image on its own small monitor, perhaps in an installation of twelve or more. In the process of gathering data, I learned some things about the sensors I was using that will be helpful for further exploration. Output from the MQ-135 air quality sensor is apparently sensitive to both temperature and humidity. That being the case, I cannot entirely rely on readings taken at different locations and at different times of day since their conditions are not constant. An equation factoring in these variables is necessary.

Here is the Arduino sketch I used to log sensor data coupled with GPS coordinates. I’ve also included a CSV file of the data collected in Sunnyside. And lastly, the Max patch I made can be downloaded here. Video is forthcoming.

Locative Ambient Sensor Triptych

Early in the semester, I conducted a GPS trace over Columbus Day Weekend—a line drawing representing the paths I took over those three days. Last week, I presented on how the data of cities constitutes a new kind of urban sensory field. These seemingly outward-facing investigations pertain to the self and the collective as described by Marshall Mcluhan in Understanding Media: “Housing as shelter is an extension of our bodily 
heat-control mechanisms—a collective skin or garment. Cities are an even further extension of bodily organs to accommodate the needs of large groups.”

Gathering a triptych of location-specific data around New York City is central to how I’ll approach my final project for Rest of You. I’m curious about the kind of data that changes from neighborhood to neighborhood, information not easily quantified and significant to the experience of that place. I plan to detect sound levels with an electret microphone, air quality with an MQ-135 gas sensor, and light intensity with a photocell.

In addition to collecting and publishing place-specific sensor readings, I’m interested in utilizing these variables for a kind of visualization. To that end, I plan to record short, fixed-position video clips at locations where data is collected with my sensor triptych. The parameters of sound, air quality, and light will then be applied to the manipulation of each clip. The degree to which an image process occurs will be in relation to others—the location with the best air quality will have no blur while the location with the worst will have maximum blur—establishing a relative baseline.

Arranged in a grid of simultaneous display, these multiple scenes will provide a new way of seeing the environments they represent.

Urban Sensing and the Data of Cities

“Artists have long been fascinated with changes in the environment and have designed works to focus viewers’ attention on these changes. For example, in his series of haystacks at various times of day, Monet explored changes of light and the daily passage of time. Turner often highlighted weather changes. In part these artists wanted to freeze one set of changes they observed, but I imagine they also wanted to make the audience more observant and appreciative of the changes occurring in their world.”

Stephen Wilson
Environment-Sensing Artworks and Interactive Events: Exploring Implications of Microcomputer Developments
Leonardo, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 290–291

Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute, 1835
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was an English Romantic landscape painter, watercolourist, and printmaker.

In the Air, by Nerea Calvillo, is a visualization project which aims to make visible the microscopic and invisible agents of Madrid’s air (gases, particles, pollen, diseases, etc), to see how they perform, react and interact with the rest of the city.


“The way the street feels may soon be defined by the invisible and inaudible. Cities are being laced with sensors, which in turn generate urban informatics experiences, imbuing physical space with real-time behavioural data. The urban fabric itself can become reflexive and responsive to some extent, and there are numerous implications for the design and experience of cities as a result.”

Dan Hill on the “New Soft City” (February 2010)

The Drawing of My Life: London
Daniel Belasco Rogers


“Psychogeography could set for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals. The adjective psychogeographical, retaining a rather pleasing vagueness, can thus be applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and even more generally to any situation or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of discovery.”

Guy-Ernest Debord
Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography
Les Lèvres Nues #6, 1955

The Naked City
Illustration de l’hypothése des plaques tournantes en psychogeographique
Screenprint, 1957
Guy Debord with Asger Jorn

Design Concept and Scenarios

1. Agents: Private individuals, associations, local authorities, companies, non-profit organizations
2. Environment: City architecture, infrastructures, landscape, waterways, climatic conditions
3. Technology Features: Positioning, detecting movement and interaction, evaluating density, visualizing, sensing environment values

Francesco Calabrese, Kristian Kloeckl, Carlo Ratti
WikiCity: Real-Time Location-Sensitive Tools for the City, 2009
MIT Senseable City Lab

Urban Sensing

“A crucial aspect of further development in this area will have to be focused on how to ensure that the technology of real-time location-based mapping remains focused on providing better information for people to base their decisions on instead of formulating decisions for the people. Any decision is based on knowledge and insight in the context in question. The better a situation and the actual dynamics in place are known, the better one is able to interact in an effective way with that situation and open up at best the implicit potential of that circumstance. Understanding urban dynamics with the help of digital technologies that enable real-time and location-based information is a powerful instrument to support just that, and it will be exciting to see how this tool can be used in constructive and inclusive ways for the benefit of a city.”

Francesco Calabrese, Kristian Kloeckl, Carlo Ratti
WikiCity: Real-Time Location-Sensitive Tools for the City, 2009
MIT Senseable City Lab

Toward a New Soft City

“These artists had to be content with using an allegorical process to sensitize their audience. Microcomputers connected to a variety of sensors allow artists to create works that respond directly to characteristics of the viewer’s current physical environment in a precise and direct way. Unlike the works described in previous sections, these do not focus on human choices but on physical qualities such as time of day, time of year, temperature, amount of light, rain and sun, barometric pressure, vibration, movement of objects in the surroundings, and electromagnetic radiation. Any change that a sensor can convert into an electrical pulse can be read by a computer and used to shape what the computer creates—for instance, video imagery, sounds, sequences of lights and physical movements. The viewer’s experiences change with changes in the environment. The artwork becomes a special window that lets viewers see their world more clearly.”

Stephen Wilson
Environment-Sensing Artworks and Interactive Events: Exploring Implications of Microcomputer Developments
Leonardo, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 290–291

Materializing Invisible Text

In a recent post, I discussed using key logging software to record keyboard-based input. That study focused on vocabulary over time. Looking at the file generated after a week, I was particularly intrigued by the way it illustrated non-linear working methods and navigation between screen-based activities. This accumulation of data seemed well-suited to inquiry through design.

Keystroke Semiotics examines the process of electronic text composition by making visible all of the keystrokes that go into writing and interfacing with a laptop computer. By mapping the input pertaining to deletion, cursor movement, copying and pasting, etc. to representative symbols, a revealing chronology is constructed. The resulting book materializes all my keyboard activity from October 14 to October 23.

Printing the text on newsprint elevates the process of writing while recognizing its ephemerality—and, ultimately, invisibility in its final state. I was surprised to see just how much I edit the sentences I type. It was curious to notice strings of cursor arrows forming entire blocks of text. And while the cognitive interplay between writing multiple email messages, navigating through Web pages, and working on a project informs these activities in ways that are not easily quantified, Keystroke Semiotics offers a kind of display.

Keystroke Logging

This is an aggregation of words I typed out twice or more over the past week and a tally of their usage. I installed logKext to log keystrokes and parsed the text with a basic Processing program. It’s an interesting view of recurring linguistic themes decontextualized from correspondence, homework, Web navigation, and other instantiations of natural language on a laptop. Some of these words immediately bring to mind the occasion of their use. “Omega,” for instance, is the name of a retreat center I visited last weekend. There are also many words from a dossier I just wrote for another class. Others I don’t recall using at all—ambient electronic communication, in retrospect. Even more intriguing to me are the navigational cues visible in the pre-processed text file. And this is the point of departure for another project . . .

Word List
Already: 2; Arduino: 2; By: 4; CD: 2; CO2: 3; Center: 2; Culture: 2; Daemon: 4; Design: 3; Disc: 2; Do: 2; Fri: 4; GPS: 4; Gas: 2; Have: 2; Here: 3; Holy: 7; I: 18; I’ll: 4; I’m: 7; It: 2; Jason: 2; Living: 2; MD: 10; Media: 4; MiniDisc: 12; Nature: 2; New: 5; Oct: 8; October: 2; Omega: 4; Our: 2; Photograph: 2; Recording: 2; Saturday: 3; Sony: 2; Still: 2; Thanks: 2; The: 9; Thu: 2; V: 5; Warner: 2; We: 2; Wed: 2; With: 4; York: 6; You: 5; a: 59; able: 2; about: 4; add: 2; address: 2; again: 4; all: 7; along: 3; also: 6; amount: 4; an: 10; analog: 5; and: 70; any: 4; appreciate: 2; are: 9; around: 3; as: 13; assignment: 2; at: 15; attend: 2; audio: 5; back: 4; be: 12; been: 2; between: 5; both: 2; but: 7; by: 24; can: 5; case: 2; complex: 2; compression: 2; conference: 2; confirm: 2; could: 4; data: 4; day: 2; dear: 2; devised: 2; direct: 2; disc: 6; do: 5; doesn’t: 2; don’t: 2; dossier: 2; early: 2; else: 2; end: 4; experience: 2; field: 3; first: 3; fit: 3; follow: 2; for: 36; form: 2; format: 2; from: 8; gave: 2; generation: 2; get: 3; going: 2; good: 9; got: 2; great: 2; happy: 2; has: 8; have: 9; having: 2; help: 4; her: 3; hope: 4; how: 5; if: 7; in: 27; including: 3; information: 3; interested: 3; into: 4; is: 30; it: 19; it’s: 3; its: 3; just: 3; keep: 2; know: 5; light: 3; like: 3; logged: 4; longer: 3; looking: 2; lot: 2; made: 4; many: 2; material: 2; may: 4; me: 8; media: 3; meet: 3; meeting: 2; memory: 2; method: 2; might: 2; mind: 2; minutes: 2; more: 2; most: 2; music: 3; my: 6; need: 8; new: 4; next: 2; no: 3; not: 10; occurs: 2; of: 93; off: 2; on: 17; one: 2; or: 5; order: 3; original: 3; other: 2; others: 3; out: 5; over: 7; part: 2; past: 2; performance: 2; power: 2; primary: 2; project: 4; public: 3; published: 2; range: 2; really: 2; recorder: 2; recording: 3; relationship: 4; requires: 2; research: 3; ride: 2; see: 3; send: 2; sensor: 3; set: 2; sharing: 2; should: 4; slide: 2; so: 6; some: 7; something: 2; sound: 7; sounds: 2; source: 2; spectrum: 2; starting: 4; staying: 2; still: 3; such: 3; sure: 3; talk: 2; technology: 3; than: 2; that: 17; that’s: 3; the: 133; their: 3; then: 2; theory: 2; there: 2; these: 3; things: 2; think: 4; this: 14; to: 79; today: 2; try: 2; two: 3; up: 13; use: 3; using: 2; very: 2; visible: 2; voltage: 3; vs.: 2; was: 12; wasn’t: 2; way: 3; we: 5; weekend: 10; well: 3; what: 8; which: 3; while: 2; will: 6; with: 25; within: 3; without: 3; work: 4; worked: 2; working: 3; would: 4; x: 2; you: 33; you’re: 3; your: 9.

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