Sorting Out Cities

Sorting Out Cities

Sorting Out Cities

Piece for the Geo-Cosmos display at Miraikan – the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Tokyo. Dietmar Offenhuber & Ars Electronica Futurelab – Roland Haring, Peter Holzkorn, Andreas Jalsovec , Michael Mayr, Nicolas Naveau, Emiko Ogawa

Although cities cover only a small fraction of the earth, they have a tremendous impact on the world. This theme explores how cities relate to the rest of the world in terms of the space they occupy, the people they shelter, the resources they use, the global movements they facilitate and are subjected to. The exhibit uses an unique approach to visualize topics such as land-use and urban extent, rural and urban population, water availability and consumption, global accessibility and migration. By literally sorting out the complex spatial relationships between cities and the world, global connections, trends, and inequalities become directly observable.

“As I see it, a key aspect of the city of the future is informality. Of the world’s 20 largest cities in 2030, only one will be in Europe and two in North America. The rest will be in what used to be referred to as developing countries (though that hasn’t been accurate for a long time now). However, these megacities are to a great extent characterized by informal economies and infrastructures. Technology plays a role here as well. The smartphone, for example, makes formal processes more informal; as a result, many structures break down. At the same time, it makes informal processes more formal, since, for example, every movement and every conversation via smartphone leaves behind traces. The city of the future will be more chaotic and more dynamic, but most certainly not the way these are portrayed in clinical science fiction and smart city visions.”

Data sources: Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for International Earth Science Information Network – CIESIN – Columbia University, International Food Policy Research Institute – IFPRI, the World Bank, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Deutscher Wetterdienst, the Water Footprint Network, Global Environment Monitoring Unit – Joint Research Center (JRC), Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division

The storyboard, interview in German and English



Decoding the City

Decoding the City

Decoding the City

Edited volume on data-driven urbanism together with Senseable City Lab Director Carlo Ratti.

The book focuses on research approach of the Senseable City Lab and includes essays from guest authors including Fabien Girardin, Luis Betttencourt (Santa Fe Institute), Andres Sevtsuk (City Form Lab), Francisca Rojas and a group of authors from the Barabasi Lab.

This edition, edited by Dietmar Offenhuber and Carlo Ratti, shows how Big Data change reality and, hence, the way we deal with the city. It discusses the impact of real-time data on architecture and urban planning, using examples developed in the SENSEable City Lab. They demonstrate how the Lab interprets digital data as material that can be used for the formulation of a different urban future. It also looks at the negative aspects of the city-related data acquisition and control. The authors address issues with which urban planning disciplines will work intensively in the future: questions that not only radically and critically review, but also change fundamentally, the existing tasks and how the professions view their own roles.

The book has been translated into several languages including Chinese, Korean and Farsi, the German version has been published at Bauwelt Fundamente.

LED Facade Northeastern

LED Facade Northeastern

Hot/Cold: Information Design for Dynamic Media and Light

The collaboration with Philips Color Kinetics focuses on responsive, interactive, and public display using dynamic lighting at the architectural scale. A team of students will develop and implement design proposals that should conclude with a temporary installation on Ryder Hall on Northeastern University’s campus. This activity is embedded in a studio course on the design of interactive information displays in different contexts and at different scales, ranging from visualizations for personal, mobile devices to information displays on the urban scale. The class results can inform a broader discussion about identity and guidance systems for the campus that appeal through their abstract simplicity and dynamic responsiveness.

Team: Miriam Zisook, Ashley Treni, Lauren McCafferty, Esat Karaman, Vivian Sun, Rania Masri, advised by Dietmar Offenhuber (NEU), Susanne Seitinger (Philips CK), Zachary Fox (TA), Gadi Baron (Coop), Peter Schmitt

External links and news:
When light becomes data with information (lumec)
LED Light Installation Measures Mood (lumec)
Northeastern Center for the Arts
Your mood in lights (northeastern.edu)

Video by Vivian Sun

Infrastructure legibility

Infrastructure legibility

Offenhuber, D. 2014. “Infrastructure Legibility–a Comparative Analysis of open311-Based Citizen Feedback Systems.” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, March. 

During the past decade, most large US cities have implemented non-emergency incident reporting systems via telephone helplines, websites and more recently, mobile applications. Using data from systems operating in the larger Boston area, and spatial and grounded theory analysis of submitted reports, this article investigates the role of design in shaping the interaction between the citizens and the city. It investigates the following questions: Which assumptions about the users are embedded in design of existing feedback systems? What motivates users to participate, and how do the systems’ design choices correspond with these motivations? By what mechanisms do these systems facilitate and constrain the interaction between citizen and city? (From the abstract) 

The results show that subtle differences in the design of the system have an impact on the way conversations are led over the system and arguments are framed. The prescription of feedback categories, the management of visibility and persistence of reports, and the degree of other user’s social presence are important elements that contribute to the way governance of public infrastructure is enacted.