Excavating a 2002 piece – wegzeit

Excavating a 2002 piece – wegzeit

An old project, part of my thesis in architecture 2002: an early web-3d visualization project introducing different cartogram techniques and methods of urban time-space representation using real-time traffic information. Since the technology used then does no longer work (Virtools), I tried to salvage what still worked for the video.

“When you ask someone in Los Angeles how far it is from the beach to downtown, he or she will answer with the number of minutes it generally takes to traverse the distance rather than noting the number of miles. This system of defining and representing distance has recently been codified for use on the California Department of Transportation’s large LED “Freeway Condition” signs, which offer up-to-the-minute projections of estimated drive times: “8 minutes to downtown;” “22 minutes to 605 freeway,” and so on. Intrigued by the shift from the absolute units of distance traditionally used to describe space to the relative space of approximate drive times, Dietmar Offenhuber undertook an investigation of other examples in which data about the city is visualized in relative terms. The result of his work is Wegzeit, which uses six 3-D mapping paradigms – or cartograms – to visualize the city according to a range of conditions and interests.”

Feature in vectors online journal 2005
Link of the original 2002 project
pdf of thesis (in german)
Siggraph 2002 short paper

Urban entropy

Urban entropy

A project for the ars electronica facade, created during a residency at ars for the connecting cities conference and the soundframe festival. My explanation from a blog post:

My project is actually quite simple. On the LED façade, I display complaints received by the city, and thus visualize in the public sphere what people are complaining about. I find this fascinating because there are now many different systems that publish such complaints on a website. But I think it’s something completely different when they’re displayed right in the cityscape. The result is the development of a certain dynamism. People who submit a complaint are made cognizant of the fact that it’s then immediately visible by anyone in the cityscape. Here, I’m simply interested in these social dynamics that emerge between individual citizens and the municipal administration. But I find it very interesting on the aesthetic side too, since the city is actually always in motion and never in a perfect state of equilibrium. There’s never a time when everything has been cleaned up, maintained or repaired, and there’s actually no prospect that this will ever be the case. This state of imperfection goes on and on, ad infinitum.

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

An interview at the Ars Electronica Site in German and English

Raw format of the animation as fed to the globe, equi-rectangular projection

Triplanar projection

A video of the globe (courtesy Miraikan Museum)

The globe in the museum (courtesy Miraikan Museum)


Decoding the City

Decoding the City

Decoding the City -Urbanism in the Age of Big Data

Edited by Dietmar Offenhuber and Carlo Ratti


Published in 2014

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.

English Version, BirkhäuserGerman Version, Bauwelt

Accountability Technologies

Accountability Technologies

Accountability Technologies - Tools for Asking Hard Questions

Edited by Dietmar Offenhuber and Katja Schechtner

Published in Fall 2013


The basic need of civil society to live in responsibly planned and managed cities, to be involved in the planning process, or to at least be informed about it, has become a renewed focal point of debate in the past years. While the incipient criticism of the institutionalized and oft-unquestioned decision- making chain of urban planning was accompanied by a basic struggle for more say and participation in the 1970s, the varieties of participation, the technical possibilities of knowledge transfer and the understanding of transparency—keyword Open Data—have fundamentally changed in today’s information society. Much suggests that the classic distribution of roles between public and “individual” responsibility and the interface between citizens, activists and government have to be re-negotiated under new conditions. With the help of visualization, analysis and measurement tools subsumed under the term Accountability Technologies, as well as socio-cultural practices, extensive data on noise, environmental pollution, mobility and corruption, for instance, can be compiled and represented. This book exemplarily shows which socio-political areas of action are opened up by Accountability Technologies, but also which critical aspects are tied in with them. Such as, for example, the seemingly simple insight that the enormous convolutes of availably-made data are neither neutral, nor do they imply a better understanding of complex processes “per se.” The subtitle of this book indicates the direction: Accountability Technologies are to be understood as Tools for Asking Hard Questions, not as keys to ultimate answers.

“Like the volume Inscribing a Square: Urban Data as Public Space (Springer Verlag, 2012), edited by Katja Schechtner and Dietmar Offenhuber as well, this publication also rests upon the precondition that architecture and urbanism go far beyond the physical space and the singularity of built structure. The basis for this book is provided by the second edition of the symposium Sensing Place/Placing Sense, again carried out with exceptional cooperation between the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, the Ars Electronica and the afo architekturforum oberösterreich within the scope of the Ars Electronica Festival 2012. Thanks to these initiatives at the interface of several disciplines, the increasingly dense interweaving of urban data and their physical context has been continued in such an exciting way under the aspect of Accountability Technologies. I would like to thank all those involved, especially the two editors, for their competence and commitment in realizing this book. What began as a one-off publication now reveals itself—also in its graphic appearance—as a mutually related, mutually stimulating twosome.” Gabriele Kaiser, architekturforum oberösterreich

cover visualization: crowd-investigation of plagiarism in the doctoral dissertation of a former German defense Minister – by GutenPlag/User8


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