Tweeting in DUMBO


Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass where gentrification combines with public art just north of Brooklyn Heights, I discovered one of the secrets of America in the new world of smart cities, ICT, and citizen science: data streaming. Half a mile away in downtown Brooklyn, Mayor Bloomberg’s Big Cities+Big Data Centre – CUSP – which I am currently visiting is powering their way to building a smart cities centre which will be state of the art in exploring how data can be streamed and used to improve the equities and efficiencies of our contemporary cities. CUSP is also part of the revival of Brooklyn but at DUMBO, Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman have created a fascinating glimpse of how we might create and use all this big data in a public place. Let me quote from their web site. Fusing art and technology, Geolocation: A Tribute to the Data Stream  “ ……. is a truly fitting holographic project for DUMBO, a neighborhood that encapsulates the seamless integration of the creative arts and new technology communities. We use publicly available embedded GPS information in Twitter updates to track the locations of user posts and make photographs to mark the location in the real world. Each of these photographs is taken on the site of the update and paired with the originating text. Our act of making a photograph anchors and memorializes the ephemeral online data in the real world and also probes the expectations of privacy surrounding social networks. We select texts that reveal something about the personal nature of the users’ lives or the national climate, while also examining the relationship to physical space and the ways in which it influences online presence.

Twitter estimates there are over 350 million tweets daily, creating a new level of digital noise. Clive Thompson uses the term ambient awareness to describe this incessant online contact in his New York Times article, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy.” According to Thompson, “It is ….. very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of
the corner of your eye.” Our collaborative work is a means for situating this virtual communication in the physical realm. We imagine ourselves as virtual flâneurs, ethnographers of the Internet, exploring cities 140 characters at a time through the lives of others.”

About Michael Batty

I chair CASA at UCL which I set up in 1995. I am Bartlett Professor In UCL.
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