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Published by Sumona Chakravarty

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Published by: Sumona Chakravarty on Sep 29, 2011
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02/09/2014

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Visualization of Movement across thecity
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Presence:Amsterdam Realtime (2002)
Project Credits: Waag Society, Esther Polak andJeroen KeeAmsterdam Realtime was an art projectthat captured the invisible ‘mental map’ that everyindividual builds through interactions with the city.The project aimed to visualize these ‘mental maps’by examining the mobile behavior of the city’s users.During two months, 3rd October to 1st December 2002, all of Amsterdam’s residents were invited to usea tracer unit that mapped their paths. The data wasvisualized real-time as an animation that shows themap of Amsterdam constructing itself, not from streetsor blocks of houses but from the daily movement of itspeople.The visualization was a part of an exhibitionon ‘Maps of Amsterdam 1866-2000’. After seeing adisplay of 150 years of cartography, the visitors areconfronted with a map that is not determined by thecartographer’s vision but by the lived experiences of 
its citizens. Reimagining the experience of the rst few
days of the exhibition, when visitors walked into a darkroom only to see their city composed of a few feeblelines, its shape and geography unrecognizable, onecan feel how confusing and unfamiliar this must havebeen. Over the next few weeks, as the map grew andAmsterdam emerged from the random and haphazardcollective movement of its citizens, it must havebeen an overwhelming feeling realizing that althoughAmsterdam is a physical conglomeration of roads,
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Presence:Amsterdam Realtime
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buildings, plots of land, it is more importantly the sumof the actions of its citizens, who shape the city everyday by using it.The tracer unit given to each citizen consistedof a PDA with a built in telephone, a GPS receiver andan antenna that could be extended and attached tothe tops of cars or outside buses by using a magnet.This helped create an uninterrupted connection withthe GPS satellites. The coordinates of the user weretransmitted real-time to a server using the GPRStelephone network. The server transmitted the datato a computer that used Keystroke software to collectthe data and render it as traces, projecting the imagein the exhibition space.Over the three months as the map slowlytook shape, spots on the map, which were visited or crossed often, changed from white to yellow to red,showing the intensity of use of these locations. Theimperfections of GPS localization were consciouslyvisualized by drawing distinctive lines only when a highdegree of accuracy was measured. The traces werealso tagged with the name of the person being traced.For the participants who shaped the map as wellas the audience who witnessed this process, the real-time experience of seeing the map develop revealshow each individual has a different interaction withthe city based on his or her lifestyle. The map gives asense of the diversity of the city, where each person,

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