Data Experiments & Design Exploration about Place

Steve Pepple
May 20, 2016 · 6 min read

‘‘Exploratory experiment is the probing, playful activity by which we get a feel for things. It succeeds when it leads to the discovery of something there’’

— Donald Schön

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Buildings with colors from social media. One of several artistic experiments with city mediums.
  • How to produce creative experiments and have fun, when daunted by layer upon and layer of data.
  • How to move from art to analysis and from experimentation to design.

Exploration

“The city is a point where all the paths meet”

— Friedrich Kittler

I enjoy exploring neighborhoods, both newly discovered and well-trodden. I started to wonder if I could write software to help me find pockets of activity, vibrance, and new things. As I started this exploration process myself, I also pondered how people will find their way through the digital layers and mediums of future cities.

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Visualization automatically generated from sensor data Owen Powell. Visualization of real-time data about Geneva using report sensors installed in various neighborhoods in the city.

Learning Curves

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

— Albert Einstein

It took me too long to realize that analysis can be fun!

Street Movement Seen in Instagram Photos

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Photos taken during the 2015 Pride Parade. You can see the build up to the parade and how people move to neighborhood block parties as the afternoon goes on.

Photos and Emojis

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I started analyzing media across different map layers and isolating for variables like color, language, and sentiment.

Colors from Photos

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Using color quantization, I created a spatial database of color. You can see the colors of parks and murals in the Mission neighborhood.

Painting Buildings with Social Color

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I used colors from photo to express density of people and establishments. More bright and colorful building are more active.
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Art, Analysis, Design

A playful discovery process can still lead to more serious analysis and areas of inquiry.

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  • From user-generated social media, we can identity media that characterize these places.
  • Using mapping tools we can create plans for connecting hotspots of activity.

Hotspots in Downtown

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Heat maps of transit frequency by stop, cultural amenities, such as stores and restaurants, activity in social media.
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Density of Bart and AC Transit Stops, Restaurants and Stores from Google Places, and Social Activity Represented by Instagram Photos within a 10-mile walking radius of 19th Street Bart.

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