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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Amsterdam RealTime – Waag Society

  • On February 21, 2006

I have just been reminded of a project Ralph de Rijke of the Waag showed me a year ago called ‘ Amsterdam RealTime ‘. The website for the project hasn't been updated in some time unfortunately. Essentially the piece was made for the exhibition Maps of Amsterdam 1866-2000 at the Amsterdam City Archive. The Waag Society together with Esther Polak set up the project which included developing a GPS tracking system that traced the movements of participants who carried portable tracing devices around the city with them.

Videos of Map's Growth

“Every inhabitant of Amsterdam has an invisble map of the city in his head. The way he moves about the city and the choices made in this process are determined by this mental map. Amsterdam RealTime attempts to visualize these mental maps through examining the mobile behaviour of the city's users.”

The data was mapped onto a black background as the GPS data was gathered a map of the participants paths through the city slowly grew creating some really lovely images as well as a few unexpected results including people attempting to draw images over large parts of the map without any idea how accurate they looked. Ralph told me about some guys who got on a boat with the tracking equipment and did some drawings off the coastline free from the confines of the street layouts. It immediately reminded me of the ancient biomorphs and geoglyphs of the Nazca Desert that have puzzled scientist and historians ever since they were rediscovered in the 1920's.

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