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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Digital Isovist – Data Augmented Spaces

Digital Isovist – Data Augmented Spaces

Isovist is defined as “a set of all points visible from a given vantage point in space” (Benedikt, 1979). Although isovist refers to physical visibility, our interest lies in how digital information can affect our isovist. As demonstrated by our reliance on digital navigation tools, digital information is increasingly changing the way we perceive and interact with physical spaces.

As a channel of focus, we use events as a unit of analysis to examine this relationship closely. When an event takes place, disruptions happen in its physical space. Its digital spaces also undergo changes as we generate an influx of social media posts and discussions around the event. After the event, a space’s meaning is altered by both our physical actions and our digital presence. How can digital traces of an event be expressed in a spatial way? What are the not-so-visible impacts digital data have on the physical space?

Current Work in Progress:

Planes generated by data in AR blocks our visibility to the living room

Working with the constraints collaborating remotely and building a digital project, we took on AR as a tool. In this iteration, we investigate the manipulation of physical space with Twitter data around Covid-19 as an input, using AR to map tweet locations into our living room, layering and obscuring what is visible, and augmenting the way we experience a familiar physical space. Each time a tweet regarding Covid-19 is shared, a rectangular plane is generated in space, blocking what’s beneath it and presenting a piece of an alternate space. Over time, as more tweets are shared, planes become more dense, living room becomes more hidden, and a new space is eventually revealed. This gradual shift in perception alters our visibility and manipulates our isovist.

Past Work:

Left: drawing device recording the amount of activity. Right: frame displaying the drawing.

In its first iteration, the project took form of a drawing machine realized in disparate parts (the physical drawing device, the digital drawing, and the frame that displays the drawing). When working together, the drawing device produced data visualizations of how much digital information was produced each hour and minute during a physical event, while the frame displayed the drawing with the help of UV light. The event we chose to use was Extinction Rebellion’s Declaration of Rebellion.

Future Direction:

In the next term, our interest remains in investigating how physicality can be affected by digital information. The next iteration of the project will aim to construct a space manipulation tool with light projection and AR that takes live digital data as an input to layer onto physical space and transform the way we see space. As a framework for exploring manipulation, we are considering using a series of space alteration techniques such as the expansion, revealing, inversion, replacement of existing physical spaces.

Benedikt, M. L. (1979) To Take Hold of Space: Isovists and Isovist Fields.  Environment and Planning B, 6(1) 47-65.pp. 47

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