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The Active City : Visualising cultural activity in London

Over the last few months we have been working on a series of visualisations representing the theme of an active city as part of our masters coursework in spatial analysis & visualisation at CASA, UCL.

Our group – consisting of myself, Rowan Blaik, Lyzette Zeno-Cortes and Agata Brok, chose to pursue this with the specific idea of cultural activity and interaction.

This post will summarize it all in one page, but a more comprehensive presentation & folio for this piece can be viewed via the website: cityofcultu.re

Below are some examples of the wide array of visualisations we produced to explore the topic, which covered global, regional, city and street scale.

Global Magnetism

Here we explored global migration to London through a static visualisation Processing, as well as a look into the magnitude of one of London’s many cultural attractors (the V&A Museum) using D3.

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Cultural Icons

These visualisations explored how data from monuments of individuals and events can be made more meaningful through crowd-sourced data from sources such as Wikipedia. In particular, we focused on English Heritage Blue Plaques, which have a strong presence in London.

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Plaque Explorer

The most exciting and challenging phase of this visualisation involved generating a browser-based London using threejs. Here we represented cultural phenomena in the form of metaballs in the city – which are divided by category and scaled by their proximity to their own type. The plaques were also included in this city, with their height increasing with amount of page views on their biographies in Wikipedia in the last 90 days.

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One of the advantages of using threejs was that it allowed us to add our own customization. One of these involved implementing the visualisation so it can be viewed with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. While this was a bit of a challenge, it proved an interesting, and of course fun, way to interact with the city in your browser. If you’d like to run this you will need an Oculus Rift with the Oculus bridge plugin running locally.

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Icons of reminiscence

This final aspect of the project involved moving to a street scale, which opens up ideas of how these can be represented in a augmented reality/wearable avenue. The people from the plaques were rendered nicely in Adobe After Effects and represented as portraits flying through the streets, with bubbles representing their page views again.

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If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or tweet any of us at @oc_lock , @land_lab, @urbanjuicing, @cityremade.

If you’d like to learn how to do these kind of visualisations, take a look at these courses that CASA run.

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