On the 11th October 2008, a number of planners, architects, children, artists and more came upon a small gallery opening in the Kenneth Myers Centre on Shortland St, Auckland, New Zealand. Here they found a large table with a map of the centre of Auckland and a rather large amount of clay. Claystation is a project led by Chris de Groot and has been shown internationally. Videos for the development of the city in clay will be available in the near future.
Looking up from their feverish work, the de facto designers of New Auckland would have seen some other works – exercises in mapping with a basis somewhat similar to their current activity. Our work (myself and Matt) is an attempt to map the directions and flows of the populous of Auckland CBD, both within the enclosure of the motorway and the tendrils that extend beyond. Through an on-the-stop survey, Matt and I were able to obtain more than 150 individual’s directions – asking simply where they were heading (with the aid of two maps, a smaller and larger scale). Initially we asked them to draw their route on the maps but quickly found peoples’ spacial awareness to be lacking in being presented with a gray map of what seemed to be Auckland. We then took over drawing the path from their current location (the point of survey) to their destination. Of course, some were heading down Queen St, some to lunch, some returning home from a movie and some to Devonport, Waiheke, Howick, etc. These diverse directions produced a linear splatter of black ink on the maps. Obviously mapping this data would require a method of separating the journeys and identifying primary flows without simplifying the data.
For this, we undertook to make the haptic interactive mapping activity program (HIMAP?). Using Johnny’s work as a basis, and my prior programming knowledge applied to this foreign programming language, I was able to roughly assemble a program structure that would present the data in response to movements from the viewer. This system needed to reduce the data to something tangible, understandable without manuals, or even written or symbolic instructions. Upon arriving at the work in a gallery, the viewer must understand intrinsically that this large digital panel required the interaction of it’s viewer.
Placed simply on the wall next to the panel are a pair of odd glasses (those detailed in the video from the previous post). Putting on these glasses (or holding them as some of the more vanity-aware users did) instantly transformed a seemingly paused ‘movie’ into a window high above Auckland CBD. The shock of this wireless, buttonless interaction was seen on many of the user’s faces.
Simply moving left, right, up and down would change the angle of view above the city to observe different areas geographically and different vectors upon the city. The vectors themselves are loaded from a file (generated by a more simple program written in Visual Basic for the purpose of entering these points) and are positioned on the simplified map of Auckland – the heights and scales of each are determined by their length. This means as the viewer moves, the data is separated by the commonly though subconsciously understood method of parallax. This means that data was no longer merely a splatter, but now a web of subtly different paths. The ‘staple’ shape was the result of much testing to provide the simplest understanding of these elevated paths, connected to the city even in their broken elevation.
Moving forward and backward changes the scope of the map (as if moving rapidly up or down a tower on in a helicopter) to view more of the wider region or zoom in to the smallest street. Upon this map the data is filtered to show the relevant journey lengths – a longer journey to Waiheke would appear when at a higher altitude and the journey of the person getting to the Ferry Building from Queen St would appear at lower altitude. This allows a study of short journeys within the city AND a study of the paths in and out of the city to farther destinations independent of each other yet on the same surface, in the same experience.
In addition to these filtering methods, one can observe individual paths as part of a greater directional flow by matching their vector – moving on the same angle as a single path will illuminate it from blue to white and then fade. Interestingly, this shows the viewer how many other paths in the city match this direction – Queen St is a prime example of a unified direction of many journeys.
The program is a complex collection of data, code and display but with the simplest of human interaction – movement, like looking through a small window to a vast landscape.
[Pictures of the gallery and interactions will follow.]