Imagine a living map of a city that is created and recreated as the city regenerates minute by minute, a map that is drawn and redrawn by the daily activities of its inhabitants. Our proposal is to equip numerous bicycles in Barcelona’s new public transportation system Bicing with A/V (Audio/Video) and GPS (Global Positioning System) devices in order to collect the everyday qualitative and quantitative aspects of the city via the routine of its inhabitants. From these numerous individual fragments of the city, a collective story is assembled as users go about their lives to “compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other.” 1 Layer upon layer of stories build into a map constructed not by the authorities but by the everyday users of the system, from the ground up. The bicycle as an extension of the human body into the city becomes a full-scale mapping instrument, which captures both the sensual/experiential and the scientific/abstract notation of the human body into the city body and viceversa.
As the city occupant cycles through Barcelona, Borges conceit of a map at full scale in A Universal History of Infamy is realized not in dimension but in precision. 2 Cycling as the city cycles, the inhabitants write and read their stories on the streets, alleys, parks and sidewalks of their terrain vividly and precisely as they go about their daily routines. Described and narrated through the imagery of the scenery and conversations recorded on the A/V device and grounded with the details of the data inscribed by GPS, the city is revealed as “pictorial and sensual, intellectual and mathematical” 3 via daily routines and interactions. The hybrid A/V/GPS device will be housed within the bicycle’s light enclosure on the handlebar and powered by the pedaling of the cyclist. The device will stream a live feed of data that would be archived into a searchable database in which the collected time code (A/V) and (GPS) information are synchronized, blending the realism and sensuality of experience with the detailed discovery of the physiology of the cyclist as related to the geography and place it occupies. The data will exist online as a “living map” of anonymous yet detailed data of the life of a city and as an open source document for scientists and artists to analyze and interpret. What do calories burned, and body mass mean as related to length, speed, imagery and sound? What do latitude, longitude and topography mean as related to heart rate and mood? What do we understand by density of movement, interactions, delays, detours as experiences accumulated on a place? What is revealed about the sensual and the abstract and about the intimate relationship between the city and its occupants? And how do we benefit from visualizing this intricate ecology? *
1 de Certeau, Michel. Walking in the City. In The Practice of Everyday Life
2 Borges, Jorge Luis. A Universal History of Infamy
3 Nuti, Lucia. Mapping Places: Chorography and Vision in the Renaissance
*A two-week study has already been conducted during 2008 in which five Barcelona residents volunteered to equip their respective Bicing bikes on each ride with A/V/GPS. From that the following documents were created and their potential is being explored. Next we will use this already collected data (70+ hrs of material) to figure out the logistics of the proposed “living map”.