You are currently browsing the URTing NYC blog archives for November, 2010

Faith Cloud

Group: Pam Mendoza & Neha Shah

We want to develop a Research Tool that will explore the relationship between religion and the LGBTQ community.

Final deliverables list
Research statement / goals
Research support: precedents & people
Actual user scenarios

About Faith Cloud
Faith Cloud UI

Urban Memories – Phase One

I will be redesigning the look and feel of the Urban Research Toolkit website.


HistouricNYC – Phase 1

I will be refining the Intersections iPhone app, focusing on how the app guides the user through the city.

[Phase 1 pdf]

Atts & Lats Logo / Identity / Site Frames

Logo and identity status check as 3 page pdf: AttsLatsMock

To Do: Web site wire frames and pages
Video tour of selected stories, images, places. An edited look at the take-away
launch the site and solicit contributions and user testing
post on Out and then blast it on a Facebook via SHARE Button

11-08-10: Mapping Precedents & Final Projects

“If the thinking task is to understand causality, the task calls for a design principle: ‘Show causality.’ If a thinking task is to answer a question and compare it with alternatives, the design principle is ‘Show comparisons.’”

- Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information

Interface & Mapping Precedents

Map Your Moves – WNYC Challenge
by many (crowdsourced) via WNYC Challenge, 2010
- Moritz Stefaner’s visualization

Turning from the Millennium
OnRamp Arts, 2000
- Created pre-Google map with inner city high school students & visiting scholars

Manhattan Timeformations
by Brian McGrath, 2000
- history of skyscraper transformations, fly throughs, 3D views

Bleeding Through: Layers of LA
by Labyrinth Project with Norman Klein, 2003
- includes special archive material, commentary
by Bestiario
- collection of interface / visualization examples

University of Wisconsin Arboretum Map
by Axis Maps, 2010
- features layered filter menu, choice of base maps, paths & areas

Center for Land Use Interpretation Database
- clean usable database for current and related projects

Visual Thesauras
by ThinkMap
- interactive database (view the trial) of words, explore map

RadioLab: About Cities
- what makes cities tick; metrics, pace of life

Final Project Topics:

Nathan & Leif: Attitudes & Lattidutes

Final Project Documents – amend or add as needed

Phase One Docs:

  • timeline for rest of term
  • final deliverables list
  • research statement / goals
  • research support: precedents & materials & people

Phase Two Docs:

  • actual user scenarios (real people please!)
  • task flow storyboards
  • taxonomies(talk with Ed Scarcele, TNS Librarian)
  • customized record type (if applicable)
  • information architecture
  • paper prototypes (sketches – test these before wireframes)
  • wireframes

Final Project Proposal


Final Project Proposal

I was greatly inspired by the Urban Probes reading by Paulos and Jenkins. The approach that they outlined in this article is consistent with how I have viewed research. I feel that the direct hands on initiatives that Paulos and Jenkins mention create tangible ideas and objects successfully and rapidly. The idea of “body storming” allows the observations of a subject to directly effect the research question. Brain storming allows for ideas that are outside of the realm reality. For urban research, the direct “body storming” of areas and concepts allows for the lowest levels of information to penetrate the formation of a research question.

The breadth of research discussed in the Urban Probes reading also struck me as fantastic. The idea of using hand written post cards to study peoples reaction to urban detritus is brilliant. This one example as well as the trash augmented trashcan fit will into the categories of the dérive and détournement. I personally throughly enjoy creating and experiencing urban interventions and the two example from Urban Probes are well thought out and executed.

The article Cultural Probes by Gaver, Dunne, and Pacenti created what I felt was an extension to the ideas put forth in the Urban Probes paper. I have always felt that the collection of research data should be tailored towards the subject you are collecting from. Again the idea of using post cards as a research tool comes up. In this case, the research subject being retired, was expected to use the post card as a response to a question. By understanding the research demographic Gaver, Dunne, and Pacenti were able to create a research tool that spoke directly to the subjects. The idea of collecting post cards, photo albums and maps seems to be somewhat stereotypical for the research demographic but seemed to work well.

Using a portable sensor module that captured location specific information expanded my horizon on urban mapping. The ability to use a tool that some many people already have, the smartphone, for data collection has profound possibilities. Smartphones already contain a huge variety of sensors, including GPS, compass, camera and microphone, that can be utilized for data collection. The ability to share this information at near real time speeds over a cellular network allows for even greater possibility.

Researchers are allows looking for better ways to collect information. Sensor networks are costly to maintain and update and therefore are out of reach for many smaller scale research projects. The reliance on provided public data becomes one option for these researchers. These data sets are often incomplete and may not provide the information needed to support a particular thesis. In many cases, I believe, researchers are required to then modify the thesis to fit the available data. The democratization of mobile computing allows researchers to collect the data they need.

Broad groups of people are being mobilized to help collect data using a device that the users, themselves, pay for and maintain. The popularity in small scale electronics and microcontrollers, such as the Arduino, allows people to create and use sensors that are not included in current smartphones. This is the case of the “Citizen Sensor” project. An Arduino with a bluetooth module allows users to collect carbon monoxide and noise data that is then geotagged and uploaded to a server. The Urban Research Toolkit provides users with the ability to customize the way in which their data is collected and cataloged.

One major downside to the prototyping of the Urban Research Toolkit during the fall 2010 semester is that the database component was not readily available to use. The “Citizen Sensor” project had many possibilities but the lack of data collection capabilities hampered the process. The mobile application that was available for the Android phones work well in most cases but lacked finishing touches. The connection to the sensor module was handled well and was easy to use. There was a lack of error handling for the login process though. It seemed that if you entered in any username or password the application would not tell you if it connected to the database properly. This database connection also reappeared when sending information to the database. There was no positive conformation that the data was correctly received. The last problem that was present was an error with the noise level recording. It seemed that there were times when the sensor would read completely improbable noise levels, up to 900 decibels.

My final project for the URTing NYC class will be continuing the project “Attitudes and Latitudes” with Nathan Becker. The “Attitudes and Latitudes” project aims at collecting experiences of location related to the gay and lesbian community. Audio recordings are used as the means of collection for these stories. The ability of an end user to hear and map stories related to one or many locations allows for an exploration of thoughts and ideas.

To expand on the concepts created in the first iteration of “Attitudes and Latitudes”, Nathan and I will create a much more comprehensive tool set for both the mapping and collection of stories. Secondly we will create a visually cohesive website for the user to experience. To satisfy the aspect of improved mapping of stories, we plan to incorporate a visual tour of the locations mentioned in the story. As a story is played, locations mentioned will be displayed on the map and a set of lines will be drawn to connect the locations. The map will pan to the new locations in sync with the story that is being told.

The collection of stories will be handled by creating a simple web based UI for users to record, map and edit their stories. Embedding the recording process entirely into the web page, allows users a “one stop shop” for recording an audio story. Using a web page based Flash application and Flash media server technology users will be able to record an audio clip, tag locations to specific points in the audio recording, and trim sections of the audio clip. A simple audio timeline and possibly wave form will allow the user to scrub to different points in the audio clip. At the point in a story a location is mentioned, the user will be able to place a “drop pin” on a map interface to specify that location. Both the improved mapping, and collection will be encapsulated in a throughly designed web interface.

Final Project propsal

Final Project Proposal

Through the semester URTing NYC has posed a number of interesting problems and solutions. The class had a number of guest speakers who brought interesting thoughts and projects to the table. Along with that the Citizen Sensor and Out History team who had a lot of interesting information to share. All in all the class was an interesting learning experience.

The readings for this class were wide and varied. One reading that definitely stuck with me through the semester is the Introduction to Buckminster Fuller by Victoria Vesna. It showed an interesting and innovative new outlook on things. The map of the world from a different perspective, with the true proportions of the land masses, made me realize how skewed some of our opinions on things can be. In retrospect, I definitely think that we should all learn to think and look at things differently. It gave a fresh perspective on a very old idea, the map of the world.

Another reading that was very interesting was Urban Probes: Encountering our Emerging Urban Atmospheres by Eric Paulos and Tom Jenkins. The article offers a new method of research, which was very different from my normal method of research. Although it cannot be denied that that the concepts being researched in both scenarios are very different. In the article, Jet Sam examined what most people over look that is trash.

After examination, the research showed that trash can tell a lot about the people in an area, and those that frequent it. It also shoed how certain things, like the half drunken sprite can that was trashed, removed, trashed again, and removed again for recycling. It was an interesting eye-opener to the culture of that part of San Francisco. Similarly the augmented trash can in New York that showed the levels of trash and how quickly the trash gets full. The projection of the trash on the street, even showed the New Yorkers themselves the result of their endless trash generation. These were the two readings that I found most interesting as they showed us to think and act differently, and how that can enhance or change a project for the better.

URTing NYC is a class that was very different to the normal classes that I have taken at Parsons. The classes demanded for us go out of our comfort zones and do things that would not be normally required of us. With the citizen censor, we walked around to different parts to different parts of the city to get readings, even though we didn’t get many. It made us aware of the patterns in the lives of city dwellers. For Out History we had conversations with random people on a topic that is not always spoken about openly, the LGBTQI communities. It was an experience to see how differently people think from different parts of the world. And in the bigger picture to take note of how these things apply to the Urban Research tool kit was very interesting. The class critiques were also valuable, as I wanted to see what different people had made out of the same project brief. These were the most
compelling and noteworthy parts of the class for me.

Both the projects in class were group projects and working with groups had its ups and downs. It was definitely convenient, because the work got divided and there was less pressure on each individual. Although coordinating times with people was definitely hassle. Another barrier that we seemed to hit while working on a group project was a difference of opinion. It was hard to make the opposite person understand my point of view.

Being a Communication Design Major made me think a long a certain path that was hard to explain to a Design and Technology student who thought differently. In the end our common interest towards the project made us rise above our differences and lead us to a great project. Upon reflection I definitely believe that the project was a great exercise in collaboration and expressing ideas to others that think in other ways.

For the final project I have two main interests, to continue the Out History project with my partner, Janvi Mody or do something with Vyjanthi on the Dharavi project. Since I have failed at contacting Vyjanthi, this proposal is going to be about the former idea.

Our Out History project was to examine the perceptions of the international student in New York City to the LGBTQI community, and whether moving to the city has affected it. This would be a vent for students who may find it hard to express themselves. Along with that, educational institutions could use it to draw conclusions about the environment towards the LGBTQI community.

To further the project, we thought the next step forward would be to actually take voice notes and make people answer our questions to be able to draw some kind of a conclusion to the question at hand. Another idea would be to incorporate Shana’s comment on editing the voice recordings. He had said it might be nice to incorporate an easy edit system that would allow people to make changes to their recordings; this would be a valuable addition.

Along with that we would have almost finished comps of the website, to give it an almost finished feel. We would want to do a couple of user tests to ensure that is easily navigable. Create user stories and scenarios, to help us create the best possible website to answer the question. The goal would be to have everything figured out for the project such that the only thing left to do for it would be the coding.

Attitudes & Latitudes

Here is the presentation file and the website:


11-02-10: OUThistory Presentations, Final Projects

Presentations and critique with Shana Agid

Write a 3-5 page final project proposal that thoughtfully reflects on:
1) 2-3 of the readings you have been assigned thus far, related to networks, building a project, mapping or oral histories
2) components of the assigned projects that you found compelling, in the context of prototyping Urban Research Toolkit
3) specifics you have found challenging thus far, whether related to the technology, collaboration dynamics, limits of time, etc.
4) your proposal for a final project- choose one of the following:

  • building on a specific component of URT (web or mobile)
  • a continuation of an existing project (OUThistory or Citizen Sensor)
  • prototype an interfacer related to research from one of the visiting critics or presenters (Shannon Mattern, Urban Media Archaeology;  Vyjayanthi Rao, Dharavi;  or Victoria Marshall, Patch Dynamics) Contact us if you need contacts or resources for this – ahead of time!

You may propose your final project as individual project, collaborative within a group, or individual working with a group.

>>Submit this as a Word doc via email to Jess & Jane by Monday 12pm (please spell check and use proper citations)