A quick dip into the online world to note two projects that aim to make visible the trails we leave behind.
The BBC is using data from GPS tags and ISPs to show how the movement of objects and data might look when tracked from space. Meanwhile, the movement of individual people, or at least their footsteps, is being tracked by their floors. How quickly special effects become reality: Visual paths left in this 2003 REM music video (at 2:09 in, and again at 2:20, 2:54, 3:01–basically the second half) can now be easily and cheaply made visible.
How will the built environment adapt to technology that can track the movement of crowds? Tracking is only half the battle: More important is figuring out how to influence the behavior of crowds, how to move them through stations or sidewalks or courtyards more efficiently. The rise of a new geometry: the design of the built environment will, quite literally, be crowdsourced. Buildings and paths will be arranged in direct response to measurable human needs.
Or, even more importantly, the possibility of altering the experience of individual end-users. Delete the crowd; move from macro to micro. The people are persons: How is each person moving through space? Can the person move with the crowd, at the speed of the crowd? Are the visual cues in the built environment—signage, color, lighting, smells, sounds, ground plane differentiation—sufficient to permit on-the-fly wayfinding?
We return to a question raised earlier: How do we structure the built environment for those who don’t already know how to use it?