On Broadway – interactive urban data at the NYPL

Place: New York, Country: United States
On view at the New York Public Library (NYPL), part of the exhibition Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography
Text by Federica Lusiardi, Inexhibit
Images courtesy of On Broadway
http://on-broadway.nyc

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On Broadway – Interactive urban data visualization – installation and web app

How can we represent life in a 21st century metropolis? Is it possible to provide a depiction, based upon material inherently liquid, elusive and chaotic, formed of millions of publicly-shared images, statistical data and traffic-tracking figures?

What is “On Broadway”?
The urban research project we describe in this article is entitled On Broadway. It is an interactive installation, on view until 3 January 2016 at the New York Public Library, and also a web application, that essentially is a huge “digital portrait” of a portion of Manhattan.
Built up from millions files of data and thousands of images, the project depicts the 21st century life along the 13 miles of Broadway. The data used include 660,000 Instagram photos, shared during a 6-month-long time in 2014, image posts on Twitter, pictures from Google Street View, Foursquare check-ins collected since 2009, 22 millions taxi ride data from 2013, and economic indicators provided by the US Census Bureau.

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References
Many artists, photographers and film directors depicted urban life: from the boulevards of Paris painted by the Impressionists at the end of the 19th century, to the photomontages by Dada artists, from Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie to the film Play Time by Jacques Tati. However, the most direct reference of On Broadway, as the authors themselves admit, is “Every building on the Sunset Strip”, an “artist-book”, self-published by Edward Rusha in 1966, in which the artist represents, on a 8-meter-long strip, a continuous photographic panorama of both street sides along 1,5 miles of the Sunset Boulevard.

Picturing the modern city
Is there a way to tell the city of today, avoiding charts, numbers and maps? On Broadway is an image-centric interface, where numeric data play a secondary role and which does not use maps, presenting a visual metaphor of the city. It is constituted by a vertical pile of images, sorted into 13 levels and visually aligned coherently to Broadway. By “moving” along the street, one can find photos representing every location under different points of view; figures on taxi pick-ups and drop-offs, related Twitter posts with images, average household income data. To facilitate navigation and orientation, additional layers reporting neighborhoods name, landmarks and reference points, adjacent to Broadway, have also been included.

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Authors
On Broadway has been realized by a team, formed by Daniel Goddemeyer, Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur, and Lev Manovich, which had previously produced Selfiecity, a project based on 3,200 selfies shared on Instagram and shot in 5 different cities.

Contributors
Software Studies Initiative (Mehrdad Yazdani, Jay Chow, Nadav Hochman); Brynn Shepherd
and Leah Meisterlin; PhD students at The Graduate Center, City University of New York
(CUNY): Agustin Indaco (Economics), Michelle Morales (Computational Linguistics), Emanuel
Moss (Anthropology), Alise Tifentale (Art History).

Public installation
The installation is visible at the Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library (NYPL) and is part of the exhibition Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography, running from December 12, 2014 to January 3, 2016.

Interactive web app
The interactive app available on the web provides the same functions and level of interaction as the installation at the NYPL.
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images courtesy of On Broadway


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