Cityscapes, imagineering the urban condition
LAb[au], laboratory for architecture and urbanism
Manuel Abendroth, Jérôme Decock
In the context of the 5th biennial of media and architecture
Year of conception/realisation:
Flash, Ming, MySQL, Php turbine
Brief of the project: The development of an online forum mapping the online discussion panels
The discussion panel 'Cityscapes, imagineering the urban condition' has been planned as a process taking place both in physical and electronic space over a three-month-long time span. The different phases and exchanges have all been mapped on the Cityscapes Interface, designed by LAb[au]. Besides incorporating the standard functionalities of a forum, the interface operates as a cartographic evaluation of the discussion process which on the first layer, the infoscape, describes the temporal evolution of the debate and on the second layer, the forum blocks, semantically indexes the debate postings.
Both systems are based on the same principle: to display each post in the form of a card and to stack these cards according to different sorting parameters such as time, the author's status, the amount of threads a post has generated, the most highlighted... In this manner the z-axis of the interface operates as a quantitative or qualitative evaluation of the postings and the spatial layering of the cards defines the different reading modalities:
1. The horizontal stacking leads to the 'infoscape' being a scrollable timeline simultaneously displaying one week of posts high-lighted by the forum curators. In order to handle the amount of information older posts are proportionally scaled down in size according to their publication date up to zero when the posting has exceeded the one-week limit. When entering the site, the timeline centers automatically on the current date and left-right scrolling allows the user to navigate in time to read past postings or future announcements. The z-axis operates here as a temporal evaluation of the discussion process.
2. The diagonal stacking of the cards constitutes the isometric forum blocks of the three ongoing panels. Here the z-axis can be sorted according to: the author's status (being a panelist, a visitor or a curator), A-Z keyword indexes, time of the post, the most replied and highlighted posts, as well as personal parameters among which are read and unread posts, posts replied to and not replied to... Due to the representation of these parameters on the border of the cards, the diagonal stacking leads to a graphic overview of the discussion, according to these indexes, this allows the user to sort the posts visually.
One of the specificities of the diagonal stacking is that always two borders, and as such two indexes, remain simultaneously visible. This allows comparative views and re-orientation of the block, displaying the other borders, indexes, of the cards. As such the forum blocks operate as an interface to easily access the postings by visually contextualizing them according to its most important parameters.
3. The stacking orientation of the postings creates multiple readings of the ongoing discussion. The qualities of the electronic medium and its dynamic display of information become here fully tangible, exploiting its modalities to build up proper understanding of communication exchanges. These maps are a real-time evaluation of the process only digital media can provide and which the user can print out at any moment, providing the user with analytic tools and diagrams. These maps are once more nothing other than the sorting, the orientation, of the cards according to a specific direction.
Based on a singular structural principle, the interface displays the discussion in the form of dynamic and processual cartographies forming a contextual understanding and reading of the project, mapping all produced information in visual, textual signs.
The cartographies are the result of database requests processing all the stored, produced, information of the communication exchange in real-time. Accordingly the entire web-site turned into a dynamic, scripted, visual display of information ending up with a 2 kilobyte web-site and a 58 kilobyte script to load. This conception of an interface transforms graphic design practice into the conception of programmed systems, from representation to processes building up a complete proper semiotic language. Consequently the project investigates the specific esthetics of communication processes and shared resources; as such it proposes an information architecture enhancing connectivity.
Metalab02 History Navigator (requires the Adobe Flash Player 8+).