Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mapping the Crowd

Over the past year or so, several efforts have used the location tracking capabilities of smartphones to offer insights into how urban environments impact the movement of people.  On a macro-scale, find above a video from crowdflow.net which uses the voluntarily contributed locations of 881 iPhones in Europe during the month of April 2011 to create a time-lapse sequence of movements. Appropriately, it is called "Fireflies".

Similarly, in the mid-April of this year, Jeff Clark at Neoformix released a series of time-lapse graphics for some 39,000 geo-referenced tweets that had been previously collected in mid-Manhattan. Unique to these mid-scale depictions, the resultant flow lines for tweeters provides both a sense of volume and speed of movement (red equals fast).  A detailed description of this effort along with some of the derived graphics can be found by clicking the link below.

Comment: Efforts like the two above represent an emerging field of geospatial study that is attempting to understand the influence of environmental surroundings on the geography of human movement.  While it may not seem so on the surface, the implications for emergency response planners and responders could be far reaching. For example, the ability to gather real world observations like the two noted above holds potential for enhancing ground breaking work of other researchers like Dr. Paul Torrens of the University of Maryland.  His efforts previously demonstrated on a micro-scale the ability to model things like riot behavior and crowd reaction to an emergency based on elements in the space where these events took place.  Thus, the value of this type of geospatial understanding to endeavors as diverse as construction design, law enforcement response to a flash riot, or even health and welfare distribution efforts during a disaster could ultimately be substantial.  

For more on Dr. Torrens work click the link below the graphic (be sure to play the video).

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