Sunday, July 01, 2007

When in Rome

While we're on the subject of former imperial cities, I don't want to forget to mention two digital projects about the city of Rome.

The art installation Real Time Rome from MIT is a dramatic visualization of "big data" that employs information from ubiquitous communication devices to map the current dynamics of the city's social spaces from hour to hour and block to black. The project's creators explain their rationale as follows:

The project aggregated data from cell phones (obtained using Telecom Italia's innovative Lochness platform), buses and taxis in Rome to better understand urban dynamics in real time. By revealing the pulse of the city, the project aims to show how technology can help individuals make more informed decisions about their environment. In the long run, will it be possible to reduce the inefficiencies of present day urban systems and open the way to a more sustainable urban future?

RomeReborn 1.0 is based at the University of Virginia. It is an ongoing project to create an elaborate 3D model of the ancient city of Rome to be used for teaching and scholarship. It uses archaeological findings to "spatialize" the communication strategies of classicists so they can reach a broader public. As the organizers say it is "a representation of our state of knowledge (and, implicitly, our ignorance) about the urban topography of ancient Rome at various periods of time." Although many of us have seen breathtaking computer-generated imagery of the ancient city in otherwise less-than-classic movies like Gladiator, this visualization includes less cinematic and dramatic "urban infrastructure" as well. Even if you don't know Freud's famous comparison of the unconscious to the buried layers of the city of Rome near the beginning of Civilization and Its Discontents or aren't familiar with other virtual cities like C.J. Cockerell's The Professor's Dream, the project may appeal to you.

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Blogger Lupton said...

Thanks for sharing Rome Reborn. I've added it to my bookmarks. I too thought of Freud and Cockerell as I read your posting and checked out this site.

6:37 AM  

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