Most cities evolved based on centuries of complex economic and cultural forces. But what would it look like if that process were reversed? That's the concept behind Generating Utopia, a program that turns a user's location-based data into a sprawling, Rio de Janeiro-style cityscape.
German interaction designer Stefan Wagner wrote the script, which he describes as a way to show what cities would look like if they were based on the behavior of their residents. In other words, he's reverse engineering the urban planning process. Here's how it works: After pulling your check-in data from Foursquare's API, the custom-built Processing script applies those data points to an OpenStreetMap model of the city where you live. It extrudes the flat surface based on the number and frequency of check-ins, creating an animation of a city that mimics your actual movements through the city.
As Wagner points out, check-in data is inherently self-selected based on the true layout of your city. So what we're seeing here is really a topographic map of the way you already move about an urban cityscape, rather than a coherent alternative map. "From this, one can see in what different ways persons are using their city," says Wagner. "Respectively what they want their social environment to think they do." Right now, the script is just a one-off project of Wagner's, but let's hope he makes it public. You'd be surprised how dramatic all those boring repeat check-ins at the same three restaurants near you house will look as a rugged cityscape. [CreativeAppications]