Fellowship Week 4: Visuals and Project Details

I now have a good idea of what we’re going to build for the August showcase. Here’s an updated summary of the project, which I recently presented to Gray Area, Stamen, Britelite Immersive, Presence PG, and Obscura Digital.

Urban Heartbeat

Experimenting with place in the Here and Now to find urban data stories.


Urban Heartbeat is an interactive audiovisual installation that explores accessible data visualization on an urban scale. Inspired by the notion of “city as interface”, the project connects user to their neighborhood via real-time data streams: civic, transportation, social, and environmental. The large, street level screens will be designed for Gray Area Headquarters in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Project Concepts

  • How can we find data stories in near real-time urban data related to human activity?
  • How does a wayfinding map become a data- and story- finding map?
  • How can people find real-time data engaging?
  • General urban information system that account for neighborhood characteristics and users? 
  • What does data reflect about neighborhood and urban life (even if through a fun house mirror)

Project Canvas: Gray Area Storefront

The project will be displayed the Gray Area Grand Theater on 22nd and Mission street. Plan to join for the event.


Data & Layers

After some useful feedback from Gray Area and the fellows, the project will be displayed as multiple maps, which show a different aspect of neighborhood data.

  • Mobility

    Pedestrians, Plane, Trains, and Automobiles
    NextBus, Waze, Clipper, etc.

  • Density

    Housing, Business, & DevelopmentCraigslist, Open businesses, Foursquare, Building Permits, etc.

  • Nature

    Trees, Terrain, & Environmental sensors

The style of the map will change based upon data, environmental conditions, and time of day:
Here’s some earlier thought about the connection between street-level activity, the screens, and user interactions.


As I’ve been writing about each week, I’m applying algorithms used by tech sector & corporations to “peek into the everyday” of neighborhoods.

  • Geolocation of Instagram photo
  • Color Analysis of Instagram photos
  • Sentiment analysis of Twitter posts
  • Association of social media with transit, housing, etc.
  • Points of interest analysis
  • City apps on large screen vs. mobile screen
  • Uber-ization of other urban services
  • Prototyping & user research



User can tap any object on the interface and get more information. We are exploring a magnifying glass metaphor that allows the user to see the invisible on any spot of the map.


Survey anCursor_and_California_Bicycle_Coalition_»_San_Francisco_Debuts_First_Bike_Counter_in_CAd Data Capture

I’m working with Gray Area and their partners to conduct on-the-street research and creative ways to collect surveys of neighborhood residents.

I’m reaching out to the Walk SF and the Bicycle Coalition about pedestrian and cyclist counter in the Mission.

My project will collect analytics on how people interacted with the map. Because it’s a map, these interactions will all be collected as points of interest.


Here are some of the open questions for the project

  • Which activities & data to show on each map?
  • How to represent density, especially built environment vs. at the moment activity?
  • How to represent the data artistically and cartographically?
  • How to make the interface engaging, inviting, and encourage participation?
  • What stories do I think people can find in the data?

Please let us know what you think!




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