denCity.net examines the enrichment of real urban sites by a virtual dimension of information and networking, being accomplished by localisation of the virtual. It is about the mediation between "virtual reality"-networks and the city as physical existence.
Places and objects of the city get a virtual identification in the form of a QR(bar)-code.
This code contains - in digitally readable form - the most important information of the respective location: its tag-ID and GPS-coordinates.
Shot and decoded on the fly using a common camera cell phone, through the tags one connects to the dataweb, which consists of site-specific information.
One could think of the most different kinds of content. Public and commercial tags for example basically contain information of opening hours, offers, events etc.; they form a dense map of the city's service- and supply-infrastructure. In terms of organisation, denCity.net develops a hybrid structure between the functional mixture in the real urban space on the one hand and the associative zoning / grouping of topics in the dataweb on the other. A contraction of space occurs; places move closer together and build a denser structure in terms of functionality.
Private tags, in contrast, contain matters of rather informal kind. Everyone can create and attend them, for instance "spots" (virtually anyone can create new spaces by creating a tag at site, thus giving it character/properties/information) which emerge at street corners or trees and mean a personal reference to an urban place. These tags are virtual forums in the actual cityscape and live of comments of passer-by's and interested.
denCity.net is a map-based database-system. It links information (on the "virtual" level) and in doing this considers the locality of the tags (on the "real", urban level).
All relevant information and data links concerning the particular user-request are released cartographically and depend on the desired degree of locality.
This information exchange layer, through the tags' crosslinkings and referencing among each other, features a multidimensionality which oscillates between the local and the virtual.
The tags are digital yet visible marks in the city, at the same time virtual and physical addresses.
They establish interfaces between locality and virtuality.
dencity.net not only ties a dense net of information but also directly affects the urban density because of the information being site specific. Informational and actual density are strongly interdependent. Fluctuations of density are immediately documented, trends become noticeable much earlier. Through this, flexible planning and interaction is made possible, which for instance facilitates reaction to shrinking processes (mentioned in a recently published spatial planning report (Raumordnungsbericht 2005) of the "German federal office for building and regional planning" (Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung)).
Furthermore, it has to be mentioned, denCity is an emergent system, which could fundamentally question or at least amend urban planning methods. In this context also consider the current debate on "governance" and the "shrinking cities"-design competition.
This internet presence of denCity is a demo version that simultaneously serves for development as for presentation of the project. The final user interface will principally be the mobile phone, on which all functions are available.
The decipherment of a QR-code via a mobile camera phone is already a common technology in Japan, mainly used in the shopping sector. Through the WAP-compatibility of denCity.net, ie. the direct access on tag information via mobile phone, we intend to demonstrate how the future utilisation will feel like.
denCity.net is an experiment concerning the territorialisation of the virtual and the deterritorialisation of the physical, en route to an augmented perception of urban reality and density.
It's about "density", "city", about "den" (which in Japanese means "electronic"), and about "nets"...
welcome to denCity!
denCity.net and density
In these days, the notion of urban density gains extraordinary importance. While in the industrial countries, cities begin to shrink, urban regions of the so-called 3rd world expand to often unknown degrees. These opposite tendencies prompt us to think about qualitative and sustainable density of our future conurbations.
Often, though, the consideration of urban density limits itself to physical factors like construction volume (FAR) and average floor area consumption.
However, in the 'interconnected' city of the globalised information society, emergent social and functional networks play an important role. A notion of density which defines itself exclusively through the degree of space occupation doesn't meet the dynamics of today's urban centers.
denCity.net examines the linking of real and potential intensities, those of which our conventional notion of urban density doesn't consider. It is about the space- and time-contracting connection of real (urban) sites. Through virtual networks that change our perception of a city and thus through our consciousness.
Because of its enhanced functionality, augmented urbanism can create a new kind of city life. Urban density will no longer be just dependent on real, physical density, but also on virtual, effective densities. In this sense, virtual density not only steps aside reality, but augments it.
To the psychological aspect of the perceived virtuality, denCity adds an exact mapping of 'hard' facts. Density.maps can be generated which show every possible local combination and concentration of functions. For instance, one can use denCity.net to calculate a café- and cinema-map, which shows the effective proximity of at least one café AND one cinema on every single spot in the city, dependant on the set radius of influence. There are maps which - on basis of subjective user assessment - rate the quality of urban places, and those which redraw linkings and references among the data entries.
The city is a highly emergent system, and it gets the more complex, the more dimensions it comprises. Emergence can mean density of potential.
denCity.net and citizen participation
"Commitment is an indispensable condition for the course of the city of the future" says the urban planning report 2004 (Städtebaulicher Bericht) of the German Federal Government and points at a shift in responsibility towards the citizen as the city dweller.
Urbanity, as an index of city quality in sociological terms, is permanently being put to the test in denCity. What is urbanity? Which densities and which intensities does the city have? How local or how interlinked are city neighbourhoods and quarters? denCity.net isn't just an analysing tool, but an urbanism-workshop, in which both citizens and experts can participate. It is mapping and analysis as well as intervention and controlling, both storing of information and communication platform.
On dencity.net, you can give virtual extensions to real places, which means creating tags. However, for this, one must be registered as a user and logged in, since tags always have a creator who owns the exclusive editing rights.
After login, click on "create new tag (via map)" to get to the map where you can tag locations and objects by just clicking at them. (If you can't find your way amidst of all the dots, click on "show city map"!) Navigate the map by clicking the zoom- and pan-buttons.
After clicking a point on the map, you can confirm to create a tag at the specific location by clicking on the magenta-coloured bar below the map. Afterwards, the newly mapped location only has to be associated to a category and a short description may be added. If the new location doesn't fit in any of the already existent categories, it should temporarily be assigned to 'NONFIT'. New categories can only be created by administrators who will then think about an adequate category.
the map section, to which one also gets via "render map from database", besides tagging serves to visualise the content of the database and to map resulting interconnections and densities. For this, select a category and adjust the intensity of networking through the link-radius. Further, various layout parameters are available.
The so-called HLS-mode generates density maps of the respective map section, wich can be displayed in various layout modes.
If you don't know where to start, have a look at the presets that other users have created (they can be found in the top row of the settings-table).
data trash / data death
What happens, if the physical tag "dies", if it is removed from its place, if it rots or gets lost? Does dead information appear after a short while? Should this content be automatically removed from the database? Our suggestion intents to keep these tags alive as the network's informal and quasi-secret, maybe valuable hot tips.
The data security and readout of confidential information can in any case be personified and therefore regulated by the system. The mobile as indisputable personal identification.
the location of the tag can first be roughly checked through the mobile (transmitter masts). Contradictory inquiries on one and the same QR Code can be registered in the system.
ID length > QR-Code size
Through a QR-Code size of 8x8 fields, there could already be stored an ID of 16^16 digits (for now, we base our calculations on a hexadecimal system of numbers, values can be 0 - F (1-9, A-F). For this, 4 bits per byte are necessary, which means four fields. 64 fields thus store 16 bytes. Each byte can take on 16 values. So you have 18.446.744.073.709.551.616 possible things; in case this shouldn't be enough, the grid can be extended.
* QR-codes start with a grid size of 21 fields (excluded microQR), therefore the data capacity is even much bigger.
changing the perception of the city