Brain Pickings

Invisible Cities: A Transmedia Mapping Project

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What social media activity has to do with the literal lay of the land.

In December, the now-infamous map of Facebook friendships revealed an uncanny cartography of the world depicted purely through social relationships data. Now, a project by Christian Marc Schmidt and Liangjie Xia is taking the concept ambitiously further: Invisible Cities is a transmedia mapping project, displaying geocoded activity from social networks like Twitter and Flickr within the context of an actual urban map — a visceral, literal embodiment of something VURB‘s Ben Cerveny has called “the city as a platform,” the idea that cities are informational media and living computational systems for urban society.

By revealing the social networks present within the urban environment, Invisible Cities describes a new kind of city — a city of the mind.”

Individual nodes appear whenever real-time activity takes place and the underlying terrain represents aggregate activity. As data accumulates, the landscape morphs into peaks and valleys that represent highs and lows of data density and information activity — a data topography visualization not dissimilar in concept to Aaron Koblin’s Amsterdam SMS project, and also built with Processing.

The interplay between the aggregate and the real-time recreates the kind of dynamics present within the physical world, where the city is both a vessel for and a product of human activity. It is ultimately a parallel city of intersections, discovery, and memory, and a medium for experiencing the physical environment anew.”

Invisible Cities is available as a free download for Mac OS X and Windows — read the instructions and go play on your own.

via Creators Project

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Stephen Biesty’s Engineering Illustrations: Art Meets Science

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British illustrator Stephen Biesty is a master of “engineering art” — remarkably intricate and detailed yet imaginative drawings of building, vessel and vehicle cross-sections, historical panoramas, castle cutaways, inside-out views and other fascinating intersections of architecture, art and egineering. A prolific author, his books are a treasure trove of curiosity and delight. Our favorites: Incredible Cross-Sections, a magnificent tome of spreads with cutaway illustrations of the hidden architecture of 18 iconic structures, from a Gothic cathedral to a coal mine to the space shuttle, and Incredible Body, a stunning children’s collection of anatomical cross-sections, in which tiny tunnelers embark upon a fascinating journey of the systems and organs of the human body.

Biesty’s work has also been adapted across a variety of media, including pop-up books (you know we love those), educational games and animation.

via MetaFilter

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American Maker: A Manifesto for Hands-On Creativity from 1960

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In 1960, the Chevrolet division of General Motors and the Handy (Jam) Organization produced American Maker a half-hour film about craftsmanship, creativity and how Americans build. More than a mere vehicle of patriotic propaganda, the film is beautifully shot and offers stunning footage of life and work in that era for a fascinating cultural contrast to the “Swinging London” of the 1960, going on at the same time across the pond.

Of all things Americans are, we are makers. With our strengths and our minds and spirit, we gather and form and we fashion. Makers and shapers and put-it-togetherers. We start young, finding out early in life what it’s like to feel something grow and take shape beneath our hands.”

As makers of today and shapers for tomorrow, we Americans seem to share an inborn understanding of how to go about making the things we want. Whether we’re reaching for the moon, hobbying in the home, doing our part on a convenience to be enjoyed, or preparing a tasty tidbit, we’re — all of us — makers.”

So successful was the film that it was played in tandem with Hitchcock’s Psycho, the blockbuster of its day, in select theaters in the Detroit area — the automaker’s prime target of patriotic pep.

The film is available as a free download in multiple video formats from The Internet Archive and offers a priceless, timeless, nationless ode to the art of hands-on innovation, as well as a timely nod at the recent groundswell of the shut-up-and-make-something ethos.

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The Heroic Imagination Project

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What the root of evil has to do with a summer in 1971 and the untapped capacity for good.

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo is best-known for the infamous Stanford Prison Study, one of modern psychology’s most unsettling experiments on human nature. (Insights from which are distilled in Zimbardo’s excellent The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil — an absolutely essential text of social psychology, timeless and all the more timely in today’s global atmosphere of increasing social and political unrest.)

Zimbardo’s latest project, however, approaches the good/evil dichotomy of the human condition from precisely the opposite angle. The Heroic Imagination Project is an inspired nonprofit that aims to advance everyday heroism though programs designed to harness people’s inherent, extraordinary and often untapped potential for good within.

At HIP, we believe everyone has the potential to transform the private virtue of compassion into the civic virtue of heroic action, and we are dedicated to helping individuals internalize and express their ‘heroic imagination’ in service to humanity.”

In this excellent TEDU talk, Zimbardo delivers a compelling primer for the project:

If you’ve found your moral imagination tickled by the project, there are three ways to get involved and take action: You can take the hero pledge, take the hero challenge and/or join the HIP community on Facebook and Twitter.

via TED Blog

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