For my final project in ICM I would like to try and make a darkness map, which would attempt to visualize dark areas in New York City. The concept for this project came out of my History of Sound and Light class, and the experiments one of my classmates, Scott Wayne Indiana, is doing with outdoor projection. He mentioned how difficult it was to actually find a dark surface in the city to project onto, and it got me thinking that that might be a really interesting thing to try and visualize. We are also planning on working with Rune Madsen.
We wanted to make a micro scale darkness map. Many people are probably familiar with the amazing satellite views of the earth at night, where you can see the lit areas of the world at night, mostly clustered in the first world. This is an amazing depiction of lightness and darkness on a macro scale, but we wanted to see if we could create a system to create a map or visualization of darkness on a more micro scale.
The first step in this process is to go out and collect the data. We plan on using the GPS in our smart phones to keep track of our locations, and light meters to take readings of the light bouncing off various walls and surfaces.
A few things to consider in collecting this data:
- How far up do we measure? Specifically, since most of New York City is so well lit by street lights, do we decide to measure darkness above the area that the light hits the buildings?
- Phase of the moon. It’s obviously brighter when there is a full moon, as there is now. From now until early December the moon will be waning. There will be a new moon on December 5th, and by December 16th it will be about 3/4 full again.
- Do we take measurements on each side of the street? Do we restrict ourselves to man-made, flat surfaces, or do we include parks, bushes and trees?
A few things to consider in visualizing this data:
- What are the darkness and lightness thresholds? Namely, what value of darkness is dark enough for our purposes, and what values do we ignore. How much of the gray area or spectrum in between do we include? Do we have to include light areas in order for the dark areas to be visible?
- Do we visualize the darkness values for a whole street, or do we include values for each sidewalk?
- Is there any interactive functionality, like a rollover which might give you coordinates and an exact light meter reading?
- We would like to create a platform that allows the map to be filled in over time through some sort of crowd sourcing process. We’re probably going to use the Google Map API in some respect so that people can fill in gaps in the future.
- We think it is interesting to try and map New York City’s dark areas since they are actually pretty hard to find. We aim to try and cover as much of Lower Manhattan as we possibly can in the next few weeks. Ideally, this map would grow to include information about the 5 boroughs, and possibly go to other well-lit cities where darkness at night might be hard to come by.
A few sources of inspiration:
- Max Neuhaus made a sound map of Times Square in preparation for his sound installation there beneath the subway grates. It is in the form of an aural topographic map, which could be a nice way to do the darkness map.
- Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets research and map, in which he compared three streets in San Francisco that were practically identical except for the amount of traffic on each. Both his method of research and findings are of interest.