Monday, August 24, 2009

Venice 4.0 (B09)

This project will distill the most salient results from 20 years of VPC data, and will also harvest additional available Venice data, to create exciting, interactive online infographics that will encapsulate the main trends in the city. The data will support decision-making and policy proposals by the 40xVenezia.
One of the goals of this project is to "beef up" the accomplishments section of our Venice 2.0 website (under "Best of..."), but an equally important goal will be to create graphics that are easy to update sustainably in the years to come, once more up-to-date or more accurate data becomes available.
We expect the team to really learn from the most advanced graphical tools out there, by emulating the best examples of information design that are available on line and in press.
The team will coordinate with the "Venice 4.0" team of the 40xVenezia to set priorities that are aligned with the most urgent issues on the table.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Public Earth (B09)

This project will continue what the PreserVenice team accomplished last year for public art and will expand the work to the rest of our heritage catalogs which also include palaces, convents, churches, bells, belltowers and church floors.
The main goal of this project is to release all of our public art data to the web (following the model of Public Earth), after having organized, integrated and validated every VPC dataset, starting with the main Erratic Sculpture information, but making sure to include the long-neglected Belltowers, Bells and Church Floors.
The team will work with Public Earth to upload as much information as suitable for that site, but will primarily expand the current PreserVenice site with the intention of moving the maintenance of the information to crowdsourcing and with the goal of actually inaugurating the non-profit organization to begin collecting funds for the restoration and maintenance of the public collections of art in Venice and its lagoon. In this context, the team will interact with MIT Ph.D. candidate Laurie Zapalac who intends to study PreserVenice for her doctoral research at MIT.
The team will collaborate with the Regional Government of the Veneto to package the information for their archives as well.
The team will also experiment with the creation of an "ancient GIS" map based on the DeBarbari birdseye view of the city in the year 1500.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mobility (B09)

Part of Venice's uniqueness derives from its being completely devoid of cars. Moving around in Venice means either walking or taking a boat. Every student going to Venice will get a boat pass (called imob) for the public transportation boats (ACTV), but once they get to Venice the will also discover that walking is often faster than taking a vaporetto or a motoscafo. Crossing the numerous bridges in Venice can be a problem for anyone with some kind of mobility impairment, which may include young mothers with a stroller, or tourists with large suitcases, as well as elderly people using a cane or a walker. WPI has developed the methodology still used today in Venice to collect boat traffic data, so this project team will summarize what we've done so far in the realm of boat traffic, with particular attention on its negative impacts, like moto ondoso and noise, water and air pollution, but will also explore pedestrian traffic as well, where we have not done much thus far.
This project will investigate pedestrian mobility as well as boat traffic and integrate them into a sustainable framework for the modeling of all mobility in Venice, using advanced autonomous agent models , with primary applications in the management of public space, event planning and emergency response. The team will incorporate its findings into the existing Venice Simtable system with assistance from Redfish, the Santa Fe Complex and VPC staff.
The team will touch upon all of these areas in terms of literature review, and will pursue as many of these lines as possible, upon consultation with the advisors. The team will plan the pursuit of the remaining research ideas for future student teams.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Veninomics (B09)

The team working on this project will study the various economies that interact in Venice, with a primary focus on the evolution of retail stores and on tourism and all related businesses, both formal and informal.
It is clear that the primary economic force in Venice is tourism, but questions remain as to how much of the wealth generated by visitors actually stays in Venice and percolates through to the citizens and to the local government that provides key services, such as public transportation, garbage removal, local policing, safety and security. This team will begin to answer this key question.
The team will revamp our ongoing series of projects on the Retail Sector and design a web application that will allow anyone to contribute information about what store was located where and when starting after World War II and until today. The online application will initially contain the data we have collected to date. Technical assistance will be provided by VPC staff as needed.
Keeping in mind that this is going to be the first of several projects in the years to come, the students will also explore the semi-formal (souvenir stalls and carts) and informal (illegal) economies such as the network of Rom beggars, the bag peddlers from West Africa, the flower sellers from Bagladesh, etc., in an attempt to quantify the various sub-sectors of the tourist industry, starting -- of course -- from any published literature on the subject.
Moreover, the team will leverage the information collected by Forma Urbis on the plateatici (e.g. restaurant tables in the squares) and include an economic assessment of the value of each square meter of tables and chairs that are placed on "leased" public space, possibly suggesting a new pricing scheme based on the paper published by Prof. Carrera et al. a few years back.
Based on existing data, as well as newly collected information, the team will also investigate the actual costs of Acqua Alta (high tides), both in terms of damage and loss of property/merchandise, as well as in terms of lost productivity and sales due to flooded streets and compare these costs (over a decade, say) to the loss of revenue experienced after 9/11 or during the ongoing global financial crisis.
The team will touch upon all of these areas in terms of literature review, and will pursue as many of these lines as possible, upon consultation with the advisors. The team will plan the pursuit of the remaining research ideas for future student teams.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ships (B09)

In the 20 years of research at the Venice Project Center, we have never explored the workings of the Venice Harbor, which has historically represented the maritime essence of Venice's commercial enterprises. This year, we will inaugurate a series of projects focused on this long-neglected topic.
The team will gather as much publicly available information about the schedules of cruises that make a call in Venice throughout the year and incorporate the ships' arrivals into the Venice Boat Traffic model developed by the VPC in conjunction with Redfish in Santa Fe.
The team will monitor how passengers disperse through the city once they disembark from the ships, either on foot, or with taxis (boats and cars?) or otherwise. The outflow and inflow of passengers from and to the ships will be quantified and an assessment of the planned "people mover" that will connect the harbor with Piazzale Roma will be conducted. The information about the movement of cruise ship tourists will be incorporated into the pedestrian model being developed by the Mobility team.
In addition to that, the team will explore the positive economic impacts of the cruise ships, in coordination with the Veninomics team, as well as potentially harmful consequences of moto ondoso (direct and indirect), noise, vibrations and water and air emissions from the engines. The team will analyze available data and coordinate with Simon Mehalek of the Santa Fe Complex to determine what monitoring devices could be used for additional measurements, while trying to identify sources of funding for the initial proof-of-concept and for a full implementation in future years.
Finally, the team will also explore the social implications of shipping, especially in relation to the disturbance it may cause to inhabitants of nearby areas, both in Santa Marta and along the Riva dei Sette Martiri.
The team will touch upon all of these areas in terms of literature review, and will pursue as many of these lines as possible, upon consultation with the advisors. The team will plan the pursuit of the remaining research ideas for future student teams.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Post Postmortem (B09)

We have been developing a "Postmodern Postmortem" initiative since 2007, and this project will make tangible strides into the implementation of the concepts developed thus far. In essence, the postmodern postmortems are intended to:
  • interact with all 5 senses (touch, hear, see, smell and taste), and exercise the 6th (intuition)
  • represent concrete issues impacting the quality of life of Venetians
  • enthrall and titillate the passers-by with whimsical and beautiful street installations
  • engage the viewers into discovering the underlying theme through a "secret" game that explains the whole project
Thus far, we have identified 12 installations that would fit the specifications, but we'd like to get up to 20 for our 20th anniversary. We would like to attract installation ideas from artists around the world and in particular we'd like to engage the talented folks at the Santa Fe Complex.
This project will not only develop a mechanism to advertise the project on the web, but also implement, test and install as many of the pre-existing concepts as possible, using appropriate hardware such as Arduino or Sunspots, connected to our Venice server.
With the help of the VPC staff, and technical assistance from Simon Mehalek of the Santa Fe Complex, the students will solve any logistical issue associated with each installation, and design a system that will achieve the desired effect deploying minimalist sustainable technology in the field.
The team will also fully script and develop an overarching Augmented Reality Game (ARG) -- or Urban Reality Game (URG) -- to tie the 20 installations together into a "meaningful" experience for the viewers.
It is expected that the team will explore how to attract funding for the projects, while investigating the details of how to deploy the full complement of 20 installations in connection with the upcoming Venice Biennali (Architecture-2010 or Contemporary Arts-2011)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unearthing Venice's Genealogy (B09)

This is the first posting for the new WPI undergraduate projects (IQPs) that will take place at the Venice Project Center in term B09 (October 25-December 19, 2009). Six more postings will follow to explain the remaining research projects that will take place in Venice this fall.
This first project will follow up on last year's "Origins of Venice" IQP, which was tasked to explore the origins of the city and its inhabitants, using archeology, genetics and ancient manuscripts.
This year's project will take the matter a bit further, by:
  1. Designing an "archaeological web-app" that will allow the gradual accumulation of reusable Archaeological Data, which could be "modeled" and visualized by exploiting the potential of the Santa Fe sandtable for the interactive exploration of "archaeological" risk.
  2. Continuing the collection of DNA samples in the context of the Genographic Project and developing a grant proposal for the full-fledged examination of the "origins of Venetians".
  3. Promoting the development of uScript and continuing to detail its scope, functionalities and diffusion mechanisms.
As expected, this line of research will continue over multiple years and will yield important information in due time. It is part of the Venice 3.0 project...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Venice B09

It's an exciting year for the Venice Project Center. We are completing the 20th anniversary (Venice 2.0) and moving towards the next one (Venice 3.0). Thus, the projects we are tackling are to be viewed as trailblazers for longitudinal series of projects stretching into the future.

Here are the Venice B09 projects in a nutshell:
  1. Origins -- to find out how the city of Venice evolved and where its inhabitants came from;
  2. Postmortems -- to highlight the main challenges confronting Venice with a web of embedded art installations that obliquely reference each issue in a "game" of interactive innuendos scattered throughout the city;
  3. Ships -- to investigate the cruise-ship industry in Venice and its consequences -- on moto ondoso, on related tourist business as well as on the quality of life of the citizens;
  4. Veninomics -- to study the retail evolution and to assess the local import of the various economies at play in Venice: hotels, restaurants, bars, souvenirs, and other retail as well as informal economies like the "bag sellers", "flower sellers" and similar phenomena.
  5. Mobility -- to sustainably model Venetian mobility, both pedestrian and waterborne.
  6. Publicearth -- to organize and release the public art datasets collected by the VPC.
  7. Venice 4.0 -- to encapsulate existing data into fungible and actionable infographics to support the cause of the 40xVenezia.

Friday, August 14, 2009

National Geographic (again)

In the current (August) issue of National Geographic Magazine, both Forma Urbis and the WPI Venice Project Center are credited for two maps that accompany an article about Venice, entitled "Vanishing Venice". The two maps show the proliferation of hotels in Venice in the past decade and the effects of flooding in Venice. The credits are in the lower right corner of each map. The Italian version of the magazine, also out in August, has Venice's story on the cover (whereas the English version highlights a Yellowstone story).
Curiously, the Italian cover story is entitled "Venezia Sotto Assedio" which is the exact same title ("Venice under siege") as the National Geographic Video that featured me as the host, and is apparently still airing around the world after eight years (last reported on Tasmanian TV).
A very interesting addition to the print versions is an online interactive map that allows the user to use a slider to see how much of Venice gets flooded with different tide levels. The VPC and Forma Urbis are credited in the online version as well.
Counting both the Italian and English versions of the magazine, this is the fifth time that our work has been featured on National Geographic, starting with a photo of a youthful Fabio surveying the canal walls with a boatful of students in 1999.
And, hopefully, it won't be the last...