Tracking our little heres for the long now

Artist collaborative plan b makes location-specific works and performances exploring the dynamics of narrative and time. It is composed of artist partners Daniel Rogers and Sophia Screenshot of plan b GPS tracking in BerlinNew; Daniel has been carrying GPS trackers with him everywhere since 2003, and Sophia since 2007. They visualize GPS data by translating time-stamped coordinates into lines, and creating time-lapse animations superimposed on maps of their location. These animated visualizations allow Dan and Sophia to discover patterns in the way they move through space and time. Their animation for Berlin, of which the image left is a screenshot, reveals dense straight cords and right angles, representing routes driven daily, and light meandering squiggles, representing walks with their toddler who stops to examine each flower, dog, etc. If Dan and Sophia continued gathering data, they would see the squiggly lines became straighter and darker as their daughter grew up. Essentially, they would see their lives, as manifested in their movement patterns, changing through time.

Cabspotting Closer to home is Cabspotting, a project tracing San Francisco’s GPS-outfitted taxi cabs as they travel throughout the Bay Area. The image right is a screenshot of an time-lapse animation of cabs traveling through the Presidio area between 6:00am-10:00am on January 26, 02006. As with plan b, Cabspotting’s time-lapse animations of taxi cab travel represent economic, social, and cultural trends that would be otherwise invisible. And again, if animations were strung together into a time-lapse animation of time-lapse animations, it would reveal these trends changing through time.

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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