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Thesis notes: Mapping vs Cities

May 27, 2010

So there is lots to say about starting to think about thesis, but I’d like to present it coherently, so… we’ll see how it goes.

I am interested in mapping and cities. These are close but not necessarily the same.. it’s sort of an issue–on the one hand I am really interested in data visualization and that REALLY excites me; but doing something practical and tactile with cities is sort of exciting too–it also has the advantage of yielding a thesis that will actually be a solution to a problem instead of an artpiece-y type thing.

So it’s unclear which direction to focus in, but luckily, they are related and can quite easily overlap (i.e. if I do data visualization, I would do it on something NYC-specific) so I can just start to do preliminary research and see where it takes me.

When I talk about the city, I am definitely going to focus on NYC; I see a few trends that are broad but specific: transportation/circulation; waterfront; public space.

/ Water in NYC has sort of captured my interest–as in, NYC as an island, and there are some canals in Brooklyn (but not necessarily enough to make a big deal about). And it’s kind of crazy that such a posh city has so much waterfront real estate wasted on industry–though I’m not worried–I’m pretty positive within the next 50 years it will be dramatically changed. Plus then I went to see the Marina Abramovic exhibit at Moma and saw they had the Rising Currents exhibit about proposals about what to do with NYC’s waterfront. Which I didn’t have a chance to go see before, but will go to today.

/ Transportation and circulation–I’d focus on either biking (doing first-hand research every day) or the subway (I take it so rarely that when I do, I see it with nice fresh eyes I always see problems I could do some sort of nice design project on). This is a topic I am also AESTHETICALLY quite interested in–I just imagine sweet little graphs charting movement and get excited. But beyond that I’m not sure I know much about.

/ Public Space — the broadest of all of them, and in some sense, the place to start, because it encapsulates the others a bit. So this is where I start. I am going to start reading books and photographing, I guess, instances of successful and unsuccessful public spaces, I guess, in the city. I am not sure what that means yet! But I think photographing is really the first step.

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