A Happily Tracked Day / Ying Long for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019

A Happily Tracked Day / Ying Long for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019

What happens when the sensor-imbued city acquires the ability to see – almost as if it had eyes? Ahead of the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB), titled "Urban Interactions," ArchDaily is working with the curators of the "Eyes of the City" section at the Biennial to stimulate a discussion on how new technologies – and Artificial Intelligence in particular – might impact architecture and urban life. Here you can read the “Eyes of the City” curatorial statement by Carlo Ratti, the Politecnico di Torino and SCUT. If you are interested in taking part in the exhibition at UABB 2019, submit your proposal to the “Eyes of the City” Open Call by May 31st, 2019: www.eyesofthecity.net

We live in a world full of electric products, and we have been influenced by them deeply, especially by those with digital screens, like cell phones, computers and TVs. We use computers for work and social media like Twitter and WeChat to connect with others, we use Mobike for short-distance commutes, Dianping to navigate us to a good lunch and then Alipay to pay the bill. At the end of a long day, we usually spend the rest of our time watching TV or playing online games in order to finally relax. These electric products bring convenience to our life, but at the same time, they are kidnapping it. The overuse of them immerses us in a virtual world and pushes people farther apart. We are losing face-to-face communication and ignoring the enjoyment of real life. Currently, people are spending more time on their mobile phones than ever before. According to a report published by Aier in 2018, the average screen time in China is 6 hours per day, and the average person uses their cellphone 108 times. This mobile-dependency is leaving our lives increasingly fragmented. 

One of my lab student’s screen time tracked by iPhone, which shows the average daily screen time to be 11.5 hours© Ying Long and Zhaoxi Zhang

With the advancement of science and technology in the last few years, the potential of new technologies and new equipment to record personal life and study individual behavior has often been explored. In this project, we’re going to use wearable cameras to digitalize individual daily life, and see how far electric products have changed our lives. As a wearable device, a wearable camera offers data-driven insights into the patterns and characteristics of our lives. It features a built-in GPS, and can attach on users' clothing and automatically take a photo every 30 seconds or minute. In an urban setting, wearable cameras can become eyes that are open 24/7, digitalizing our real lives into images, recording how we spend our time and how we interact with city space and other people.

Common wearable devices © Ying Long and Zhaoxi Zhang

We will invite five participants who live in different Chinese cities. Each participant will be asked to wear a camera for an entire week, including both work days and weekends. They will be instructed to remove private pictures before submitting the rest of their pictures for our quantitative analysis. After obtaining all the images, we’ll use both manual auditing and automatic analysis using API & Matlab color recognition algorithms to identify the major information in each image, including but not limited to how long the participants are exposed to the screen, how many people they meet and interact with, how long they stay indoors and outdoors, and how fragmented their time is. 

Image recognition with computer vision API  ©Ying Long and Zhaoxi Zhang

The outcome of this project will be visualized on several A1-sized posters and models. There will be several graphs, maps and typical images in the posters to show this generation’s life under the influence of new technologies. And we’ll use 3D printers to make several physical models that reflect how people use their fragmented time in a more tangible way. In addition, we will invite several volunteers to wear wearable cameras in the exhibition hall, thus tracking their walking paths and physical activities in the exhibition area. Then we’ll prepare several touchscreens to show the real-time situation of our volunteers from various cities, including how they interact with others and the environment.

The volunteer’s movement timeline © Ying Long and Zhaoxi Zhang

From this project, we can obtain a large-scale digital-self image database with rich data of individual behavior and spatiotemporal activities, provided by the wearable cameras. These images can be used for describing and analyzing the wearers' lifestyles, and thus for reflecting our contemporary culture and spirit. In addition, they provide a human-centered urban study method instead of the usual place-based measures, thus enabling a shift in the research perspective from “group level” to “individual level” and from public to individual lifestyle. The project will provide a new lens for architects and urban planners to understand the interaction between people’s physical/digital activities and city space, by using a large number of digital-self image data instead of people’s pure observations. Besides, it will present the visitors of the exhibition with a vivid picture of contemporary people’s lifestyles, and we hope visitors will resonate with it by, for instance, reducing their screen time and increasing activities/interactions in the physical world. In the future, the wearable camera technology can be further used to portray specific groups of people, like the aged, the disabled and children. Through the all-day recording of their daily lives, their special needs can be discovered.

About the Author

Picture of Ying Long © Ying Long

Architecture, Tsinghua University, China. His research focuses on urban science, including applied urban modeling, urban big data analytics & visualization, quantitative urban studies, planning support systems, data-augmented design and future cities. He has an education background in both environmental engineering and city planning. Before joining Tsinghua University, he worked for the Beijing Institute of City Planning as a senior planner for eleven years. Familiar with planning practices in China and versed in international literature, Dr. Long’s academic studies creatively integrate international methods and experiences with local planning practices. He has published almost two hundred papers and led over twenty research/planning projects. Dr. Long is also the founder of Beijing City Lab (BCL www.beijingcitylab.com), an open research network for quantitative urban studies. 

For more info about the Call:


"Urban Interactions": Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) - 8th edition. 15 December 2019, Shenzhen, China


Opening ‪on December 15th, 2019 in Shenzhen, China, "Urban Interactions" is the 8th edition of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB). The exhibition consists of two sections, namely “Eyes of the City” and “Ascending City”, which will explore the evolving relationship between urban space and technological innovation from different perspectives. The “Eyes of the City" section features MIT professor and architect Carlo Ratti as Chief Curator and Politecnico di Torino-South China University of Technology as Academic Curator. The "Ascending City" section features Chinese academician Meng Jianmin and Italian art critic Fabio Cavallucci as Chief Curators.

"Eyes of The City" section

Chief Curator: Carlo Ratti.

Academic Curator: South China-Torino Lab (Politecnico di Torino - Michele Bonino; South China University of Technology - Sun Yimin)

Executive Curators: Daniele Belleri [CRA], Edoardo Bruno, Xu Haohao    

Curator of the GBA Academy: Politecnico di Milano (Adalberto Del Bo)

"Ascending City" section

Chief Curators: Meng Jianmin, Fabio Cavallucci

Co-Curator: Science and Human Imagination Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (Wu Yan)

Executive Curators: Chen Qiufan, Manuela Lietti, Wang Kuan, Zhang Li

About this author
Cite: Ying Long. "A Happily Tracked Day / Ying Long for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019" 07 Jun 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/918601/a-happily-tracked-day-ying-long-for-the-shenzhen-biennale-uabb-2019> ISSN 0719-8884

The volunteer’s movement in daily scenes © Ying Long and Zhaoxi Zhang


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