a tiny world

We live in a very tiny world. Fortunate the global citizen that can claim to have seen enough of it to make this affirmation and lucky the city that can keep him engaged enough for his ideas to shape the society of tomorrow.

This sums up my hopes around travel, entrepreneurship, a better world and yes, a little new project of mine that I will uncover today. It is, at the same time, a poetic farewell to 2010 and a geeky welcome to 2011.

I should start by making an obvious statement: I love everything about cities. A quick look at my archives reveals over 50 posts devoted to everything from meaningless statistics about which cities are the most livable to ahead-of-their-time academic papers uncovering their implicit organic rhythms. My firm conviction that the city will acquire a more relevant role in our future society as the country struggles to survive may be unsettling but undeniable and well supported by thinkers like Parag Khanna.

Yet, we go about our lives without marveling at the processes that make our cities work.

Over the last few years, the amazing evolution of digital maps as pervasive canvas for statistics, galleries of avatars and location tools has given us a new perspective on cities that is fueling a great generation of tools that is helping us as individuals make better use of our cities. From traditional road assistance and full featured maps, to social games and applications that change our social behaviour or the way we leverage the resources of a city.

If you have iTunes, take a quick look and the number of applications related to maps, for example.

If you have iTunes, take a quick look and the number of applications related to maps, for example.

Yet, in doing so, these maps have abstracted the beauty of our cities into polygons, dots and labels. In the best case scenario they have used an outdated satellite image or a few 360 panoramas taken a few months ago. In the worst case scenario we could completely misunderstand what a place is all about. Just look at the following two visual representations of Mecca, the first a standard satellite image as rendered by Google, from which you can browse and navigate a serious of photos taken in the area.

The alternate version a time-lapse video that will reveal far more about this holy place than any photograph or satellite imagery can tell:

For the last month, I’ve been scouting the web looking for evidence that we’re ready to start capturing our world the way we see it and experience it. The result so far is a collection of over 50 videos that will unambiguously represent a place like no map could do it: Toronto, the Gold Coast in Australia, Chemnitz, Morroco, San Diego, Oslo, Granada, New York, Krakow, Athens, Paris, Mexico City, London, Shanghai, Torino, Tokyo.

This collection and some ideas that will grow from it are


(Take a quick look and come back to read the rest).

Now imagine if these videos could be browsed the way we use maps today.

Why Tilt-Shift / Time-Lapse?

  • the format is easy to obtain with cheap cameras, just like the one in your smartphone. In most cases, these videos are created as a series of photographs taken a few seconds apart, and then assembled into a video.
  • the “little people” effect is quite convenient when shooting strangers as they all become unrecognizable. For those of you familiar with “model releases”, you’ll understand how much time can be saved. In particular I like the fact that the viewer can be oblivious to race or gender of people in the video.
  • fixed on a given location allows us to use them as a reference, just like we would a map. This meta-data could be essential to create a large canvas made out of videos like these ones.
  • time lapse technique makes it possible to capture long periods of time and compress them into a few seconds or minutes. Often times, you need more than just one frame from a given place to really get the “essence” of the place, right?
  • there is something about the “bird’s eye view” that creates a model of reality that is easier to relate to. Yes, most people can read maps, but haven’t you found yourself staring at the facades of buildings trying to figure out which way to go after finding the place on a map? It just happens that tilt-shifts are usually shot from high places providing this perspective.

Cool? I would love to hear your comments. Or perhaps now you’re intrigued enough to follow TinyWrld.



  1. Tweets that mention a tiny world ยป Global Culture -- Topsy.com - January 3, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Juan Gonzalez, Juan Gonzalez. Juan Gonzalez said: We live in a Tiny World. See for yourself: http://TinyWrld.com and this is why I think it has a future: http://bit.ly/gIXHUH [...]

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