The maps of the living neighborhoods – a study of Genoa through social media


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Proposal for the application to Genova of “Livehoods”, a urban computing project started in 2012 by Carnegie Mellon University. Livehoods analyses data generated on smartphones by Fousquare a location based social network. Foursquare allow users to check-in in a venue, e.g. a shop, a theatre, a swimming pool. Data are aggregated into clusters that display the activity patterns of people dwelling in a certain area. Livehoods maps capture characteristics of the urban habitat that are well perceived by the people, but usually hardly if at all represented by traditional maps. In Genoa, this research could be have as object of study the area of Fiumara and its surroundings, with an analysis of the relation of the institutional borders of the area, with reference to the original urban requalification plan as well, and the dynamic borders traced by Livehoods.

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  • Urban computing studies the use of technology in public environment.“Urban computing is an emerging field of study that focuses on the use of technology in public environments such as cities, parks, forests and suburbs. It also studies the interaction between humans and such environments, which is becoming increasingly common as access to computing devices extends beyond home and office. This is a multidisciplinary field connected by [sic] artists, architects, urban planners, geographers, social scientists & interaction designers.”(Wikipedia: to Justin Cranshaw, one of the authors of the Livehoods project, “urban computing […] broadly speaking […] seeks to utilizing computing technology and typically pervasive computing technology, to enhance the efficiency of cities and the general overall well‑being of the people that live in them” (transcript of the presentation held by Justin Cranshaw at Microsoft Research, 20 July 2012; see (launched in 2009) is a location based social networking website for mobile devices (source: - to Forbes, Foursquare has now reached 33 million users (“Why Foursquare Growth’s Story is Better than You Think”, Jeff Bercovici, Forbes -
  • Livehoods: project paper can be downloaded from the Livehoods website: maps use data generated by check-ins made by users on Foursquare and made public on Twitter.Foursquare allows users to check-in in an existing venue or to create a new venue chosen among several categories.Livehoods won best paper award at the International AAAI (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM-12), Dublin, June 2012.
  • Foursquare (launched in 2009) is a location based social networking website for mobile devices (source: -
  • “Nielsen’s “Social Media Report 2012″ revealed that 42% of the 25 million people who have downloaded the Foursquare app are using it at least once per month.” (“Social Networking Stats: 42% of Those With Foursquare App Are Active Users, #RLTM Scoreboard”, in “The Realtime Report”, The same report shows a growth of 118% of Foursquare users.“Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley came to the Interactive Advertising Bureau MIXX Conference & Expo on Monday armed with big numbers: 25 million users, 5 million check-ins a day and 1 million registered merchants.” (“Dennis Crowley declares Foursquare “open for business” at #IABMIXX”, in “Smart Blog on Social Media”,“A solid understanding of the trending phenomenon on Foursquare can help researchers in urban analytics understand the meaning of trending and make use of the data in creative ways and help venue owners maximize their business’s exposure on Foursquare” (J. Benner and C. Robles, Trending on Foursquare: Examining the Location and Categories of Venues that Trend in Three Cities”)
  • The Image of the CityLynch's most famous work, The Image of the City published in 1960, is the result of a five-year study on how observers take in information of the city. Using three disparate cities as examples (Boston, Jersey City, and Los Angeles), Lynch reported that users understood their surroundings in consistent and predictable ways, forming mental maps with five elements:paths, the streets, sidewalks, trails, and other channels in which people travel;edges, perceived boundaries such as walls, buildings, and shorelines;districts, relatively large sections of the city distinguished by some identity or character;nodes, focal points, intersections or loci;landmarks, readily identifiable objects which serve as external reference points. (Wikipedia, Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) was an American–Canadian journalist, author, and activist best known for her influence on urban studies. Her influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of most city-dwellers. The book also introduced sociology concepts such as "eyes on the street" and "social capital".Jacobs is well known for organizing grassroots efforts to protect existing neighborhoods from "slum clearance"—and particularly for her opposition to Robert Moses in his plans to overhaul her neighborhood of Greenwich Village. She was instrumental in the eventual cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have passed directly through Washington Square Park, and was arrested in 1968 for inciting a crowd at a public hearing on the project. After moving to Canada in 1968 she joined the opposition to the Spadina Expressway and the associated network of expressways in Toronto planned and under construction. (Wikipedia, 
  • The “Programma di Riqualificazione Urbana Fiumara” [Urban Requalification Program] was started in 1998.Urban Center (Comune di Genova) website:
  • Fiumara Centro Commerciale, Genoa, Italy (source: ICSC, International Council of Shopping Centers, 2003) Genoa is Italy’s largest industrial port, situated on the North West coast of the country, and located within about an hour and a half’s drive from Milan, Turin and Nice in France. The Fiumara Centro Commerciale is situated in the historic docklands area just West of the city, occupying the site of an old locomotive factory. It is Genoa’s first major modern retail and leisure complex and is served well by both road and public transport networks. It benefits from a catchment area of approximately 800,000 inhabitants living within 30 minutes drive. It was after a period of social and economic decline dating back to the 1970s, that local investors decided to assist in regenerating this depressed industrial region of Genoa.Developed by Coopsette, a national property development company, and currently owned by the German property fund Aareal, the Fiumara Centro Commerciale has became, after its opening in March 2002, the heart and the driving force behind this urban redevelopment program. The global Fiumara mixed-use scheme is set in a landscaped park area of over 168,000 sqm. The shopping centre consists of approximately 25,000 sqm retail GLA with over 100 shop units. But the development also includes a 14 screen multiplex cinema, catering and health & fitness facilities, a 10,000 seat sport arena, apartments, offices, a local school and 40,000 sqm of public park area. Extensive underground and multi-storey facilities house a total of 5,000 car parking spaces, with 2.200 devoted to the shopping centre. The renovation of some of the site’s original old factory and warehouse buildings has successfully retained the best features of the local heritage. Their integration into the development has created an attractive architectural blend of classical design and high-tech modernity through the innovative use of steel and glass and state-of–the-art lighting. The Fiumara Centro Commerciale is a fine example of a development that has successfully ‘married both the old and the new’, it will undoubtedly prove to be a strong sales machine and a worthwhile investment, and it will continue to act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the whole Genoa docklands area. (ICSC, International Council of Shopping Centers, 2003)
  • “The 2009 DARPA Network Challenge was a prize competition for exploring the roles the Internet and social networking play in the real-time communications, wide-area collaborations, and practical actions required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems. The competition was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a research organization of the United States Department of Defense. The challenge was designed to help the military generate ideas for operating under a range of circumstances, such as natural disasters. Congress authorized DARPA to award cash prizes to further DARPA's mission to sponsor revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and their use for national security.In the competition, teams had to locate ten red balloons placed around the United States and then report their findings to DARPA. Due to the distributed nature of the contest, many teams used online resources, such as social media sites, to gather information or to recruit people that would look for balloons. Teams often had to deal with false submissions, and so they needed to come up with ways to validate and confirm reported sightings. The contest was concluded in under nine hours, much less than expected by DARPA, and had many implications with regards to the power of online social networking and crowdsourcing in general.” (Wikipedia,
  • The maps of the living neighborhoods – a study of Genoa through social media

    1. 1. Marna ParodiThe maps of the living neighborhoods – a study of Genoathrough social mediaPechaKucha Night Genova Vol. 5April 19, 2013@ La Claque
    2. 2. The authorI am neither an urban studies scholar nor a social mediaexpert, just a user of both.One day, I was walking in my city and reading my Twitterfeed when I found out about Livehoods.Tonight I’m here at PechaKucha toshow you why it caught my attention
    3. 3. Proposal• To export to Genoa “Livehoods”, an urbancomputing research project started in 2012 byCarnegie Mellon University• Livehoods analyses data generated by city residentsthrough smartphones (via Foursquare) and createsthematic maps that not always coincide with themunicipal boundaries, but often better match theperceptions people have about their environment
    4. 4. The Livehoods project“The character of an urban area is defined not just by thetypes of places found there, but also by the people whomake the area part of their daily routine” (*)(*) J. Cranshaw, R. Schwartz, J. Hong, N. Sadeh, “The Livehoods Project:Utilizing Social Media to Understand the Dynamics of a City”, in Proc. of the6th International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM-12), Dublin, Ireland, June 2012.
    5. 5. Livehoods and FoursquareOne of my daily routines, is to check-in with Foursquare, as I did tonight,right in this theatreFoursquare allows users to do amobile check-in to an existingvenue or to create a new venuechosen among severalcategories
    6. 6. Livehoods and FoursquareYou usually let your friends know where youare and you might also like to meet otherpeople who share your habitsAnd you can compete withyourself or others, in order togain mayorships and badges(gamification)
    7. 7. Livehoods and FoursquareYou can useFoursquare toenhance yourbusinessYou can use and developapplications to doanalyticsSometimes both purposesare interconnected
    8. 8. The Livehoods projectThese devices are “changing how we interact with eachother and the environment, the city. On the other hand,using these devices and their applications we’re creatingdata that helps us better understand the city” (Cranshaw,2012)Cities are densely populatedand have a spatialsociocultural variability, theyhave neighborhoods
    9. 9. The Livehoods projectCities are complex and neighborhoods provide a sort oforder in the chaos of the city, they create boundaries andbondsThey provide a sense of territoryThey are centers of commerceand economic developmentThey give cultural identity to thepeople that live there
    10. 10. The Livehoods projectNeighborhoods develop naturally but are also shaped bypolitical and community forces and organizations.A structured and sometimesstatic approach is necessaryfor municipal governments tohave a point of reference orfuture objective.But neighborhoods can evolve fast:“moving elements in a city, and in particular the people and their activities,are as important as the stationary physical parts.” (Kevin Lynch, The Imageof the City, 1960)
    11. 11. The Livehoods projectNeighborhoods areinteriorly defined inmental maps by theirresidents:“we are constantlyengaged in the attempt toorganize oursurroundings, to structureand identify them.” (KevinLynch, The Image of theCity, 1960).Livehoods can help, “to find automated ways ofdiscovering this local cultural knowledge and to actuallybe able to build these cognitive maps from data.”(Cranshaw, 2012)
    12. 12. The Livehoods projectLivehoods reveal how the people and places of a city cometogether to form the dynamic and individual character of localurban areasThe patterns of people check-ins determine the shapes ofLivehoods.If many of the same people check-in to two nearbylocations, then these locations will likely be part of the samelivehood
    13. 13. Related livehoodsOnce data are aggregated intoclusters, you can also measurethe relationships betweeneach livehoodIt is interesting to search themaps for related livehoods andfind out the behaviors thatgenerated this link
    14. 14. Livehoods - evaluation3 outcomes, checked againstthe perceptions of theresidents:- one municipal neighborhoodis split into severallivehoods- one livehood spills acrossthe boundaries of moremunicipal neighborhoods- municipal neighborhood andlivehood match
    15. 15. Livehoods - evaluationSplit patterns often show the different demographics or differentfunctions that operate in a certain areaSpilled patterns typically reveal areas that are in transition, orborders that are in fluxCorresponding patterns indicate the strong influence municipalborders and geography have over local social interactions
    16. 16. It would be interesting to see a Livehoods map of theFiumara area and the surroundings, 15 years after thestart of the urban requalification projectLivehoods in Genoa: Fiumara
    17. 17. Livehoods in Genoa: FiumaraThis project is one of the most important urban renewalintervention in recent years:administrative center, sports hall, public park, car parks,movie theatre and entertainment center, residential usebuildings
    18. 18. Some of the Fiumara FoursquarevenuesLivehoods in Genoa: FiumaraLower penetration rate ofsmartphones and fewertech-savvy habits canbe a severe limitation inthis projectOn the other hand,social mobilization canbe obtained usingincentives, giving apurpose to the game(monetary rewards,entertainment, socialrecognition)
    19. 19. Fiumara according to the designersFiumara as lived by thepeople (simulation)• are they one and the same?• why do people go there?• who hangs around there?• what are its actual borders?Livehoods in Genoa: Fiumara
    20. 20. • Geographicboundaries?• Demographic (age,census)?• Development andresources (investments,businesses)?Livehoods in Genoa: FiumaraWhat factors can shape theLivehood(s) found in the Fiumaraarea and its surroundings?
    21. 21. Genoa first European city onLivehoods?Only 8 cities arecurrently (April 2013)mapped on Livehoods,all of which are in NorthAmerica.Let’s vote for Genoa onthe Livehoods Facebookquestion page (*) andlet’s start a project!(*) Livehoods poll on Facebook: