The Berlin Evolution Animation

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Abstract: The Berlin Evolution Animation visualizes the development of this city’s street network and infrastructure from 1415 to the present-day, using an overlay of historic maps. The resulting short film presents a series of 17 “cartographic snapshots” of the urban area at intervals of every 30-40 years. This process highlights Berlin’s urban development over 600 years, the rapid explosion of industry and population in the 19th century, followed by the destruction and violence of two world wars and then the Cold War on Berlin’s urban fabric.

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Animation der Wandlung Berlins

Zusammenfassung: Auf der Grundlage von historischen Karten visualisiert die „Animation der Wandelung Berlins“ die Entwicklung des Straßennetzwerks und der Infrastruktur Berlins von 1415 bis heute. In diesem kurzen Video wird eine Serie von 17 „kartographischen Momentaufnahmen“ der Stadt in einem Intervall von 30 – 40 Jahren präsentiert. Dadurch wird die Entwicklung der Stadt Berlin über 600 Jahre, das rapide Wachstum der Industrie und Bevölkerung im 19. Jahrhundert, die Zerstörung und Gewalt der zwei Weltkriege und abschließend des Kalten Krieges auf Berlins Stadtbild verdeutlicht.

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Year, Event and Estimated Population
1415 – Medieval Berlin – 7,000
1648 – Thirty Years War – 6,000
1688 – Berlin Fortress – 19,000
1720 – Rise of Prussian Empire – 65,000
1740 – War with Austria – 90,000
1786 – Age of Enlightenment – 147,000
1806 – Napoleonic Wars – 155,000
1840 – Industrial Revolution – 329,000
1875 – German Empire – 967,000
1920 – Greater Berlin – 3,879,000
1932 – Rise of Fascism – 4,274,000
1945 – Extent of Bomb Damage – 2,807,000
1950 – Germania – World Capital
1953 – Recovery from War – 3,367,000
1961 – Berlin Wall – 3,253,000
1988 – A City Divided – 3,353,000
Contemporary – A City United
Census year
Jahr, Ereignis und geschätzte Anzahl von Bewohnern
1415 – Berlin im Mittelalter – 7,000
1648 – Der Dreißigjährige Krieg – 6.000
1688 – Die Festung Berlin – 19.000
1720 – Der Aufstieg des Königreichs Preußen – 65,000
1740 – Der Österreichische Erbfolgekrieg – 90.000
1786 – Das Zeitalter der Aufklärung – 147.000
1806 – Die Koalitionskriege – 155.000
1840 – Die industrielle Revolution – 329.000
1875 – Das Deutsche Kaiserreich – 967.000
1920 – Groß-Berlin – 3.879.000
1932 – Der Aufstieg des Faschismus – 4.274.000
1945 – Die Spuren des 2. Weltkrieges – 2.807.000
1950 – Germania – Welthauptstadt
1953 – Deutsches Wirtschaftswunder – 3.367.000
1961 – Die Berliner Mauer – 3.253.000
1988 – Eine geteilte Stadt – 3.353.000
Heute – Eine wiedervereinte Stadt
Jahr der Volkszählung

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Methodology and Sources

I chose not to represent urban development before 1415 for three reasons: Firstly, there are too few accurate maps of the city before this time. Secondly, I needed to find accurate maps that had visual style consistent with later years, to enable easier comparison of development over time. Thirdly, the extent of urban development and population is limited (fewer than 10,000 Berliners).
There are numerous maps showing Berlin’s urban growth. But, few of them are drawn to the same scale, orientation and color palette. This makes it more difficult to observe changes to the city form over time. Fortunately, three map resources show this development with consistent style.
  1. The Historischer Atlas von Berlin (by Johann Marius Friedrich Schmidt) published 1835 represents Berlin in the selected years of: 1415, 1648, 1688, 1720, 1740, 1786. This atlas is available, free to view and download, at this link.
  2. After the year 1786, I rely on three books from cartographer Gerd Gauglitz:
    Berlin – Geschichte des Stadtgebietsin vier Karten
    Contains four beautiful maps of Berlin from 1806, 1920, 1988 and 2020. Read article.
    Berlin – Vier Stadtpläne im Vergleich
    Contains four maps from 1742, 1875, 1932 and 2017. Read article.
    Berlin – Vier Stadtpläne im VergleichErgänzungspläne
    Contains four maps from 1840,1953, 1988 and 1950. The last map from 1950 is purely speculative and shows Berlin as it would have looked had Germany won WWII and executed Albert Speer’s plans for rebuilding the city, named “Germania.” Read article.
    Gerd Gaulitz’s three map books can be purchased from Schropp Land & Karte.
  3. I also show the estimated extent of WWII bomb damage to Berlin. This map is sourced from an infographic dated 8 May 2015 in the Berliner Morgenpost. View original infographic. This infographic is, in turn, based on bombing maps produced by the British Royal Air Force during WWII.
Below is an interactive map I created of the Berlin Wall’s route and the four Allied occupation areas:

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Population statistics in the 17 “cartographic snapshots” are estimates. The historical development of Berlin’s population is known for a few years. For other years, the population is estimated with regards to the two censuses between which the year of the “snapshot” falls.

What’s wrong with Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon?

Postmodernist thinkers, like Michel Foucault, interpret Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, invented c.1790, as a symbol for surveillance and the modern surveillance state.

This lecture is in two parts. First, I present a computer model of the panopticon, built according to Bentham’s instructions. Then, I identify design problems with the panopticon and with the symbolism people often give it.

Related Projects

– Computer Animation of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon
Essay on Problems with the Panopticon Design
View Panopticon Model in Virtual Reality

Computer Animation of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon

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“To say all in one word, [the panopticon] will be found applicable, I think,
without exception, to all establishments whatsoever”

– Jeremy Bentham

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Since the 1780s, hundreds of articles discuss Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon. But, no structure was ever built to the exact dimensions Bentham gives in his panopticon letters. Seeking to translate Bentham into the digital age, I followed his directions and descriptions to create an open source, virtual reality computer model of the panopticon.

Below, you can view the animation about this structure. Visit this link to view the panopticon in virtual reality. Or click here to download and edit my model (requires Sketchup).

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Transcription of audio narration:

The panopticon is the form of the ideal prison, designed around 1787 by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Over 300 prisons around the world follow this model:

  1. A circle of diameter 100 feet
  2. Around the perimeter of this circle stretch cells
  3. Each cell is 9 feet deep
  4. And 48 per floor
  5. Each cell has a toilet, a bed, and space to work
  6. The cells rise six floors

On every other floor, there is a surveillance corridor, in which a guard may survey two floors of prisoners. The guard watches the prisoners. But the prisoners do not see the guard and do not know when they are watched. And must therefore act as if they were always watched. Three guards each see 96 prisoners, which makes 288 prisoners total.

In the center of the space, there is an auditorium, in which the prisoners may assemble to be lectured. A wall of screens may rise surrounding the chapel. And separating the prisoners from seeing into it, or from seeing each other from across the void of the empty space in middle.

Spiral staircases ascend through the space. And an iron and glass frame rises through the space and vaults over the chapel.

This completes the panopticon, the form of the ideal prison.

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Related Projects

– Computer Animation of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon
Essay on Problems with the Panopticon Design
View Panopticon Model in Virtual Reality

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Credits:

Supervised by Max Sternberg
Audio narration by Tamsin Morton
Audio credits from Freesound
panopticon interior ambiance
panopticon exterior ambiance
prison door closing
low-pitched bell sound
high-pitched bell sound
The archives and publications of the UCL special collections

The Panopticon: A Problem of Definition

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A total institution may be defined as a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life. Prisons serve as a clear example.

Erving Goffman, Asylums1

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1. Introduction and Method

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The panopticon is now a theoretical design, a symbol of surveillance and state power. The building’s inventor, Jeremy Bentham, claims it is a perfect building and a total institution that cares for and controls all aspects of its inhabitants’ lives. No panopticon was built to Bentham’s exact instructions. We have little evidence from Bentham to verify or falsify the architecture’s claim to total vision and total power. However, Eastern State Penitentiary, built 1829 in Philadelphia, follows Bentham’s model and is the prototype for over three hundred radial prisons around the world. By analyzing the shortcomings of the panopticon as proposed (by Bentham) and as realized (in Philadelphia), and by situating the panopticon in the broader critique of total institutions and the virtual Internet we can, indirectly, assess how the panopticon’s form (and means of attaining power) evolved to the present-day. We can also use this historical lens to assess the strength of the contemporary analogy that the Internet perfects the panopticon’s surveillance mechanism.

Seeking to translate Bentham into the digital age, I followed his directions and descriptions to create an open source, virtual reality computer model of the panopticon. Essay illustrations are from this model. This model allows us to interrogate this total institution’s design.

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Computer Animation of the Panopticon

Play the video below. Or click here to view more details about this model and to download it to your computer.

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The Panopticon in Virtual Reality

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Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) designed the panopticon c.1789. Panopticon comes from Greek: pan (all) + opticon (seeing) = all-seeing. Bentham describes how this architecture monitors and reforms souls in his series of 21 letters entitled Panopticon: The Inspection House. He commissioned architect Willey Reveley c.1791 to draw the panopticon’s plan and section (fig.1-2).2 These images still circulate. Today, the panopticon has evolved from prison design to symbol of the surveillance state. No structure was ever built to Bentham’s exact instructions. It remains a perverse, dream building.

Bentham’s proposal is simple: a 100-foot-diameter round room. There are perimeter cells (H in fig.2). Each cell is for one prisoner. Each cell is identical to all others with toilet, bed, sink, and workspace. By day, natural light filters through the window behind each prisoner. By night, searchlights illuminate the interior. In the centre, there is a tower from which guards (standing in corridors marked D) survey all surrounding cells (marked H). The tower’s one-way blinds allow guards to look out (fig.3), but prohibit prisoners from looking in (fig.4). Bentham claims one guard can survey everything with one sweep of the eye. One-way visibility allows guards watch inmates without their knowledge. Thus, the prisoner must always guard his actions because he does not know when he is watched. Lateral walls between cells are supposed to prohibit prisoners from seeing each other and planning a joint escape.3

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The panopticon, this incident in the social history of architecture, is a philosopher’s utopian project. The panopticon workhouse reflects Bentham’s philosophy of Utilitarianism and efficient labour. Each prisoner, working in his cell, is monitored from a distance. Prisons are, more than many structures, inseparable from systems of justice, power, and punishment. The panopticon also reflects a larger historic event. Bentham wrote his panopticon letters in 1789. This was the same year French revolutionaries were dreaming of a new nation and new political system to rationally structure society, based on equality instead of privilege.4 Bentham advertised his building as a prison and educational institution, as noble in its ends as the hospitals and schools he also designed on the circular surveillance model. Bentham had every intention to build an actual panopticon. To this end, “a proposal made to the newly established Paris National Assembly, through Brissot, was warmly and gratefully received. Bentham suggested that the revolutionary government hand the management of the enormous Bicêtre Hôpital Genéral with its 3,850 patients and prisoners over to him.”5 After trying and failing for twenty years to receive funding from the English Parliament to build his panopticon for 288 prisoners and at least three guards in Battersea, London, Bentham abandoned the project.

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2. Design Flaws with Proposed Panopticon

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We must question whether Bentham’s architecture functions as he claims. Prisoners must be visible in Bentham’s plan. Although the panopticon is six floors high, a guard standing at the ground floor could not see six stories up (fig.5). The photo at left shows the guard’s point of view standing at the ground floor. The photo is from my computer simulation. The guard sees into the ground floor cells. But above the second floor, the passages, stairways, and steep angle obscures all visibility of prisoners.

Recognising this problem, Bentham placed surveillance corridors at every other floor. This produced three, independent areas. Figure 6 shows each guard’s cone of vision. But, this solution is self-defeating. If the panopticon is round to permit everything to be seen from the centre, and there is no centre, then why continue to have a round structure?

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Figure 7 is a 180° panorama from the guard’s viewpoint. From any angle, the guard can see into no more than eight cells. The rest are made invisible by odd angles and poor optics (fig.8). To survey, the guard must walk circles (fig.9). Bentham describes three guards surveying 288 prisoners. If each of the three guards only sees eight cells at a time and is continuously walking, then only 24 inmates (3×8) out of 288 are visible at any inmates, about 8% of inmates.

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Fig.7: Panorama from Surveillance Corridor

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The circle implies forceful vision from centre to perimeter. But blind spots and poorly angled blinds might allow prisoners to guess when they were watched, defeating the architecture’s self-regulatory mechanism.6 According to Ivan Manokha:

Bentham’s Panopticon had an important flaw, namely, the possibility that the watched might one day try to find out whether they are indeed being watched. An inmate could hazard, entirely at random, a minor pardonable transgression; if this transgression goes unnoticed, then he could commit another, this time more serious, transgression.7

The leading English prison reformer John Howard also disliked the panopticon’s poor ventilation, “By condensing the prison back into a single enclosed volume, salubrity had been sacrificed to surveillance.”8 During this time, reformers discouraged self- contained and compact prison design (like the panopticon) in favour of spreading the cells over a larger area for better ventilation and light. Another, more serious flaw, is that Bentham provides no way to stop sound from travelling. He opens the interior to light, air, and visibility, but at the expense of sound. Circular interiors have echoing qualities that permit sound to travel farther. Unless prisoners cannot speak, sound will travel; they will communicate. Bentham rarely mentions in his 21 letters over 50 pages any means to muffle sound. The panopticon seems to sacrifice acoustics for visual surveillance.

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3. Design Flaws with Panopticon as Built

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Bentham’s ideas, however flawed, influenced the American Quakers, who were among America’s first prison reformers and shared Bentham’s belief in the redemptive power of solitary confinement. The first (or at least the first popular) translation of Bentham’s ideas into architecture was Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. This model proved popular in Europe and influenced numerous English prisons, starting with HMP Pentonville in 1842 and lasting until WWI. Three hundred prisons built between 1800 and 1880 followed this plan.

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Fig.109

ACCESS CORRIDORS          CELLS          INDIVIDUAL EXERCISE YARDS

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In response to observations that the panopticon lacked good ventilation, Haviland converted Bentham’s circle into the radial prison. He displaced the cells into corridors, and then arranged corridors around a central point, like spokes on a wheel. This system improved circulation and gave each prisoner more space (fig.10). Central heating and internal plumbing in each cell ensured prisoners never needed to leave solitary confinement. This new system allowed prisoners to be “inserted in a fixed placed,”10 to borrow a phrase from Foucault.

In the centre, stood a guard tower, analogous to Bentham’s tower. From this place, guards observed some of the exercise yards. Only the tops of the cells and roofs were visible, but never prisoners in their cells and exercise yards. Figure 11 shows the tower’s limited cone of vision. Invisible areas are shaded black. Years later, due to blind spots, this tower was rebuilt ~30 feet higher to command a better view.

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Fig.11: Guard Tower Blind Spots

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Perhaps, the guard is symbolically but not actually all-seeing. Guards later installed a clock on the tower, as if to remind prisoners of who gave and took time from their lives. Bentham’s guard tower seems analogous to Eastern State Penitentiary’s, both visually commanding yet both incapable of actual, all-powerful vision.

Despite the circular form, surveillance was not continuous. The guards had to walk through the corridor, with padded shoes to muffle footsteps, and open the peephole into each cell, one by one, to check on prisoners. Surveillance was discontinuous. But, it was the isolation that controlled. Thick walls muffled sound and sight, but at the expense of total vision of each prisoner from a central point. Bentham’s visual surveillance and Foucault’s concept of inmate self-regulation were not quite as visible here as in the original panopticon. Instead, “it was the isolation of the person, the total distance from others, that would serve to control.”11

The similarities between the panopticon as proposed and as built are limited. The general circular form survives, but the hundreds of details Bentham describes are not followed: none of the cell dimensions he gives, the staircases, surveillance corridors, the edifice’s size, and prisoner numbers. It is the theory of inmate self-regulation and the circular form that survive more than Bentham’s particularities. Unlike the panopticon, which aspired to be a prototype for all manner of institutions, Eastern State Penitentiary operated as the model prison but not as a model for other institutions like hospitals. The panopticons as built, in other words, are scaled-down and less culturally ambitious versions of the original proposal.

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Eastern State Penitentiary in Virtual Reality

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Bentham and Haviland were trying to imagine a form of prison architecture fit for this new democracy. If the punishment must fit the prisoner, if the system makes no distinctions for prisoner class and wealth, if guards must know at every moment the activity of every inmate, then the architecture must breathe the principle that the law is “the same for all.” Each cell in Bentham and Haviland’s world was identical to all others: 6 feet wide, 9 feet deep, and 8 feet high.

As of 1829, the most expensive structure built, the most technically complex, and the largest in America’s 200 year history was not a palace, senate house, or theatre. It was a prison. It was Eastern State Penitentiary. This fact speaks to the builders’ aspiration to embed symbolism into the prison. The Philadelphia Prison Society describes: “This penitentiary is the only edifice in this country, which is calculated to convey to our citizens the external appearance of those magnificent and picturesque castles of the middle ages, which contribute so eminently to embellish the scenery of Europe.”12

Among tourists and schoolchildren who visited after the opening, the usual response was admiration and support for solitary confinement. Among the supporters was Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831, where he spent two weeks interviewing prisoners.13 In his resulting report On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France, he describes the supposed benefits of total isolation on prisoners’ health and preparation to rejoin society.14

Not all visitors saw solitude as a positive. Charles Dickens visited America for six months in 1842. In 1850, he published American Notes for General Circulation. Judging by the number of pages he spends describing Eastern State Penitentiary, what impressed him most during his travels was not this democracy’s government, cities, or landscapes, but its largest prison. Dickens condemns solitary confinement:

Very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers. […] I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.15

In the job of making prisons feel penitence through isolation, Eastern State Penitentiary failed. By depriving convicts of all human contact, the solitary system did not address the antisocial personality that brought him to prison. Prison reports estimate upwards of 10% of the inmates went “insane” during their confinement. About a quarter of black inmates died during confinement, and the architecture proved unhealthy due to poor ventilation, fumes from the coal furnace entering cells, and malnutrition.16 Dickens mourns released prisoners. The ex-convict stumbles down the street, blinded by all sensory activity and sound. From years in confinement, he has trouble speaking. His words become stunted and halting; his eyes glaze over and become windows into unspoken pain.

Ideally, the effects of solitary should be so permanent, so debilitating, and so forceful that the inmate retains feelings of “permanent visibility” long after leaving prison. In the free world, they continue to act as if they were watched, even though they are no longer watched. However, 1960s sociologist Erving Goffman catalogued the relationship between inmates and medics over three years he worked in an asylum. He concluded the effects of rehabilitation were only limited and passing. The institution may reset the inmate’s personality and teach the inmate behaviour that aligns to socially acceptable norms. But, once they leave and are re-exposed to the comforts, temptations, and randomness of the outside world, the asylum’s lessons are soon lost.17 The “perfection of power” within the total institution might cause the inmate to self-regulate his behaviour, but only so long as he is in the institution. Alternatively, even permanent change might not be of the kind intended by staff. Think of Dicken’s inmates stumbling down the street. In contrast to Goffman’s empirical observations of actual inmates, Foucault dubiously claims the panopticon’s effects are permanent:

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The major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary.18

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James Scott pushes the critique of total institutions, like prisons, still further, when he writes: “No administrative system is capable of representing any existing social community except through a heroic and greatly schematised process of abstraction and simplification. […] State agents have no interest—nor should they—in describing an entire social reality.”19 Scott’s hypothesis is that states, throughout history, tried to control their people through large-scale architectural, legal, and social institutions. These efforts included, for instance, land collectivization under Communism, urban renewal projects in American cities, and scientific forestry in Germany. In each instance, Scott identifies how, despite different geography, time, and political systems, these efforts always fail and for the same reason: Reality is too complex, too diverse, and too evolving for man-made systems to capture and control. Scott never mentions prisons or failed state efforts to control through prisons. But, we can apply this theme to prison design. For instance, a recent literature review of the panopticon cites how we should neither speak of the panopticon in generalities nor take Bentham at face value when he claims his structure has universal use:

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Theoretical accounts often talk in abstract entities (‘institutions’, ‘the government’, ‘networks’, ‘the market’). These entities are described as invisible forces exercising power over subjects. This perspective often ignores any form of situatedness, context or the specificities of surveillance technologies and practices.20

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As an example of this failure to ground the panopticon in specifics, Bentham speaks of schools, hospitals, and asylums as abstract entities, where watching people, instead of caring for their mental and physical health, is of primary importance. This is problematic because both prisons and hospitals are concerned with different kinds of surveillance. Foucault and Bentham are right these are “disciplinary” institutions. Both doctors and jailers must establish “security.” Doctors keep the patients secure from disease. Jailers keep the public secure from the inmates. As applied to prisons and hospitals, security has in fact two opposite, even conflicting, meanings.

Although Bentham claims the panopticon is equally suited for prisons and asylums, the architectural form of prisons and asylum did not converge in the nineteenth century. They diverged. Most prisons followed Eastern State Penitentiary with radiating wings from central point (fig.12). Windows improved circulation but encouraged escape and communication with outsiders. So, in the interest of security over comfort, cell windows were small and inaccessible. By contrast, most asylums and hospitals followed the Kirkbride Plan for better views and air circulation (fig.13). Thomas Kirkbride, a doctor turned architect, invented the architectural template most nineteenth century American hospitals follow. The hospital wings, instead of clustered around a single point like radial prisons, were distributed over larger areas. This maximized airflow and inmate views of nature. As part of the “rest cure” and tuberculosis treatment, patients were placed on open terraces with good views.21

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After the French and American Revolution, these new democracies required new institutions: the congress hall, records office, hospital, prison, asylum, and university. Institutions, formerly the responsibility of private initiative and charity, were increasingly seen as democracy’s duty to care for the poor, educate the middle class, and regulate trade. Industrialists built railroads and factories; both required custom and highly specific architectural typologies. All these institutions, no matter how varied in purpose, share one quality in common: specific and niche institutional demands. The nineteenth century witnessed an explosion in buildings of diverse function, style, and appearance.22 Bentham’s panopticon sits at the edge of this moment. There is tension here. Bentham speaks of the panopticon as the ideal architectural form applicable “to all establishments whatsoever” at the very moment in time institutional forms were splintering away from a single prototype.

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4. Evolution of the Panopticon’s Meaning

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Early prison designers like Bentham and contemporary philosophers both speak of panopticons. However, contemporary use this word in an abstract and symbolic way that Bentham and his contemporaries did not.

Although the panopticon is now a theoretical design and symbol of surveillance, it began as a proposal for an actual prison. Bentham had every intention to build it with himself as prison master. So, when Bentham writes that:

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The panopticon will be found applicable, I think, without exception, to all establishments whatsoever, in which, within a space not too large to be covered or commanded by buildings, a number of persons are meant to be kept under inspection. […] No matter how different, or even opposite the purpose: whether it be that of punishing the incorrigible, guarding the insane, reforming the vicious, confining the suspected, employing the idle, maintaining the helpless, curing the sick, instructing the willing in any branch of industry.23

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He means this literally. The panopticon could physically be employed in all manner of circular buildings: prisons, hospitals, asylums, workhouses, and schools. And, for most of its 200-year history, the panopticon operated as physical model for prisons. Only in the late twentieth century was the panopticon re-interpreted from physical model for actual buildings into theoretical model for the surveillance state. I consulted several hundred papers on panopticons. And I have found none from before the 1970s that speaks of the panopticon as an analogy and symbol for something other than institutional architecture.

This shift toward abstraction began with Michel Foucault’s 1975 book, Discipline and Punish. In the chapter entitled “Panopticism,” he compares the surveillance schemes of medieval towns under quarantine against disease, with Bentham’s panopticon, and then with the modern nation state, tracing analogous control mechanisms across time. Foucault applies Bentham’s line that the panopticon is “applicable…to all institutions whatsoever” to institutions that were not fully formed at the time of Bentham’s writing, such as the modern hospital, police station, and modern prison. At the same, the Internet was introduced and spread rapidly in the 1980s. At time of writing, Foucault seems unaware of this technology, or its latent possibility to perfect surveillance. Discipline and Punish does not mention platforms, like Facebook, that give news, information, and entertainment while harvesting users’ personal information and using this information to manipulate user behaviour for profit. Both Goffman and Foucault were writing before the Internet revolution, and could not have factored in the Internet’s effects into their critique.

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Fig.14: A few stock photo representations of the Internet.

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Yet, for all the Internet’s power, the public cannot visualise: What does the Internet look like? People frequently represent the Internet as a series of connected dots, or speak of this abstract and ethereal thing called “the cloud.” The stock photos above are a few from online. The variety of things the Internet could be (connected dots, clouds, circles, a spider’s web) encompass a range of forms which begs the question: How can the Internet be all this at once? In this information and knowledge vacuum, Bentham’s building seems to represent and visualize this network in more concrete terms than “the cloud.” While the visual representations above are vapid and not politically charged, the panoticon image is a more powerful metaphor and hints at the darker possibilities of Facebook’s mission statement: “Bring the world closer together.”

Foucault’s writings and the rise of the Internet prompted a renewed interest in the panopticon. They also signal this linguistic shift from panopticon (a physical space) to panopticism (a philosophy, theory, and –ism). The word panopticism does not appear in any printed text before Discipline and Punish in 1975. When we speak of panopticons, we need to speak of two waves in thinking: the first wave was from 1787 to c.1870 and the second from 1975 to the present. During this first period, the panopticon operated as a physical institution and prototype for designing actual structures. In the second and contemporary period, the panopticon operates more as theory and abstraction of power relationships. Figure 15 is from Google Ngram, an online search engine that charts the frequency by year (x-axis) of word use (y-axis) in the 30 million books Google Books scanned from 1800 to 2008. This is not an entirely scientific measurement as not all books were scanned, but the general sweep of the graph loosely follows what I observe in the literature.

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Fig.15

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5. Conclusion

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The panopticon sits on an uncomfortable edge between dream and reality. The structure is now a dream. But this dream was powerful enough to influence prison reformers and actual buildings. Yet, not one of these buildings follow Bentham’s exact instructions, allowing their shortcomings to be chalked up to a failure to follow Bentham closely enough rather than innate flaws in total institutions. The moment total institutions are built, they become victim to decay due to design, materials, and time. Foucault can claim the panopticon “makes it possible to perfect the exercise of power”24 so long as he ignores problems with actual panopticons: complaints from prison wardens, records from frustrated Parliament, or evidence of prisoner escapes from supposedly perfect and all-seeing radial prisons.

The constant threat facing total institutions, like prisons and asylums, is that inmates will try to subvert, undermine, destroy, or escape from the architecture of their confinement. Total institutions are designed with walls and bars to be difficult to destroy and attack. The Internet is also a total institution; it is total in the sense that it is mobile bank, department store, library, television, movie theatre, and social space wrapped into one device.

For all its power, the Internet relies on visible architecture. When we store data on “the cloud,” what we are really doing is storing our information on someone else’s server. The data from my laptop travels by WiFi signal to the nearest router, and from there it is whisked along at light speed through buried cables to a data centre that could be thousands of miles away. The data centre is a room full of servers, small computers stacked on each other like shelves in a warehouse. The space can be as small or as large as the number of clients it serves. Servers can fit into almost any type of building shape and size, as long as the location is secure, free from floods, and has reliable electricity. In contrast to the non-descript architecture of a data centre, driving by a prison or hospital, the exterior looks like a prison or hospital and conforms to certain expectations we have.25 The server, this backbone of the Internet and its control mechanism, is malleable and usually safely distanced from the people whose lives it effects. While a local jail and hospital must be near the catchment area in which inmates are caught, the Internet’s infrastructure can be anywhere. The U.S. government can, for instance, record people’s phone activity in Iraq, store and process the information in its Utah Data Center, and then pass judgments on whom to arrest in Washington D.C. In this distancing of server architecture from victim might exist the Internet’s strength, and by extension the panopticon’s strength. Unlike other total institutions, the Internet seems less “architectural.” Does this immunize it from the blind spots and design problems plaguing other types of institutional architecture?

Panopticon is a problematic word. In theory, scholars use the term, beyond prisons, to describe a diverse range of buildings, institutions, governments, and now the Internet. These are all “panopticons.” But, in practice, these different and so-called “panopticons” do not have much in common beyond their general circular form. Both prisons and hospitals are concerned with power relations, surveillance, and control. But “panopticon” does not articulate specific institutional demands or the fact that control (and control mechanisms) look different across institutions.

The guiding principle of Foucault’s panopticism is as follows: Because inmates do not know when they are watched, they must act as if they were always watched. They therefore self-regulate their activity and follow rules, even if there is nobody watches them and punishes them for breaking rules. But on visual analysis of how the panopticon would have appeared if built, the built panopticon does not perfectly embody the principles of panopticism. Firstly, inmates are not passive objects and will communicate with each other across Bentham’s open spaces. Secondly, inmates can and will try to find out when they are watched by exploiting blind spots and faults in the architecture. Thirdly, there is no guarantee inmates will continue to self-regulate behaviour after they leave prison and are no longer under fear of surveillance.

Both terms – panopticon (the building) and panopticism (the theory) – seem to describe total institutions like prison and the Internet. But, both the building and the theory are too broad and too expansive. Panopticism ignores specific institutional needs and habits. Saying panopticism describes modern surveillance is like saying “connectivity, power relations, or fear of punishment describe modern life.” This statement does not push for any specific positive outcome and could imply all manner of surveillance and nastiness. Panopticism does not offer insight unique to a particular era or to a specific total institution. In the Middle Ages, God-fearing people self-regulated sinful thoughts and behaviour, too. The panopticon building, from which panopticism originates, is too broad as a general template for almost every institutional building. The fact that, 200 years later, the only structures to consciously follow this architectural model are prisons (and a few hospitals) might speak to this template’s more limited application in practice.26

How does the Internet change our critique of total institutions? As the internet becomes more complex and more invasive, is it time for a new paradigm to visualize and describe surveillance?

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Bibliography

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  • Bentham, Jeremy. Panopticon: The Inspection House. Whithorn: Anodos Books (2017).
  • Comte Gustave de Beaumont, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Francis Lieber (translator). “Inquiry into the Penitentiary of Philadelphia” and “Penitentiary System of Pennsylvania.” In On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, & Blanchard (1833), 187-198 and 287-301.
  • Dickens, Charles. “Chapter VII: Philadelphia and its Solitary Prison.” In American Notes for General Circulation. London: Chapman and Hall (1850), 67-77.
  • Evans, Robin. “A way of obtaining power.” In The fabrication of virtue: English prison architecture, 1750-1840. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1982), 195-235.
  • Evans, Robin. “Bentham’s Panopticon: An Incident in the Social History of Architecture.” Architecture Association Quarterly, no. 3, spring 1971.
  • Furlong, Gillian. “Designs for a Panopticon Prison by Jeremy Bentham: Section of an Inspection House; Plan of Houses of Inspection; Section Plan, c.1791.” In Treasures from UCL (2015), 136-39.
  • Galič, Maša, Tjerk Tima, and Bert-Jaap Koops. “Bentham, Deleuze and Beyond: An Overview of Surveillance Theories from the Panopticon to Participation.” Philosophy & Technology 1, no. 30 (2017), 9-37.
  • Goffman, Erving. “Characteristics of Total Institutions” in Asylums. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company (1962), 1-124.
  • Greer, Dave. “The Internet I.R.L.” The New York Times Magazine. 5 June 2015. Photo gallery of the architecture of server warehouses and data transmission. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/magazine/the-internet-irl.html.
  • Haw, Alex. “CCTV London: Internment, Entertainment and Other Optical Fortifications.” AA Files, no. 52 (2005), 55-61. www.jstor.org/stable/29544801.
  • Kirkbride, Thomas S. On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston (1854).
  • Knight, John. “Inquiry into the Penitentiary in Philadelphia.” Mechanics’ Magazine, and Journal of the Mechanics’ Institute, vol. 5 (1835).
  • Foucault, Michel (author) and Alan Sheridan (translator). “Panopticism.” In Discipline and Punish. New York: Vintage Books, (1977), 195-228.
  • Manokha, Ivan. “Surveillance, Panopticism, and Self-Discipline in the Digital Age.” Surveillance and Society, vol. 16, no. 2 (2018), 219-237.
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus. A History of Building Types. London: Thames and Hudson (1976).
  • “Plan of Eastern State Penitentiary. ”Paris: Demetz and Blouet (1836). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eastern_State_Penitentiary_Floor_Plan_1836.png.
  • Scott, James C. Seeing Like a State: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press (1998).
  • Thibaut, Jacqueline. “‘To Pave the Way to Penitence’: Prisoners and Discipline at the Eastern State Penitentiary 1829-1835.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 106, no. 2 (1982), 187-222. www.jstor.org/stable/20091663.
  • Yanni, Carla. “Transforming the Treatment: Architecture and Moral Management at Eastern State.” In The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2007), 49. www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt2gd.

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List of Figures

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* indicates image created by author from computer model

  1. Willey Reveley’s Floor Plan of Panopticon,c.1791
  2. Willey Reveley’s Cross Section of Panopticon,c.1791
  3. View from guard tower to cells: VISIBILITY*
  4. View from cells to guard tower: INVISIBILITY*
  5. Guard’s view on ground floor*
  6. Guard’s cone of vision from surveillance corridors (annotated from Reveley)
  7. Panorama of cells from guard’s viewpoint in surveillance corridor*
  8. Guard’s cone of vision (annotated from Reveley)
  9. Guard’s walking circuit (annotated from Reveley)
  10. Plan of Eastern State Penitentiary, c.1836 (with author’s colour annotations)
  11. Guard tower blind spots *
  12. General shape of radial prison
  13. General shape of hospitals on Kirkbride Plan
  14. A few stock photo representations of the Internet
  15. Google Ngram search results for the term “panopticon” and “panopticism.

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Endnotes

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  1. Goffman, Asylums, xiii.
  2. Furlong, “Designs for a Panopticon,” Treasures from UCL.
  3. Author’s illustrations from his computer model.
  4. Evans, “Bentham’s Panopticon: An Incident in the Social History of Architecture,” Architecture Association Quarterly, no.3.
  5. Evans, The fabrication of virtue, 197.
  6. Haw, “CCTV London: Internment, Entertainment and Other Optical Fortifications,” AA Files, no.52.
  7. Ivan Manokha, “Surveillance, Panopticism, and Self-Discipline in the Digital Age,” Surveillance and Society, vol.16, no.2.
  8. Robin Evans, The fabrication of virtue, 224.
  9. Colour-coding added by author to 1835 plan.
  10. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 197.
  11. Yanni, “Transforming the Treatment,” in The Architecture of Madness, 49.
  12. de Tocqueville, et al., On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France, 74.
  13. Knight, “Inquiry into the Penitentiary in Philadelphia,” vol.5.
  14. de Tocqueville, 189.
  15. Dickens, American Notes for General Circulation, 68-69.
  16. Thibaut, “’To Pave the Way to Penitence,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 106, no.2.
  17. Goffman, Asylums, 71.
  18. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 201.
  19. Scott, Seeing Like a State, 22.
  20. Maša Galič et al., “Bentham, Deleuze and Beyond,” Philosophy & Technology 1, no.30.
  21. Kirkbride, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane. Incidentally, the templates for most American prisons and asylums emerged from Philadelphia within twenty years of each other.
  22. Pevsner, A History of Building Types.
  23. Bentham, Panopticon: The Inspection House, 5.
  24. Foucault, 206.
  25. Greer, “The Internet I.R.L., The New York Times Magazine (photo gallery).
  26. There are city plans (Paris) and buildings (stadiums) that seem to resemble panopticons. These similarities are purely formal and accidental rather than intentional. Not every circular building you can stand in the middle of is a panopticon, or rises to the level of panopticism.

California Waterscape

California Waterscape animates the development of this state’s water delivery infrastructure from 1913 to 2019, using geo-referenced aqueduct route data, land use maps, and statistics on reservoir capacity. The resulting film presents a series of “cartographic snapshots” of every year since the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. This process visualizes the rapid growth of this state’s population, cities, agriculture, and water needs.

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Music: Panning the Sands by Patrick O’Hearn
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Text from animation is copied below:

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Each blue dot is one dam, sized for the amount of water it captures. Each blue line is one canal or aqueduct. These infrastructure features become visible as they near completion.

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The challenge: to capture and transport water to where water is needed hundreds of miles away. To grow food where there was once desert.

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Notice the sudden growth spurt in construction during the 1930s Great Depression… And again during the 1950s through 1970s.

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The longest aqueducts that run from mountainous areas to the cities mostly deliver drinking water. The shorter aqueducts in the Central Valley mostly bring water to farms.

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Here we see dams in the Sierra Nevada Mountains gradually come on line. Many prevent flooding. Or they seize winter snow and rain for when this water is needed in summer.

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Since the 1970s, construction slows down, but population continues growing.

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In 2010, about six hundred fifty dams and four thousand five hundred miles of major aqueducts and canals store and move over 38 billion gallons per day. This is the most complex and expensive system ever built to conquer water.

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But, how will man’s system cope with climate change?

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2. Research Methodology and Sources

The most important data sources consulted and integrated into this animation are listed here with links:

– Fire Resource and Assessment Program → Land use and urban development maps
(a pdf file imported as transparent raster into QGIS)
– California Department of Water Resources → Routes of aqueducts and canals
(shapefile)
– Bureau of Transportation Statistics → Dam and reservoir data
(csv with lat-long values)
– USGS Topo Viewer → Historic aqueduct route and land use maps
– U.S. Census Bureau → Estimated California population by year

Consult the research methodology and bibliography for complete details.

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Spotted an error or area for improvement? Please email: [email protected]
Download and edit the open source dataset behind this animation.
Click this Google Drive link and “request access” to QGIS shapefile.

3. Source Data on Dams and Reservoirs

^ Created with open data from the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics and visualized in Tableau Public. This map includes all dams in California that are “50 feet or more in height, or with a normal storage capacity of 5,000 acre-feet or more, or with a maximum storage capacity of 25,000 acre-feet or more.” Dams are geo-referenced and sized according to their storage capacity in acre-feet. One acre-foot is the amount required to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot (equal to 325,851 gallons or 1.233 ● 10liters). This is the unit of measurement California uses to estimate water availability and use.

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4. Source Data on Aqueducts and Canals

^ Created with open data from the California Department of Water Resources, with additional water features manually added in QGIS and visualized in Tableau Public. All data on routes, lengths, and years completed is an estimate. This map includes all the major water infrastructure features; it is not comprehensive of all features. This map excludes the following categories of aqueducts and canals:

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  • Features built and managed by individual farmers and which extend for a length of only a few hundred feet. These features are too small and too numerous to map out for the entire state and to animate by their date completed. This level of information does not exist or is too difficult to locate.
  • Features built but later abandoned or demolished. This includes no longer extant aqueducts built by Spanish colonists, early American settlers, etc.
  • Features created by deepening, widening, or otherwise expanding the path of an existing and naturally flowing waterway. Many California rivers and streams were dredged and widened to become canals, and many more rivers turned “canals” remain unlined along their path. Determining the “date completed” or “date built” for these semi-natural features is therefore difficult. So, for the purposes of simplicity and to aid viewers in seeing only manmade water features in the animation, this category is generally excluded.

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Those seeking to share this project to their website or organization are requested to contact the author before publication. We will gladly share all source files associated with this animation, provided recipients use this information for non-commercial purposes. Pre-production and data editing were conducted with QGIS and Tableau. Visualization and animation were conducted Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. For this project, we worked from a mid-2014 MacBook Air with 4GB RAM.

24 Hours in the London Underground

This animation visualizes the number of riders in the London Underground over two weeks in 2010. Each dot corresponds to one station. Dot size corresponds to the number of riders passing through each station. Big dots for busy stations. Small dots for less busy stations. Dot color represents the lines serving each station. White dots are for stations where three or more lines intersect. Each dot pulsates twice in a day. Once during the morning commute. And again during the evening commute.
If you like this, please watch my animation of weekday vs. weekend commuting patterns in the NYC subway.

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This animation does not pretend to be scientific. This is the representation of movement – a way to visualize the rhythmic pulsing of people through the London Underground as analogous to the breathing human body. The passage of red blood cells through the body’s veins is analogous to the movement of people through trains. The red blood cells bring oxygen and remove waste from the cells. Each semi-autonomous cell (with nucleus, membrane, etc.) is analogous to a workplace or home (with kitchen, walls, etc). Much like the cars and trains that move people and distribute their wealth from places of work to places of leisure, the red blood cells are the vehicles that link the heart and lungs (i.e. Central London) to the rest of the body (i.e. the London Metropolitan Region). This analogy of human form to city plan is a longstanding theme in urban studies.

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Methodology:

No algorithm or dataset could capture the true complexity of London’s rhythmic breathing during the daily commute. Stations like King’s Cross St. Pancras, Waterloo, and Victoria rank among the busiest because they are multimodal transfer points between long distance trains, taxis, cars, and buses. So, although this animation visualizes these busiest stations with the largest dot size, this does not necessarily mean more people work or live in the vicinity of these stations. Admittedly, aspects of dot size are determined by immeasurable external factors – namely transfers from other transport modes to the London Underground.

This animation is based off of open-access data collected in November 2010. According to transport for London: “Passenger counts collect information about passenger numbers entering and exiting London Underground stations, largely based on the Underground ticketing system gate data.” Excluding London Overground, the Docklands Light Railways, National Rail, and other transport providers, there are 265 London Underground stations surveyed in this data set. For data collection purposes, stations where two or more lines intersect are counted as a single data entry. This is because at complex interchanges of multiple lines (e.g. Paddington), it is difficult to track which of the lines (e.g. Bakerloo, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City) a passenger is boarding. To complicate matters, passengers are often granted free transfers between lines at interchanges.

Every fifteen minutes, the numbers of passengers are counted from gate entry data, that is, four times per hour. This yields 96 time intervals over each 24 hour period. Multiplying the number of time intervals (96) by the number of stations (265), we get the number of data points represented in this animation: 25,440. Each of the stations was also assigned its corresponding latitude and longitude coordinate, so as to appear on the map in its appropriate spatial location. In the data analysis software (Tableau), we assigned each station:

  • A spatial location → derived from latitude and longitude coordinates coordinates
  • A color → according to the lines extant in 2010: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo & City.
  • A size → scaled to reflect the passenger count in each 15 minute interval. The smallest dot corresponds to the rate of: zero passengers per 15-minute interval. The largest dot corresponds to the rate of about 7,500 passengers per 15-minute interval. This is the range applied to dot size: 0<X<7,500 where X represents “passengers/time.”
  • A time of day → each time interval represents one frame in the animation. We exported each frame from Tableau, conducted slight edits to background map opacity and texture, and then stitched the frames back together again – to create a flip book of sorts. With a rate of 12 frames per 1 second, or 96 frames per 8 seconds, a single day with 25,440 data points is compressed into 8 seconds of animation. This 8 second sequence is then looped.

By syncing the audio volume and background color with the data and time of day, the animation becomes more visually legible. The audio volume rises and falls to mirror the growth and contraction of each colored dot. The background color also shifts from black to gray to mirror the time of day. This was achieved by manually adjusting the background opacity in Adobe Illustrator from 100% to 50% for each of the 96 frames – as modeled with a cosine formula. The visualization was created in Tableau with post-production audiovisual editing in Final Cut Pro.

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The eight second sequence played on a loop as a .gif file.

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The Data:


View this infographic in Tableau Public.

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Powered by TfL Open Data. Contains OS data© Crown copyright and database rights 2016.

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Sources:

Lat Long Coordinates for Stations: Bell, Chris. “London Stations.” doogal.co.uk. doogal.co.uk/london_stations.php (retrieved 21 April 2019).
Ridership Statistics: “Our Open Data.” Transport for London. tfl.gov.uk/info-for/open-data-users/our-open-data (retrieved 21 April 2019). To access data, scroll down to the section entitled “Network Statistics,” then click where it reads “London Underground passenger counts data.”
“List of Busiest London Underground Stations.” Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_busiest_London_Underground_stations (retrieved 21 April 2019).
“London Connections Map.” Transport for London. tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/london-connections-map (retrieved 21 April 2019).
Audio effects for animation: “Heartbeat.” Freesound. https://freesound.org/search/?q=heartbeat (retrieved 23 April 2019).

NJ Transit Ridership Patterns

The NJ Transit railroad carries nearly 90,000 passengers per day to and from New York Penn Station – the busiest rail station in North America. The majority of these passengers are commuters, who live in bedroom communities dotting northern New Jersey. The construction of these railroads – mostly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – reveals patterns of urban growth centered around New York City. Like spokes on a wheel, these rail lines converge around Midtown Manhattan. As with many urban rail networks, this growth pattern makes it easier to travel from center to periphery than between towns on the periphery.

Hover over individual dots to reveal corresponding station statistics. Dot color corresponds to train line. White dots are for stations where multiple lines intersect. Dot size corresponds to number of riders per day. Large dots for busy stations, and small dots for less busy stations. For each station, the average number of riders is listed. This average should control for any aberrations in ridership, such as a particularly busy weekend, line closure, or major event in New York. These visualizations are derived from data NJ Transit provided me, here and here.

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The map above shows weekday ridership patterns. Clearly, the movement patterns are New York City and Newark centric – where the jobs are. The next two busiest stations are Secaucus Junction and Hoboken – but these stations are not primary commuter destinations. Rather, they operate as transfer points. Weekday commuters collected from stations along the Pascack Valley, Bergen County, and Main Line are mostly headed to destinations in New York City. And because no trains on these lines arrive in New York City, they must transfer at Secaucus (to another NJT train) or at Hoboken (to PATH / the Hudson River ferries).

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This map shows Sunday ridership. Unsurprisingly, the riders per station are correspondingly less because NJ Transit is mostly a commuter railroad. Stations are on average 66% to 75% less busy on weekends. The thirteen stations along the Montclair-Boonton Line – between Bay Street and Denville – are also entirely closed on weekends and serve no riders. The one line, however, that seems to be only slightly less busy on weekends is the Atlantic City Line – possibly because this line is popular on weekends for people traveling to the casinos and beaches there.

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The infographic above lists weekday ridership by station. Notice the large gap between the first four stations and all the others listed. Keep in mind that a lot of this data implicitly involves double-counting a single passenger. For instance, someone riding from their home near Bay Street (Montclair) to Penn Station (New York) will be counted once in the morning when they clock-in at Bay Street, and then again once they return through New York Penn the same evening.

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Writing Here Is New York in 1949, E.B. White has the following to say about the suburban commuter:

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The commuter is the queerest bird of all. The suburb he inhabits … is a mere roost where he comes at day’s end to go to sleep. Except in rare cases, the man [or woman] who lives in Mamaroneck or Little New or Teaneck, and works in New York, discovers nothing much about the city except the time of arrival and departure of trains and buses, and the path to a quick lunch…. About 400,000 men and women come charging onto the Island each week-day morning, out of the mouths of tubes and tunnels…. The commuter dies with tremendous mileage to his credit, but he is no rover…. The Long Island Rail Road alone carried forty million commuters last year, but many of them were the same fellow retracing his steps. (p.18-21)

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View a similar data visualization project for the New York City subway and for the London Underground.
View this project or download the data from Tableau Public.
Also of interest might be this set of 60 photos comparing New York Penn Station past and present.

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Geography of Incarceration

 

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Between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2017, the New York Police Department (NYPD) made 102,992 arrests for the possession, sale, and/or use of marijuana. 1 While only 25.5% of New Yorkers are Black, 67.5% of marijuana arrests are of Blacks. Similarly, 18 out of 20 marijuana arrests are of male individuals, even though only 13 out of 20 marijuana users are male. 2 Males more than females and Blacks more than others are arrested for marijuana. While these two aspects of the “War on Drugs” are widely known, less discussed is the clustering of marijuana arrests in specific hotspots.

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Race

Percentage of New Yorkers who identify as this race 3

Percentage of marijuana arrests of individuals belonging to this race

White

44.0%

11.2%

Black

25.5%

67.5%

Asian/Pacific Islander

12.8%

4.2%

Other

17.7%

17.1%

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These arrests are disproportionately of Black males between the ages of 18-44 from low-income communities, even though this demographic represents less than 10% of the city’s population. Why should this matter? Arresting individuals for using a relatively harmless and non-addictive drug is expensive for the taxpayer. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the city spent $75 million on marijuana arrests and prosecution per year 4 – money that could have been put to more effective use on education, awareness, etc. This policy also unfairly targets the individuals to whom the consequences of arrest, incarceration, and bail are highest.
The common argument, and the grounds on which marijuana was initially made illegal, is that marijuana is a “gateway drug.” Marijuana supposedly introduces and later encourages individuals to experiment with more dangerous and addictive substances. Whether or not this is true, the arrest and punishment of individuals for marijuana may incur the equal risk of serving as a “gateway crime” to the legal system.

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Click here to view this pie chart in more detail.

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Below are three maps of neighborhood “hotspots” for marijuana arrests. The income of every block is indicated on a red to green color scale from low to high. Population of Latinos and Blacks per square mile is also indicated; unsurprisingly, these groups cluster in low-income neighborhoods. On this base map is the geo-referenced address of every arrest for marijuana possession or sale from 2013 to 2017. Of particular note is the tendency for marijuana arrests to occur in low-income neighborhoods. For instance, Manhattan’s 96th Street represents an income divide between the wealthy Upper East Side and the comparatively poorer Harlem. Drawing a “thin blue line” down 96th, we also identify an unspoken policing boundary. Marijuana arrests are significantly less likely to happen in the majority white neighborhood south of 96th than in the majority black neighborhood north, even though both neighborhoods are of comparable population density. According to the UCLA: “Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.” 5 Similarly, the wealthy and majority white neighborhood of Riverdale in the Bronx has few arrests in comparison to the poorer and majority black West Bronx, even though these two neighborhoods are less than mile apart.

 

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Research Methodology and Sources

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Note that on the above map, there are numerous low-income neighborhoods without any drug arrests. This is largely because these areas have little to no population, such as Central Park or La Guardia Airport.

This project was assembled entirely publicly-available data. I began by downloading anonymized microdata on the race, crime, gender, and age of every individual arrested by NYPD, as well as the address where this individual was arrested. Of the approximately 1.7 million arrests in this spreadsheet, I filtered out the marijuana crimes. The colored basemap indicating per capita income and race by city block is extracted from Tableau Public, the mapping software I use. The infographics presented above can be explored or downloaded at this link. Arrest data is from NYC Open Data at this link.

  1. Marijuana arrests represent 5.98% of all arrests made during this time period.
  2. From “Statista,” accessed 15 January 2019, link to statistic.
  3. From the United States Census Bureau, 2010 statistics on NYC demographics, link to report, link to database.
  4. From the Drug Policy Alliance, accessed 15 January 2019, link to press release, link to report.
  5. From the American Civil Liberties Union, accessed 18 January 2019, link to article.

New York City Subway Ridership

Could the movement of people in the New York City subway system be visualized as rhythmic breathing?
Linguistically, we often describe cities in relation to the human body. Major roads are described as “arteries” in reference to blood flow. The sewers are the city’s “bowels.” Central Park is the “city’s lungs.” At various times in history, key industries like textiles or finance, were described as the “backbone” of this city’s economy. Cities are complex organisms. But, this wordplay makes the giant metropolis somehow more human and familiar.
The 424 subway stations and 665 miles of track are analogous to the human circulatory system. Every weekday, the subway carries 5.4 million people, mostly to and from work (c.2018).  This movement during the daily commute is highly ordered, structured, and rhythmic – as Manhattan’s population swells during the daily commute and then contracts by night. Each passenger symbolizes the movement of a single blood cell, operating as one cellular unit in a complex system. With each paycheck, the oxygen of capitalism flows from the heart of Manhattan to the cellular homes in the outer boroughs.
Commuting patterns are analogous to the rhythmic expansion and contraction of the human body while breathing. By contrasting weekday and weekend ridership patterns, we detect the city’s respiratory system.

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sounds of breathingheartbeat, and subway are from freesound.org

In this animation based on subway ridership statistics by station:
● Dots are color-coded according to the subway lines they serve.
● White dots are for junctions between two or more lines of different color.
● Dot size corresponds to the number of riders entering each station within a 24-hour period.
● Larger dots are for busier stations. Smaller dots are for less busy stations.
Maybe the visual language of data can address this deeper need to humanize and soften the concrete jungle.

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Also published by the Gothamist on 22 January 2019.
If you like this, please see my animation of ridership patterns over 24 hours in the London Underground.

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Where in the world is modernism?

What if the nationality of every artist represented in the Museum of Modern Art’s collections could be mapped to illustrate the Museum’s geographic diversity through time? Watch the data visualization below of 121,823 artworks at MoMA.

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Introduction

“The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) acquired its first artworks in 1929, the year it was established. Today, the Museum’s evolving collection contains almost 200,000 works from around the world spanning the last 150 years. The collection includes an ever-expanding range of visual expression, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, photography, architecture, design, film, and media and performance art.

“MoMA is committed to helping everyone understand, enjoy, and use our collection. The Museum’s website features 79,870 artworks from 26,215 artists. This research dataset contains 135,804 records, representing all of the works that have been accessioned into MoMA’s collection and cataloged in our database. It includes basic metadata for each work, including title, artist, date made, medium, dimensions, and date acquired by the Museum. Some of these records have incomplete information and are noted as ‘not Curator Approved.’

“The Artists dataset contains 15,757 records, representing all the artists who have work in MoMA’s collection and have been cataloged in our database. It includes basic metadata for each artist, including name, nationality, gender, birth year, death year, Wiki QID, and Getty ULAN ID.” – from MoMA’s website.

I have downloaded this dataset as a spreadsheet, imported the data into a visualization software called Tableau Public, and then proceeded to dissect this data to answer the following question:

What can big data reveal about the history of curating and the growth of museum collections?

The results are presented below in three case studies with accompanying infographics. Hover over the graph or toggle the buttons to explore the data in depth.

If you liked this analysis, please see my animation about the collecting history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Case Study One:

Geographic and Gender Diversity

The map below visualizes the nationalities of ~15,757 artists whose work is displayed at MoMA. There are 121,823 data points below. The data can be browsed by year or by department. This illustrates the constantly evolving geographic breadth of collections. Beginning in the 1930s, over 80% of artworks were from the four key countries of the US, UK, France, and Germany. Beginning the 1960s, the museum acquired some of its first works from Latin America and Japan. And, post-1991, the museum acquired the bulk of its collections from Russia and China. Recent years have seen a slight growth in African art.

An important distinction: This map does not show where each artwork was made. Rather, it shows where each artist is from. Nationality and national identity are, depending on the artist, an important influence shaping the unique perspective artists bring to their work.

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The bar chart below shows the gender distribution of artworks by date. On the horizontal axis: the date acquired. On the vertical axis: the number of artworks acquired in this year. Each bar is divided into three colors: Blue for artwork by a male artist. Pink for art by a female artist. Grey for art where the gender of the artist is not known.

This data can be explored by year and by department. Across departments, male artists comprise the large majority of holdings. The departments with the greatest number of works by female artists: Photography and Drawings. The department with the least female representation: Prints & Illustrated Books. The department with greatest number of works where the artists’ gender is unknown: Architecture & Design. However, across departments, the representation of female artists has slightly increased over the past few decades from around 0% to somewhere closer to 20%.

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Case Study Two:

Do newer acquisitions tend to be smaller?

The two graphs below plot the relationship between year produced, year acquired by MoMA, and the dimensions of each artwork (width in cm). I’ve plotted 12,250 points. They are color coded with the same blue, pink, and grey system as the previous chart.

In the first graph, we see how new artworks are becoming progressively larger and larger. In 1929, the year of MoMA’s founding, the width of the average work being produced was less than 100cm. Today, the average width of newly produced works in the collection is around 400cm – and is steadily increasing.

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In the second graph, we see how MoMA’s new acquisitions are becoming progressively smaller, even though newly produced artworks are larger than before. In 1929, the average width of a new acquisition was over 300 cm. Today, the width is less than 150cm.

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Contemporary artists seem to be working in ever larger dimensions – at least the contemporary artists whose work MoMA acquires. But, newer acquisitions tend to be smaller. Does this reverse correlation indicate that the growing costs of buying and storing art have priced MoMA out of larger artworks? What is the relationship between size and the decision whether or not to acquire a work?

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Case Study Three:

Is the scope and definition of modernism expanding to include older artworks?

The challenge facing any museum dedicated to modern art is: keeping up-to-date. Modern art is constantly being produced. Like any leading museum, MoMA is:

  • growing its collection of newly-produced contemporary works

  • while also enhancing its collection of older works

  • and expanding the geographic and national representations of artists and artworks

The graph below compares the relationship between production year and acquisition year for 7,797 items. The red trend line is the average of the acquisition (horizontal) and production (vertical) axes. Dot color indicates gender. Dot size indicates the number of works by this artist acquired in this year.

In 1929, most new acquisitions were produced in the 1920s – modernism was a new movement and a new idea. Today, new acquisitions range in date from the late 1800s to the early 2000s – the definition of modernism has grown to encompass both newer and older works. But, the average date of new acquisitions is between 1950 and 1960. There is modern art recently produced, and then there is modern art that is not as new but can reveal the history and birth of “modernism.” This is, so to speak, the history of the present.

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Modernism is not a geographically limited phenomenon. With globalization and the march of capitalism, the area effected by modernity is growing. And as new regions of the world come into contact with modern technology, materials, and ideas, the qualities of their respective art and the practices of their artists will change. Cultural institutions, particularly museums dedicated to modern art, are positioned to curate these global trends through the kinds of works they acquire and display in their galleries. More broadly speaking, the kinds of stories museums and curators can tell about history may reflect the geographic, gender, and temporal strengths (or weaknesses) of their collections.

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Links to Resources

The original datasets can be viewed or downloaded below:

  • MoMA’s dataset from GitHub is free to download here. It is published with the following license: Creative Commons Public Domain (CC0). The information presented above reflects this dataset as of 17 October 2018. New entries after this date are not included as these infographics are not updated in real-time.
  • The dataset, derived from MoMA’s, is also free to download here from Tableau Public.
  • These infographics are not affiliated with MoMA. MoMA does not endorse the conclusions of the authors, who themselves take sole responsibility. The conclusions presented below are limited by the scope of MoMA’s published metadata.
  • This author is aware that, according to some definitions, gender is not a binary. Yet, the colors pink and blue code for traditional gender norms. This color palette is for visual clarity; it does not represent an endorsement or rejection of this gender binary.
  • I have created similar data visualisations analysing:

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