Data Stories and the Synthetic City: Exploring Urban Living through the Data City Dublin Exhibit

The Synthetic City conference took place at Dublin City University (DCU) on the 6th and 7th of September 2023. Hosted by the ECREA Media, Cities and Space Section, the conference attracted researchers in cities, media and the arts from across the globe to explore the impact of artificial intelligence and digital media on cities and urban living. 

The Data Stories project attended in order to demonstrate the Data City Dublin exhibit as one of the conference’s several practice-based interventions. Data City Dublin is a large-scale 3D printed model of central Dublin which covers 28 sq. km of the city from Phoenix Park in the west to the Dublin Docks in the east. The model is then animated by projected data visualisations representing spatial patterns and change over time.

Excitingly this was the first public exhibition of Data City Dublin. The piece was first created as an end of project exhibition for the Building City Dashboards project. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible due to the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The exhibit is now being used by the Data Stories project as one of several creative and art-based methods for exploring stories about the housing crisis in Ireland through property and planning data.

The Data City Dublin exhibit will continue to evolve as the Data Stories project progresses. On this occasion we displayed several visualisations from the earlier iteration, including eye-catching heat maps of air quality and noise pollution from Dublin’s open data archives. Focusing on our theme of planning and property data, we displayed data from the Inside Airbnb advocacy site representing the distribution of Airbnb properties across the city. This was juxtaposed with distributions of land uses across central Dublin on a building-by-building basis derived from data provided by Tailte Éireann.

New for this exhibit was a time series of orthographic imagery depicting changes in Dublin’s built environment from 1999 through to 2019. Depicting the city in photographic detail in this way enables  us to contextualise the current state of the city by showing how the city changed during the period known as the Celtic Tiger and subsequent financial crash, up until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Supporting the exhibit our Creative Technologist Oliver Dawkins presented a talk ‘Data City Dublin: Grounding Data Through Hybrid Media and Physicalisation’ which contextualised the new work on Data City Dublin in relation to his prior research using sensing devices on the Internet of Things, gaming technologies and augmented and virtual realities to help understand how people interact with buildings and cities in real-world contexts.

New visualisations and data stories will be added to Data City Dublin as the Data Stories project continues to develop. In doing so the team hope it will provide a valuable resource for engaging both professional stakeholders and the wider public with debates in housing, property and planning in creative and exciting new ways. 



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