Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo on view at 2016 Istanbul Design Biennale, Are We Human?

Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo is on view at the 2016 Istanbul Design Biennale from October 22, 2016 to November 20, 2016. The Biennale is titled “Are We Human?” and presents projects that stretch “from the last 2 seconds to the last 200,000 years.”

Our exhibit is on view in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and presents two zooms from high-resolution satellite images of Aleppo at the scale of 1:1000. For every one unit of space in the gallery, the corresponding space in Aleppo is one thousand times larger. Visitors can also browse the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo interactive map and case studies including a case study on the “Time Scales of Aleppo” researched and written for the exhibition.

Exhibition photos by Sahir Ugur Eren.

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TUTORIAL
TUTORIAL
Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo
An evolving and interdisciplinary study of urban damage in Aleppo, Syria.
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Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo is the first in a series of interrelated projects as part of our multi-year year research initiative on Conflict Urbanism.

In January 2016 we launched the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo interactive map, amidst intense violence in Aleppo more than five years after the start of the civil war in Syria. The map served as a research tool for the spring 2016 Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo seminar and as a new window into the conflict for the world at large. The map combines layers of high-resolution satellite images together with data gathered by human rights organizations and the UN to show the historic city from 2012 to the present. Using the logic of a typical geographic information system (GIS) map, the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo project overlaps these layers, accruing two kinds of evidence: evidence about the physical destruction of the city and evidence about how urban warfare is tracked and monitored from a distance.

We are continuing to release additional case studies that shed light on the effects of the conflict on the urban fabric of Aleppo. We have combined several experimental methods in order to look at the conflict and the urban context of Aleppo in new ways: by cross referencing YouTube videos we have geocoded with bi-weekly change maps we created using low resolution and free Landsat satellite imagery we have been able to identify intense areas of damage on high resolution satellite images that have gone undocumented by the international human rights community, which uses other methods to look at these same high resolution satellite images. 

The project has been exhibited at the 2016 Istanbul Design Biennale (October 22- November 20, 2016) and has been the subject of several invited lectures and articles including in the Harvard Graduate School of Design Magazine, Architecture Design, and at the Unknown Unknowables conference in Copenhagen, and a Curating Data conference at Harvard. 

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Launch Preview of Conflict Urbanism Aleppo on November 17th, 2015
Nov 18, 2015 — Dare Brawley

On November 17th, 2015 the Center for Spatial Research, in collaboration with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, hosted a launch preview of Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo.

Laura Kurgan and Madeeha Merchant were joined by collaborator Jamon Van Der Hoek in presenting the research and development that has led to the interactive map of the city of Aleppo, Syria.

The event also featured presentations by Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch, Tyler Radford of Humanitarian Open Street Maps, and Timothy Wallace of The New York Times about how their work might ineract with a project like Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo. 

Acknowledging that conflict zones are information rich and analytically poor, we hope to begin an interdisciplinary discussion about the potential of detecting the effects of urban conflict through satellite imagery analysis.

Focusing on the current catastrophe in Syria, the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo project began with an attempt to link eyes in the sky with algorithms and ears on the ground. Towards these ends, we have created an open-source web platform that allows users to navigate maps and satellite images of the city of Aleppo, at the neighborhood scale, across multiple data sets. Working with data from Human Rights Watch, UNOSAT, and the Violations Documentation Center, the platform combines our algorithmically-derived damage identification with their expertise.

We discussed what the correlation of human rights data with satellite imagery analysis tells us about the conflict in Syria, and Aleppo in particular. What possibilities do machine learning and remote sensing algorithms promise for damage detection?  Can and should we use crowd-sourcing and citizen science to better train our algorithms?  We invite advocates and researchers from human rights organizations, humanitarian and development agencies, the academy, and the news media to join us in exploring potential uses of the platform and our tools.

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Laura Kurgan: Human geographies
Oct 01, 2009 — Laura Kurgan

Laura Kurgan spoke at the 2009 Pop Tech Conference. 

She presented the Million Dollar Blocks project as well as Exitin a talk titled "Human Geographies."

Watch the video here: http://poptech.org/popcasts/laura_kurgan_human_geographies

 

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Review of "Close Up at a Distance"
Oct 24, 2013 — Craig M. Dalton, Geographical Review

"Kurgan's Close up at a Distance is an ingenious and exciting push at the margins of what is possible to see and understand using satellite imagery, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The book is a review of and reflection on her provocative artistic and design projects using geotechnologies since the early 1990s."

Geographical Review, Volume 103Issue 4pages 584–587October 2013

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Review of "Close up at a Distance."
Aug 24, 2013 — UrbanTick

"What do we see, when we see the world? In today's world transcended by digital technology and flooded with representations, models and mashups the question of 'what are we looking at?' becomes more important. The many layers of data and visualisations in many cases start clouding the subject or in some cases appears completely detached from it and develop a dynamic of their own. 

The kind of critiques are nothing new and have been heard through out the past decade. How perception is manipulated with information has been discussed for example in the book How to lie with Maps by H.J. de Blij , 1992. Here de Blij presents examples of representations and how they are used to favour certain aspects. Or also indeed The Power of Maps by Denis Wood, 1992, You are Here by Katharine Harmon, 2003 or the Atlas of Radical Cartography edited by Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel, 2008, to name a few of the recent cartography/mapping books of the recent years. 

In a new Zone Books publication Close up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics Laura Kurgan presents her research work and offers a theoretical discussion on the usage and employment of representations."

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"Close Up at a Distance" Review in Society & Space
Aug 24, 2013 — Columba Peoples

Columba Peoples reviews Laura Kurgan's Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics in Society and Space

"Laura Kurgan’s Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics is an insightful and innovative book that defies straightforward classification, ‘poised’ as it is “at the intersection of art, architecture, activism and geography” (page 17). Its subject matter—satellite images, satellite mapping and remote-sensing images—is by now an established concern of critical geographical scholarship in particular (see, amongst others, Cosgrove 2001; Crampton 2008; Crampton 2010; della Dora 2012; Dodge and Perkins 2009). Readers familiar with that scholarship will doubtlessly recognise many of the issues and debates broached by Close Up at a Distance: over the military origins of satellite technologies, images and mapping and the extent to which this still imposes secrecy and restrictions on their availability; on the promise and perils of ‘participatory’ cartography and the ‘democratic’ potentialities this may or may not offer; and finally, whether and how the increasingly ubiquitous use of satellite images and mapping might “transform … our ways of seeing and experiencing space” (page 14). The distinctive feature of Kurgan’s work in addressing these issues, though, is that it rejects the proposition that scholars can or should simply evaluate and respond to these at a ‘critical distance’: “[W]e do not stand at a distance from these technologies, but are addressed by and embedded within them”, Kurgan argues. Hence, “Only through a certain intimacy with these technologies—an encounter with their opacities, their assumptions, their intended aims—can we begin to assess their full ethical and political stakes” (page 14)."

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Project
Close Up at a Distance, Mapping Technology Politics
person role
Author(s): 
Laura Kurgan
Publication date: 
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Publication name, page number: 
Zone Books, 2013
Description (optional): 
The past two decades have seen revolutionary shifts in our ability to navigate, inhabit, and define the spatial realm. The data flows that condition much of our lives now regularly include Global Positioning System (GPS) readings and satellite images of a quality once reserved for a few militaries and intelligence agencies, and powerful geographic information system (GIS) software is now commonplace. These new technologies have raised fundamental questions about the intersection between physical space and its representation, virtual space and its realization. In Close Up at a Distance, Laura Kurgan offers a theoretical account of these new digital technologies of location and a series of practical experiments in making maps and images with spatial data. Neither simply useful tools nor objects of wonder or anxiety, the technologies of GPS, GIS, and satellite imagery become, in this book, the subject and the medium of a critical exploration. Close Up at a Distance records situations of intense conflict and struggle, on the one hand, and fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space, on the other. Kurgan maps and theorizes mass graves, incarceration patterns, disappearing forests, and currency flows in a series of cases that range from Kuwait (1991) to Kosovo (1999), New York (2001) to Indonesia (2010). Using digital spatial hardware and software designed for military and governmental use in reconnaissance, secrecy, monitoring, ballistics, the census, and national security, Kurgan engages and confronts the politics and complexities of these technologies and their uses. At the intersection of art, architecture, activism, and geography, she uncovers, in her essays and projects, the opacities inherent in the recording of information and data and reimagines the spaces they have opened up.
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Close Up at a Distance records situations of intense conflict and struggle, on the one hand, and fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space, on the other.
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Author C4SR: 
Author Last Names for table: 
Kurgan
Publication short title (carousel): 
Close Up at a Distance, Mapping Technology Politics
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
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