A Collective Composition of New York City, by Ivan Safrin & Christian Marc Schmidt
The city is a composite of impressions. Beyond the built environment, it is a constantly changing pastiche of associations and experiences—not just of the people who inhabit it, but of the larger community. New York City, in particular, has two realities: the reality of the physical environment, and the reality of the idea—of what the city and its diverse neighborhoods signify. Inseparably intertwined, these two realities constantly continue to inform each other. Pastiche is a dynamic data visualization that maps keywords from blog articles to the New York neighborhoods they are written in reference to, geographically positioned in a navigable, spatial view. Keywords are assigned based on relevance and recency, surrounding their corresponding neighborhoods. The result is a dynamically changing description of the city, formed around individual experiences and perspectives.
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Visually, Pastiche references the vertical architecture of Manhattan. Keywords and neighborhood labels—anchored on the ground plane—point upward in an analogical gesture, and also allow the clusters of text to remain sufficiently legible. Since neighborhood labels are positioned at the centroid of the geographic area of the physical neighborhood boundaries, they relate to each other in relative geographic proximity, allowing the shape of the city to emerge. Three keywords per neighborhood are arranged radially around the neighborhood label. Selecting a neighborhood highlights its related keywords, as well as other neighborhoods related by shared keywords. Through this interaction, the entire field of text becomes a stage on which relationships between neighborhoods can be selectively explored. Apart from the geographic view, a list view allows alphabetical browsing of keywords by neighborhood. Selecting a neighborhood or keyword from list view transitions back to the corresponding area of the geographic view.

Conceptually, Pastiche is a parallel experience of the city, a map that not only documents, but also suggests action. It is a public counterpart to the private physical architecture of the city. Its source an aggregate of individual blogs, Pastiche is a system that anyone has the ability to contribute to. It defines a new kind of public space, while both proposing an experience and inviting comparison—in the process of relating one’s own perspective to a larger collective subjectivity, one situates oneself in relation to an impromptu community, formed around the idea of New York.