Running has always seemed like pure masochism to me, but for many urbanites it’s the best and only way to get daily exercise. Seeing a whole city’s worth of this activity, over a whole year, paints the urban landscape in a whole new light — which was exactly the effect that interactive design collective YesYesNo was going for in their visualization for Nike, which used anonymous data from Nike+ users in New York, London, and Tokyo to paint synapse-like trails over the cityscapes.
The visualization was installed on three screens in Nike’s Soho-based store in Manhattan, displaying “the day from morning to night, showing a year’s worth of runs played out at the same time of day,” says YesYesNo partner Theodore Watson. “The software follows a single run from start till completion. When the run is finished it finds the next nearby run and follows that one.
If it is waiting to pick up a new run it zooms out, showing an overview of the entire city.”
There’s surprising visual drama in watching a pulsing blob of white light course around a map of Manhattan like a lightcycle in Tron: You can’t help but imagine the real, live person pounding the pavement block after block. While the screens in the Soho store were configured to “run on autopilot,” Watson says that “the software is designed to be interactive and navigated by visitors.” It sounds a hell of a lot more entertaining than actually doing the running, but that’s just me.