For those of you who
have always wanted to write
a haiku; read on:
A new website, OpenStreetMap Haiku, is an online poem generator created by Satellite Studio, a firm made up of a small team of designers and developers dedicated to creating data visualizations and maps with the help of technology. The geo-fueled generator uses a map location and OpenStreetMap data to create randomized poems using a database of coordinate-dependent words.
“We automated making haikus about places. Looking at every aspect of the surroundings of a point, we can generate a poem about any place in the world. The result is sometimes fun, often weird, most of the time pretty terrible,” reads Satellite Studio’s announcement.
The inspiration for the studio’s hybrid literary-tech project came from a similar project, called every thing every time, by designer Naho Matsuda. Matsuda creates “impractical poetry” from bits of data, collected by sensors, throughout a city—like traffic, air quality, and shift schedules. While Matsuda’s work gets displayed throughout a given location in real time, OpenStreetMap Haiku is global. To navigate the OSM site, simply scroll across the greyscale map and pick a point. After a few seconds, a haiku will appear; a five syllable line, seven syllable line, and five syllable line again. Here’s an example:
For a neighborhood-friendly poem, you won’t have to scroll far. But to explore the words of a far away place, the generator allows you to zoom out to international data points. (Though, when I scrolled out to Quebec, the site told me there wasn’t much around. Maybe it’s because OpenStreetMap is a user-generated database rather than a completely realized world map.) In any case, it’s a fun exercise to see how different haikus can be, with only a few miles between them.
Since the OSM database randomly assembles verses through collected information from various places, different elements that define a place, like weather and local time of day, also play a role in how these haikus get formed. City buildings like grocery stores and coworking spaces are associated with words like “carrots” and “laptop,” respectively, so the result is a surprising mix of whatever data “tags” reveal themselves based on the features of a given address.
“We think we have created a little window into, maybe not the world, but into the world of OpenStreetMap,” Satellite Studio adds in its statement. “OpenStreetMap is a revolutionary project, it’s the most complete map of the world ever made. An idea that is usually conveyed by enumerating grand statistics: 5 million users, 5 billion nodes, 3 million changes a day, 100 million distinct tags, etc. We think this can and should also be expressed in a more sensible manner and with a pinch of randomness . . . it’s always fascinating to see how, with just a few hundreds of very basic building blocks, meaning emerges from chaos, the imagination unravels, narratives materialize.”