The World’s Eyes

SENSEable City Lab

15 March 2009

Software, video-projection (Carlo Ratti, Assaf Bidermann, Fabien Girardin, David Lu, Andrea Vaccari)

The World’s Eyes illustrates the photos people visiting Spain leave behind them as evidences of contemporary tourism in the country. One of the most impressive urban facelifts in recent years is that of Spain. The country’s tourism used to rely on its beaches and was showing signs of saturation with its leisure cities developed with lack of history, taste and culture and a total ignorance of ecological responsibility. In the 1990s, it went through an intense revamp to overtake the United States as the second most visited country. For instance, Barcelona transformed its old town, invested heavily in infrastructure and developed a whole new city on the wave of the Olympics, attracting millions of tourists that continue to flock to Barcelona’s busy streets. However this tourism is hardly quantifiable because tourists leave minimal tangible traces of their stay. In consequence, what do they see?, what do they enjoy?, where do they travel to/from? There are some of the questions that are still hard to answer by citizens and local authorities.

The World’s Eyes provides insights to these questions from the digital photos publically shared on the web by people visiting Spain. Through data mining and visualisation techniques, it uncovers the evolutions of the presence and flows of tourists. As photos pile up to reflect the intensity of the tourist activity, they uncover where tourists are, where they come from and what they are interested in capturing and sharing from their visit. The analysis and mapping of this data allows understanding the attractiveness of leisure cities and their points of interest. In contrast it also reveals the un-photographed regions of Spain, still free from the tourist buzz.