Posted by Davina Jackson on 17 Dec 2012

LiDAR (3D laser) scan of the National Library of NZ, by Terralink.

The National Library of New Zealand has soft-launched its iconic new building in Wellington with an exhibition on dynamic modelling of systems and environments.

The Big Data: Changing Place exhibition, curated by Richard Simpson with a project team led by Keith Thorsen and the NZ Department of Internal Affairs, highlights visually exciting and dynamic real-time applications of ultra-precise sensor surveying technologies for managing environments: from vast areas of land and ocean to systems inside human bodies.

Soft-launched in early December by Prime Minister John Key with National Librarian Bill McNaught, Big Data showcases recent research advances from international space science research agencies, including NASA, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, MIT’s SENSEable City Lab and the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE, which held its fourth biennial Summit in Wellington in early September 2012).

Guest curator Richard Simpson, as an executive council member of the ISDE, emphasised the importance of overview observations to understanding natural systems at all scales. He quoted Socrates: ‘Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the clouds and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.’

Richard said the term ‘Big Data’ refers to flows of digital information too massive to be processed by a single computer system. He emphasised that it was not just about the scale of the information but the all-pervasive ‘ubiquity’ of information that now can be accessed easily by everyone with a computer device.

Big Data highlights include:

> A triple-screen visualisation of central Wellington’s development, past-present-future, interpreting paper maps and illustrations using Unity gaming software, by Nextspace.

> Real-time modelling of spending patterns across Spain, by the MIT SENSEable City Lab.

> Alpha-tree interpretations (from statellite imagery) of building stock around Thorndon, the Wellington suburb where the library is located, by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre unit creating a new ‘Global Human Settlement Layer’ for the global earth observations system of systems project.

> A montage image of the National Library (architects Warren and Mahoney) comprising jigsaw-like pieces of imagery, each using a different digital recording and visualising method, assembled with a customised algorithm, by Cadabra.

> A Turing machine (mechanical computer inspired by British scientist Alan Turing’s 1940s theories) to simulate human muscle activities, by Benjamin O’Brien of Auckland University’s Bioengineering Institute Biomimetics Lab and StretchSense.

> 3D LiDAR images of the streets around the National Library in Thorndon, by Terralink.

> High-res aerial images of Wellington landscapes, taken from a Hawkeye drone (pilotless mini-aeroplane), by AreoHawk

The exhibition continues until April 2013 and a series of Wednesday lectures is planned. The podcast of Radio NZ’s Kim Hill interviewing curator Richard Simpson is here.