One photo, every eight steps, the camera pointed straight ahead. The formula is simple, but the results reveal a lot about the way we perceive urban streetscapes. Geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison formed the Urban Earth network, in an effort to, “explore and (re)present our urban habitats”. Five years and a National Geographic partnership later, Raven-Ellison and his team have explored some of the world’s most dynamic urban centers.
Raven-Ellison emphasizes the need to recognize an increasingly urbanized world as the impetus for forming Urban Earth. The city, he states, “is the biggest habitat on our planet. These are the places we live in”. What Urban Earth has tapped into is a major demographic trend: in 2007, the world crossed the threshold from a majority rural population to majority urban. Currently, 52% of the world’s population lives in cities, with this number expected to grow most rapidly in the developing world.
Raven-Ellison’s transects are a way of exploring this shifting landscape and gaining a deeper understanding of our built environment and those with whom we share it. He states that, “although we share our cities with millions of other people, we are in many ways more disconnected than ever before, moving from the island of our home to the island of our car to the island of our office”. Urban Earth, then, is about “documenting truth in cities and showing them as they exist, and not as people choose to see them”.
Take, for instance, Urban Earth’s trek through Mexico City, which required over 75 miles of walking and took three days to complete:
The newest iteration of the Urban Transect is the Urban “Storywalk”, or a transect with a route guided by a specific theme. In 2012, for instance, the Urban Earth team mapped rates of depression in different neighborhoods in London and devised a path that led them through the areas with the highest and lowest rates of depressions. Future Storywalks are slated to be organized around rates of violence and energy consumption.
Visit Urban Earth to organize a transect, watch more videos, and join the discussion at: https://urbanearth.ning.com/.