Maps of Babel

MAPS of BABEL is an experiment on geo-localized User Generated Content gathered within the city of Milan.
MAPS of BABEL tries to identify meaningful multi-cultural pattern on the city of Milan, as well as most named places (using a list of toponyms) from different cultures and different point of origin.
*We’ve presented the experiment at the Human cities symposium (,
*You can download a preveiw of the paper here (official paper will be released at the end of May)
MAPS of BABEL is developed with Paolo Patelli, Luca Simeone and Salvatore Iaconesi.
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The paper presents a methodology and an experiment aiming to recognize multiple stories, as they emerge, influence each other, unfolding from city users’ mental representations and spatial experiences of city spaces, by conducting an analysis on location-based data sets extracted in real-time from UGC.
In particular how different ethnic groups are distributed spatially and temporally within the city of Milan and what are their sentiments towards the city spaces they name.

MAPS of BABEL is trying to understand if it’s possible to recognize patterns of how different ethnic groups live the city, and the public spaces, in terms of:
– spatial distributions (and so correlation with specific places and areas);
– temporal distributions (and so if there’s any different between the time of the day, or the days of the weeks in terms of cultural distribution);
– eventual meaningful comparisons between the groups;

In this case we’re extracting geo-referenced contributions within the city of Milan for 2 weeks and we’re taking into account the language of the post to intercept how different ethnic groups move within the city.

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Please find videos, images interpretations and some links as follows.

(1) video of the total of contributions/ 2 weeks / video


(2) video of the  total of contributions
/ different colors correspond to people posting into different languages

yellow – italian / green – english / bright green – indonesian / pink – spanish /
light pink – french / blue – portoguese / light blue – dutch / red – japaneese.

(3) splitted videos of the total of contributions
/ different colors correspond to people posting into different languages 

yellow – italian / green – english / bright green – indonesian / pink – spanish /
light pink – french / blue – portoguese / light blue – dutch / red – japaneese.

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(1) image: accumulation of the contributions: spatial distributions of Tweets on the city of Milan

(2) image: accumulation of the contributions divided per language: spatial distributions of languages on the city of Milan

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interpretations of results
(according to the urban morphology of the city, to the distribution of public services, and related to specific landmarks, point of interests  and to the specific attitude of the different areas)

(1) We found that, as could be expected, the areas of the city from which people “talk” the most are the 3 main (and mainstream) commercial districts, and the Train Central station

(2) It’s interesting to notice that it seems that nobody talks from the city main parks! (we collected contributions during the month of March, which is quite cold in Milan, we will carry on comparing the different percentages of contributions from both commercial districts and public parks during the other seasons, to see what happens.

(3) We can also notice that the West part of the city which is very residential is not talking at all!

(4) A very central part of the city is quite empty: it’s the financial district where the stock exchange and the most important banks are located.

(5) We found intense peripherical clusters of contributions in the 3 main University Campus! (Politecnico Bovisa, Politecnico Leonardo, University of Bicocca)

(5) It’s very interesting to notice how one of the 8 most spoken language among Milan tweets is Indonesian!

(6) The San Siro Stadium and the closest areas are the places from where we found the major concentrations of all languages together

(7) A particular concentration of Italian speakers is detected at the Train Central Station! (we assume it’s because Italians always complaint about trains delay!)

(8) Milan is surrounded by a ringroad, contributions clearly draw the East-Half of the ring-road, while the West side is completely un-recognizable;
could it be related to the traffic?

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Furthermore, we’re experimenting on interfaces and visualization style: to make patterns, statystics and trends clear from the visualization itself.
Our final aim is to build an inquireable platform able to cross different kind of data data and to  real-time return meaningful urban quality indicators

– – -Another ongoing experiment within the Maps of Babel project is the one we call PlaceTalking. It is possible to understand from where people talk about specific landmarks or areas?

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More links as follows:

Maps of Babel Speech at Human cities symposium (link)

Comment to the the speech on the DensityDesign website (link)

Salvatore Iaconesi post on the experimenti (link)

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specific credits on the outputs:
Data extractions by Salvatore Iaconesi
Processing code by Paolo Patelli
Visualizations and interpretations above by Giorgia Lupi
Ideas and publication by: Giorgia Lupi, Paolo Patelli, Salvatore Iaconesi, Luca Simeone

About giorgia lupi

1981 I am an architect that never built any house (luckily). I work with information, designing, researching and drawing a lot. I am co-founder ad design director at Accurat ( I am a PhD student at Milan Politecnico (

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