A Heart from Space – A tool for collective GPS drawing

Created by Jonathan Chomko, and inspired by a conversation with Yo-Yo Ma around a performance of a previous work, ‘A Heart from Space’ is a tool for collective GPS drawing. To draw together, gather a group of of people and visit this website on a mobile phone and the website draws a line between the GPS positions of the online users in your group. The participants collectively determine the shape of the heart, adjusting their positions relative to the group.

This project grew from that optimistic vision, but places a focus on emergent collaboration, rather than coordinating movements at scale. In doing so, the project raises a question of how the affordances of a platform shape what is possible; how design decisions necessarily exclude certain possibilities while making others readily accessible. 

The ‘space’ of the title speaks of the physical ground participants cover in engaging with the work, as well as the top-down perspective that allows them to see the product of their efforts. These dual meanings point toward the key message of the work; that the ways we see ourselves online can shape what is possible in the physical world.

The project consists of a Node.js backend which communicate with the frontend via Socket.io. The backend receives each users GPS position and adds to or updates the list of active users for that heart. When a new user is added, the drawing order of the group is re-calculated. 

The frontend is built using standard html / css / javascript, and uses the Sensor API  to request access to the user’s GPS location and compass orientation. The map is generated using the Google Maps API. The frontend receives the list of positions every 500 milliseconds, and draws these as a line using the Google Maps API.

Project Page | Jonathan Chomko | #aheartfromspace

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