Aqua granda

> DISPERSIONE by Robin LP and Armin Pournaki for AquaGranda2019 – Digital Community Memory

DISPERSIONE metaphorically depicts the struggle of human cooperation in the face of climate change. The piece focuses on the noteworthy flood tides that devastated Venice in November 2019, also known as the Aqua Granda, and on their treatment on online social media platforms. It draws from both meteorological and social media data. A network of human interactions, resulting from online discussions at the time of the event, is immersed in a simulated fluid whose dynamics mimic those of the sea. The natural disaster represented in the piece strains the social network, setting the nodes and links in relentless motion. Over time, the network becomes more or less dense; it either resists or succumbs to the flood in which it evolves.

DISPERSIONE builds on two quite distinct sources of information. To simulate and represent the physical event, that is to say the tempest and rising waters, the piece takes advantage of hydrodynamic data gathered by the Istituto delle Scienze Marine (ISMAR) and the Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree (CPSM). The datasets contain the level, direction and speed of the waters at different times and spatial locations in the Venetian lagoon. To model online social exchanges, DISPERSIONE also relies on a corpus of tweets published during (and in response to) the Aqua Granda. It then exploits classical models of fluid mechanics, as well as network visualization paradigms, to display and study the structure of social interactions.

The objective of DISPERSIONE is hence threefold. First, it offers an aesthetic representation of two complex systems in motion: climate change processes on one hand and the mechanisms of online social dynamics on the other. Second, superposing the systems allows the viewer to observe the climate event and its corresponding human response throughout time. Lastly, coupling the systems exposes the features of human cooperation networks that help society withstand external threats.

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