Working in the visualizing cities lab, specifically with the team that focused on Athens was a great experience. My prior knowledge of Athens was limited, especially within the context of the 2004 Olympics. Therefore, I was eager to work with my team in exploring Athens as an event city. My particular interest was in the economic viewpoint of the event, especially how that was interpreted by the people of Athens, and how funding was used to fulfill a specific image. Through my research, I found that lots of construction went towards building things that would classify as new urbanism. Care was taken to improve the public realm, both for residents and visitors. Money was invested in things such as removing large and unsightly billboards from buildings and utilizing concepts of “innovative design” rather than refurbishing pre-existing buildings and structures. All of this helped me understand how an influx of funding was used to propel the built landscape of Athens in a direction that places emphasis on an aesthetic and accessible public realm.
This line of thinking stood in stark contrast to how residents of Athens, as well as international media, viewed the Olympics. Many news articles associate the Olympics with the economic collapse that occurred shortly after. I would be interested to explore whether this change of opinion was solely due to the economic turmoil, or if apprehensions over hosting the Olympics in Athens were pre-existing amongst its residents. I also found it interesting that investments that were made with the purpose to gain the support of the residents of Athens would ultimately have a negative connotation. I think that this speaks to a larger concern increasingly becoming associated with cities that host the Olympics, in that the economic gain from being a host city does not ultimately pay off, and it rather becomes a burden for its people.
Learning about Omeka and Neatline allowed me to visualize the concepts that I was uncovering in my research. With Omeka, I was able to pull together images, articles, and data and put them all in one place. Then using Neatline, I was able to represent this information spatially, which broadened my understanding of where certain types of investments were going. Initially, I thought it would be difficult to visualize any form of economic data. But I soon realized that this type of information could easily be visualized and that economic data does not only consist of numbers, but can also include videos, images, pieces of art, testimonies, and more. While I focused on the economic viewpoint, other people on my team focused on different topics, which allowed me to view this event city from a variety of perspectives. This holistic approach showed me just how complicated cities are, and how focusing only on one element can lead you to miss out on other aspects that contribute to making cities so great. From knowing very little about Athens, to being able to think of it as an economic, artistic, and creative city, working in the visualizing cities lab has broadened my interpretation of what it means to be an event city.