You can gage how busy New York City is by looking at all the people swarming in the streets, or by smelling the giant piles of trash they've left at the curbs. But there are ways to take stock of the city's populace that are far more revealing. For a new MoMa exhibit this month, MIT's Senseable City Lab chose to expose how talkative New York is by tracking lines of electronic communication into and out of the city. Their project is aptly named the New York Talk Exchange (NYTE). It's also inadvertently a portrait of digital surveillance, showing exactly how easy it is for people to use phone records to monitor which countries New Yorkers are ringing up.

AT&T is a sponsor of the project, and handed over reams of phone records to the group so they could link NYC with cities around the world based on phone calls and IP traffic. No, it's not a surveillance spree, though it's hard not to wonder about that given AT&T's recent eagerness to hand over its phone data to the government without warrants. But this project merely aims to show how busy NYC can be. And just how pretty busy can be.

This will be part of the MoMa's "Design and the Elastic Mind" exhibition starting February 24th.Images by senseable city lab

New York Talk Exchange main page