Emotional Cartography

Nold, C. (2009)

The bio mapping device created by Nold is a culmination of two technologies – a simplified version of a biometric sensor which monitors the changes in the users sweat and temperature levels directly on the skin (in a similar way to lie detectors used by the authorities), and the other technology is a global positioning system (more commonly abbreviated as GPS), which tracks these changes in the users emotional state in accordance with their position on the globe. Giving an accurate reading of stress levels in a specific environment. The combination of these technologies provide an intimate link with the users emotions and the satellites orbiting the Earth to provide an emotional map of the users subconscious.

Since the creation of this device Nold has been approached by a multitude of businessmen and women who are interested in his technology to help redesign their own workspace. Estate agents want a further insight into the geographical distribution of desire; car companies want to look at the levels of stress that drivers go through when behind the wheel; doctors want to look into their patients emotional state to redesign their medical offices for a more stress free environment; advertising agencies intend to reform entire cities resulting in a more aesthetically pleasing atmosphere and lastly, Nold was also approached by individuals who wanted the technology behind the bio map as a therapeutic device so that they can better monitor their daily anxiety levels.

The most important aspect of emotional cartography is to create a tangible vision of a city, town or even the countryside as a dense multiplicity of personal sensations.

Boyd Davis, S. (2009).

Since the evolution of modern day technology and the introduction of unique concepts regarding cartography, Boyd Davis says that the Death of the Map Maker is just as unlikely as that of any other author. Whilst the role of the respective map has altered from a purely geographical stand point, the technologies surrounding mapping has led to interactive systems being built which then leads on to a more engaging and user friendly form of design. Boyd Davis states ‘a well made map serves purpose precisely through selectivity’ which concerns the differences in accuracy between the graphical map and that of an aerial view.

Novice walkers, children and the public at large will always find a graphical interpretation more engaging than an actual image of the countryside or the city in question. For me these aerial view photographs appear much more out-dated than the slick counter parts that we as designers create. They are also more confusing to look at, especially when specifying upon a certain trail. Their accuracy completely debilitates the use of enlarging pathways to make the public footbath and roads more clear to the user or using a colour coded system which could help the user more easily navigate themselves in response to where they want to go. Interactivity = Prioritizing, leading to the irrelevant information being discarded easily so as to make the relevant data easier to stand out.


The San Francisco Emotion Map (2007)


With the use of this bio mapping technology stated above, 98 participants of varying ages and cultures were given an hour to walk through the streets of San Francisco whilst being monitored as to their heightened or lowered arousal regarding the area to create an emotive map of the city. This project was commissioned and funded by the non-profit organisation located in the mission district known as Southern Exposure.  This process mapped the emotional perceptions of the city in a non-direct approach to contrast the static aerial view maps.

These results were then overlain and projected using a simplified key; the areas noted in red state levels of high physiological arousal and descend in colour down to black to note the periods of calm the participants felt throughout the time period.  As expected there are more of these darker circles towards the edges of the mapped area with the high arousal points being located more towards the city centre. After the results were collated the participants were then asked to annotate their walks with either past memories or current thoughts on what they had just experienced.  When displayed in such a simplified way these trends and patterns become immediately obvious, however the cluster of dots around the southern exposure unit can be attributed to the participants unease at being wired up to the bio mapping device. When reading some of the comments one participant even stated that they hid the device on their person so as not to attract unwanted attention to themselves.

The map also shows that the majority of participants preferred to take the main roads as opposed to the backstreets of San Francisco as they naturally found themselves drawn towards these areas, noted by the higher percentage of routes following through this part of the city. Naturally these routes were more stimulating to the levels of stress which works in contrast to the routes on the outskirts of the city being much more calm and relaxing. Although this was exactly what I would have expected the map to read, I still find it interesting to note the areas of high stress amongst the calm. The addition of annotation here also works to engage me further into reading why their emotions spiked at certain intervals.

These emotional responses combined with the annotations also show a difference into the participants and how their minds work. Past memories and what they had already witnessed or taken a part of in San Francisco shaped half of the responses, whereas inspiring views, landmarks, and even green spaces shaped the others.

The colours for this project work well in complimenting each other as they are a very simple monochromatic palette with strikes of red to give impact and patches of green to represent parks in the simplest of senses. The key is easy to read and although the traditional map has completely been abolished from the background it’s still clear to see where the participants travelled. This information would have been useless anyway to somebody not familiar with the area and for those who are, then the street names, which are located down the side and away from the main composition, will work well in letting them orientate themselves. Instead the pathways have been plainly marked by the emotional response of the participants, they give a clear indication of the roads and streets towards the exterior of the map to become an insane jumble of mess towards the centre. Keeping the annotations from the centre of the map separate to the rest is a clean feature that helps to simplify the middle and not overcomplicate it. The use of magnification merely allows for a bigger use of text and a neater composition so the typography isn’t overly cramped within the space.


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