Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Emotional Mapping

I have a thing about maps. It's probably a guy thing. I was in London yesterday navigating with my trusty A-Z guide, happy as a pig in proverbial.

I think that's one reason why I am so inspired by the work of Christian Nold, whom I've blogged about before. I think the guy is a genius. He is using technologies like GPS devices and lie detectors to 'emotionally map' villages, towns and cities. Here he is talking at MIT Media Lab about his work with Responsive Communities, referencing Greenwich in London as it happens, among other places. You can see the outputs here.

His shtick isn't technology per se: rather it's about the anthropology of the urban spaces we live in. And he brings an artist's and designer's eye to the work that he does. He's now working on doing a biopsy into the health of a particular community. Sounds like they need him in Limerick right now. Nold's work is a delightful example of the idea of 'history as a mineable resource' that I've previously described as the future for Ireland's innovation success.

Is anyone in Ireland doing this kind of stuff? If you are, I'd love to hear about it.

Postscript - some of my favourite map sites: Worldmapper and of course the Strange Maps blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gerard,
    Myself and Dr.Liam Delaney from the Centre of Behaviour and Health at the UCD Geary Institute have been working on a project which aims to produce some data of the kind which you have referred to here. The current wave of the project looks at the heart rate of people over the course of the day aswell as levels of their cortisol and other psychophysiological markers such as DHEA and glucose. People then retrospectively recount their day and report on their mood using a structured questionnaire that primes their memory using relatively simple psychological techniques.
    We aim to incorporate GPS tracking into future rounds of the study, meaning we could show the participants as they move through the city and their heart rate aswell as inferring information about their biological functioning. A related ambition would be to include real-time environmental tracking of harmful emissions, VOC's, particulate matter etc.
    Problems with the efficacy of GPS trackers for monitoring natural movement over the course of the day prevented its inclusion in the current study of 200 students. The main issue here is loss of coverage in the indoors and sporadic jumping of the signal due to subterfuge, high buildings, canopies etc.
    One aspect that would be particularly interesting using the methodology outlined briefly here and that of Christian Nold would be to place a value on public goods through the evaluation of well-being and psychophysiological functioning. There have been some interesting studies showing that airports impact on heart rate even if peoples well-being has adjusted to the presence of noise pollution over time. Separating the biological and emotional effects and specifying their interaction would be the real challenge for this kind of work.
    We are also great admirers of Nolds ground breaking work and would very much like to see an emotional map of a day in Dublin coming together in the near future if it was possible to iron out the practical technological impediments to this.

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