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Tag "mentalMap"

A team of students from Berkley has taken on the project of mental mapping San Francisco. It has turned in to a really interesting piece of research about how people see the city and how they imagine the city.

Using Mental Maps is nothing new it goes way back to Lynch and Gould and White, but it has not been used for a while and in combination with digital tools it could have a sort of revival. The great aspect on this project ‘Visualizing Mental Maps of San Francisco‘ by Rachelle Annechino and Yo-Shang Cheng is how they allow room for the method to breath the uncertainty of its nature. Mental Mapping is not about accuracy and precision, or truth and objectivity and to combine this with GIS or mapmaking is a very difficult task for not to say impossible.

San Francisco - Corridors
Image taken from Visualizing Mental Maps of SF / San Francisco’s Deadzones and Corridors is a map depicting both where the city’s “corridors” or main drags are, the neighborhood names associated with them and a measure of “neighborhood-ness” throughout the city (the residential density metric). The map has three layers: a choropleth (heatmap) of residential density in red tones, areas zoned for commercial activity in blue and street segments with verified commercial activity in yellow..

The essential thing is to give the playfulness a meaning and find a balance for mapping it in GIS. With this project it is not achieved in the detail, but in the overal construction, how the different sections combine and the picture the presented result paints.

“I think of San Francisco as being a bunch of main streets in small towns, all smushed next to each other.”

The project is the team’s final master project at the School of Information at University of California in Berkley. The link to the final project presentation can be found HERE and the very detailed report is HERE.

The findings are presented in seven groups and you would probably expect more Kevin Lynch influence, but they firmly hold up their own topics. Which is great, it’s over fifty years in between, but still from a urban planning perspective the five groups defined by lynch should at least have been challenged.

Their topics are Orientation: Which way is North? It doesn’t always have to be at the top of the page. Re-orient or dis-orient yourself in San Francisco. Corridors: Where are the hearts of each neighborhood? Barriers: Is it really that close? It’s not always as simple as it looks getting from one neighborhood to another in San Francisco. Boundaries: What neighborhood are you in? According to whom? Storymaps: Take a tour of the city, guided by the thoughts of locals. Game: Ready, set, go. Invisible bike race! Gallery: Draw a map or a picture of your neighborhood, however you see the space.

San Francisco - Boundaries
Image taken from Visualizing Mental Maps of SF / Visualising Neighbourhood areas from different sources. Some of the boundaries are firm and bold, where as other can be fuzzy and blurred.

The different topics each address an aspect and the project combines the data collected through participants with additional information such as landuse and density as for the Corridors, but also with various sources such as Wikipedia, Zillow and Craglist for the Boundaries. This creates an interesting mix that manages to minimise the burden usually put on the Mental Maps in terms of expectations. They play a lot better in combination. Especially the sequence on boundaries and the changes over time on Wikipedia is really an interesting aspect of the boundary definition and naming discussion.

San Francisco - Sketches
Image taken from Visualizing Mental Maps of SF / A Mental Map sketch by Victoria F., one of the participants of the study. She has been living in San Francisco for 23 years.

There is a lot about the city that has be pulled out using somehow unconventional combinations of techniques and it offers great access to ‘local’ knowledge of the place.

Via Roomthily

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Marketing is always at the forefront of technology and rather quick in adapting and employing new tools. So it is not surprising to see the location visualisation tools being taken over by advertisement. Especially Google Products, that offer and actively promote an API are bound to this. Marketing as Marketing one could say.

Besides all this corporate battle and consumerism this development is interesting in an urban and very much spatial sense. A wider audience is engaged in virtual location based activities and starts to create a sort of virtual image of the city, in the sense of Kevin Lynch, based on the view the mainly commercial products offer. In a sense this shapes a paralel understanding of the environment we live in the data providers play more important role in this than probably thought of at first sight.

It would be interesting to see how the growing online representation of the local environment diverts from the mental map of the physical environment. Very soon the two can not be separated any longer.

Image taken from DontGoZombie / giving away free virgin trin tickets to car-driving zombies on Tottenham Court Road. Note the traffic enforcement officer in the zombie crowd – she is not a car driver, is she? Individual zombies will have a special comment to make, so has the traffic warden. Click the image to play.

Anyway Virgin Train has extended their Zombie Campaign to the online world of Google Street View. an invites customers to playfully save the zombies using Vigin Train tickets.

“The streets have been taken over by frustrated car-driving zombies who need to be saved. The streets need you!” The aim of the game is to turn the zombies into train passengers and get to the destination. This as well as the route to get there, depend on the starting point you provide using a post code. In this sense it is a virtually location based first person shooter.

Directions and handling are familiar from the street view use and the zombies are deployed by an orange van crossing the screen a times.

The zombies behave sort of behaving absent, aimlessly wandering, will however, occasionally sight you and try to tun you into a zombie. It is the sort of everyday urban battle scene. Though, your argument is quite convincing since your are giving away seemingly free tickets for Virgin Train journeys with your handheld Ticket machine. These papers unfold a rather transformatory inpact on individual zombies, bringing them back as humans and beaming them presumably onto the next platform at Euston Station where they get shipped north.

Virgin Train Network
Image taken from Virgin Trains / Where the free ticket potentially might take the zombies. So beware at any of these destinations of zombies emerging from the trains. Who knows what happens to the zombies turned train passengers upon emerging from the comfort of a vigin train trip.

The worst that can happen to you is that you go zombie and join the ranks of zombie car-drivers. However there is a rescue option by inviting your facebook friends to join the game and rescue you. This is clever marketing playing the drums in multiple orchestras.

Found via Google Geo Developers Blog.

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‘How are you?’ a phrase used constantly at meeting someone. Rarely the response is anything other than a ‘fine’. The relationship between location or activity and mood has been subject for lots of research projects, for example the early mental maps by Peter Gould and Rodney White of desired locations to life, Christian Nold’s BioMapping or Sorin Matei’s Maps of Los Angeles spaces.
With the Glow iPhone app the latest persona mood is georeferenced and contributes to a location based mood map. It offeres a palett of features, leaving the actual mood meter bit almost behind. Anyway, what you get is a map, a AR view window and a bunch of sharing options, including twitter and facebook.
The mood is then visualised with an outwards fading blob of glowing reds, purples and blues. Looks neat and makes you feel almost a bit better.
To see the map you first have to contribute your current mood status. The AR looks particularly promising with its superimposed colour schema.
Check it out and add your moods to the cloud, the app is free.

Image by urbanTick / Screen shots from the mood app GLOW for the iPhone. Location based sharing of your current mood.

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How is architecture perceived and what impact does it have on inhabitants. Architects tend to have their own thoughts about this and communicating about this abstract entity between inhabitants, client, developer, and architect is an almost inexistent field. However Donna Wheatley, a PhD researcher form the University of Sydney has developed her own approach to the problem. She is using mental maps and network analysis to bring light on this problem.

Guest Post by Donna Wheatley for urbanTick

One of the features of the mapping technique developed in the PhD is that individual and consensus conceptions of designed environments can be generated. This can then be used to compare the mental maps that the architect has towards the environment they designed with that of the user group. As a designer I am familiar with the expectation to incorporate specific abstract values into architectural designs, but it is difficult to know if these efforts are successful or in how far this has been achieved in previous cases. In response, I undertook this study at half a dozen new corporate headquarters in UK, Germany, China and Australia, where attempts have been made to attract and retain employees by communicating particular values.

Image by Donna Wheatley / The user group mental map. Each connection in the network refers to concepts that were also syntactically connected in interviews. Edges and nodes weighted by the number of participants mentioning it and metatopics found with cluster algorithms.

The data for the maps is derived from in-depth interviews with users, architects and clients using metaphor elicitation. The interview transcripts are coded by extracting identifying keywords and grouping them in pairs. These pairs form semantic networks which are read as the mental maps.
Determining what thematic clusters or topics emerge (called ‘metatopics’) from the networks is a primary aim. The networks usually contain 4-7 metatopics. A range of network analysis algorithms, calculating measures such as centrality and proportional strength of ties are applied to identify important constructs and help identify metatopics (I will now apply additional analysis procedures on advice from CASA researchers – thanks!!). These metatopics can also themselves be ranked and compared through network analysis indicators.
Through these tools, new observations on the structure of collective mental representations of built environments are gathered.

Image by Donna Wheatley / The architects mental map. Metatopic ‘freedom and choice’, the most prominent one for the users, has not been anticipated – and ‘seriousness’, disconnected and minor for the users, is the largest metatopic from the designer’s point of view.

I visited CASA at the beginning of 2010 to discuss the analysis and interpretation of mental maps of architecture in my PhD at The University of Sydney. I gave a presentation called ‘Mental mapping architectural experience with network analysis’ at one of the weekly CASA seminars which can be found on their website. These maps are visualised using social network analysis software Pajek.

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Google has put online a set of maps containing local knowledge. Basically it represents pieces of local peoples mental map by locating their favourite spots and share it with the world. They can be accessed at Google Favorite Places.
Vancouver is the first Canadian city to go online and ten local experts share their most important places as the Google Blog reports.
Bif Naked (map) – rock singer-songwriter, breast-cancer survivor, Gordon Campbell (map) – Premier of British Columbia, Kit Pearson (map) – children’s book writer, Governor General’s Award winner, Monte Clark (map) – owner of Monte Clark Gallery, Rebecca Bollwitt (map) – Vancouver’s Best Blogger & Top Twitter User for Miss604.com, Rob Feenie (map) – Food Concept Architect for Cactus Restaurants, Iron Chef champion, Ross Rebagliati (map) – Olympic Gold Medallist, snowboarding, Simon Whitfield (map) – Olympic Gold & Silver Medallist, David Eaves – public policy entrepreneur, open government specialist (map), triathlon (list taken from eaves.ca)
But you also get other famous peoples favourite locations, as for example Al Gore’s spots or Tony Hawk’s most liked places. All in all this could start building up a personal world view through favourite spots. However at the same time it also points out the limitation of the Google Maps interface and especially the graphics. THe way locations get tagged and how information is embedded really is not intuitive.

View Ross Rebagliati’s Favorite Places in a larger map

Found through wiseristhepath

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A lot of the Kevin Lynch material has now been digitalised and put on line by the MIT. The objects in this collection relate to Kevin Lynch’s study The Perceptual Form of the City, conducted in Boston, Massachusetts from 1954-1959. The study was done under the direction of Lynch and Professor Gyorgy Kepes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Urban and Regional Studies. Their research findings were the foundation of Lynch’s theories on city planning discussed in his seminal work The Image of the City.
It sais on the page: “The collection includes photographs and records from the Boston phase of the project. The nearly 2,000 black & white photographs, shot by Nishan Bichajian, assistant to Professor Kepes, document the Boston urban environment during the mid-1950s prior to urban renewal. The records document the planning, preparation, and progress of the project (1951-1956), and the research process and findings (1954-1959)”.
Some stuff can be accessed at the on the dome site. There is also a large collection of black and white photographs that the MIT has f[put online on flickr. See the slideshow below.

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Mental maps have recently featured quite a lot on the blog here. It is an interesting field, even though currently they are not very popular in planning and urban design. It seems almost as if they are seen as late sixties stuff and have some sort of hippie touch to them, which puts a lot of people of.
However, I believe they are very interesting in connection with the late seventies Hagertrand time-space aquarium. Both techniques have some points of critic to them. The space-time aquarium is very top down, from a distant observers point of view, disconnecting the subject completely from its surrounding through the rising of the path and denying any sort of procedural creation of the individual. The mental map on the other hand is not objective enough, too subjective and ‘inaccurate’, very difficult to summarize.
The aspect of time is in both approaches very static. Even the time-space diagram, from my view, is very much thought of in a linear way, time as an undefined never ending arrow. This leaves the focus on the space.
As a conclusion it would be interesting to have a time focused visualisation and with it we might get a different view on the spatial aspect.
A funny representation is the following summary of movie characters by XKCD. It solely focuses on the time aspect in relation to the narrative. In this respect it completely lacks the spatial aspect and the loops and hoops are to me not directly plausible, but nevertheless this is interesting.
Regarding the UrbanDiary project, it would be interesting to come up with a similar approach and visualise the relationship of spatial encounters in a similar linear fashion.

Image by XKCD – click on image for large version

Thanks to Matt from wiseristhepath for he link.

–An update to the blog post—–Thanks to Chris for pointing it out

Daniel McLaren has already implemented a dynamic version of the above visualisation. He worked in flash. Head over to his page to see it in action.

Image by Daniel McLaren – Screenshots

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How do we create mental maps? In a story the New Scientist reports new development in the area of brain studies. The research was presented in nature in September 2009.
Over this question scientist have long speculated. The involved brain areas have long been identified, but the how was still subject for debate. Apparently the region in the brain is called hippocampus. The problem so far was that recording the activity required the subject’s head/brain needed to remain fairly stable and this is not possible for normal navigation. The New Scientist reported earlier initial findings related to the brains spatial navigation activities.
Reportedly after paying Quake II researchers came up with the idea of using a virtual reality surrounding for the experiment to record brain activity while navigating.
Researchers at Princeton University developed a Quake based VR environment for rodents as well as a special navigation ball on which the rodents could run (in a stabilizing harness to keep them relatively still) and navigate the VR maze. Basically they created a mini IMAX for the mouse, reports wired.com.
They were the able to scan the mouse’s brain activity as it learned to navigate the maze. Some treats along the way helped I guess.
However, there is little information on what they have actually found. At the moment the main interest seems to be the technique how they used to record the brain activity, so mainly the VR for mice set-up. It looks fancy though.

In these experiments scientists are not really interested in how and what the brain records and how participants (in this case mice) actually understand the maze or the environment they have navigated. Here they simply assume that this is taking place. They are talking about a mental map but are just looking at activity as ‘space’ is navigated. To some extend this is only implicit looking at how the memory and sense of place is building up. History is always biased by the fact that it is in the past and it is remembered back from a present state that might be rather different from the past and this influences the way the memory is recalled. Some sort of processing is taking place and the result is a weighted remembering. Through this the history has a present relevance, but is not ‘true’. In this respect the mental map as a review of the maze experience is probably a rather different case than the activity of navigating it. Let’s wait and see how scientist interpret the rodent’s sketch of the maze…

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The online pool at flickr to collect mental maps from all over the world is slowly starting to take shape. I have just added some examples drawn at the mapping workshop down in Plymouth. So the pool has grown quite a bit and it is featuring mental maps from China, Caada, America, United Kingdom and Belgium.
I would also like to showcase some examples here. First there the sketch by devine74 with very detailed drawn landscape and building features.

Mental Map

And then there is also the beautiful map of a commute focusing on sound with the audio experience along the way. There is a big difference between the morning and the evening journey. This is illustrated through two sets with each a slightly different focus.


As before you can also join in and share you map sketch on:


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The mapping workshop down in Plymouth was structured roughly into four sections. The first three in the beginning were to explore the topic of urban stories and the fourth to actually invent an urbanNarrative.
The first part was about lost and found objects. The participants where asked to bring in an object they had found on the familiar commute between home and university. I had do be something small enough to bring to university and something that obviously did not belong to the surrounding it was found, an objet trouvé.
Everyone brought in something, wondering what we might do with this. Even though they did not know what I had in mind everyone had already formed some kind of relationship with the object. Already the fact that it was found on the familiar, individual commute created a sense of ownership supported by a curiosity.
We got together and put all the objects in the middle and I asked them to speak about the found object and explain where it was found, speculate about who might have lost it and what its value is. This quickly got out of hand. The stories became lively and very creative. They even started to interlink as people quickly realized that the area the objects were found in is rather small and invented characters could have met on another. There where stories about lost shopping baskets, lottery tickets, loafs of bread, bits of wood and many more.
Whit out intending we spent a good hour talking about Plymouth as a city and the everyday life. The main characteristics started to come through, such as the relationship to the water with the story of the lost lottery ticket combined with the sailor who was connected to the wooden plank. Or the aspect of university life and students in Plymouth as a love stories over a bracelet, alcohol and a brick wedged under a railing. But also the social problems involving different classes and characterizing areas played an important role around the Marks and Spencer bottle.

Image by urbanTick / selection of objet trouve.

We continued by drawing and sketching the commute, introducing mental maps. While discussing the sketches, again participants realized that they actually described similar section of the city and started comparing their personal perception with some one else’s description of the same space. Differences in time and mode of transport where identified.
After discussing Kevin Lynches Image of the City we quickly mapped Plymouth as a whole using Lynches five elements of path, node, edge, district and landmark.

Image / Mental map of skating between home and university

The third elements was directly aimed at the real body experience, to actually go to the city and physically experience it. The Plymouth After Life tour was perfect for this. I took the students on a walk through the car parks of the city centre.

Image by urbanTick for JLF-urbanresearch – Plymouth After Life tour

The design of the urban plan by Abercrombie is intended to welcome the visitors and residents with the big axis, either north south or east west. But in reality everyone sneaks in through a little back door from the car park inside a block into the shopping street. We walked up and down raw concrete staircases, across large decks of car parking and through long tunnels or bridges. Because these service spaces are normally not experienced in sequence it generated a strong impression. This divide between back and front of the “modern“ layout became apparent and discussion sparked among the way.

For the urban Narrative part of the afternoon the participants were sent of in groups to find the location of their story with the help of a GPS device. In a visualized short story they had to revile the location. The story was made up of the objects from the morning and the invented characters.

It was a great day and good fun. I was myself surprised by the power of stories once more. This playful approach to describing and mapping the spatial aspects of the environment proofed valuable in many ways. Not only in the aspect of character, body and location, but also in terms of time, atmosphere and sequence.

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