Monday, October 3, 2011

Map of the Week 10-3-2011: Emotion Mapping

Greenwich (U.K.) Emotion Map by artist Christian Nold - commissioned as part of ‘Peninsula.’

“[Emotion Mapping] is revolutionary methodology and tool for visualising people's reactions to the external world.  Over the last five years, [2004-on-going] over 2000 people have taken part in community mapping projects in over 25 cities across the globe.  In structured workshops, participants re-explore their local area with the use of a unique device invented by Christian Nold which records the wearer's Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which is a simple indicator of emotional arousal in conjunction with their geographical location. On their return, a map is created which visualises points of high and low arousal.  The unique methodology of this project involves working with groups of people to interpret and analyse the data and adding annotating onto these individual emotion tracks. Through this process communal Emotion Maps of lots of people's emotion data are constructed which are packed full of personal observations and highlight the issues that people feel strongly about.” From
“The [Greenwich] project involved weekly workshops with 80 local Greenwich Peninsula residents with the aim of re-exploring the area afresh with the help of a Bio Mapping device.  The resulting ‘Emotion Maps’ encourage personal reflection on the complex relationship between oneself, the environment and one’s fellow citizens.  In a group, people then commented about their experiences and left annotations on the map. 

To create the communal Greenwich Emotion Map all the individual walks were aggregated to visualise a shared landscape of emotion.  The map contains particular arousal hotspots reflecting many of the local discussions about regeneration of the Peninsula.  As part of the commission we printed 1000 Greenwich Emotion Maps which have turned out to be a great success communicating the project locally as well as nationally and internationally.  Locally every participant received a map and a number are available at the tourism office but the map was also distributed through arts venues such as the ICA and Tate Modern bookshops.  While this participatory project is now at an end, the local discussions about physical and social change in the area are continuing and we hope the map will play a strong part in this discussion.” from:  

Partial view of the San Francisco Emotion Map [You can also see examples of Chris Nold’s Emotion Mapping from other cities, including San Francisco, California, at].   
“The (44MB freely downloadable) book Emotional Cartography - Technologies of the Self [] is a collection of essays from artists, designers, psycho-geographers, cultural researchers, futurologists and neuroscientists, brought together by Christian Nold, to explore the political, social and cultural implications of visualizing intimate biometric data and emotional experiences using technology.  The theme of this collection of essays is to investigate the apparent desire for technologies to map emotion, using a variety of different approaches.”  From:

Above: Cover of Emotional Cartography: Technologies of the Self, edited by Christian Nold

Christian Nold | Emotional Cartography | Photo: Kevin Ruellan

The Psychogeography of Loose Association, by Sherif el-Azma
I’ve also become interested in the related theme of Psychogeography.  The term psychogeography dates back to at least 1955 - as then defined by Guy Debord - as the study of how cities are organized, and of how their various levels of organization affect individuals who live and work in them, move through them, use them, and explore them.  I have recently stumbled across the work of Sherif el-Azma, a Cairo-based video artist who has created a “live performance lecture” called “The Psychogeography of Loose Association.”

Here is a quote from the lecture:
“Psychogeography is a practice that rediscovers the physical city through the moods and atmospheres that act upon the individual.
Perhaps the most prominent characteristic of psychogeography is the activity of walking. The act of walking is an urban affair, and in cities that are increasingly hostile to pedestrians, walking tends to become a subversive act.
The psychogeographer is a 'non-scientific researcher' who encounters the urban landscape through aimless drifting, experiencing the effects of geographical settings ignored by city maps, and often documenting these processes using film, photography, script writing, or tape. In this way, the wanderer becomes alert to the metaphors, visual rhymes, coincidences, analogies, and changing moods of the street."  From:

Sherif el-Azma's Cairo
And here is a description of the lecture:
“The lecture-performance of Sherif el-Azma deals tentatively with the 'mechanics of enframing’ through architecture in the megalopolis of Cairo. Out of a reservoir of personal memories and free associations the artist tries to reconstruct an historical, architectural situation. In his artwork, he employs artistic and architecture-related practices such as maquettes and 3D-modelling to reproduce architectural situations. His main interest is to renegotiate positions of cultural and social representation.
The lecture takes place on the occasion of the presentation of the book Cairoscape - Images, Imagination and Imagin ary of a Contemporary Mega City, published by argobooks in 2009, and documenting the homonymous exhibition, curated by Marina Sorbello and Antje Weitzel at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien in Berlin in 2008.  In this show, Sherif el-Azma presented his photo installation and performance The Psycho-Geography of Loose Associations, representing the mega-city of Cairo through psycho-geographical investigation.”  From:

Here is a very illuminating peek at the “research actions” of The Cairo Psychogeographical Society, who, although possibly inspired by Debord and the Siuationist International, are more in the vein of urban explorers, weekend warriors, and hobbyists, and their work has more to do with practice than theory.  Check out some of their quite surprising urban musings at

Deep Topographer, Nick Papadimitriou, The London Perambulator
For those of you who have stayed with me this far, here is something else very cool on this general topic that has caught my attention.  The Deep Topographer as Le Flâneur.  I have posted both the short video clip, followed by the full-length documentary, for those of you whose interest has been piqued.
The London Perambulator is a documentary (about 45 minutes long) about Nick Papadimitriou, deep topographer/deep-time spelunker of Middlesex, England.  Commentary is supplied by friends Will Self, Russell Brand and the maestro, Iain Sinclair. A sort of a modern take on the concept of Le Flâneur. (See my blog post at if you missed Le Flâneur.)

Short Clip

Full length documentary


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