Emotional Maps: a New Way to Navigate the City

While it may seem obvious, it’s worth noting that the best experiences I have while exploring cities around the world are never to do with what’s there — museums, important landmarks, etc — but instead revolve around how the place makes me feel.

One artist is making it easy for travelers like me, by making maps based not on an area’s geography, but rather on the emotions evoked by different areas within an urban landscape.

It works like this: volunteers agree to wander around a city while wearing both a GPS device and a sensor similar to that which is used in lie detector tests. Their thoughts on what they saw and felt when the polygraph recorded a quickened heartbeat are then recorded by the artist, who in turn uses the information to create “emotional maps.”

As you might suspect, a number of marketing and advertising companies want to use the findings to better target consumers, but the most interesting find — at least for me — is that people respond to social interactions far more than any piece of architecture. This means you’re far more likely to connect with a city full of interesting people, rather than someplace that has impressive buildings or attractive landscapes.

Might be useful information for the next time you’re planning that urban getaway, although — at least for the moment — London and San Francisco are the only cities the artist has completed.