Tag Archives: maps

Emotional Cartography

By getting volunteers to walk around cities with biofeedback machines and GPS devices, Christian Nold has created a series of ’emotion maps’ of cities around the world, including San Francisco, (East) Paris and Greenwich, London.

Participants are wired up with an innovative device which records the wearer’s […] emotional arousal in conjunction with their geographical location. People re-explore their local area by walking the neighbourhood with the device and on their return a map is created which visualises points of high and low arousal. By interpreting and annotating this data, communal emotion maps are constructed that are packed full of personal observations which show the areas that people feel strongly about and truly visualise the social space of a community.

Emotional Cartography: Technologies of the Self, a book created about the project, is a collection of essays from “artists, designers, psychogeographers, cultural researchers, futurologists and neuroscientists” and is available as a free, CC-licensed PDF.

via Mind Hacks

The Truth About Markets

My current read, The Truth About Markets/Culture and Prosperity (UK/US title respectively), is a thoroughly enjoyable—if occasionally dense and dry—introduction to economic theories and applications. Published in 2003, it’s aged fairly well.

I felt the need to share this two-paragraph excerpt from a section discussing “large models purportedly descriptive of entire economic systems” (pp. 193-194):

The error of principle—the reason these models will never be useful—is best exposed by Jorge Luis Borges’ story of mapmakers who competed to build the best possible map. They eventually understood that the most accurate map simply replicated the world. The search for realism destroyed the purpose of the map. A map is valuable precisely because it simplifies and omits. Economic models are maps for the market economy. A map can be false but never true. Our criterion for selecting among maps that are not false is usefulness, and a map can be too detailed or not detailed enough. We seek the simplest map adapted to our purpose, and it is a different map if we are walking or driving: not better or worse, but more fitted for its use. The London Underground map is a brilliant design for its purpose but useless to pedestrians. The ‘little stories’, or economic models, of this book are to be judged in the same way.

I once debated the relationship between the social sciences with some anthropologists. We adjourned to the pub, and someone bought a round of drinks: the discussion naturally turned to the reasons why. For the economists, the explanation was obvious: the practice of buying rounds minimized transaction costs, reducing the number of exchanges between the patrons and the bar staff. The anthropologists saw it as an example of ritual gift exchange and described the many tribes that had developed similar customs. I proposed a test between the competing hypotheses: did you feel cheated or victorious if you bought more rounds than had been bought for you? Unfortunately, the economists and the anthropologists gave different answers to that question.