Mapping Weird Stuff

June 14, 2009


Guide Psychogéographique de OWU (2009, med res jpg)


Mapping Weird Stuff is a course offered as part of the OWjL summer camp at Ohio Wesleyan.

OWjL (Ohio Wesleyan University Junior League of Columbus) is a residential summer camp program of challenge and enrichment for central Ohio’s gifted and talented middle school students currently in grades 6-8.

This blog contains material and resources reviewed as part of the course.  The course work culminated in a sensory & psychogeography map of the OWU campus.  As per above.

A printable 11″ x 17″ (300dpi 1.4mb) PDF of the map is here.


First Meeting:

I Talk: Your Kindly Instructor

You Talk: Who are you?

I Talk You Draw: Your mental maps of the OWU campus area

  • mental map: “A map which represents the perceptions and knowledge a person has of an area. May be a map in the mind.” (source)
  • mental map vocabulary

What you mapped:

  • purposeful paths?
  • what maps are supposed to show?
  • lots of other stuff is very important … yet seldom gets mapped


What’s Weird? And What’s Mapping Weird Stuff?

Weird: Of a strikingly odd or unusual character; strange, uncanny, fantastic, bizarre

  • Some stuff is easy to map (roads, boundaries) and other stuff is not (emotions, smells)
  • Some stuff we expect to see on maps but other stuff we don’t (so we don’t map it)
  • Weird = those things we don’t usually see mapped, or that are difficult to map

Atlas of Boylan Heights: Denis Wood



This class: a mix of

  • geography
  • cartography (mapping)
  • psychology (environmental psychology)
  • urban planning
  • art
  • environmental studies

Up next:


What’s a (conventional) Map?



June 14, 2009

Guy Debord

PsychoGeography: “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”

PsychoGeography is…

  • diverse activities that raise awareness of the natural and cultural environment around you
  • attentive to senses and emotions as they relate to place and environment
  • serious fun
  • often political and critical of the status quo

Derive: aimless, random drifting through a place, guided by whim and an awareness of how different spaces draw you in or repel you.

Dérive: “A mode of experimental behavior linked to the condition of urban society: a technique of transient passage through varied ambiances.”  Situationists used “ambiance” to refer to the feeling or mood associated with a place, to its character, tone, or to the effect or appeal it might have; but they also used it to refer to the place itself, especially to the small, neighborhood-sized chunks of the city they called unités d’ambiance or unities of ambiance, parts of the city with an especially powerful urban atmosphere.  Wood “Lynch Debord.”


Guy Debord, Guide Pychogéographique de Paris

“The unities of ambiance appeared on the map as fragments of commercial street maps carefully cut out to indicate each unity’s defenses and exits.  The psychogeographic slopes were symbolized by red arrows indicating the forces the city exerted on drifters freed from other motivations for moving: drifters would be pulled in the direction of the arrows from one unity of ambiance to another.  The weight, shape, and patterning of the arrows indicated the lengths and strengths of the psychogeographic slopes.” Wood “Lynch Debord.

Deep Thoughts on Psychogeography…

“Unfold a street map… place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw round its edge. Pick up the map, go out in the city, and walk the circle, keeping as close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go, in whatever medium you favour.” Robert MacFarlane, Psychogeography: A Beginner’s Guide.

“The production of psychogeographic maps, or even the introduction of alterations such as more or less arbitrarily transposing maps of two different regions, can contribute to … complete insubordination of habitual influences. A friend recently told me that he had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London.” Debord, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography.

“To derive was to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and desires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed.” Sadie Plant, The Most Radical Gesture.

“The sudden change of ambiance in a street within the space of a few meters; the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres; the path of least resistance which is automatically followed in aimless strolls (and which has no relation to the physical contour of the ground); the appealing or repelling character of certain places–all this seems to be neglected.” Debord, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography.

“One or more persons committed to the derive abandon, for an undefined period of time, the motives generally admitted for action and movement, their relations, their labor and leisure activities, abandoning themselves to the attractions of the terrain and the encounters proper to it.” McDonough, “Situationist Space.”

“There’s a difference between knowing the Path and walking the Path.” The Matrix.

We are so tuned out, focused on getting through places for practical reasons (get to school, to work, etc.) that we don’t pay attention to places and the way all our senses and emotional awareness can be used to know these places.

What places attract us? Which repel us? Why?


Your Body as a Data Collection Device


In front of me, on the desk where I write, I’ve assembled a bunch of instruments useful in measuring the environment, instruments that I’ve found around the house. In front of me, on the desk where I write, I’ve assembled a tape measure, a yardstick, a stopwatch, a watch, a goniometer and an arm protractor, a clinometer, a map measure, a compass, a wall thermometer, a pocket thermometer, a percentage protractor, a level, a plumb, a light meter, a camera, a pocket scale, a postage scale, a barometer, a measuring cup, a set of measuring spoons, a pedometer, a stud finder, and a passel of questionnaires. Some of them, like the pedometer, no longer work, but still I hold on to them. Others, like a couple of the questionnaires, never worked at all, but even these I am loathe to throw away. All of them have told me, or promised to tell me, something about my world, and since the world is something I’m eager to know about, I’m not eager to part with these instruments, functioning, flawed, or broken down. It’s 84º F where I sit at 11:30:36 in the morning. It’s nine minutes and forty-seven seconds since I typed the first word in this paragraph.

There’s another instrument in this room and I am it. I would have said it was stuffy where I sit and that half an hour had passed since I started writing, although my stop watch now says it’s been eleven minutes and thirty-eight seconds at, according to my other watch, 11:34 on the nose. I won’t argue with my instruments. They’re measuring different things than I. My thermometer knows nothing of the humidity oppressing me; my watches, recording the pressure of their drive springs, know nothing of the pressure of trying to say something with words.

Who should say which is superior instrumentation? Not I, certainly. My watches and I, we’re holding up the world against different standards, but both of these are interesting and valuable and important.

Wood “Lynch Debord.

We are great data collection devices

  • multiple senses with a broad range of capabilities
  • Use of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch all provide us with data about our environment

We supplement our senses with devices

  • microscope helps us see things that are too small to normally see
  • telescope helps us see things that are too far away
  • “remote sensing” devices help us see what we cannot see: infrared energy
  • but no device puts all the senses together the way humans do
  • plus we are aware of emotion – fear, joy, excitement, terror


Mapping Emotions & Emotionscapes

Fear & Stress in an Urban (Philadelphia) Neighborhood. David Ley, 1972:


BioMapping: Christian Nold

GPS (Global Positioning System) + GSR: The Bio Mapping tool allows the wearer to record their Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which is a simple indicator of emotional arousal in conjunction with their geographical location. This can be used to plot a map that highlights point of high and low arousal. By sharing this data we can construct maps that visualise where we as a community feel stressed and excited.

Greenwich Emotion Map (2005-06)

  • emotional response with explanations (text)


noldemotionmapkey (source)

Emotional Cartography – Technologies of the Self. Edited by Christian Nold, 2009.

PDF of entire book here.


Emotions Defined (source):

  1. Accepted – regarded favorably
  2. Accepting – open or welcoming
  3. Agitated – troubled or nervous
  4. Alarmed – anxious or frightened awareness of danger
  5. Amused – entertained or laughing
  6. Angry – feeling or showing anger
  7. Angst – profound feeling of generalized anxiety or dread
  8. Annoyed – pestered; harassed; attacked repeatedly
  9. Anticipating – looking forward or expecting
  10. Anxious – experiencing worry or unease; very eager to do something
  11. Apprehensive – anticipating something with anxiety or fear
  12. Apathy – not interested or enthusiastic
  13. Aversion – strong dislike or disinclination
  14. Awed – feeling of great respect mixed with fear
  15. Bitter – feeling anger, hurt and resentment
  16. Bored – feel weary and uninterested by being dull and tedious
  17. Bewildered – perplexed or confused
  18. Betrayed – involving treachery, disloyal or break of trust
  19. Calm – peaceful and not showing nervousness, anger or other emotions
  20. Cautious – careful to avoid potential problem or danger
  21. Close – connected; united; bound together by strong relationship and common interest
  22. Comfortable – enjoying physical comfort
  23. Compassion – concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
  24. Complete – whole; doesn’t need anything
  25. Contented – in a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction
  26. Confident – feeling certain in oneself or about something
  27. Confused – bewildered; having difficulty to understand
  28. Constrained – compel or forced towards a course of action
  29. Courageous – brave
  30. Depressed – feel utterly dispirited or dejected
  31. Disappointed – sad or displeased because one’s hopes or expectations have not been fulfilled
  32. Discontented – lack of satisfaction
  33. Disgusted – strong revulsion or indignation
  34. Desire – strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen
  35. Delightful – very pleased
  36. Determined – resolute; having firmness of purpose
  37. Distressed – extreme anxiety or suffering
  38. Doubtful – uncertain
  39. Drained – tired or used up completely
  40. Elated –
  41. Euphoric – intensely happy
  42. Embarrassed – feeling awkward, self-conscious or ashamed
  43. Emphatetic –
  44. Enjoying – taking pleasure in
  45. Ennui – listless and dissatisfied arising from boredom
  46. Enthusiasm – intense enjoyment, interest or approval
  47. Envious – resentful longing aroused by another’s possessions, quality or luck
  48. Ecstatic- subjecting to mystical experience
  49. Fearful – afraid
  50. Friendship – feeling of having a bond of mutual affection but not sexual
  51. Frustrated – unfulfilled
  52. Glee – great delight
  53. Glad – pleased; grateful
  54. Gratitude – thankful
  55. Greed – intense and selfish desire for food, wealth or power
  56. Grief – intense sorrow especially caused by someone’s death
  57. Guilty – feeling of being responsible for a wrongdoing, fault or error
  58. Hate – feeling of hatred or intense dislike towards
  59. Happy – having pleasure or contentment
  60. Homesick – feeling upset because one is missing one’s home
  61. Honored – feeling of pride and pleasure from being shown respect
  62. Hope – feeling of expectation and desire for something to happen
  63. Horror – intense feeling of fear, shock or disgust
  64. Humbled – modest or low estimate of one’s own importance
  65. Hurt – mental pain or distress
  66. Impatient – lacking patience or tolerance
  67. Inadequate – unable to deal with a situation or life
  68. Indignant – annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment
  69. Interested – wanting to know about something or someone
  70. Irritated – annoyed
  71. Isolated – remote; lonely
  72. Joyful – feeling of great pleasure and happiness
  73. Jealous – resentful of someone regarded as a sexual rival; fiercely fighting for attention
  74. Lonely – sad because one has no friends or company; solitary; unfrequented and remote
  75. Love – intense feeling of deep affection; deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone
  76. Lust – strong sexual desire
  77. Mad – extremely foolish or ill-advised; very enthusiastic about something
  78. Melancholy – deep and long lasting sadness
  79. Modest – unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities; relatively moderate; decent
  80. Misunderstood – fail to be understood correctly; misjudged
  81. Naive – lacking experience, wisdom and judgement
  82. Nervous – apprehensive; easily agitated or alarmed
  83. Negative – pessimistic; undesirable; denial; unwelcome; expressing disagreement or refusal
  84. Nostalgic – sentimental longing or wishful affection for the past
  85. Pain – mental suffering or distress
  86. Panic – sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety; informal frenzied hurry to do something
  87. Patient – having or showing patience
  88. Peaceful – free from disturbance; calm; inclined to avoid conflict
  89. Phobia – irrational fear of something
  90. Pity – feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by sufferings of others
  91. Pleasure – feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment
  92. Proud – deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from achievement, qualities, possessions; excessively high opinion of oneself;
  93. Rage – violent uncontrollable anger
  94. Regret – express sorrow, repentance or disappointment
  95. Remorseful – deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed
  96. Resentful – feeling of bitterness or indignation
  97. Sad – unhappy; feeling sorrow
  98. Satisfied – met expectations, needs or desires
  99. Self-pity – excessive concern with and unhappiness over one’s own troubles
  100. Shame – feeling of humiliation caused by awareness of wrong or foolish behavior; loss of esteem
  101. Shy – timid in the company of others; slow or reluctant to do; specified dislike or aversion
  102. Shock – feeling caused by sudden upsetting or surprising event or experience
  103. Suffer – experience something bad or unpleasant
  104. Surprised – mild astonishment caused by something unexpected
  105. Suspense – feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen
  106. Sympathetic – showing sympathy or approval of an idea, action, sentiment or opinion
  107. Terrified – feel terror or extreme fear
  108. Tired – exhausted the patience or interest of; feeling drained; bored
  109. Troubled – worried of inconvenience; problematic
  110. Trust – firm belief in reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something
  111. Understanding – sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings
  112. Vulnerable – feeling exposed to being attacked or harmed
  113. Wonder – feeling of surprise or admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected or unfamiliar
  114. Worried – anxious or troubled over actual or potential difficulties
  115. Wrathful – intense anger
  116. Yearning – intense feeling of loss and longing for something
  117. Zestful – great enthusiasm and energy

What’s A Map?

June 14, 2009

Map: “a spatial representation of reality”

  • spatial: consisting of at least two dimensions and usually referring to geographic space
  • representation: something that stands for something else
  • reality: “The totality of all things possessing actuality, existence, or essence” (The American Heritage Dictionary, 2002). Origin (etymology): 1550, originally a legal term in the sense of “fixed property.”


Less is More:

  • maps simplify & make “reality” easier to understand


Maps show us what we cannot see:

  • temperature: we feel, not see, temperature
  • maps are synesthetic


Maps can show just about anything:

  • much more than just road maps!


Abstraction and Categories

Humans have the ability to think abstractly and develop categories

  • abstract: having conceptual rather than physical existence
  • categories: a unit or a subunit of a larger whole made up of members sharing one or more characteristics

What goes into a category can vary from person to person and culture to culture

Common categories of human and environmental stuff on maps:

  • examples)

Categories simplify our environment so we can understand it easily

  • a contradiction?
  • we understand better and faster by simplifying and categorizing the world, and how we simplify and categorize varies from person to person and culture to culture
  • maps are an important means of simplifying and categorizing things so we can understand them


Symbols and Representation

Symbols are at the basis of natural languages (eg., English), math, statistics, pictorial communication (such as drawings, maps, graphs)

Symbol: A thing representing something else because of relationship, association, convention, or resemblance.


Common symbols on maps:

  • examples) based on our categories (above)

Diversity of symbols on maps:



Mapping Sound & Soundscapes

June 14, 2009

“Sound is vibrations propagating through a medium such as air. The detection of these vibrations is a mechanical sense akin to a sense of touch. In humans, this perception is executed by tiny hair fibres in the inner ear which detect the motion of a membrane which vibrates in response to changes in the pressure exerted by atmospheric particles within a range of 20 to 22000 Hz, with substantial variation between individuals.” (source)

Using Soundscapes: Boat Captains off the Coast of Canada:

“They used to get their position by echo whistling. They’d give a short whistle and estimate the distance from the shoreline by the returning echo. If the echo came back from both sides at the same time they’d know that they were in the middle of the channel. They could recognize different shorelines by the different echoes – a rocky cliff, for example, would give a clear distinctive echo, whereas a sandy beach would give a more prolonged echo. They could even pick up an echo from logs. Nowadays, if the radar (or GPS) breaks down, they have to put out an anchor. Their ears aren’t trained to listen their way through the fog.” (Schaefer)


Mapping Soundscapes in Vancouver BC, Canada:



Mapping Soundscapes around the Columbus Ohio Airport


Listening to Maps: FM Radio Map of London (Simon Elvins)



Mapping Smell & Smellscapes

June 14, 2009

“Smell is a “chemical” sense (like taste). Unlike taste, there are hundreds of olfactory receptors, each binding to a particular molecular feature. Odor molecules possess a variety of features and thus excite specific receptors more or less strongly. This combination of excitatory signals from different receptors makes up what we perceive as the molecule’s smell.” (source)

Ohio Wesleyan’s Smellscape


Columbus’s Smellscape (from Columbus Dispatch)


Doughnut Smellscape (Esther Wu)



Mapping Touch & Touchscapes

June 14, 2009

“Touch, also called tactition, mechanoreception or somatic sensation, is the sense of pressure perception, generally in the skin. There are a variety of nerve endings that respond to variations in pressure (e.g., firm, brushing, and sustained). (source)

Feeling Maps: Braille Maps

  • Texture of map represents (mostly) visible stuff in the environment



Feeling Places: Maps of Haptic Sensations

  • Texture of map represents texture / feeling of stuff in the environment


Non-geographic collage of textures/rubbings (source)

  • Denis Wood: “We rubbed everything I could put paper and a rubbing crayon on, concrete pavement, brick walks and walls, tree bark. We rubbed the sidewalk graffiti too, and of course all manhole covers, water meter covers and the like.”
  • can’t find an actual mapped example!


Mapping Taste & Tastescapes

June 14, 2009

“Taste or gustation is a chemical sense. There are at least four types of tastes that “buds” (receptors) on the tongue detect. The four well-known receptors detect sweet, salt, sour, and bitter.” (source)

3D Map of London made out of food (source)


Pasta map of Italy (source)


Maps made from dried apples.  Each tree is a different type of apple, thus you can taste your way through the orchard (Aileen Buckley)