Experimental Map

Think of a way in which you could develop an experimental map using images, sounds and stories. Some ideas… What else would we use if we didn’t use maps to find our sense of place? How would you map the sounds you hear every day? How would you map emotions? How would you map the overlooked peoples or places of Singapore?

In order to develop an experimental map, we must first understand what a map means.

National Geographic defines map as a symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface. Maps present information about the world in a simple, visual way.

In my opinion, a map displays one of many sets of relationships between different entities in a defined area or region. We get a sense of a place by understanding those relationships. A commonly seen geographic world map does not exactly tell us where a country is, but rather it tells us the country’s relative position to other countries. As such, I believe the relationships between different entities in map play a vital role in how we understand the map. Each map has one or a few sets of relationship to convey. For examples, a population heat map not only conveys where the countries are relative to one another but also the population density of each country and how they compare to others. Most geographical and scientific map relies on quantitative data to create those relationships.


image taken from http://www.geology.com

In that sense, experimental maps could be dealing with relationships that are more abstract and less qualifiable in other forms rather than a 2D/3D representation of a place. The first step would be deciding what information we want to convey through this map and choosing a form that best capture the relationships between different entities that carry this information. For examples, If I was to map the life of construction workers in Singapore, I could also record journey around Singapore and identified where the sound of their national language is present, its loudness and perhaps even emotions it conveys. Chattering and laughter could indicate a place of comfort and relaxation while interfering vehicle noises could indicate their workplaces.

The power of abstract data like sound, images, stories…etc is that it relies on interpretation to make meaning and hence could tell us a lot more information that is quantitative counterpart which was collected with scientific assumptions for a specific purpose.

In the research for this exercise, I also came across an interesting Atlas of Emotion by renown psychologist Paul Ekman and Dalai Lama (https://www.paulekman.com/atlas-of-emotions/) Atlas of emotion

image taken from https://www.paulekman.com/atlas-of-emotions/

In this work, they have beautifully explained the 5 major group of emotions (which they call continents), mapping out the relative relationship between an emotion with another, and also illustrate how emotions vary in strength and frequencies in people’s lives. I note that while these map deals with an abstract and intangible topic like emotions and does not relate to any specific place with a physical boundary, our understanding is not impeded because the authors visualise relationships through representations that we understand. Each continent of emotion was given a form and a colour. They vary in tone for intensities and are juxtaposed on charts.

state of anger

image taken from https://www.paulekman.com/atlas-of-emotions/

Interestingly, Paul Ekman consulted for the popular Pixar animation movie Inside Out. The directors of the film decided to use the 5 continents of emotions as the based for their characters. The story beautifully map out and explain those emotions and how they interact to affect our behaviours


image taken from http://movies.stackexchange.com/