Part 1: Experimental Map

Maps are reliant on our sense of sight and our ability to compare what we see in actual against the text printed on the map. It works because there’s nothing subjective about this. In regards to road signs and building names, what you see is what I see. But these maps serve the sole purpose of helping us find our bearings.

Experimental maps can be used to guide us to experience a place rather than to find a place. I’ve observed that people generally are very consumed with technology wherever they are. We are constantly looking into the virtual online world rather than being fully present in what’s in front of us. We don’t pay attention to what we hear or what we see. If we didn’t use geographically accurate maps, we could have fun by mapping experiences that we share at certain places that are unique to us. It’s like mapping our culture and our way of life.

This may be done through recording thoughts or background noise that strike a common chord within us. For example we hear a description of an experience, “I felt a little claustrophobic as my personal space was greatly invaded. I held my hands close to myself and shifted my weight from heel to toe to keep balance. There was a sour stench coming in waves that forced me to hold my breath. *beeping of doors closing*”. In such a description we could probably resolve that we’re in the MRT during peak hours. It’s like a map, because it gives an objective account of an experience and it works because what you felt was what I felt.

Part 2:  Reading

On The Map
Documentary about Annette Kim and the Sidewalk Lab

The maps are really cool: 

“Intelligent design solutions require an understanding of the design problem.” (Kim, A. M.). This reading brought fresh perspective on improving user experience through a discussion on an usually overlooked tool – the map. It talks about how a deep and established understanding of existing experiences with products or services is crucial to the improvement of them. One of the ways to establish this understanding is to go beneath the obvious and observable to find out why things are as such (history of sidewalks in HCMC and to whom they belong). This is also supported by the study of why the HCMC government were chasing street vendors out of the sidewalks because they had inaccurately presumed that tourists wanted clean sidewalks. On top of that it is also important to understand why certain service or product works so that we can push boundaries and still ensure feasibility. For example in this case, maps work because they are objectively factual and readers have a universal interpretation of them. The author was able to use these two qualities to come up with a new map that maps the unseen qualities of the sidewalks in the city and help people see that there are better ways to plan public spaces, not just with an economical agenda but to consider social concerns as well.

Another takeaway on understanding how people experience a space was to overcome habitual seeing and see space not just as a physical phenomenon but also a social one. This was achieved through recording spatial patterns and social relations in the sidewalks. The example was how the author noticed that there was actually a system behind the seemingly messy street vendors in HCMC and this was the system that she was trying to map. Lastly, I’ve gained insights on the usefulness of a map. As a visual representation of spatial relationships,it also tells a story of property and power relations. As a visual convention, it is able to frame and conceptualize what we see.

How could we effectively draw attention to experiences or issues that people have grown to overlook?

Is it overwhelming to map experiences because so many things are going on at once, how could we draw the essence of it?