Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Mapping historical landscapes is a difficult procedure because the subjective world cannot always mesh through objective description, a prerequisite for mapping. My friend Nick Stapp is struggling with these issues. He is writing a program, or a set of digital procedures that document historical change through the 19th and 20th centuries at Washington Square, one of William Penn's four original squares in Philadelphia. Nick is a man of many talents, with degrees in both archaeology and historic preservation, now going for a Ph.D. in urban planning. He's best known in Mediterranean archaeology for his work for the Corinth Computer Project, directed by David G. Romano at UPenn's Museum. He has taught classes on GIS and archaeology and he has been my GIS mentor. While reading Nick's dissertation proposal, I learned about a couple of interesting new projects.

Yesterday, Richard Florida blogged about a new study mapping personality variations across the U.S., in Peter J. Renfrow, Samuel D. Gossling, and Jeff Potter, "A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics,"
Perspectives on Psychological Sciece 3:5 (2008) pp. 339-369. Bill Caraher will be happy to learn, for instance, that North Dakotans are happier and more affable than most Americans. Peter Rentfrow's web site (at Cambridge) shows a forthcoming publication that, moreover, relates personality traits to presidential elections. The characteristics studied in the project were Extraversion, Agreeableness, Consientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness. Accordingly, each state has some dominant features that are replicated and reinforced. The data is pretty interesting as is the discussion of criteria used, data collection and number crunching.

The second project takes us to the street. Bio Mapping is a collaborative project that collects data of varying sensorial arousal through street walking. Over 1,500 collaborated in the data collection and some of the maps are available in Google Earth. The San Francisco emotion map is already completed and next in line is T0kyo.

A few months ago, I wrote about new books on the tradition of psychogeography, see Peripatetic History. Psychogeopgraphy was devised by the Situationists, a second generation of Surrealists, who wandered aimlessly through the urban fabric and documented psychological states. They produced installations, urban designs and philosophical tracts. The two projects discussed here extend the spirit of the Situationists and bridge the gap between subjectivity and objectivity.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States