Emotional Mapping of Cities | Bruce Turkel

VIA CNN Artist Christian Nold outfits volunteers with global positioning system devices and the sensors used in lie detector tests. Then, he sends his subjects out to wander their neighborhoods. When they return, Nold asks them to recount what they saw and felt when the polygraph recorded a quickened heartbeat or an elevated blood pressure.

Nold, a London-based artist, calls his work “emotional mapping.” Having mapped settings as varied as industrial areas of Bangladesh and the red light district of Brussels, Belgium, he recently arrived in San Francisco for his first U.S. project.

Marketers, mobile telephone companies, architects and real estate developers have expressed interest in putting Nold’s handheld gizmos to commercial use, a situation the artist finds ironic. He said he gets five e-mail solicitations each day asking about the practical applications, but turns most of them down.

Nold has been making emotional maps for three years and says he has been heartened by the common threads that have linked neighborhoods in places like Siena, Italy, Munich, Germany, and San Francisco. He’s found that his subjects enjoy being given a reason to roam aimlessly, tend to have elevated emotions at corners and on their way to a destination, and are endlessly curious about new stores and restaurants.

“When I go to a place, I’m always kind of a tourist,” he said. “But I get a mixture of this ephemeral stuff with an amazing grass roots view you would never get unless you lived in a place for 10 years.”

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