Capturing, Exploring and Sharing People’s Emotional Bond with Places in the City using Emotion Maps

Shenando Stals (Author)

Michael Smyth (Author)

Oli Mival (Author)

Urban Interaction Design, Emotion, Affect, Emotion maps, Place attachment, Place meaning, Placemaking, Quantified Self, Personal Informatics, Walking interviews, Walking & Talking method, Speculative Design


With the vision of ubiquitous computing becoming increasingly realized through smart city solutions, the proliferation of smartphones and smartwatches, and the rise of the quantified-self movement, a new technological layer is being added to the urban environment. This technological layer offers the possibility to capture, track, measure, visualize, and augment our experience of the urban environment. But to that end, there is a growing need to better understand the triangular relationship between person, place, and technology.

Urban HCI studies are increasingly focusing on emotion and affect to create a better understanding of people’s experience of the city, and to investigate how technology could potentially play a role in augmenting this urban lived experience. Artist Christian Nold for example, used wearable technology to measure people's arousal levels as they walked freely through the urban environment, identifying locations in the city that evoked an emotional response from people. After these walks, people’s arousal levels were superimposed on a map of the city and participants were asked to interpret their own data, resulting in aggregated, fully annotated, and beautifully visualized emotion maps of the city.

Based on a systematic review of emotions maps in existing literature, and our own work which seeks to understand how people’s experiences of places in the urban environment that are meaningful to them on a personal level, for example the place where they have met their partner, could potentially inform the design of future technological devices and services, this journal paper discusses the strengths, limitations and potential of capturing, representing, exploring and sharing this personal, geo-located emotion data with other people using emotion maps. Although our analysis seems to indicate that emotion maps in their current form are only of limited efficacy in accurately capturing, representing and communicating the profound, complex emotional bond that people have with personally meaningful places in the city, there appears to be potential for the use of emotion maps as a provocation in a speculative design approach.

How to Cite
Stals, S., Smyth, M., & Mival, O. (2018). Capturing, Exploring and Sharing People’s Emotional Bond with Places in the City using Emotion Maps. Airea: Arts and Interdisciplinary Research, (1), 47–62.