Thursday, May 4, 2017

Subjective Cartography

Where you at? I’m at 5-spice, north of Orange Peel.

Mar 2017, BBC

The image I have above is from NYC 2011, but Kate McLean nonetheless. And now she’s going even further with her work. Artist and designer Kate McLean from Canterbury Christ Church University is now using her smellmaps to indicate pollution emissions. At the nexus, however, is language – that is, the words used to describe these places. I cut a piece here from the BBC article because it emphasizes this is the most interesting part, for me. For the project as well, it’s a serious point to consider.

“Clicking on a street on the London map allows you to zoom in and see how people have described the area, using terms related to emissions, nature, food, animals or waste.

“So where people have tagged pictures with words including "cars" or "petrol" or "exhaust", these would be classified as emissions-related in the system and the map would show more red.

“But can something built on people's subjective impressions of what they're smelling bear any relationship to objective data on air quality?

"Some people might say you're using social media, it's biased so you're just capturing most of the hipsters in East London," said Daniele Quercia, the computer scientist from Bell Labs who led the study.

So, for example, what happens if a bunch of Londoners come to New York and do this? What does the '5-spice' neighborhood of NYC smell like to a Londoner? And can we compare those maps? Now we’re talking.

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