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weeks 11 and 12 :: week 13 :: week 14 :: weeks 15 and 16

This journal was built during the 20 weeks of development of my Master Thesis in Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden,
in order to serve as a dialog space with partners and with myself and also as an organizing document. It contains
decisions, doubts, and directions that led to the final design, and others that have been abandoned along the way.


Official Start

It's time. Last week I officially started my degree project in the Design Institute here in Umeå. I'll be working with maps,
an old passion that since I left home, moving here to the top of the world, have helped me keep track of the trips and
learn about the new places. These tools have become sort of personal diaries with the annotations over them, marking
where I've been and what I have done.

In this big real of cartography, I'll be especifically Mapping Experiences. The project discusses how new locative media
technologies impact the process of map making and give regular people the power to generate maps both individually
and communally through web 2.0 services. But the spaces mapped carry layers of information and meaning that are not
currently displayed in most purely geographical mapping. The project investigates the relationship between people and
space by the creation of digital annotations in space of individual or group experiences.

Technical and road maps are still instruments of knowledge, control and power. Many of the technologies that are now
available to the public have their roots in military research. Precision, accountability and reliability were always issues
in maps. This quest for precision inspired writers and philosophers in the past, notably Jorge Luis Borges with his
“On Exactitude in Science” or “On Rigor in Science” (the original Spanish-language title is “Del rigor en la ciencia”). In
the same line of though, “The map is not the territory” is a remark by Alfred Korzybski, encapsulating his view that an
abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself.

It is very interesting then to investigate how the rational system of coordinates is used to link to irrational, emotional
aspects of life instead of cold labels or services. [read the full project description]

This first week, besides re-organizing my life at school and in the city, I have been reading and trying to understand
what is experience. I have been reading a book called "The anthropology of experience" edited by Edward M. Bruner.
Other readings have been "The image of the city" by Kevin Lynch and Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin.

One interesting insight is the difference between experience and an experience. While the former relates more to the
knowledge obtained from life, the latter means
more a remarkable instant or event that people go through.

The picture below represents one strong experience I have been through in Scandinavia. The clock reads 00.00h and
the sky is still blue. Welcome to the summer at 63° N. What have been your strongest experiences related to specific
places? How would you express it ?



Getting Speed

Introducing the project to UID

The week started with a public presentation at Umeå Institute of Design. Each student gave an introduction of their
degree project to the rest of the school, presenting their subjects, sponsors and work plan.


We also had the first moments with the class tutor, Mattias Andersson. Each of the Interaction students had some
minutes with him to explain the subject and get the first feedback. In my case the main issue raised is the amplitude
of the subject, where I can easily get lost in research or analysing data. It's too vast and I need to narrow down

One other suggestion given by Mattias was the production of a Design Brief as soon as possible to guide the develop-
ment of the project, something to stick to during the process.


That's where my struggles begin. I started unfolding the subject of Mapping Experiences and both components of
the project can be unfolded ad infinitum. I need to have a grasp of the limits of this subject before I can slice it, so
that I can be more confident of making a well informed decision. So I started brainstorming on my own the activities
or verbs associated with maps. Then I grouped these verbs in clusters, giving them labels. From each verb I made
a list of entities that go with it, for example: explore >> new places, old places, your own home, your
neighborhood etc.



Collecting stories

Besides this understanding of the context of Mapping Experiences, I started collecting stories of Umeå from its inha-
bitants. I've been interviewing people at school and tomorrow (Sunday) I'll collect some interviews at the BildMuseet
where they are currently displaying an exhibition about Maps called Mapping the Contemporary.


The other activity being conducted is the search and analysis of some services that deal with geo location and
mapping. After the first "Oh my, everything has been already done" reaction, I can learn from these services
exploring the differences between what they offer and what I want to propose as well as build on top of what
has been achieved so far. One website called Olet Tässä - Helsinki [You are here - Helsinki] offers an interesting
platform for experience sharing, and I have already built a site map of it with some help from Katri Niemi, doing the
translation. One other, Nokia Vine was shown to me by my classmate Mikko, but I still haven't taken a deeper look.
Below, on the links session, you can find access to both services.



Breakfast Club

This week I was also invited to participate in a discussion group with other students (Ru Zarin, Ulrik Svenningsen and
Rahul Sen) also doing degree projects. We decided to meet once a week and help each other to keep on track, giving
feedback and looking at each other's struggles with outsider's eyes. The first session was very good, with many drifts
away from the subject, but still under the big design umbrella.

Looking Ahead

I take inspiration in a fabulous book called The Atlas of Experience, and right now, I can find there my current location,
beind in the middle of the Mountains of Work. I am still finalizing the user questionnaire to send around and this coming
week I will use the categories to do some card sorting about maps with both Designers and Cartographers to identify
similarities and differences in the understanding of these information devices.


>> I am here article on Wired
>> 10 applications for mobile GPS enabled devices (Wired)
>> There's so much data available, what would users like to know?
>> A classic map revisited by Vignelli
>> Augmented reality in locative media
>> Nokia Vines Map
>> You are Here - Helsinki (only Finnish)


Found II, edited by Davy RothBart
Envisioning Information, by Edward Tufte
Visual Explanations, by Edward Tufte
The anthropology of experience, by Edward M. Bruner.
The image of the city, by Kevin Lynch

Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin.
The atlas of Experience, Louise van Swaaij and Jean Klare


Mapping Experiences Questionnaire

Hello Everyone,

as part of my degree project, I need to understand how and why people use
maps. If you could please share with me your insights I would be immensely
thankful. This questionnaire won't take you more than 5 minutes to fill up.

in case you don't have an acrobat reader, download here (free):

Thanks in advance for your contribution!



5 faces of research

This last week I have been involved in studying techniques for upgrading the deliverables and items to be developed
during the project as well as continuing with the collection of information and research. One important step was to
stop and figure out where the research was going, what I am getting from each front.

I was also reflecting upon the structure of the project that I selected for myself. Initially I proposed weekly goals, where
each week hold a question and a structure where Monday and Tuesday would be destined to research, Wednesday to
sketch some event or deliverable, Thursday would be the application day and finally Friday the evaluation and publishing

I can already see how utopian this scenario is. It might work if your research involves only you producing stuff that
you can get out of the lab or workshop try out with anyone and then return to evolve it. But if you're dealing with mul-
tiple groups and moving around too much, schedules force you to review the plan. Also some threads from the previous
week still linger and it's hard to have such a short cycle. On top of that, it did not foresee new avenues that would
come out during the process and would require some schedule space.

Anyways, one positive aspect of the hyperstructuring is that even if you keep breaking it, you know what you are brea-
king and that more or less always gives you an idea of where you are in the process. And I am keeping the idea of pu-
blishing the weekly findings too.

In the research phase, although this was not so clear when the project plan was made, I ended up attacking the the
problem in five different forms to gather insight and information. From each one of them I hope to get some specific
knowledge to be used in the analysis and combined multiple times to the concept generation.


I interviewed people both at the design school and at the Mapping the Contemporary exhibition at the BildMuseet here
in Umeå asking them to share with me stories that they have lived, known or witnessed in the urban space of the city.
From these interviews I got the perceptions and an activity map of the city with places that were more pointed and others
that were not. Focusing the video camera on the map I registered the gestures and ways that people point to places
when they are talking about them. There are 2 hours of video to be decoded and transcribed now.



The questionnaire will give me an overview of maps in combination with some social networking usage. It has open
and closed ended questions. So far I have been receiving lots of answers from very different user groups. The back-
round of the users is irrelevant at this stage and wasn't considered in the survey.



Yesterday I conduced a card sorting workshop with cartographers and GIS technicians at SLU here in Umeå. The cards
contained verbs related to maps. The opening question was: With maps we can... They were asked to organize the cards
as they thought would make sense, in a traditional card sorting technique. Then the groups or clusters of cards were
identified as macro groups, and finally a discussion of which should be the most important changed the perception of the
process that was built from a single linear process to an iterative cyclical process, composed of rationalize, design,
interpret, usage and learning & experience.
Although it was hard to point out the most important cluster, they all agreed
that Interpretation is crucial to maps.

Another discussion emerged of what could or not be called a map, the main different arguments pointed to the necessity
or not of the physical space navigation. Another aspect however was pointed: Maps should always evidence the relation-
ships between elements.

So, from this experiment I wanted to extract conceptual models made by experts on the field on the utilization of maps.
This will help me understand the meaningful activities and semantic avenues that derive from them.


Actionable Knowledge

This week was about getting a direction for the concepts. Using the information from the different research
methods, I'm trying to figure out how to frame the mapping system in a useful and interesting way.

Interesting talks with Mattias Andersson and my classmates have brought some questions and ideas in this regard.
I got in contact with the term "actionable knowledge" that defines information from which you can take actions and
make decisions. I guess that this has been the main issue with the project so far. I am struggling to find a focus where
this experiences around the city can turn out to be actionable knowledge. Maybe it doesn't have to be. I am not sure.

So far I have been trying to let the answers come from the research and the data collected and now I think, and have
been strongly supported by Rahul, to turn around and start making decisions and use the research to validate them
with the users.

The questionnaire brought some expected answers, but also some interesting ones. In the purpose of using maps,
curiosity appeared more than once, for example, but FIND is the most common word.

It was very interesting to see the answers for "which device do you use to capture your experiences". This kind of reply
really makes me believe that the territory should be the map.

This week in Umeå the exhibition about maps at the BildMuseet came to its end, and several of the artists were present
giving talks and workshops. On Tuesday I attended with Mats Högström a small conference by Bureau d'Etudes, a
group of artists from France working with mapping our current social landscapes. They make visible through their maps
the power and associative relationships between entities that affect our lives directly or indirectly but that are usually
not so clear to the common citizen. Other artists follow the same line of work, such as Beppe Grillo or the american
webiste They Rule (2004).

This is one of the big questions. Can I make the city talk throught the maps?

Digital Ground - Malcolm McCullough
Seeing Through Maps - Ward Kaiser/ Denis Wood

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Adam Greenfield at PICNIC08: The Long Here, the Big Now, and other tales of the networked city on Vimeo

API Directory - ProgrammableWeb

How to Create a Mashup by Combining 3 Different APIs - NETTUTS

Matt Jones at PICNIC08: The Emerging Real-Time Social Web on Vimeo