Blob Mapping

Graduate design thesis exploring what is it about specific places, buildings or locations that holds significance for us. Why do we find some places more attractive or repulsive than others? How does this effect our usage of, movement and interaction within that place?

 

A shift in the way we think about space.

Overview

Blob Maps

Organizing and interpreting space

How do we organize and interpret space? Understanding how space becomes place by focusing on behavioral, multi-sensory mapping avoids the paradigmatic rigidity seen in traditional, cognitively designed maps and navigational systems. Blob mapping explores alternative methods of spatial communication and examines possible applications across various disciplines. We want to better understand how we navigate individually and the implications of social interaction with spatial decision-making and behavior.

Blob Mapping

What is a Blob Map?

What would be the best way to gather feedback about spatial awareness? In order to understand, we must observe. Before we are able to speak a verbal language, our primal mode of communication as infants involves gestures, touch and noise. With blob maps, we gathered feedback in the form of non-linguistic, tactile communication- clay or blobs and applied a psychogeography approach in understanding the effect of physical geography on our emotions and related behaviors.

 

Blob Mapping

Making a Blob Map

With a piece of white blank paper, a pen and a colorful array of playdough. I asked myself and others who made blob maps to “use the clay to portray your personal connection to this physical space” focusing on large, urban spaces. The aim was to vaguely frame the instructions as to elicit the most organic responses and avoid any type of partisan responses by not including any predefined city segmentations, zones, or icons.

 

Why Blob Maps?

More Effective Communication

Cognitive – Behavioral Shift in Mapping

Reimagining Space

Better Understanding of Space

I experimented with viewing and experiencing our blobs in augmented reality. After creating a blob map by hand with clay, we can then take those forms and visualize them in space through our phones, laptops, or AR goggles. Augmented reality offers the opportunity to carry our blob maps with us in our pockets, view them in real-time and understand our mental map from a different perspective.

Where We Blob

I wanted to understand how our blob maps differ based on length of stay, general familiarity and native status. Our biggest cultural influences come from the place we consider to be our native, hometown.

What We Blob

Once we have a frame of reference for place, what exactly is it that we are creating with these blobs? From what I observed, people repeatedly depicted significant places, people, sensations, and city structure.

How We Blob

The process and techniques I observed others using while making blob maps varied between use of color, shape and dimension, touch, and relativity. Additionally, the starting point of a blob map differed among participants. Some immediately began with the space where they live. 

When We Blob

How are blob maps related to time? Participants that created a blob map of a place where they presently were able to indicate their exact location within the map. Some blob maps are essentially a moment, a memory in blob form while others reflect the passage of time or a cohesive impression built upon experiences.

Head Space

Designing Space

How did Blob Mapping come about? It started with a simple question: what is a map? Essentially a communication tool, maps help us to organize the physical world. Maps help us orient ourselves, especially needed in complex, urban spaces. Designers have always been responsible for communicating the physical world and in turn how we use it. 

Head Space

The Problem

Some of the issues observed in traditional mapping stem from systems designed to simplify an environment often including overly-generalized iconography and categorization, technology’s influence on our movement in space, a heavy relience on visual information, and the rigidity of borders and zoning.

Head Space

The Effects

Social Interaction

The way we move through a city and how we interact with the other people in that city is highly dependent on your reason for being there. Our attention is pulled in different direction depending on what you’re trying to do. Think about how a group of tourists would behave in a place versus locals and how the interaction between these groups of people would effect their perception of that space. Social disconnection potentially reinforces division between groups of people.

Cultural Influences

Culture and social interaction both virtual and real play a huge role in our usage and interpretation of space. Popularity, hashtags, ratings and reviews govern how we explore space before we even arrive in that place.

Head Space

Understanding Space

Making sense

We make sense of the physical world by adding meaning. Spatial explanations have originated from simple, empirical conclusions that evolve into myths and legends such as the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. We can better grasp and navigate a physical world that is familiar. 

Orientation

We are each conscious of our existence in space. Orientation is the realization of our body’s movement and position in relation to others and our surroundings. We need to be able to stop ourselves from bumping into another person on the street and understand which direction is north.

Navigation

Maps, signage and wayfinding systems today tackle the fundamental task of navigating from point A to point B. Expansion of urban spaces has resulted in more people and less space.

Head Space

Cognitive

Interpretation of Space

We don’t have to rely entirely on maps or signs to point us in the right direction. Our brain processes all things navigational and spatial information in a part called the hippocampus. Further, there are basically two types of navigators, “creatures of habit” who navigate based on definitive directions, and “cognitive mappers” who mentally orient themselves in a physical space.

Head Space

Behavioral

Interpretation of Space

We construct our underlying regard towards a place with experiences that are of emotions and memories that translate into affective states (an overall mood or regard) and thereupon place attachments.