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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.

Entries in thesis (2)

Sunday
Jan112009

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 ?


 


Saturday
Jan242009

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.


Tutoring

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
urgently.

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.


Struggling

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.


Benchmarking

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