“Out and Back”: a map of subjectivities

Background: Traditionally we think of maps as practical objects to orient ourselves in space and get from point A to point B, without considering the emotional and subjective ways that humans interact with both time and space. Through this mapping research project, I was interested in asking two questions: first, how do subjective things, like memories and moods, affect our experience of space and time? Following on this question, what would it look like to build a “personal” map, not to mark literal distances built from satellite imagery or to mark mathematically accurate directions and distances, but based on the experiences of one person, travelling through their day, with all of its subjectivities?

“Out and Back” is a series of maps that I built based on “subjectivities”, taking into account my emotions and subjective experiences of travel. Through these maps I explore time, space, scale, landmarks, and distances based on a completely personal, subjective account. Their content is driven purely by my personal movements through space and personal landmarks, marked by memory and emotion.

Purpose: The main purpose of this project was to explore how emotional and subjective factors influence the way we interact with time and space, and what this might mean for human-centred design in wayfinding, navigation and mapping.

Interacting with these maps: These maps are meant to be interacted with like a typical road map. Users could take the map of a day (March 16, 2017, for example) and use it to navigate through, read the story of, or follow along on a specific “day in my life”.

The maps explore two formats: the first version of the map folds down to a rectangle, similar to traditional road maps that you would see in brochure holders at tourist centres and hotels. The second map is different: instead of unfolding like a road map, it unfolds accordion-style to be a dozen feet long, moving the viewer through my travels in a linear, progressive fashion, reading from left-to-right. Both maps would, in theory, be used as a set: linear story-version and map-version.

Why look at the mapping of subjectivities? No matter how large the institution or space, humans by nature experience the world in “small”, personal, day-to-day ways. Understanding how and why people navigate through their environments contributes to knowledge for building human-centred cities, and design wayfinding tools that work on a human scale.

Design + Illustration: Sarah Jackson