Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods
Sefydliad Ymchwil Gymdeithasol ac Economaidd, Data a Dulliau Cymru

Biomapping: Methodological Trials

Principal Investigators: Prof Chris Taylor and Dr Jon Anderson 

Summary and Rationale

This project explored the (bio)physical and emotional relationships between people and place. By using state of the art galvanic skin response units alongside geographical positioning technology, this project sought to map (bio)physical records of human interaction with their environment. To date, this potential has been explored through and for artistic means. The pioneering ‘biomapping’ work of Christian Nold has produced a range of innovative maps which demonstrate the possibility of harnessing GPS and GSR technology to advance geographical knowledge (For an example of this please click here). This project sought to explore this potential further, with a primary focus on the scholarly and policy (rather than artistic)-oriented insight that motivates our work. This was undertaken initially through a series of experimental ‘trials’ to produce innovative cartographies of new and familiar environments. 

Aim

To product innovative cartographies of new and familiar environments by mapping (bio)physical records of human interaction with their environment. 

Research Questions 

Since this project was largely based on experimental ‘trials’ its research questions, at the initial stage, were methodological rather than substantive.

  • Create a baseline bioregister for the investigators when in stasis.
  • Walk through familiar environments to create a moving and mappable bioregister.
  • Analyse through subsequent interview and data analysis the affects of certain conditions on bioregister; including bodily (temperature, stress, anxiety etc), external (e.g. weather, technology – eg iPod use etc), environment (e.g. built environment, traffic, danger etc).
  • Compare familiar environments to alien places (e.g. unknown neighbourhoods, ‘other’(‘s) places, designated places (e.g. graveyards, museums, libraries, churches, IKEA, saunas etc).
  • Compare familiar and alien places at different times of day or practice (e.g. dusk, night, rush hour, shopping congestion etc). 

Research Strategy 

This project utilised state of the art galvanic skin response units alongside geographical positioning technology to map (bio)physical records of human interaction with their environment. This quantitative cartography was interpreted by respondents through the use of qualitative discussions and interviews, giving a personalised insight into embodied engagements between people and place. 

Engagement and Dissemination Activities 

  • Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP) (Summer 2012), £1,360 – this paid for two BSc Geography (Human) and Planning undergraduate students to undertake further experimental research using a more sophisticated GSR device. Their findings were presented at the 2012 CUROP Poster Conference and provide the basis of the undergraduates’ final year dissertations.
  • RGS Annual Conference (2011) (London, 31 Aug – 2 Sept 2011) – Moving Geographies: Film and Video as Research Method (Symposium) – Sensory video and the embodied spaces of film and video session: Capturing the moving relations between people and place.  
  • RGS Annual Conference (2011) (London, 31 Aug – 2 Sept 2011) – Art, Science and Geographical Imaginaries (Symposium): Mapping person-place relations: a synthesis of science, social science and artistic endeavour

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