Mapping feeling: An approach to the study of emotional response to the built environment and landscape

Weinreb, A. R., & Rofè, Y.

Weinreb, A. R., & Rofè, Y. (2013). Mapping feeling: An approach to the study of emotional response to the built environment and landscape. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 30(2), 127–145.

Feeling maps survey and map people's emotional responses to their environment as they walk through the streets of a particular urban area. This study describes the first application of feeling maps in long-term, ethnographic field research. It was conducted in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town in Israel's Negev Desert Highlands. Over the course of one year, an ethnographer individually accompanied 55 participants with diverse social characteristics on a set of seven walking routes. These routes included neighborhood spaces, open public spaces, and at least one view of the surrounding natural desert landscape. The locations where between two and seven participants spontaneously reported experiencing strong feelings (positive, negative, or mixed) based on a numerical rating scale and open-ended narration were identified as "affective clusters." Results suggest that people's shared feelings about specific places are influenced by the particular physical properties and characteristics of a given place. Making a contribution to cognitive mapping and environmental preference techniques, feeling maps enable researchers to share a participant's position and views of the landscape as he or she articulates emotions and memories related to those views. Replicable in any setting, this technique could be used to create and maintain spaces that are attractive, inviting, and emotionally pleasing variety of users.

Main finding
The feeling maps in Mitzpe Ramon reveal some trends in the relation between the built environment and people's emotions. Mapping people's spontaneous emotional responses revealed "affective clusters" where strong feelings were concentrated in some areas. Positive responses were found in areas with green and natural features, views of the desert landscape, and signs of children's play. Overwhelmingly positive responses were found in areas that balanced natural and built features. Negative responses were found in areas with ugly buildings and litter, or areas that were generally neglected or abandoned. There were also areas that generated strong but mixed emotional responses, which the authors suggest reveal the impact of social relations and individual perceptions on the relationship between the built environment and emotional responses.

Description of method used in the article
From May 2008 to May 2009, Weinreb conducted walking tours with 55 participants on 7 different routes, accompanying up to 7 people at once. During each walk, the researcher documented comments from the participants and the locations where participants spontaneously rated changes in their feelings. Field notes were used for content analysis and mapping data.

Of practical use

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