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Mapping Joy and Pain

November 2, 2015

MGIS graduate student Maureen McFarlane, under the supervision of MGIS faculty members Kevin Dyke and Ryan Mattke, illustrates how geographic information science can be used to support work in the arts and humanities through her involvement in the Mapping of Joy and Pain, a project originally conceived by University of Minnesota artist and faculty member Rebecca Krinke. The project began as a piece of public art, where Krinke and her team created a large wooden base map of Minneapolis and St. Paul complete with streets, lakes, rivers, and labels laser cut into the surface. They then brought the map to public spaces around the cities and invited the public to contribute their drawing skills to it with instructions to draw where they had experienced joy or pain. The exercise invoked many emotional responses from those participating as they shared the story behind their drawing.  

McFarlane, Dyke, and Mattke worked with Krinke to bring the project online, with users contributing their experiences to a web map. The goal is to emulate the analog events as much as possible while expanding the digital experience with additional features enabled through web mapping. Using Mapbox Studio for the basemap and the ArcGIS Javascript API for the functionality, the application lets users symbolize their memories with points, lines, and polygons at varying scales. Upon completing their drawing, contributors have the option to attach their story to their drawing through the use of a pop up window prompt.  This method of gathering emotional data relies on cartographic decisions from the public as they expand on the drawings and memories of other people. Oftentimes, joyful and painful events coincide spatially, leading to a rich reflection on what it means to visualize and share emotional space.