Benedikt Groß profile image

Works antidisciplinarily, is a speculative and a computational designer.
He currently lives in Ravensburg / Stuttgart.

MapMap Vauxhall – Mashup Mental Maps and OpenStreetMap

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Concept + Idea: Benedikt Groß
Transformation Math: Hartmut Bohnacker
Tutor: Nina Pope
Mental Maps: Random “sample” of Vauxhall residents/transients
Real World Map Data: OpenStreetMap community
OSM Render: Maperitive


I always was fascinated by mental maps, the idea to ask a person to draw a map from memory, to get an insight of the person’s perception of the world. In my ongoing Design Interactions master we were invited to do a community related project with the local residents of Vauxhall (inner city area of South London), so finally I had a chance to engage myself in this concept.

Furthermore, I was wondering whether it is possible to go with the mental map concept one step further. My idea was not only to collect mental maps of Vauxhall, but also to combine these mental maps with real world map data to “interpolate”, or in a way, to fill the white spots of the mental maps with data of the realities. I was hoping to gain with these mashup maps new insights in terms how people “see” Vauxhall e.g.: how is the space order around them? are there things they would like to change? what is important for them? etc. Or to put it in other, more beautiful words and quote the excerpt or the book You Are Here by Katharine Harmon:

Mapmaking fulfills one of our most ancient and deep-seated desires: understanding the world around us and our place in it.

Because this seems a bit abstract at the first glance, I illustrated the idea/workflow on this poster:

Mental Map Survey

To get people to draw me their mental maps I did this little survey. This project claims not at all to be scientific, so a small sample was enough for my purpose. I ended up to have surveys like this (see below), whereas the example is a very detailed and surprisingly accurate one.

Map/Interpolate Mental to Real World

Next step was to match mental and real world maps. For this purpose I wrote two litte tools (in Processing), MapMap_App and TransformOSM_Droplet. With the first one I was able to create and save a transformation matrix, the procedere is highly subjective and envolves quite a lot of legwork. Btw. a huge thanks to Hartmut Bohnacker for helping me out with the math part, I was not savvy enough to figure it out in such a clever and smart way. The second tool processed then the delta (=transformation matrix) and the OpenStreetMap Data of Vauxhall to a last OpenStreetMap file. In the end I just had to render the file to it’s final visual representation. I decided to style the maps in the google maps style to give them a more “official” look; sidenote: it seems we are already all cognitive branded by google to their particular style. The rendering was done with Maperitive (free desktop app to styple OpenStreetMap files in a quite convenient way).

Video shows the interesting part of the process, the manual matching of the points.

Real World Map – OpenStreetMap

Untouched OpenStreetMap in Google Maps style (bounding box geo coordinates:
-0.131655135, 51.470347, -0.10908757, 51.48923637)

Mashup Maps (Selection) – Mental Maps and OpenStreetMap

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Voilà, after this rather long and complicated process I’ve got just another bunch of maps. The maps didn’t  answer all questions I raised at the beginning, but after studying the maps more carefully I really appreciated the fact they look very ambivalent and “real”, which is nice because this reflects that a mental map is also some form of reality (at least of the person who drew it).

But of course you can see in the last map the limitation of the whole idea, if the delta between a mental and real map is too big, the result becomes too complex and is no longer readable. I have the feeling, that this method seems to be a nice starting point to put oneself in the position/world of participants, especially on similar macroscopic levels. Please let me know if you use my toolkit, I would love to see other results.


You can download the source code of both tools (Processing sketches) at GitHub
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MapMap Vauxhall is my outcome of the first project of my ongoing Design Interactions master, more background information, context, briefing, and with what my classmates came up etc. can be found in the Design Philanthropy wiki.