Title: From the individual to the collective: Using the mental map as a tool for finding the city's "Public Image"
Speaker: Justin Cranshaw (CS, CMU)
Date: Wednesday, October 9
Time: 12-1pm
Room: GHC 6501 

All of us are uniquely imprinted by the places we go to and the experiences we have there. In a city, the total sum of these individual experiences of place contributes to the subjective and personal image we each hold in our minds of the city. This image, often called a mental map, shapes and colors how we perceive and interact with the people and places that surround us in an urban landscape. Viewed as a collection, the millions of individual mental maps of the city’s populous embody a wealth of stored local, cultural, and spatial knowledge that, if effectively harnessed, offers immense opportunities for improving how we live in and make sense of cities. 

In this talk, I will present recent research that uses social media as a window through which we can both peer into the individual mental maps of the populous and aggregate them into a collective “public image” of the city. I will discuss methods of algorithmically identifying certain aspects of such a public image, including how to identify organically defined city neighborhood boundaries. I will also discuss the design and initial exploration of a social website to encourage people to share mental maps by building their own personal city guides. Throughout I will touch on applications related to urban design, city governance, community development, local search, and more.

Justin Cranshaw is a School of Computer Science Ph.D. student at CMU in the Computation, Organizations and Society program. His research is in the emerging multi-disciplinary area of urban computing, which seeks to better understand and better engage with urban processes through new forms of ubiquitous and social computation. Justin is a 2013 Facebook Graduate Fellow in Human-Computer Interaction.