Define the Person. See the Map.

My project will provide portrayals of different types of Davidson College students’ mental maps to the user in order to show how the campus is used, which will indicate spatial importance amongst students.

My thinking for this project has originated as we’ve talked about maps (and more specifically, mental maps) in class; we’ve come to the conclusion that mental maps of the same location differ because people don’t have identical views of the world. Variables such as age, perception of distance, ease of traveling, importance, etc… come into play when creating these maps. What one person deems far might be valued as close for another. In Soini’s article, we learn that mental mapping shows spatial preferences of an individual (Soini, 229). At Davidson College, our spatial preferences are shaped by what we have to do and what we have time to do when we aren’t occupied by academic, athletic, or extra-curricular responsibilities.  In this way, a mental map is a way of identifying someone or people.  The spaces they frequent say certain things about them. However, a portrayal of someone’s mental map reveals much more about him/her than just location, especially at Davidson.

In order to answer the question of ‘What does a Davidson College student’s mental map look like?”, I argue that not one map, but many are needed because a Davidson College student is a very broad term. As Farman states in “Site-Specificity, Pervasive Computing, and the Reading Interface” of Mobile Stories, “Stories tend to offer the illusion that they present the events in their entirety (and if they leave out anything, the omitted portions are simply not relevant)” (Farman, 9).  This is highly relevant to my project; a mental map of one type of Davidson student will omit things that actually aren’t relevant to him/her whereas another map might include those things.  I want portrayals of the mental maps to be accurate, but I don’t want them to include useless information, which is why I will have many different portrayals for the user to view. Accordingly, certain variables must be included in differentiating these mental maps in order for generalizations to be eliminated (not all Davidson students are the same) but specificity to be limited (narrowing down too much will end up focusing on a particular person). The variables to consider are:

  • Whether the map is for a student-athlete or student non-athlete
  • Grade
  • Whether student is in a fraternity/eating house
  • Time of year (in and out of season and finals period)

Based on the first three variables, there will be 16 different options to choose from.  This means that I will have to talk to at least 16 people to gather the data I need.  From here, I will need to decide on a program in which I will build my map.  I understand that the amount of information that I am including may be problematic, so my backup plan is to just focus on athletes.

My project, made up of many different maps, will give the user the ‘big picture’ regarding differences and similarities of students’ maps at Davidson College. Radzikowska mentions in “The Iterative Design of a Project Charter for Interdisciplinary Research”, that different parts make up the important whole. The important message doesn’t have to come from one giant map with a ton of information, but instead it can result from a sum of relevant maps that each say something about Davidson College. My project could show that 11 out of the 16 options have a certain building in their mental map, which would indicate that this particular building is well-rounded and makes good use of the space, which I deem an important message for future building development.  The messages that my project provides the user will be shaped by how the user received the messages. Therefore, the program that I use will be just as important as the information it shows. Douglas Adams, when talking about how an idea grows in the interview, states that “your decision about what kind of thing it is then determines how it develops.” How I ultimately want my message to be received will be decided on the medium that I use to show it.



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