Christine McLaren is a freelance journalist who investigates solutions to urban problems. Her writing and research explores how the shape of our cities impacts the lives and behavior of those living in them and how shifting social, environmental, and economic climates are changing our relationship with the urban fabric. She is currently traveling as the resident blogger for the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile think tank investigating solutions to urban problems in nine cities around the world. Follow her at @csgmclaren.
What would it be like to measure and publicize the emotions of a city’s dwellers? Would we like what we saw? Would it benefit us? Or in an era of data deluge, are there some things that are simply better left unknown? Well, that really depends on whom you ask. This question was the philosophical heart of an art installation that made a splash a few years ago when it was first installed in Berlin, and later in Lindau, a small town in southern Germany.
We see them every day, popping up on our Twitter feeds, filtered through blogs, or even scattered throughout the New York Times: maps portraying not the usual locations or destinations, but data. From people’s kisses in Toronto, to the concentration of pizza joints in New York, to the number of women who ride bikes, to the likelihood of being killed by a car in any given American city, the list of lenses through which we can now view our cities and neighborhoods goes on, thanks to data-mapping geeks.