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The Age of Semantic Maps

Mapped emotions in opposition to the system's meta-narratives

June 11, 2013

Look at this map:

A More Perfect Union SF
(A More Perfect Union, by Luke Dubois: San Francisco map)

It is possible to recognize the San Francisco Bay. But you cannot find the cities that you are looking for. Now you know why: ‘Acting’ substitutes Los Angeles; San Francisco is ‘Gay’. Enter the site of this project, ‘A more perfect Union’ of Luke Dubois. Select New York’s map. You’ll recognize the Hudson River, the Manhattan Island. Exactly: New York is called ‘Now’.

The explanation is simple: the maps of Luke Dubois are built through the analyses of the most repetitive words on social networks. New Orleans, some years after the Katrina hurricane, is still called ‘Flood’. If a government or brand would try to impose the essence of a city, it would be pointless. New York, in the semantic democracy of social networks, doesn’t mean business. San Francisco is more than technology.

The perfect union of Luke Dubois’ prototype of a new world is managed by different rules. The vertical posts do not work anymore. The advertisements, neither. The history, this present that will be studied in the future, won’t be a story distorted by some people anymore. The past won’t be that scientific fiction forged by philologists anymore. And the meta-narratives of the system, these weapons of mass construction, will disappear.

Life, thanks to technology and to social networks, begins to look more like a collective narrative than a monologue. The Trendsmap of Twitter says more about a country than the covers of its newspapers. In less time, we will have the technology to understand the semantic face of a street in real time, or the emotional map of a building. The California We Feel Fine project, a exploration of human’s emotions through visualization, was one of the first steps in this direction. The Australian Alexander Davis made in 2010 the Twitter’s map of Happiness.

But perhaps the most solid and inspiring work, is the map of emotions of each country developed by Scott Golder and Macy Michael for NewScientist.

Written by Bernardo Gutierrez

Bernardo Gutiérrez is a journalist, author and consultant . He is the founder of the global innovation network, based in São Paulo, Brazil. His reseerch is focused on hybrid environments, open data, hacktivism and digital media. On Twitter @bernardosampa and @futura_media.