Daniele Quercia paints a familiar picture in his TED talk, Happy Maps. So many of us take the same route to work every day, possibly using maps on our smartphones, without really stopping to think whether a better route exists, a more beautiful route, even a happier route. Quercia points out that with his background as a scientist and engineer his focus has so often been on finding efficiency just as mapping apps give us one simple, short route to our destination.
But after taking a detour on his bicycle one day Quercia found a beautiful, quiet route that only took him a minute or two longer than his usual, busy, grey route. At the TED event in Berlin Quercia said that after this experience he became fascinated with the ways in which people can enjoy a city and started to use computer science tools to replicate social science. He says: ‘I became captivated by the beauty and genius of traditional social science experiments done by Jane Jacobs, Stanley Milgram, Kevin Lynch. The result of that research has been the creation of new maps, maps where you don’t only find the shortest path… but also the most enjoyable path.’
To create these maps Quercia created a crowdsourcing platform game and presented thousands of online participants with two contrasting urban scenes and asked them to choose which one was more quiet, beautiful or happy. Quercia later started working for Yahoo Labs and speaks about the development of these Happy Maps, with the potential to create a mapping tool that would return the most enjoyable routes based not only on aesthetics but also based on smell, sound, and memories.
Quercia ends his talk by challenging the audience to confront some of their daily habits, concluding: ‘If you think that adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s deadly.’
View at tinyurl.com/my69okk
Reviewed by Ella Rhodes who is The Psychologist’s staff journalist
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