Have you ever wondered how things that surround us can influence our psyche and shape our behaviour? Generally speaking, clinical research has shown the link between deprived environment and the increase of paranoia, but Urban Mind project aims to go further by identifying key factors in the built environment that could cause stress, anxiety, or several types of addiction.
Currently conduced in London by a cross-disciplinary research group, this study is a participative research project. Everyone can take part in it anonymously by downloading the Urban Mind app. Based on simple questions, the app asks you, several times a day, how you perceive your environment and to describe your emotions about a certain location.
Who’s with you? What’re you doing? Are you indoors or outdoors? Can you see the sky? If you’re in a public place, is it noisy?
You can also join some pictures and sound recordings to enrich your observations. Then, all this information is collected in a database and crossed with the physical characteristics of the visited places. The results of this research should be a useful aid to urban planning decisions, architecture and design projects towards healthier living environments.
The approach developed here is innovative as it includes new technologies to analyse users’ experiences. Unlike traditional data collection methods used in psychology research, this free app enables to reach a bigger target, measuring “how people feel and what they are doing in real life context, in real-time, as opposed to asking people what did you do last month” (Dr Mechelli, the research team leader).
Moreover, Urban Mind is the first study about this topic that involves scientists (Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London), landscape architects, urban planners (J&L Gibbons), and artists (NOMAD, Artists and Engineers).
For now, the project pilot is implemented only in London, but if it proves successful and other sources of funding become available, it should be extended to other cities in the UK and worldwide.
Learn more about Urban Mind by listening to Johanna Gibbons and Dr. A. Mechelli’s interview on Radio ABC.