Mind the Gap

How do images of objects inform our interactions with those objects? I explored this question with a qualitative study of the London Underground Map. The question was how an iconic image such as the Tube Map affected users' representations, stories, and interactions with the City of London. By analogy, iconic representations of objects like atoms or DNA might also affect how we think about those objects or structure possible interactions with them.

Using interviews and cognitive mapping techniques, the paper published in Social Studies of Science concludes that iconic images do indeed provide structural clues and points of interaction for otherwise complex and inaccessible objects, such as London, atoms or DNA. The project also included a foray into urban studies and urban informatics, with a version of the findings written up for CHI 2005. "Mind The Gap: The London Underground and Users' Representations of Urban Space" received the Hacker-Mullins Prize for best student paper from the American Sociological Association's Science, Knowledge and Technology section in 2006.

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