Emotional Cartography

Emotional Cartography

The mapping of emotions, known as emotional cartography, is the visualization of the relationship between a person or person’s emotions, their geographic location, and their political, cultural, and or social context. Feelings can be expressed and presented across space and time. In some forms of emotional cartography, states of feeling are assigned to imaginary geographical locations, allowing the map to tell a narrative as the map reader travels through the map’s various pathways and passages. This style of emotional mapping is referred to as imaginary cartography and will be the focus of this critique.



The Geographical Guide to a Man’s Heart with Obstacles and Entrances by Jo Lowrey utilizes imaginary cartography to chart the emotional territory of a man in and out of love.  As the reader navigates the map they can imagine themselves or someone they know in each emotional state as one moves through life first single, then entered into a relationship, and eventually married.  The man’s heart is broken into states, territories, and provinces, of various emotions one experiences when dating. The “Land of Living it Up,” punctuated with “Sports Car Flats,” gives way to the “State of Solid Comfort” embellished with the “River of the Family Man” and “Homemaker’s Highway.”  

This map first appeared in an edition of McCall’s, a popular women’s magazine in the 1960’s that covered topics of homemaking, style, and beauty. The journey through a man’s heart provided insight into a world the intended audience may have had limited knowledge of, and in my opinion provides a lighthearted view into minds of the opposite sex apropos of the publication style. However, the map feels (understandably) antiquated and fails to resonate through time. The “states” depicted in the map reduce the emotional spectrum of men to that of dealings with the economy, the home, and courting. Smaller regions of the map — such as “The Province of Deep Thought” and “Look Ahead Land” — reveal men’s depth of emotion and character, but these areas are minimal in size, especially in comparison to the states and even regions dealing with eating and the feeling of superiority.  

Overall, the map is visually appealing and enjoyable to read; in fact it serves a dual purpose as a piece of art. However, The Geographical Guide to a Man’s Heart with Obstacles and Entrances generates some questions regarding design choices.  The colors chosen for the various “states” provide no information and appear to be chosen randomly.  That is not to say the map would look better without color, but that the colors confuse the reader; a legend may solve this issue, but may detract from the alluring nature of the map.  


In my attempt to understand the political, social, cultural, etcetera frameworks of “wilderness,” I have discovered an essay entitled “The Trouble with Wilderness,” by William Cronon.  The essay discusses the historical  roots of the current environmental movement in the United States and the relationship that the people of the country have with the wild. Throughout the paper Cronon describes how human feelings towards wilderness have experienced a total transformation over time due to two cultural constructs — the sublime and the frontier — and how this overhaul in emotion has influenced the U.S. environmental movement. The map that I have developed tracks these changes in attitude while incorporating elements from Lowrey’s Geographical Guide to a Man’s Heart.  


I have employed a similar technique to that of Lowrey in creating a navigable imaginary world to explore the emotional journey North Americans have undergone in their relationship with wilderness. I too have chosen to create definite borders in my map. For Lowrey, the heart provided borders; for my purposes the borders of the United States are suitable as the map focuses on the relationship between North Americans and wilderness. The U.S. borders implicitly tell the readers of the map the scope of the study.  I have also used rivers and streams as ways to connect one “state” with another, while allowing borders within the map to signify the changing of time or period within one’s life or in a movement. Unlike Lowrey, however, I have included a legend explaining how I have assigned particular colors to specific emotions.


Currently, I am unsure what the this map should be titled.  It is possible that future iterations of this map will not include color-coded emotions or a legend, as I am unsure whether this truly adds any value. In addition, future renditions may include a timeline at the bottom, incorporating time into the map more clearly. I ultimately decided to enclose this map within the U.S. borders, however I spent much time wondering if some amorphous shape would better serve this map overall.