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Urban emotions: Stress points in the city

Are cities stressing us out? Where do we feel insecure, and where do we feel relaxed? How do we move around in urban spaces and why? The spatial and social structures of a city such as buildings, traffic infrastructure and parks, and also the dynamics of human activities and the underlying processes, trigger different human reactions and sensations.

In order to measure and analyse these, modern technologies such as smartphone tracking, human sensors, geo data processing, computer linguistics, crowdsourcing in social networks and virtual reality approaches are applied. This new level of information provides planners with information about the emotional perception of space by city users and their expected behaviour in urban spaces. Sensors record the individual human sensations of test persons moving around the city on the basis of skin conductivity and temperature. The stress level is then assigned to a specific point in the city via GPS, making it possible to identify the neuralgic places where (traffic) planning intervention in the urban environment is necessary.

Good results from this contextual emotional information from Urban Emotions have already been achieved for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. In the EmoCyclingConcept case study, emotional city mapping was carried out using a cycle route through the city-centre of Worms, which identified various stress-inducing hotspots. Using video analysis, stress trigger types such as road surfaces, curves, junctions, bottlenecks, obstacles and also oncoming traffic and pedestrians could also be determined. The scientists consider this psycho-physiological approach as providing support for traditional planning processes, and as a warning system that provides information about emotions and related human activities in the dynamic complex of humans, buildings, traffic and space.

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