Map your London

Our GeoDataViz team took part in the ‘Late at the library: you are here’ event hosted by the British Library, with demos and displays by OS and the Geovation Hub, amongst other mappy delights. Find out what happened at the event.

Hosting ‘Map Your London’, we came equipped with sharpies and an (almost) blank canvas of London. Our aim was to understand how those living in London visualise their city. How do they navigate? How would they depict Big Ben or 30 St Mary Axe? What names do they use to describe historic and modern landmarks? So, armed with a pen we let them get to work…

In all over 700 people attended the late event and our exhibition was a constant hub of intrigue, chatter, and scribbling. In fact, it was so popular many came back to add to the map for a second and third time. It was an interesting and surprising exercise and we were certainly able to extract some useful insight (although some cartographic markings made us blush).

A few points of note include:

  • Even with a focal point such as the River Thames included on the sheet, many people had to refer to the context map we displayed on a nearby screen to understand where things were spatially.
  • There seemed to be a very strong feeling of a rich and poor divide, and people were very keen to mark these areas on the map.
  • There were a lot of political references made to the map.
  • Most were keen to add a place that meant something – like their house, or the place they met their partner.
  • Adding tourist hot spots was popular.
  • The map underwent a lot of quality control between users.
  • One person named every bridge along the River Thames!

The finished map has become somewhat of a treasured art piece and it would be an interesting exercise to try again in other cities to see if it returns similar or very different responses.

Image courtesy of the British Library


1 Response

  1. It is interesting to see that the rich / poor divide was such a focal point in this exercise and the spatial mapping of buildings under such a context is definitely something that could be explored further. An entire map of the UK would be a thoughtful undertaking in the context of wealth. It’s also interesting that certain buildings’ architecture is specifically drawn out whereas others are simply conveyed as boxes or arrows.

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