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Paths of Desire

'Paths of Desire': a design research project with Lancaster University

12th August, 2015

This month has seen us begin a fascinating new project in collaboration with the Creative Exchange (CX) team at Lancaster University. ‘Paths of Desire’ is a design research project that will explore the role of cartography (the study and practice of map-making) in the digital age. 

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Creative Exchange project is designed to bring together the finest minds in academia with pioneering companies from the creative sector. Together, partners explore potential opportunities around the subject of ‘digital public space’ – where anyone, anywhere, and anytime, can access, explore and create using digital content and technology. 

Alongside the core CX partners – Lancaster University, Newcastle University and the Royal College of Art – a team of PhD researchers are working together on some intensive co-creation and design research. We were thrilled when the CX research team at Lancaster University asked us to join the ‘Paths of Desire’ project as creative industry partners.    

The project was created to challenge conventions around digital cartography with the partners particularly keen to explore ways of encouraging city dwellers to stray from their normal paths and, as a result, discover ‘hidden gems’ within the city. 

Today, most people experience digital maps through the ever-dominant Google Maps. For this project, we will investigate opportunities for the creation of personalised dynamic digital maps that provide new and interesting representations of the landscape. By changing the aesthetic of the map in real time, users will be able to diverge from their usual routes, helping them to discover more of their local environment.   

This project continues recent cartographical work that the mN team have been exploring, from map functionality in the American Air Museum website to the Manchester Walking Tours app: a combination of audio directions and an on-screen map that provides a unique way to discover city centre landmarks and hidden gems. 

We are delighted to be working with the CX team, building on our own knowledge and expertise of integrating maps into digital experiences, and can’t wait to share our findings from this pioneering project.

For more about the Paths of Desire project visit the project page on the Creative Exchange website.