Place Pulse: ‘Hot Or Not’ For Cities

Which elements affect people’s perception of urban space? This is what MIT Media Lab and Macro Connections try to find out with the online project Place Pulse. The website, which actually functions like a ‘Hot or Not’ for cities, aims to gain a greater understanding of the collective processes that potentially create the perceptions we have of cities.

Participants are able to answer three different questions that all come with a pair of photos of an urban setting of which people have to choose one. People have to decide which of the two presented places looks safer, which place looks more upper-class, or which place looks more unique. As each image is compared, a ranking of which image is more, or less safe, upper-class or unique emerges. In the end Place Pulse is able to create spatial visualizations that provide great insight in how different urban settings and constellations are perceived.

“Place Pulse is a website that allows anybody to quickly run a perception study and visualize the results in powerful ways. (…) Place Pulse crowdsources surveys to Internet participants, asking binary perception questions across a large number of geotagged images. From the responses of each participant, directed graphs are generated, which are then layered with the graphs of others, forming what we call a perception network. This perception network can be analyzed and visualized in a multitude of ways, allowing the experimenter to identify interesting patterns in the data, possibly forming the basis for a future hypothesis.”

The idea is so simple but so brilliant at the same time and provides really useful information for people involved with city planning, such as governments, councils and architects. It perfectly touches upon the subconscious judgements that we make about our surroundings when we stroll around the city. Place Pulse has generated almost 350,000 votes already. Check it out, try it for yourself!