Stanford Literary Lab
Stanford Literary Lab

Researchers Map the Emotions of Fictional London

Stanford Literary Lab
Stanford Literary Lab

London has served as the setting for sweeping romances, murder mysteries, and pretty much every other genre of fiction you can name. But not every London neighborhood has received equal literary treatment. As Smithsonian.com reports, a new project from Stanford’s Literary Lab explores the emotions attached to different parts of London in 18th and 19th century novels.

The literary maps are featured in a pamphlet titled “The Emotions of London” [PDF]. For their study, researchers fed novels into a computer program that searched for mentions of specific place names in London. From there, they paid freelancers to look at the context of 15,000 locations and identify the emotions associated with them.

It’s no surprise that London’s historically affluent West End is depicted in a happier light than the historically poor East End, which is most heavily associated with fear. What’s more interesting is how little the data changes from one decade to the next. The British capital underwent major shifts between 1700 and 1900. An exploding population stretched the borders outward while the City in central London became less crowded. Despite this, London writers remained preoccupied with the West End and the City throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

“It is fascinating to measure how novelists both reflect normative space and diverge from ‘real’ space,” the pamphlet’s primary cartographer Erik Steiner said in a release. “London novels tended to be slow to adopt new places as they were populated over time.” You can check out some highlights from the pamphlet below.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

All images courtesy of Stanford Literary Lab.

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Most People Consistently Visit 25 Different Places in Their Daily Lives
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We move around a lot less during our daily lives than you might expect. Based on data from 40,000 people, a new study on human mobility finds that we tend to frequent only 25 places at any given time in our lives.

In the study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, researchers from City, University of London, the Technical University of Denmark, and Sony Mobile Communications found that people tend to have a maximum number of 25 places that they visit regularly, and if they begin frequenting a new place, they probably stop going to another, keeping their total number of haunts constant.

The researchers used several different datasets to understand how people move through their lives, including studies with college students and university employees, data from a smartphone activity tracker called Lifelog, and a Nokia research project that tracked the behavior of a group of cell phone users living near Lake Geneva in Switzerland between 2009 and 2011.

They found that people constantly face trade-offs between the curiosity that drives us to check out new places and the laziness and comfort that keeps us going back to our regular haunts. As a result, the number of locations we tend to visit stays relatively steady. People “continually explore new places yet they are loyal to a limited number of familiar ones,” the authors write.

Though that number may sound a little low to anyone with wanderlust, it makes sense. People don’t have infinite time or resources. Even the number of friends we’re capable of keeping up with is rather limited—anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously hypothesizes that humans can only sustain around 150 friendships at a time, and only five of those friends will be truly close ones. And if that’s our upper limit for connections we can technically maintain without ever leaving our computers, it makes sense that we would be able to sustain even fewer connections to places, which by nature require some amount of travel. If you find a new restaurant and become a regular, it’s probably at the expense of another restaurant you used to visit all the time.

However, the study found that the number of places you frequent can’t necessarily be explained only by the amount of free time you have. The researchers argue that “the fixed capacity is an inherent property of human behavior.” The 25-place rule held even if they adjusted for the time people spent at each location. They also found that the more social a person was, the more places they visited.

The researchers hope to continue their work by looking at connections between mobility and Dunbar’s work on social ties, figuring out how exactly your social life plays into how you move around the world.

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Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
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Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

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