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Gaining From People’s Emotions in City Planning: Emotional Maps As One of Civic Tech Tools

Where are you feeling good? Where do you feel unsafe? Or where does it smell? Asking citizens about their perception of specific areas can make the city’s planning processes better and more inclusive. Emotional maps allow citizens to record their emotional preferences regarding the places in which they live.

The use of emotional maps in the planning of cities, municipalities and regions is based on the concept of GeoParticipation, i.e. the use of spatial tools in the involvement of citizens in decision-making processes. Most often, citizens make decisions about public spaces and the surroundings in which they live. Outputs from similar tools can play a significant role in the development of the city, if the people who decide on the development are willing to listen to them 😏.

The original idea for the tool was born in Helsinki, where a group of Finnish researchers and urban planning experts discovered an emerging problem: the growing need for cities and urban planners to engage the public and get real input from local residents. However, the methods used at the time were not sufficient to take people’s opinions into account on a large scale and translate them into action steps. Thus, experts have come up with a way of using opinions and subjective data in GIS applications that offer a potential way to solve these challenges of public participatory planning.

Mapping tools for participation have gradually gained popularity worldwide. In addition, the development of modern technologies has accelerated the emergence of a number of digital tools. Maptionnaire (FI), Debatomap (FR) or Pocitové mapy (Emotional maps, CZ) are few examples of mapping tools for citizen engagement. We list these applications among e-participation tools, or civic tech. The use of digital tools in participatory planning is a common trend today, as decision-makers recognize the power of technology to connect people, improve cities, and make governance more effective.

Emotion maps, specifically, allow collecting, analyzing and visualizing subjective, qualitative and spatial information. They are becoming an increasingly widespread part of urban planning. Engaging the public in urban planning through maps offers a number of benefits: it can lead to fairer planning processes and outcomes, hold public officials accountable based on the input from communities, and improve the quality of planning decisions. 

And what can you ask the general public about? The most frequent questions are usually:

Where do you feel good?

Where are you proud of the city?

Where do you play sports?

Where do you spend your free time?

Where do you feel unsafe?

By asking a few basic questions that citizens respond to directly by placing pins on the map, you gain valuable data about the city, its dynamics, and the people who live in it. The results can be used as supporting documents for planning investment actions, creating transport concepts, or as additional information for the city police. With this very simple tool, you can move towards a more open and innovative governance.


Are you considering using an e-participation tool and need advice? Contact us via info@participationfactory.com



  • Pánek, Jiří. ‘Mapping Citizens’ Emotions: Participatory Planning Support System in Olomouc, Czech Republic’. Journal of Maps 15, no. 1 (2 January 2019): 8–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/17445647.2018.1546624.
  • Pánek, Jiří, and Vít Pászto. ‘POCITOVÉ MAPY V PLÁNOVÁNÍ MĚST A REGIONŮ’ 2016, no. 04 (n.d.). http://www.regionalnirozvoj.eu/sites/regionalnirozvoj.eu/files/04_panek_paszto_pocitove_mapy.pdf.
  • ‘Pocitové Mapy’, n.d. https://www.pocitovemapy.cz/.
  • Maptionnaire | Community Engagement Platform. ‘Pros & Cons of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) in Urban Planning — Maptionnaire’. Accessed 11 November 2022. https://maptionnaire.com/blog-list/pros-cons-of-ppgis-in-urban-planning.
  • Cover image source: https://www.mhdt.org.uk/community-mapping-project/