Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Local Artist Jennifer Chenoweth's “Hedonic Map of Austin" On Display at Psychology Department's Seay Building

Fri, March 7, 2014
Local Artist Jennifer Chenoweth's “Hedonic Map of Austin

Local artist and UT alumna Jennifer Chenoweth wants to know where you have had the most intense experiences in Austin—specific locations and the emotions attached to them. Her “Hedonic Map of Austin” project seeks to spotlight, “how connected we are to others who have similar experiences in the same space, and how we could show on a map where each had the exact same feeling overtake him or her.”

The ongoing results of this project can now be seen in the Psychology Department’s Seay building on the UT campus in the southeast entrance and in the stairwell. The pieces, hosted by the Department through August 2014, are part of a collaborative, interactive project that maps emotional experiences throughout Austin. Chenoweth explains, “In a city with so many people and experiences, it’s often our emotions that draw us back to or away from certain places. This is an attempt to discover patterns that contribute to a collective experience of emotions at any given place.”

Inspired by her own experiences in Austin and shared experiences with friends, Jennifer researched different types of pain and pleasure by behaviorists, psychologists, and other thinkers to create a series of questions about everything from simple pleasures to the loss of love.

Participants anonymously answer 20 questions regarding the locations where they have experienced particular emotions, such as "Where have you laughed the hardest?" and "Where did you feel utter disgust?" Combining the places given in the answers with the types of emotions conveyed, Chenoweth then collaborates with data imagists to create a map that shows the highs and lows of collective experiences.

Large, colorful flower-shaped diagrams, inspired by psychotherapist Robert Plutchik's psychoevolutionary theory of emotion, are another aspect of the project. Plutchik considered there to be eight primary opposing emotions—anger vs. fear, joy vs. sadness, trust vs. disgust, and surprise vs. anticipation—which he assigned to color-coded areas on a color wheel. Chenoweth has created her own color wheels, to which visitors can apply their answers to her 20 emotion/location questions on separate pieces of paper in the color/mood area of the diagram they feel most appropriate.

At UT, students, faculty and all interested parties are invited to view the installation of Hedonic maps and Plutchik-inspired color wheels, as well as contribute to the ongoing project by participating in the 20-question survey (results to be added to a second Hedonic map at a later date), and/or by adding a Post-It flag to the large map of Austin in the stairwell to mark personal emotional landmarks.

Surveys can be found next to the exhibit in the Seay building, as well as online at Chenoweth’s Fisterra Studio website ( at:

The Hedonic Map of Austin project is sponsored by the City of Austin's Cultural Arts Division and has been covered in the press by the Austin Chronicle (cover story, December 18, 2013), The Austin American-Statesman, Tribeza, Austin Monthly and The End of Austin. (More press at Images of the installation at Co-Lab Projects can be seen at:



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