Tuesday was packed with information and inspiration.
In the evening I ventured all the way to the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience to listen to a panel discussion about Urban Mind, an app that collects information about how urban environments affect people’s mental state. I decided to go the event partly because it seemed interesting in general, but also because through my research I have found that emotional wellbeing is a prominent issue in cities. Urban areas are associated with a higher risk of mental health issues (Gibbons, Mechelli, Smythe, 2018).
Urban Mind is a tool for collecting real time data on how exposure to natural features within urban spaces affects mental well-being (Bakolis et al., 2018). It does this by asking the user to record and reflect on the environment they are in and how it makes them feel for a period of two weeks. It is a cross-disciplinary project between Dr. Andrea Mechelli, Nomad Projects, and J & L Gibbons Landscape Architecture and Urban Design.
The three collaborators emphasised that emotional or mental wellbeing is not simply a question about feeling well versus feeling unwell, but rather a spectrum of nuances that are dependent on many different factors.
The current app is the second version and is yet to be officially launched. When discussing the first version of the app Johanna Gibbons mentioned people had expressed that they liked being asked how they feel. Although this was ‘just an anecdote’, I see it as valuable information. It suggests that humans are emotional creatures and that reflecting on emotions is something people may feel is lacking in contemporary urban societies.
The panellists also talked about how the app is simply a tool that is being iterated and that some days it could just as well be a chat over a cup of tea. As Michael Smythe from Nomad Projects so beautifully expressed it: ‘A cup of tea and an app can be equally effective.’
Bakolis, I. et al. (2018) 'Urban Mind: Using Smartphone Technologies to Investigate the Impact of Nature on Mental Well-Being in Real Time', BioScience, 68(2), pp. 134–145, doi: 10.1093/biosci/bix149
Gibbons, J., Mechelli, A., and Smythe, M. (2018) Urban Mind [Panel discussion] Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience. 5 June