Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Emotional Mapping and Natural Disasters

Exploring the Potential of Experience-Based Urban Planning Practices to Inform Humanitarian Action in Latin America and the Caribbean

Funded through the HI² Research Seed Grant Program, this project brings together an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners to pilot and improve an innovative participatory emotional mapping methodology. Emotional mapping helps to access peoples’ experiences and emotions in a way that facilitates an understanding of the decision-making processes and behaviors of human beings. This is particularly important for disaster management because it has become increasingly necessary to understand and explain the so-called ‘irrational’ decisions and behaviors of ‘at risk’ people and humanitarian aid workers. Further, the project aims to promote the recognition of the value of personal experiences and emotions for both the empowerment of local communities and the training of emergency responders. After a first stage of literature review, the researchers will refine emotional mapping methodology through a project team reunion. They will then pilot the emotional mapping methodology through a small workshop with householders in Rio de Janeiro, affected by heavy rains, landslides and floods in 2013 and in 2018. They will use these results to inform and refine the emotional mapping methodology, and consequently producing an evidence summary document for NGOs and householders highlighting the seasonality of these extreme events and the necessity of strengthening disaster preparedness measures.