Aesthetic Capital: What Makes London Look Beautiful, Quiet, and Happy?

Feb 15, 2014

In the 1960s, Lynch’s “The Image of the City” explored what impression US city neighborhoods left on its inhabitants. The scale of urban perception studies until recently was considerably constrained by the limited number of study participants. We here present a crowdsourcing project that aims to investigate, at scale, which visual aspects of London neighborhoods make them appear beautiful, quiet, and/or happy. We collect votes from over 3.3K individuals and translate them into quantitative measures of urban perception. In so doing, we quantify each neighborhood’s aesthetic capital. By then using state-of-the-art image processing techniques, we determine visual cues that may cause a street to be perceived as being beautiful, quiet, or happy. We identify effects of color, texture and visual words. For example, the amount of greenery is the most positively associated visual cue with each of the three qualities; by contrast, broad streets, fortress-like buildings, and council houses tend to be associated with the opposite qualities (ugly, noisy, and unhappy).

  • CSCW 2014
  • Conference/Workshop Paper