Examining the New Kind of Beauty Using the Human Being as a Measuring Instrument

by Jou-Hsuan Wu

Institution: Högskolan i Gävle
Year: 2015
Keywords: Cartography; scaling; head/tail breaks; the theory of centers; fractals; and the mirror-of-the-self test; Engineering and Technology; Teknik och teknologier; Geomatics – master’s programme (one year) (swe or eng); Geomatik – magisterprogram (sv eller eng); Geomatics; Geomatik
Record ID: 1374435
Full text PDF: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-19201


A map combines scientific facts with aesthetic perceptions. This study argues that scaling is universal in mapping reality and evoking a sense of beauty. Scaling laws are used to reveal the underlying structures and dynamics of spatial features. Complex systems, such as living cities involve various interacting entities at all scales. Each individual coherently interacts and overlaps with others to create an unbreakable entity. Scaling structures are also known as fractals. Fractal geometry is used to depict a complex system. Natural objects, such as trees, contain a similar geometry (branches) at all scales. This study attempts to effectively visualize the scaling pattern of geographic space. In this regard, the head/tail breaks classification is applied to visualize the scaling pattern of spatial features. A scaling pattern underlies a geographic space. Visualizing the scaling structure using the head/tail breaks classification can further evoke a sense of beauty. This kind of beauty is on the structural level and was identified by Christopher Alexander, who asserted that beauty is not a personal experience but objectively exists in any space. Alexander developed the theory of centers to broaden the concepts of life and beauty.  A structure with a scaling property (with recursive centers) has high quality of life, and a scaling pattern has positive effects on individual’s psychological and physical well-being. To verify the concept of objective beauty, human beings are used as measuring instruments to examine the assumptions. This study adopts the mirror-of-the-self test to examine human reactions to 23 pairs of images, including photographs of buildings and two types of map. The idea is that participants sense the quality of life by comparing a pair of objects and selecting the object that presents a better picture of themselves. Once individuals feel the self in a picture, they are able to detect real beauty. In this manner, individuals can detect real beauty and life that deeply connect to their inner hearts. The tests were conducted through personal interviews and Internet surveys with the public and with professionals, and 392 samples were collected. The study results show that more than 60% of the individuals selected images with a scaling pattern. These results are in accordance with Alexander’s assumption. In particular, more than 65% individuals selected maps that depict scaling forms. Moreover, this study conducted a training test with a particular group of individuals, after which more than 70% of individuals selected scaling maps. The results reveal that scaling laws are applicable for creating maps and evoking a sense of beauty.