Who decides the ugliness of a place?

An amazing visualization and discussion of urban decay photography in the US from geographer and current NYT Graphics Editor, Derek Watkins.

Derek Watkins

Locations where flickr users identify urban decay in the contiguous US

I’m fascinated by how the meanings of places change from one person to the next. A given place could be sublime or mundane: it depends on who you ask. One example springs to mind. Much has been written (and photographed) of Detroit’s decline in recent years, so much so that although I’ve never visited the city it’s become linked in my mind to images of stagnation and urban decay (even though I recognize that isn’t necessarily the case). In some sense I have a feel for the place, even though I’ve never even come close to visiting it. I think there are some implications to my feeling as if I understand a place that I’ve never been to. You could certainly argue that anyone’s feelings about a place are always filtered and biased, and I would agree. But I think this is different.

How do I construct my feelings about…

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