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Mentally Mapping Space - Obie Campbell

In London it is easy to become lost around the big city and little alleys, I will be exploring the theories and practices about why and how people in cities mentally construct the urban spaces around them in order to navigate and inhabit them. To answer this question I intend to compare and contrast the needs of a traveller and identify who this person might be, explore how he/she view the urban space creating private cartographies, and consider how internal knowledge is assisted and prompted by forms of off-route / on route information. Our needs affect the way in which we navigate. A Flâneur’s needs are very different compared to a tourist and both travelers needs contrast against an urban resident. Other travelers who explore space such as the Situationist International have political and experimental needs. Urban residents use the city space to navigate and accomplish daily routines often repeated and decided by preference, priorities and self improvement. In The Spaces of the Modern City (pg.9), Belinda Davis observed that, “the city provided for them (the urban resident), these activities reconstituted the city as a “scene” and a “movement” attuned to their own needs”. The urban resident mentally maps and edits the important and unimportant information on their daily journeys. Space for the urban resident is a familiar routine without unexpected paths of desire. The way in which the urban resident looks is important too. In London we have generally become accustomed to looking down. This is because socially it is thought of as rude or strange to look or glance at another persons watch, newspaper or face in situations such as the tube, or walking on a street. This closed vision is very limited therefore the urban residents knowledge of a space is only attuned to their particular routes. In relation to my project when I asked people for directions to places such as the Apple Store in Regents Street or a particular street name I noticed that they would only be able to recall area names or landmark buildings within vision. This may be because they use that area to travel daily within however they would not be able to identify the Apple Mac store because it is not attuned to their needs; we feel rather than see and move through the city rather than visually taking it in. I would also like to suggest that we have become accustomed to other sets of eyes for example, cameras and neighborhood watches; the media then uses the screen to play views of seeing back to us. “People can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves” Karl Marx (WikipediaPsychogeography). Benjamin Walter also notices a distraction within urban residents he suggests a concept of the “loss of aura” (Warped Space, pg.82) within this person. In Warped Space (pg.82) he suggests that the urban resident is “jaded, bored, or swamped by the flood of visual and social stimuli of the modern city”. The urban resident could become bored of their daily routine or the media and signs continually bombarding them and therefore not feel the need to look around themselves. How an urban resident moves is very important too. If they travel underground mostly their sense of time and distance would be very different to traveling on a bike or walking. Their view of space would be limited. Where as if a traveler travels on the overhead train quick scenic snap shots are offered to look at David Frisby quoted “Railway Systems offer some pleasure though free and rapidly changing outlook” (The spaces of the modern city, pg.48). Traveling by car also limits choose of route and view, this is caused by entry / non entry signs. In contrast the tourists needs are to look for and follow guided and suggested places of interest or experience. Tourists rely on off-route, such as portable maps and on-route, such as environmental signs and information around them. Planning is also a key factor when navigating because the space is strange and unfamiliar. Tourists are eager to track down monumental landscapes suggested by guidebooks, help centers, and maps. These resources limit the view and experience of the city because they do not offer or suggest the chance to go off route. It has been suggested by Edmund White that the tourists are “always driven my the urge towards self improvement” (The Flâneur, Pg.40) This suggests that the tourist would rather say they have been somewhere to feel satisfied rather than visually seeing a place. To be lost in a urban space for a resident is a rare experience due to their daily routines however tourists can become easily displaced with a space. The word lost has connotations of confusion, upset or failure. To become lost a person is unable to recognize or pin point the relative objects around themselves, this is the failure of Topographic memory. Jacques Lacan (Modern movements in European philosophy, Pg. 269) believes that “the basic problems and anxieties of the individual result in the inability to ‘adapt’ to the environmental conditions of his social surrounding’. The tourist then needs to go through the thought process of how they are going to identify their orientation within the space, whether it it be by verbal instructions, official or unofficial signs; these are just a few suggested examples. This is a conscious process of identifying the problem and then to see, decide and move.


Mentally Mapping Space - Obie Campbell A Flâneur’s need to navigate is to amble through a city indecisively without apparent purpose. Socially a Flâneur can be viewed by urban residents as a loiterer. A Loiterer has the connotations of wasting time, or avoiding certain social activities such as working. Instead a Flâneur searches for adventure with no mental route or plan in the mind. In the city the urban resident would not have the time or need to do this because it would disrupt their daily routine. Benjamin Walter quotes, “He (or she) is not a foreign tourist eagerly tracking down the major sights and ticking them off a list of standard wanders...the Flâneur is in search of a experience, not knowledge” (Edmund White, The Flâneur, pg.46). I think a Flâneur’s mental map would not be set routes or plans but fragments of objects within time and space. In many ways instead of a Flâneur finding the signs the signs come to the Flâneur. The Flâneur has no sense of or interest in time within an urban space compared to the the urban resident to tourist. The Situationist International was a group whose aim was to contradict and divert the prescribed organization of the Capitalist by experimental strategies; within the 1950’s and 1960’s mainly within France. The practice central to the Situationist International was the Dérive (translated as drift), which was a experimental movement through the city space with no preconceptions of the built environment. Their aim is to encounter space not fully determined by Capitalism unlike the Flâneur who wanders around aimlessly. Guy Debord (1958) expressed it as “a technique of transient passage through varied ambiance's” (City A-Z, Steve Pile and Nigel Thrift, pg.265 ) According to Steve Pile and Nigel Thrift ‘being random” in the contemporary capitalist city “...required a certain amout of preparation” (City A-Z, pg.265). This statement is contradictory, to be random is to make, do, or choose without method or conscious decision. They used maps and arial photographs to determine starting points. I believe this equipment helped them to identify tourist areas, that they were trying to avoid. They used space to uncover hidden parts of the city. The mental paths created are constantly jotted and mixed creating a new awareness of the urban space.. “From a derive point of view cities have physcogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones” Guy Debord (Wikepdia - Psychogeography ). This suggests an awareness of space and the controlled or uncontrolled spaces within space. When on a journey be it physically walking through a space or mentally mapping a decision through internal knowledge, to be able to identify eligible routes, this knowledge is combined with external information. Kevin Lynch’s work, The Image of the City, studies how users perceive and organize spatial information as they navigate through cities. He also suggests predictable methods of mentally identifying elements. These include recognizing, paths, districts, nodes, edges and landmarks (Wikipedia - Kevin Lynch). However the London Taxi driver does not have the same mental ability as the ‘average’ user. London Taxi driver’s learn how to identify numerous routes and runs. They also have to imagine and reenact places where a passenger might be asked to be taken. To do this they learn streets, roads, squares, parks, open spaces, associations and institutions the list continues. These references are known as points. The Wellcome Trust of Neuroscience found that a person who studies the knowledge for an average of two years resulted in a larger Hippocampus (Dr Spiers and Professor Maguire- The Wellcome Trust). Even Bus Drivers do not have larger area of memory because their routines are repetitive. The Wellcome Trust identified that London Taxi drivers have three types of cell, place cells which identify where they are, head direction cells that act as a compass and grid cells. Dr Spiers from the Wellcome Trust quotes "Nature is far ahead of us and seems to have developed these tools inside our heads for our survival." Tina a London Taxi driver explained on the Transport London website , “When people ask me for a place to go a map suddenly pops up in my mind. I already know where I am so I only have to remember one point, the destination”. This process of thinking is very different from the tourist who has to firstly identify that they are lost, then where they are lost, and how to reach their destination to complete the journey from point A to point B. Taxi driver’s also have great updated knowledge and awareness about suitable routes, time, and distance by constantly comparing attributes such as traffic, public transport, road disruptions etc. Per Mollup in Wayshowing, states that we navigate by tactile and environmental signs, names, and verbal instructions, unofficial or official this can then be classed into different categories such as off-route, on-route and official, unofficial. Traffic and movement of bodies within a space is also an identifier. It is not something spatially fixed but constantly moving which helps a person to identifying the flow of the system of the city. Architecture is also a clear point of reference. When navigating around a space our memories can become unstable and forgetful, this is when we become lost. By using our Cognitive maps the mental processing of information helps us to acquire, store, code, and decode information. They give us a sense of direction despite the constant changes around us. Most of us do not travel with maps in our pockets but we all travel with maps in out minds. Katherine Harmon suggests in You are Here, the word orientation is a metaphor “crashing through the larger landscapes of memory, experience and knowledge” (pg.15). This thought 2

Mentally Mapping Space - Obie Campbell process creates a private cartography formed of a grid of past, present and future. Cognitive maps are very broad, from helping us to identifying the shape of a continent to being able to visualize our local street, Katerine Harmon quotes Dante Alighieri “...we are laying a new set of lines down on a known and changing world arranging and rearranging metaphysical rhumbs..” (You are Here, Pg.15) A urban residents view of the city is ariel this is how we visualize the space around us. What also makes cognitive maps unique is the way in which the traveler interprets and chooses the meaning of signs and how these signs work together. In Mimesis as make-believe, Roland Barthes calls this translinguitstics “It presupposes that every sign... operates not in isolation but within a system of signifying relations.”(pg.321) In conclusion imagination is also key when orientating around a space. Without imagination we would not be able to mentally visualize a chosen path, place or recall past experiences. I also found that mental mapping is a key process within the design process. We use our imagination, consciousness and memory to question our design thinking and to imagine a route through the research and development stages to a final piece or idea. “Maps offer clear routes, in which resides all that creativity can bring to ones' imagined passage of the physical world” (You are Hers, Katherine Harmon, pg.16). Our internal cartographies combined with external information suggest that the best maps are the ones we mentally construct that compare, identify and visualize, time, distance, space, crime, traffic, experiences and more.

References: Vidler, Anthony, (2000 ) Warped space : art, architecture, and anxiety in modern culture, London : Cambridge, MIT Press Prakash, Gyan and Kruse, Kevin, (2008) The spaces of the modern city : imaginaries, politics, and everyday life, Oxford : Princeton University Press Kearney, Richard, (1994) Modern movements in European philosophy, Manchester : Manchester University Press Pile, Steve and Thrift, Nigel, (2000) City A-Z, London : Routledge White, Edmund, (2001) The Flâneur : a stroll through the paradoxes of Paris, London : Bloomsbury Lynch, Kevin, (1960) The image of the city / Kevin Lynch, London : MIT Press Harmon, Katherine, (2004) You are here: Personal Geographies and other maps of the imagination, New York : Priceton Architectural Press Walton, Kendall L , (1990) Mimesis as make-believe: on the foundations of the representational arts, London : Harvard University Press Dictionary: Orientation, Lost, Cognitive, Memory, Direction


Mentally Mapping Space - Obie Campbell Further Reading: - Mollerup, Per, (2005) Wayshowing : a guide to environmental signage : principles & practices, Baden : Lars Müller Harmon, Katherine, (2004) You are here: Personal Geographies and other maps of the imagination, New York : Priceton Architectural Press Vidler, Anthony , (2000) Warped space : art, architecture, and anxiety in modern culture, London : MIT Press - City A-Z / edited by Steve Pile and Nigel Thrift. Published: London : Routledge, 2000. Berger, Craig, (2005) Wayfinding : designing and implementing graphic navigational systems, Mies : RotoVision Fawcett-Tang, Roger, Essays by William Owen, (2005) Mapping : an illustrated guide to graphic navigational systems, Mies : RotoVision Prakash, Gyan and Kruse, Kevin, (2008) The spaces of the modern city : imaginaries, politics, and everyday life, Oxford : Princeton University Press White, Edmund, (2001) The Flâneur : a stroll through the paradoxes of Paris, London : Bloomsbury McCrone, John, (2000) Going inside : a tour round a single moment of consciousness, London : Faber. Baddeley, Alan D, (2004) Your memory : a user’s guide, London : Carlton Abrams, Janet and Hall, Peter, (2006) Else/where : mapping : new cartographies of networks and territories, Minneapolis, Minn. : University of Minnesota Design Institute Fawcett-Tang, Roger, Essays by William Owen, (2008) Mapping graphic navigational systems, Mies ; Hove : RotoVision Carr, Stephen, (1973) City Signs and Lights : A Policy Study, MIT P Evamy, Michael, (2003) World without words, London : Laurence King Mayer, Dieter, (2008) Orientation and identity : portraits of international signage projects, London : Springer David Gibson ; foreword by Christopher Pullman. Author: Gibson, David, (2009) The wayfinding handbook : information design for public places, New York : Princeton Architectural ; Enfield : Publishers Group UK Naegele, Isabel, (2004) Scents of the city, Baden : Lars Müller Publishers Libeskind, Daniel, (2001) Daniel Libeskind : the space of encounter, London : Thames & Hudson, 2001. Kearney, Richard, (1994) Modern movements in European philosophy, Manchester : Manchester University Press Benjamin, Walter, (1985) One-way street and other writings / Walter Benjamin, London : Verso Ulrich Gumbrecht, Hans, Marrinan, Michael, (2003) Mapping Benjamin : the work of art in the digital age, Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press Küsters, Christian, (2001) New systems in graphic design, London : Thames & Hudson Jacobs, Frank, (2009) Strange maps : an atlas of cartographic curiosities, New York ; London : Viking Studio Wildbur, Peter, (1989) Information graphics : a survey of typographic, diagrammatic and cartographic communication, New York : Van Nostrand Reinhold 4

Mentally Mapping Space - Obie Campbell Wildbur, Peter, (1998) Information graphics : innovative solutions in contemporary design, London : Thames & Hudson Henrion, F. H. K, (1983) Top graphic design : examples of visual communication by leading graphic designers, Zurich : ABC Verlag Walton, Kendall L, (1990) Mimesis as make-believe: on the foundations of the representational arts, London : Harvard University Press Lynch, Kevin, (1984) Good city form / Kevin Lynch. Author:, 1918-1984, Cambridge, MA ; London : MIT Press Lynch, Kevin, (1972) What Time is This Place?, Cambridge, Mass. ; London : M.I.T. Press Lynch, Kevin, (1960) The image of the city, Cambridge, Mass ; London : MIT Press

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Mentally Mapping Spaces  

Visual Cultural Studies Essay Obie Campbell