October 3: Cognitive Mapping, Dissonance + Resistance | Lab #2

Kevin Lynch, via Bostonography

Lab: small-group cognitive mapping exercise.

Maps of Avoidance, via Urban Omnibus


Lily Bui On, “The Art and Science of Polynesian Wayfinding,” PRX [radio]; Michel de Certeau, “Spatial Practices” In The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984): 100-134; Hand Drawn Map Association; Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (New York: Verso, 1991): 49-54, 413-18; Kevin Lynch, “The City Image and Its Elements” In The Image of the City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960): 46-90; Linda Poon, “Maps Made ‘From the Mind,’ Not from GPS,” CityLab (November 10, 2015); Kim Tingley, “The Secrets of the Wave Pilots,” New York Times Magazine (March 17, 2016); Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle, Cartographies of the Absolute (Washington, D.C.: Zero Books, 2015) [with companion website]; Denis Wood, Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas (Los Angeles: Siglio, 2010).


6 Replies

  • The ideas of mental mapping, the role of memory and physicality as overarching themes this week have made me think of mapping from a different perspective by emphasizing the ‘lived experience’ dimension, and how subjective space can be in relation to individual bodies.

    Firstly, there are the London cab drivers who are training their memory through exercises of visualization and the imprinting of routes by physically going through them on a motorbike, while making connections to the paper maps on their windshield. It seems that how space relates to their body helps them internalize place (this space – place relationship therefore is mediated by the body). In this regard, it is interesting to read the questions that Kevin Lynch asks to his subjects in ‘The Uses of Method’: here as well, we see that places have many layers of structure and meaning depending on how the subjects navigating these spaces experience them by moving through them, seeing, smelling, hearing them – and how recalling these impressions evokes emotional responses.

    The ‘Perfect City Working Group’ project gives insight into the many ways in which such lived experiences can be mapped in order to show information that purely geographical representations of space would exclude: important here are other bodies frequenting those same spaces and how they relate to one’s own body – so this is where the element of time comes in, as well as where these maps gain a highly political dimension. Bodies are like maps themselves: size, weight, color, sex, way of dressing etc. In other words, physical traits inform how these bodies are being read, and how their gestures are being interpreted or even classified by others. Regarding bodies within space as maps in turn highlights how maps of places are actively being reproduced by those bodies.

  • Fantastic, Simone! I’m so happy to hear that this week’s readings have proven so generative for you! Yes, we can use maps to capture lived and sensory experiences. Our bodies’ movement through space can ingrain maps in our minds and muscle memories. And yes, our coded bodies interact with other coded bodies, “scripting” the way we relate to each other and informing how we perceive particular sites and zones.

  • This week’s reading reminded me of the question what can be considered as data. Last year, I read a dissertation based on NY for my class. I was thrilled when I saw familiar street names. I could easily (and vividly) imagine the scene. I assumed the familiarity was a shared emotion or knowledge with people who regularly visit certain places. The Perfect City Working Group’s project enabled to see how diverse that experience can be. For me, the boundary based on the proper outfit was most intriguing–What would make one uncomfortable in some region but not the other? As “one’s history and identity affects how one moves through the city…,” personal experience seems to play a significant role in the cognition. This raises a question of the relation between perception and the familiarity. How would a “stranger’s” experience different from the others and what can tell us?

    • Thanks, Minsoo! I’m glad to see that this week’s readings have helped you think about data — and the variables affecting individual experience — differently! We tend to ascribe a positive connotation to the “familiar,” but places and experiences can be made familiar through stress or trauma, too.

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