Paths and Patches: Patterns of Geognosy and Gnosis

Paths and Patches: Patterns of Geognosy and Gnosis

Alan Dix (Lancaster University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-020-2.ch001
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Abstract

Map, mazes, myths, magic, and mathematics, computation, cognition, community, and the constructed environment, all reveal something of our internal models of space. Whilst the spaces we inhabit have many objective properties, we only perceive and process certain of these, and add many social and subjective qualities of our own. In fairy tales and science fiction, some of the “real” properties are let slip, yet the worlds remain comprehensible. Studying the essential and nonessential qualities of space can guide the construction and navigation of information spaces. However, the very idea of information spaces, and indeed cyberspace, presupposes that spatial metaphors can make sense of information. This chapter explores the relationships between our understandings of physical space and conceptual spaces; from childhood memories, to transarticulation, the way words shape our conceptual and physical landscape, we will see that our understandings of space and of knowledge itself are similarly shaped.
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Introduction

In previous talks and papers, I have explored the way we as humans understand the physical world (Dix, 2000; Dix 2001; Dix, Friday, Koleva, Rodden, Muller, Randell, & Steed, 2005). Artefacts, words, and abstractions, such as maps, mazes, myths, magic, and mathematics, computation, cognition, community identity, and the constructed environment, all reveal something of our internal models of space. Whilst the space in which we live has many objective properties, we only perceive and process certain of these, and add many social and subjective qualities of our own. In fairy tales and science fiction, some of the “real” properties are let slip, yet the worlds remain comprehensible. By observing which properties can be lost, we understand more clearly what is essential.

My own reason for studying the essential and nonessential qualities of space has been to understand the construction and navigation of information spaces. Others have had similar motivation; for example, the Tower project used theories of space syntax to lay out information objects in virtual spaces (Prinz, Pankoke-Babatz, Graethe, Gross, Kolvenbach, & Schäfer, 2004). However, the very idea of information spaces, and indeed cyberspace, presupposes that spatial metaphors can make sense of information. In this chapter, we will explore the relationships between our understandings of physical space and conceptual spaces. From childhood memories of the back lanes on the way to school, to transarticulation, the way words shape our conceptual and physical landscape, we will see that our understandings of space and of knowledge itself are similarly shaped.

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