Where Am I?: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall

Where Am I?: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the MallHow I Came To Read This Book Harper Collins sent it to me as a very advanced readers edition Like, a year in advance As such, this is one of the least finished ARE s I ve ever received and it impacted the book The Plot Colin Ellard is a professor at the University of Waterloo interested in our fragile human relationship with space and place In this nonfiction book, he first looks at how our average navigational fumblings compare to that of some of nature s most magnificent self directed animals, as well as some select niche groups of people who have amazing navigation space skills The second part of the book then looks at how our rather basic grasp of space influences the way we interact with and build our homes, neighbourhoods, cities, public places, the internet, and greenspaces The Good The Bad As mentioned above, this book was greatly impacted by the fact it was unfinished for an ARE To break up the rather dense material, Ellard throws in quite a few engaging, interesting examples that are supposed to be accompanied by diagrams While I found myself getting into and absorbing information from the real life examples, the lack of diagrams failed to fully cement things in my brain, and I didn t take a whole lot away from the book Luckily, the latter half which focuses on humans made it a bit easier to get through, and the reason why this book gets 3 stars instead of 2 is I feel the diagrams would have greatly influenced my enjoyment of the whole thing That being said, I did take away perhaps Ellard s overriding purpose in writing this book I found myself analyzing my relationship with space, and thinking about how Ellard s suggestions would impact my world, and our collective one also.The Bottom Line An interesting concept if you re interested in such things but one that would be greatly served by the missing diagrams in my ARE Anything Memorable Not in particular I feel like I had an opportunity or two to bring up concepts in the book while I was reading it but that s all.50 Book Challenge Book 11 in 2009. I ve had this book a while and though some of it is a bit outdated, some is also very prescient While it does go off into the exploration of interior spaces a bit too much for me, it does also reinforce something that I teach as a basic tenant of my land navigation courses technology is increasingly disassociating us from our environment Whether that environment is built or natural, technology has decreased our awareness of our immediate surroundings to the detriment of ourselves, our natural world and, quite often, the person in the car next to you.Recommended especially if you are looking for some scientific data to back up your own similar thoughts on this subject. Amazing EPub, Where Am I Why We Can Find Our Way To The Moon, But Get Lost In The Mall Author Colin Ellard This Is Very Good And Becomes The Main Topic To Read, The Readers Are Very Takjup And Always Take Inspiration From The Contents Of The Book Where Am I Why We Can Find Our Way To The Moon, But Get Lost In The Mall, Essay By Colin Ellard Is Now On Our Website And You Can Download It By Register What Are You Waiting For Please Read And Make A Refission For You It was OK There were a few interesting things that I did not know, such as that humans have a measurably lower innate sense of place and direction than most other animals But this fact, like the rest of this book, was not as surprising or informative as I wished it had been And the book ends with a standard sort of plea we are destroying our world and making it a less congenial place to live, but you should only worry a little because there is hope It s not that this is wrong it s just that there is a lot to it than that, and this ending, like most of the rest of the book was mostly a lot of received wisdom regurgitated in the same way that I have seen it before It wasn t bad, but it wasn t good either. When I was a child, the minister in our church would frequently start his sermon by saying reading today s passage, I was struck by three ideas He would then launch into a good long sermon and build it up to a resounding closing crescendo I d start to lean forward to grab the hymnal in anticipation of the closing hymn but wait no He would proceed to start all over, and deliver a not quite so strong sermon on the second idea Just when you thought that it couldn t go on any longer, our minister would launch into a sermon on the same general theme based on his third idea We used to joke that his sermons inspired a profound, spiritual feeling of gratitude you thanked God they were over Why am I reminiscing about that dear man from long ago Well, reading You Are Here made me speculate that my former minister must have a long lost twin, the spatial psychologist and author Colin Ellard You Are Here starts out strong Part I Why Ants Don t Get Lost at the Mall offers a series of fascinating experiments that uncover how humans and other creatures navigate through space Sadly, for those of us prone to getting lost at the mall, despite blurb on the jacket if you, or your keys, have ever gotten lost, Ellard can tell you how it happened and how to stop it happening again this book does not offer any specific science based insights to improve our navigation skills unless you are planning to become a Bedouin tracker, in which case there are some fine tips about camel dung that you will no doubt enjoy even than I did.In Part II, the books starts to lose its way Taken on their own, the chapters on House Space, Working Space, and City Space offer nice overviews of architectural theory and urban planning, but taken together they draw on redundant material The book would be stronger if these three chapters were condensed and restructured The connection to spatial navigation grows even looser when the book moves to the chapter on Cyberspace The chapter starts off well enough with the theory that the human brain is uniquely capable of navigating virtual worlds, but after briefly presenting the result of one study on the topic of social distance in Second Life the rest of the chapter devolves into random musings on the powers and perils of virtual technology When the topic turns to Greenspace the book seems to wander off the path entirely Ellard s promising hypothesis that the way the human brain is wired to think about inside and outside space leads us to devalue our impact on natural spaces is never substantiated He vaguely refers to Jane Jacobs theory that the Romantic movement isolated us from nature, and extends that idea to conclude that all urbanized humans feel that nature is inherently outside of our day to day space From the first part of the book, I was expecting new insights into the relations between human beings and their natural environment based on brain science and psychology, not a tenuous connection based on Jacobs iconoclastic interpretation of Romantic poetry Ironically, the author s proposed antidote to nature deficit disorder is the encouragement of exactly the type of post industrial biophilia that was attempted by the the Romantic movement and, presumably, failed There seems to be little science to go on here, so we are instead presented with a loosely linked series of ideas on how to improve engagement with urban and suburban greenspaces For example, from the author s own experience the environment would benefit if everyone took down their fences and let their children play together in a kind of collective backyard This is a very nice image, but it s not exactly a scientifically validated psychological insight nor a tested ecological approach not to joke about anyone s kids, but surely our ecological footprint is smaller if we have fewer children, rather than letting hordes of urchins loose to play a giant game of hide and seek I don t mean to sound harsh, as I enjoyed the bulk of the book Perhaps I would have gotten out of Part II if I read it in a separate sitting and took it on it s own terms After reading Part I, I was expecting a scientific approach and became, well, disoriented when Part II swerved into speculative areas Or perhaps, like my childhood minister, Ellard would have been better served by saving some of his material for a later sermon. 80% incredibly interesting, 20% painfully obvious mixed with preachy mostly the last 20% So, 4 stars. This book initially annoyed the heck out of me Ellard s writing style seemed to schizophrenically fluctuate between ununderstandable scientific mumbo jumbo and trite, cheeky statements complete with exclamation points In reminding the reader of a point made earlier, Ellard often chose phrases like, this should remind you of which I found entirely unnecessary.But then it grew on me Or perhaps the subject matter became intelligible to my directionally dysfunctional brain Ellard starts with how humans navigate space I was lost, pun intentional, through most of this section I did learn some things, like the earth s magnetic pull isn t as simple as my vision of it was as if there was a bar magnet running through the core from south pole to north pole Compasses work because of the dynamo effect, the movements of massive amounts of conductive molten iron deep within the planet s core These movements, caused in turn by the rotation of the earth, throw gigantic magnetic field lines across the surface of the planet and far out into the space surrounding it When we hold a small navigational compass in our hand and watch the needle align with magnetic north, we are witnessing an alignment between the slender rod of metal in our hand and these huge churning seas of molten rock and metal deep beneath us Whoa.But then he got to Part II which was cheekily entitled Making Your Way In the World Today wherein he discussed our homes, our buildings and our cities I was particularly intrigued by the concept of isovist, the volume of space visible from a given point and how isovists affect where we choose to spend time Ergo, we must place our furniture with regard to isovists Intriguing.I also enjoyed his take on those huge foyers entrance halls in suburban houses, as it echoed thoughts I ve always had and then added to them entrance foyers can consist of multistory spaces complete with overlooking balconies and grandiose chandelier the effect of such entryways can be psychologically negative, causing visitors to jerk their heads upward in anxiety as they walk through the front door, as if they have found themselves at the bottom of a mineshaft The irony of such grand foyers is that they are seldom used, as the majority of owners of these houses drive directly into attached garages and enter through humble back doors into laundry or mud rooms It often seems as though the main function of the foyer, as the part of the house that makes that important first impression, is to stun potential buyers into submission than it is to exert any kind of positive influence on the owners of the house or its visitors Then Ellard falls apart again, spending the last 50 pages or so preaching at you about how to save the world I would have been fine with the preaching, but it seemed like an afterthought, tacked on because the book needed a moral message Ellard s point, a well taken one if not well presented, is that we are trashing the earth because we don t care about it because we don t really spend TIME with it So we need to get out of our isolated, isovist homes and spend time with the earth Learn how to wayfind like the Inuits Or at least go on a nature walk once in a while Ellard then adds that maybe technology will help us with this by being able to create soundscapes for our cities that will make us FEEL like we are in nature, which is not the same thing at all Again, a little schizophrenic for my tastes.But still an intriguing read and well worth the two days I spent reading it. You Are Here is a book about wayfinding and the perception of space.It starts with a description of how various animals those that are renowned for their navigational ability and those that aren t find their way to a fixed point For example, bees can tell each other how to get to a food source and homing pigeons and some ants can get home from distant places relative to their body size, at least The author compares this to human navigation tactics Humans are relatively easily disoriented and not good at judging scale or distances, but possess the unique ability to create and follow an abstract map For example, I might draw a map of the route from my apartment to my mother s house in which the entire middle is condensed into a short line representing the NJ Turnpike, and you would understand this.The second part of the book is devoted to these quirks of human spatial perceptions For example, we process spatial information by breaking it into chunks Canada is north of the U.S., so we are inclined to think that Montreal is north of Seattle it isn t Our understanding develops with age A child might think that an airplane is a machine that makes what is outside change, but an adult is capable of understanding how planes move us at high speed, distorting our primitive sense of place The author argues that our reasoning and abstracting skills make it possible for us to find our way through nonphysical environments such as the web He also talks a bit about Second Life and how people using it exhibit behavior similar to real life Though I roll my eyes at Second Life in general, I thought the author presented some interesting information based on it Finally, the author argues that our ability to abstract physical space has distanced us from nature and our environment in ways that make it difficult for us to appreciate the threats of climate change and pollution He talks a bit about nature deficit disorder and how technology makes it possible for us to experience life as a series of choppy moments at the computer, in the car, in the house never feeling contiguous with or part of nature Although I felt sympathy for his hypotheses, I didn t feel convinced by the way he argued them This part of the book seemed to overreach.Perhaps my expectations for this book were too high or too librarian focused I was hoping that it would focus on our behaviors in space contrasted with our behaviors in abstracted places like the web My favorite part of the book was his discussion of the placement of furniture in the house and the idea of isovists the proportion of the house can be seen from a given point He describes how he bought an expensive reading chair, put it in a quiet room, and proceeded never to sit in it, instead preferring a ratty chair in the living room which was full of kids and distractions Apparently people perceive locations as pleasant based on various criteria, including isovists This really rang true to me because I also have a reading chair that I never sit in, preferring instead a corner of the sofa with the best isovists in the apartment This spot is also preferred by Chris and Hetty it is always the first one chosen, as evidenced by the collapsed state of that sofa cushion. I received this book as an ARC from Harper Collins and working title was WHERE AM I Interestingly enough, I read this book while I was traveling My reasons for choosing this book to review were very personal I am extremely directionally challenged and Colin Ellard is a local author for me.This book starts out with an amusing anecdote about getting lost while on a camping trip and then moves into the mechanics of how navigation through both time and space is learned, perceived and negotiated Being prepared for a text book type read, this reader was pleasantly surprised WHERE AM I is obviously a well researched book and is filled with facts presented in a logical and entertaining way This book examines travel in every form, from negotiating our own homes to traveling the world and right through the mysterious world of cyberspace It looks at how all life forms manage to navigate through their life space and why some are adept at it than others.Colin Ellard is an experimental psychologist at the University of Waterloo, Ontario It is encouraging to me that admits he still gets lost in his home town This book held my attention through a turbulent plane ride back to Canada, and despite the information presented, I still managed to misplace my car in the Park and Fly parking lot. The author summarizes in the last sentence of the last chapter a major theme repeated throughout the book particularly in the second half Our future together depends on finding ways to understand and to feel the deep truth of the connection between person and place Locateness is a fundamental gift that the periphery gives us it is attractive and restorative to the human psyche Contact with nature and with natural space is good for our mind because we have a deep genetic connection and attraction biophilia to the natural world And our inability to make connections between different types of space the indoors and the outdoors, the urban and the rural has a basis in the makeup of the human mind and the way that we engage with space Humankind s increasing failure to live up to this picture paints a bleak future in the mind of the author For example, because spaces are completely separated by enclosures, we have difficulty connecting the warm security of our living rooms with the toxic foam floating down a river in the parkland or the litter we throw out on the ground by the fast food restaurant just outside of our doors Remote control garage doors openers allow commuting homeowners to drive directly from the office to the interior of their living space without making any contact with the outside world But I found myself sometimes challenging this hypothesis are things really so bleak And are the fixes he proposes all good ones In the discussion of virtual reality Ellard notes some important issues We are surprisingly quick to accept virtual spaces such as chasms or cliffs as the real thing Dual awareness, similar to lucid dreaming, is the norm What longer term chronic exposure to highly immersive virtual settings will result once Avatar like helmet based virtual reality scenarios find themselves in peoples homes in a few short years Understanding how we are affected by these transformations in how we live in space is perhaps no less urgent than the challenges presented by climate change We know from history that, all calls for prudent forethought notwithstanding, whatever we can make, we will make So we need to try to anticipate and influence outcomes for the better while we still have the chance Nevertheless, some of the proposed fixes to getting reconnected with spaces in this book seem a little far fetched In order to reaffix ourselves to outdoor spaces, we should intensively utilize virtual reality and so called ubiquitous computing the so called inverse of virtual reality, which grounds us to the larger environment by monitoring in the background selected variables in a gentle way that do not demand our full attention For example, the author s laboratory, RELIVE Research Laboratory for Immersive Virtual Environments , has as a goal the design virtual structures whose size and shape adapt over time to reflect the preferences and interest of the observer, as measured by their movements and physiological state They are even brainstorming how to design responsive architecture virtual buildings that can sense movements and even the physiology of their occupants, adjusting their properties accordingly to yield maximal comfort In order to save humanity and get a fresh fix on reality, in order to guard against the scary image of the future of living in ways functionally equivalent to brains in jars jacked into computer terminals , we must reassert the importance of the where into our lives by proactively using newly available and emerging technologies like GPS, Google Earth, devices which emit different sounds in different places, and so called geo coding techniques to tag our activities, snapshots, phone calls, and blogs with precise latitude and longitude information in order to re root us to reality In the area of personal application, it seems fare easier and practical for me to reconnect with my surroundings by re committing to getting out in the neighborhood on my bicycle, sitting out on the front porch, visiting the local park and school track, and even walking over to the office instead of driving It would be good also to get out and camp again for the first time in years These are all solutions to which the author would applaud On the opposite end of the spectrum, in order to make solid connection with my environment, I should perhaps read less unplug myself from my mp3 player, the TV, and the computer, all in order to proactively reconnect with my surroundings As someone who believes in the Judeo Christian heritage as related in Genesis 1, I believe God has created me not just for a relationship with the created world around me the author s point about reconnecting with spaces has some validity , but, just as importantly, also with Himself and with the PEOPLE around me So I wonder if the proposed solutions to reconnect with spaces through the use of technology miss the greater problem and will only serve to isolate us further from one another as we exist in a one person shell created by headphones, the Ipod, and before that, the Walkman, cell phones, and automobiles Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence, p 6 8 The continuing invasion of technology into our daily lives results in human autism nominal communication in actual isolation.Enough for criticizing the philosophy of the book The first half, which discusses how various creatures, including humankind navigate is itself worth the read Ants count their steps, pigeons and sea turtles detect magnetic fields, seafarers supposedly detect ocean swells with their testicles or by other unknown means, other peoples apparently connect themselves to locations using stories and songs Scout bees use waggle dances, some bird species remember up to 80,000 different cache locations in a single fall season, etc captivating I would have liked if the book had emphasized this section fully, as I felt it was the strength of the book Finally, I found the following ideas to be food for further thought We Have Inaccurate Maps in Our Heads Force of gravity we are upright creatures and the line of horizon leads us to neatly categorize things in term s of verticals and horizontals Most people flounder through a highly schematized version of physical space that has only a weak relationship with the real world We prefer to be in positions that give us some visual cover refuge but from which we can look out over large vistas of space prospect Our House Plans and Urban Planning It is the quality of space, rather than its quantity, that influences our behavior An integral connection supposedly exists between the design of the English home and their enviably successful way of life true courtesy lies in the very absence of conspicuous marks of it Space Syntax Analysis simple diagrams of rooms and hallways collapse info about the sizes of the rooms represented by dots, or hallway lengths represented by lines, but they make highly accurate predictions about how people explore spaces and how well they are able to locate themselves The comments about food court, grocery store, and casino designs were enlightening but I would have liked it to have been fleshed out further Aggregate Behavior of People though knowing the functional organization of a space where the stores, washrooms are, etc can enhance our ability to predict movements through that space, the organization of the space is a much stronger predictor of our movements that what kinds of functions are served by the space For example, many businesses are successful precisely because of where they choose to locate Skilled architects and designers can bring people together or keep them apart with the same precision that a skilled potter employs to make a jug designed to meet out single drops of precious oil, as they attempt to do in designing casinos, etc When it comes to urban planning, the same feature that draws people into public spaces the desire to be near and to observe others ironically seems to actually repel them from mass rapid transit systems Car provides a sense of continuity and security from the private spaces of home all the way to the spatial threshold of the workplace We supposedly abuse the environment in the US because we view land as a private economic resource while in Europe land is owned with the understanding that one will be a good steward of the land for the common good Early suburbs in America were designed from the beginning to be free of mixed use Public spaces were entirely absent Today it is the same winding roads encourage privacy and discourage pedestrians They are designed to facilitate cars, not walking Lack of quality public spaces make social contacts in suburban settings difficult As one is less likely to make chance encounters with neighbors on the street ditto inside halls in office buildings , one has to work harder and in less natural ways to build social networks Average house sizes have ballooned from about 900 sq feet in 190 to than 2,400 sq feet in early 21st century, while family size has decreased But the move away from courtyard homes traditional in Taiwan where I live has moved us further away from our connection with space Few public spaces are successful, possibly because they are all prospect without refuge Whether in public spaces in the real world, or in cyberspace, Jane Jacob s dictum life attracts life holds true One of the surest ways to boost a feeling of presence in a virtual world is to share that world with other people.

Colin Ellard was born in the UK and, at the age of 7, decided to follow his parents and siblings across the ocean to Canada, where he has lived ever since Ellard is a research psychologist at the University of Waterloo where he directs the Urban Realities Laboratory The main work of the laboratory is to explore the connections between psychology and the design of the built environment Ellard be

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  • Hardcover
  • 328 pages
  • Where Am I?: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall
  • Colin Ellard
  • English
  • 22 October 2018
  • 9780385528061

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