Thinking out loud about space and memory

I’m incubating potential topics for the paper abstract I’m planning on submitting for the Analogous Spaces conference. I want to send something in for the session on spatial analogies for memory, so, by way of making myself write some of this stuff out, I’m posting about it. (Brain-dump follows. You’ve been warned.) Among other things, I’ve been thinking about:

  • the spatial aspect of the classical art of memory, which relied on imagined architecture
  • connections between personal memory and the sense of landscape (I’ve been reading Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory, slowly but steadily)
  • mapping applications (Google Maps et al.) as a way of presenting information in spatialized ways
  • how people internalize knowledge of their surroundings, memorize routes from point A to point B — a question I think about in my fuzzy humanist way every time I venture into a previously unknown part of Philadelphia, but also one that the cognitive psychologists have tackled, if I decide to take that tack
  • wayfinding in virtual environments, and the persistence of spatial metaphors in the online world ("home page," "back," "forward," "navigation," etc. etc.)
  • Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, particularly Zora, the unforgettable city
  • city form and memory more generally
  • local memory and place awareness in poetry (I’m gravitating toward a subset of Thomas Hardy’s poems, here, but also bits of Tennyson)
  • libraries as memory theaters — an idea that occurred to me once while working in the main reading room of the Library of Congress, looking up at the statues representing the various disciplines (Solon for law, Shakespeare for literature, and so on) and wondering if the placement of the statues originally had anything to do with the placement and classification of the books underneath them.

So I’m trying to bring together a bunch of threads all having to do with the embodiment of memory in physical or imaginary space. This is partly dissertation-retread, but with a fair number of new directions mixed in. Ultimately, I think, this could turn into a longer project, with literary parts and information-science-ish parts; right now I’m glad I have to think in terms of standard conference paper length.

3 Responses to “Thinking out loud about space and memory”

  1. brd says:

    Facinating stuff you are thinking about. It reminds me of how fascinating it has been for me (an old codger) to play around in the Facebook space. Talk about wayfinding in virtual environments! Wow. It is a dazzling panoply of ways from here to there and back again. And the push of information is so different from the, um.m.m, reach necessitated in the non-virtual world.

  2. Narya says:

    Two interesting books:
    “The Power of Maps,” by Denis Wood
    “Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas” by David Turnbull

  3. Amanda says:

    Oh, interesting. Thanks for the recommendations!