Environments of Mind

Mappa.Mundi Magazine – Memory Palaces

This article summarizes some very important stuff that keeps haunting me as I obsess over how to conceptualize information environments.

I read Frances Yates’ book on The Art of Memory as an undergraduate, and used it as part of a paper I wrote on Vico’s science of the imagination. Since then I keep thinking of this powerful, ancient idea of the “memory palace” and how we still use spatial representations of place in our heads, even when we’re not navigating actual “space.” (An example: when you compare the nutritional information of two snacks, you usually would hold them side by side, looking at the tables printed on their packaging. But if you weren’t able to hold them side by side in real time, you’d unconsciously list the info from product A in your head and compare it in that imagined list’s ‘space’ against product B… )

Anyway, we make these little rooms still, even if we don’t do it on purpose. We especially use them to get around websites and environments that aren’t even physical… making something physical out of them in our imaginations.

I’m about to start trying to visually model one of the largest financial services web properties in the world… and maybe I’m reaching back to this idea like an old friend, or “comfort food” — something to reassure me that what I’m doing isn’t that scary?

Anyway, I really dig the muted post horn reference toward the bottom of this article. Pynchon lives!