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An eye-opening exploration of the intriguing and often counter-intuitive science of human navigation and experience of place.

About the Author

"Colin Ellard is an experimental psychologist at the University of Waterloo, the director of its Research Laboratory for Immersive Virtual Environments, and an international expert in the psychology of navigation. The results of his research have been published in scientific journals for more than twenty years. Ellard lives in, and regularly gets lost in, Kitchener, Ontario."


As an experimental psychologist at the University of Waterloo and director of its Research Laboratory for Immersive Virtual Environments (RELIVE), Ellard draws on a vast knowledge base of how humans perceive space, use space, and move through space versus all that is done by animals such as bees, rats, and birds. In the first two-thirds of this book, he displays this expertise with clarity and a sure hand, providing lay readers with a thorough understanding of space syntax, visibility graphs, spatial cognition, etc., as they relate to humans and other creatures and their impact on our lives, our architecture, our homes, and our cities. But the author becomes less sure and convincing in the book's last third when he attempts to tie the preceding pages to cyberspace environments such as Second Life, to greenspace in our urban design, and lastly to our failure to be outdoors in nature. Ellard believes that we may "neglect our stewardship of our planetary home to the extent that we risk losing it." Verdict Ellard's message is not new, but his reasoning is novel. Despite its flaws, this title will intrigue readers interested in psychology, the environment, and architecture.-Michael D. Cramer, Schwarz BioSciences, RTP, NC Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

This delightful, dense and illuminating book by Ellard, an experimental psychologist, explores how we navigate space and hone our sense of direction, despite being paradoxically spatially primitive and overly evolved. All animals, monocellular and multicellular alike, find their way to their basic needs-heat, light and nourishment-but while ants, for example, don't get lost and amoebas are guided by an "internal toolkit," most human beings face unique difficulties. Unlike the Inuit, who have a superb sense of direction, most people find that the more sophisticated their environments, the weaker their grasp of space and direction. Ellard offers insights into how humans navigate their own homes and why they select certain spots for refuge-preferences influenced by gender, culture and history. He emphasizes the importance of orienting children to natural space as well as "virtual spaces," and his chapter on cities serves as an excellent primer on urban planning and psychogeography, the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographic environment on the emotions. (July) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"[A] smart, deeply satisfying exploration of how creatures from insects to humans handle the complexities of physical space." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer "Delightfully lucid. . . . Ellard has a knack for distilling obscure scientific theories into practical wisdom."--Jonah Lehrer, New York Times Book Review "One of the finest science writers I've ever read. . . . . It's fun, pure fun."--Los Angeles Times "[A] fascinating . . . rundown of the processes involved in keeping us and other animals moving in the right direction." --The Globe and Mail

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