Archives for posts with tag: psychology

I had a neat experience of geognitive dissonance the weekend before last, when I visited by former city-of-residence Montreal, along with many many other people from Halifax.

On Sunday afternoon, I was delighted to find that the visionary producers of Pop Montreal, and local Mile-End public space advocates and super group RuePublique, planned the final day of the fantastic music and arts festival to coincide with Les Bons Voisins de St Viateur, the annual St Viateur Street fair. Providing all-afternoon free shows on the street, Pop Montreal also had its Puces Pop event in the basement of a church directly fronting the fair. The result was a constant flow of people throughout the day, enjoying the street-hangs, slowly filtering through the church doors to enjoy the dense display of crafts on offer.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the Black Street block party only one week earlier in Halifax, I was psyched to get a dose of some Montreal same-same but different. Though entirely different from the residential, leafy neighbourhood times of the Black Street block party, Mile End’s St. Viateur festival was Montreal’s gritty urban iteration of the same culture of the do it yourself, for yourself spirit, and take-back-the-streets attitude.

Several blocks were closed to cars, and the commercial high street yielded to small-job booths of crafters, free bike repair, and food stands by and for neighbours. Both Black and St Viateur festivals rejected corporate aesthetics, favouring the small scale and the scrappy. A successful intervention on the street was the laying of sod — inviting passersby to lie down in the middle of the street, reclining in repose, fulfilling the essence of the Montreal hang in an atypical mid-street locale. A characteristically grey but sunny autumnal day enveloped the hangs, and highlighted the beauty of St Viateur’s built form.

Scrappy DIY art-projects on St Viateur (courtesy of RuePublique Facebook group)

Midday I found myself on a picnic table in front of a brick building at the St Viateur street fest’s mid-point. I was in good company, joined by a few friends I’ve met in Halifax, laughing and reminiscing about nights’ passed. Contently, I looked around to marvel at the delightful street scene, quickly realizing that about 40 people surrounding me were from Halifax, or connected to the city in some way. I tuned into the sound beginning to pour from the nearby bandstand, and started to bopping my head to familiar tunes from Halifax’s Old and Weird. The picnic table, the closed off street, the brick buildings framing the scene, the people surrounding me, and the music narrating it all — the scene was an exact reproduction of SappyFest, an indie rock festival in Sackville New Brunswick, that similarly attracts droves from Halifax, only in this instance, it was several months later and several hundred kilometres further west.

Compare this Montreal Mile End street scene…

to a similar scene in Sackville, New Brunswick

A head-ache, it was – a veritable space-warp. Here was a social network I directly associate with a specific place – Halifax (and including Sackville, the Martime region, I guess) – transposed onto another city, a city that I associate with an entirely different social network to boot.

Pure geognitive dissonance.

Advertisements

I’ve written a lot recently about the concept of geognitive dissonance: geography-induced cognitive dissonance. These are moments when the supposed linearity of space gets warped, and you experience a non-contiguous geography. Times when your senses mix, and vision defers to more subtle, powerful experiences of taste, touch, smell that break at the seams of our notion of objective space. Basically, geognitive dissonance is when you’re in one place, but something causes you to feel like you’re in another place, a place you’ve been before and know quite well.

I realize that I’ve inadvertently written about geognitive dissonance many times without naming it as such.

I’ve written about how the sweet-stale subway scent in Berlin transported me to Toronto’s TTC;

I wrote about closing my eyes on Toronto BIXIs, and feeling as if I were on a bike I got to know in Montreal;

I explored the proliferation of heterogenous big box architecture, and how it served to emphasize the difference of context in a pharmacy of the exact same layout in Montreal versus Halifax.

Though there isn’t a post about it, today with my dad, I biked a former rail path that has since been converted into a bike trail in Nova Scotia, and when I closed my eyes, felt I was in Toronto’s belt line – the same soft gravel crunching under moving wheels, the same sense of enclosure between the trees on each bank, the same light filtering through the leaves.

This is a powerful concept, I think.

It demonstrates that reality is not linear. That our world can never be known fully as objective, and that our senses have transformative, transport-ative properties. Vision and observation only go so far to explain the relationships in this world, as I, for one, experience geognitive dissonance quite often. Perhaps daily.

I know reality through a nuanced, deeply entrenched personal geography, and that personal geography is located squarely in the realm of my senses, altering my perceptions and the spatial locations of vantage points that I interpet the world from.

Many branches of contemporary human geography seem to be in a conundrum. Maps and models of reality continue to be produced in immense quantities, conclusions are made that the maps and models are ineffective since they fail to capture certain non-quantifiable elements of reality, yet these maps and models continue to be made. In response to the relatively-made-up quality I have noticed in efforts to quantify geographic phenomena, for my GIS (Geographic Information Systems, essentially computerized maps), final project I decided to instead explore cognitive geography – something that could never be rendered accurately on a computer – with the intention of creating beautiful maps that evoked questions and stimulated reflection, rather than tricking myself into thinking that the maps I made were accurate or representative of reality.

Here are some of my final maps. They don’t really mean anything…but the idea that we all have a different city in our heads, yet can function perfectly well with each other is a lovely thought.