Monthly Walk Series #2

Sunday, July 22nd- 5-9pm

Cost: Free

RSVP to info@walkexchange.org for exact starting point

Getting disoriented in the city often equates to getting lost. A trip down an unfamiliar block, particularly if you “know the area”, can bring feelings of both discovery and trepidation. For the second walk in our Monthly Walk Series, the Walk Exchange will explore questions of wayfinding. The group will be asked to explore how they locate themselves in space, as well as navigate potentially unfamiliar territory. The walk will revolve around a new landmark on the Brooklyn Waterfront, Jane’s Carousel, and will end in an evening picnic on the water. Please bring a snack to share.

“Misspecifying local relations, or incorrect encoding or decoding of anchor-point geometry, can produce the distortions often found in the spatial products.”

From, Wayfinding Behavior: Cognitive Mapping and Other Spatial Processes

For more about our walk, a word from Carl Sagan:

Some info on Wayfinding:


“Wayfinding is a fancy word for the series of things people know and do in order to get from one place to another, inside or outside. Wayfinding can be a snap or an onerous take, depending on the person, the environment, and the situation. You can think of wayfinding as a five step process. It starts with knowing where you are. It means knowing your destination, following the best route to your destination, being able to recognize your destination, and finding your way back to your starting point.”

From Directional Sense, by Jan Carpman and Myron Grant.

The term way-finding was first used in an urban planning context by Kevin Lynch in The Image of the City:

“Despite a few remaining puzzles, it now seems unlikely that there is any mystic “instinct” of way-finding. Rather there is a consistent use and organization of definite sensory cues from the external environment” (3).

“To become completely lost is perhaps a rather rare experience for most people in the modern city. We are supported by the presence of others and by special way-finding devices: maps, street numbers, route signs, bus placards. But let the mishap of disorientation once occur, and the sense of anxiety and even terror that accompanies it reveals to us how closely it is linked to our sense of balance and well-being. The very word ‘lost’ in our language means much more than simple geographical uncertainty; it carries overtones of utter disaster” (4).

Cognitive Map

Integral to the way-finding is the concept of the cognitive map, first theorized by John O’Keefe and Lynn Nadel in The Hippocampus as Cognitive Map.

For a brief introduction:

The Wayfinders of the Pacific

Lynch is often credited with coining the term way-finding, but humans have been way-finding for generations. See the Wayfinders of the Pacific for whom “Wayfinding is a revered science and a priestly profession that links the cosmos, sea, and land.”

“The shape and sequence of waves, the rising and setting of stars, even the flight patterns of specific birds served as instruments for the wayfinder. Intimately wedded to his environment, the navigator employed a highly developed facility for observation, memorization, and integration. These skills required a lifetime of study and commitment. In the Hawaiian system, the training was so rigorous that few apprentices ever achieved the rank of kahuna ho’okele, navigator-priest.”

Or listen to this interview with Nainoa Thompson, “the first modern-day Polynesian to learn and use way-finding for long-distance, open-ocean voyaging.” You can see his star compass below, which “is the basic mental construct for navigation.

We leave you with Collin Ellard’s TED Talk on way-finding and how place creates experience:

Feel free to use the comments below to add further links, information, etc!