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07 NOVEMBER 2014

Songlines: How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography

"There are many different methods of pre–literate navigation that have been documented around the world. One of the most unique, a fusion of navigation and oral mythological storytelling, originated among the indigenous peoples of Australia, who navigated their way across the land using paths called songlines or dreaming tracks. In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised 'creator–beings' during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator–being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator–being is marked in sung lyrics. One navigates across the land by repeating the words of the song or re–enacting the story through dance, which in the course of telling the story also describe the location of various landmarks on the landscape (e.g. rock formations, watering holes, rivers, trees). In some cases, the paths of the creator–beings are said to be evident from their marks on the land (petrosomatoglyphs), such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints (parallels can certainly be seen in some North American First Nation creation stories).

Songlines often came in sequences, much like a symphony or album today. By singing a song cycle in the appropriate order could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior (a fact which amazed early anthropologists who were stunned by Aborigines that frequently walked across hundreds of kilometres of desert picking out tiny features along the way without error). Each group had its own set of songlines that were passed from generation to generation so that future generations would know how to navigate when in neighbouring tribes' territories. The extensive system of songlines in Australia varied in length from a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres in length crossing through lands of many different Indigenous peoples. Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of some songlines were in different languages corresponding to the region the songline was navigating through at the time, and thus could only be fully understood by a person speaking all of the languages in the song."

(The Basement Geographer, 21 October 2010)

Fig.1 "What are song lines?" Colin Jones, lecturer in Aboriginal History, talks about his culture, his history and his art. Queensland Rural Medical Education.

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Aboriginal mythologyancestral beings • ancestral heroes • animist belief systemAustralia • Colin Jones • creation narrative • creation spirits • Creator Beingscultural memory • cultural webs of memory • dreaming (spirituality) • dreaming tracks • earth motherFirst AustraliansFirst Nations • genii loci • geographical point • Indigenous Australians • kin-grouping system • kinship • landmarkslandscapelocationmappingmarkers • mythological storytelling • navigation systemnavigational methodsoral historiesorientationorigin myth • paths • petrosomatoglyph • place • point-to-point • pre-literate navigation • pre-literate societiessequences and spatial practisessmooth space • song cycle • songlinesspatial literacyspatial narrativespiritualitysymbolic placeterritorytimeless timetopology • totemic ancestors • voice map • watering holewayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
13 SEPTEMBER 2013

Mapping Manhattan: a public art project mapping personal experience

"Becky Cooper, a 24–year–old cartographer and writer... asked New Yorkers–and visitors–to map their own versions of Manhattan. She took to the streets, distributing 3,000 copies of a hand–printed outline of the island and encouraged participants to "map who you are or where you are; the invisible or the obvious". All copies were self–addressed and stamped so they could be mailed back to her.

Cooper says around 10% of the maps were mailed back and Mapping Manhattan features 75 of the best contributions. Some are heartbreaking (one person mapped key places in his life, from the first apartment he shared with his wife to where she later died); many invoke humour (a map of lost gloves, pictured above); some are confessions (a student who shows how she funded her studies with work at various strip joints). Some are handscrawled in biro, others are collages, and a few use watercolours."

(Vicky Baker, 15 May 2013, The Guardian)

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2009 • Adam Gopnik • around us • Becky Cooper • belongingbirocartographycity mapscultural memorydaily activitydiversity of experienceshand-drawnhand-drawn maps • hand-printed outline • hand-scrawled • heartbreaking • juxtapositionlocation-specificManhattanmapmakingmapping • Mapping Manhattan (project) • memoryNew YorkNew Yorkeroutline drawingpathpersonal cartographypersonal experienceplacepublic artqualitative descriptionsrememberingspatial narrative • strip joint • territoryurban mappingwayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
24 FEBRUARY 2012

Adrift in a shopping maze: it's a successful no-exit strategy

"Alan Penn, director of the Virtual Reality Centre for the Built Environment at University College London, has come to a conclusion that Ikea stores are 'designed just like a maze'. In doing so he's given scholarly validation to a feeling that will have occurred to many shoppers as they blunder around the blue and yellow hangar looking for a new TV unit only to emerge with two candles, a wok and a bottle of lingonberry cordial.

Penn went on to suggest that it was Ikea's strategy to keep customers inside the store for the maximum time possible. They achieve this by setting a route round the store from which it's difficult to deviate. Taking the shortcuts (which are only there to conform with fire regulations) often leaves you adrift in a sea of lampshades.

The effect is to boost impulse purchases. See a coathanger, and you might buy 'because the layout is so confusing you know you won't be able to go back and get it later'."

(Ian Tucker, 30 January 2011, The Observer, Guardian News and Media Limited)

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a sea of lampshades • adrift • Alan Penn • circulation • coathanger • cognitive map • confusing • customersdesigndirectional information • floor plan • IKEA • Ikea stores • impulse buy • impulse purchase • layout • maze • mental imagenavigationno escape • no-exit • organising spacesprogrammatic spaceroutesensemakingsequence of spacesshopping experiencespatial designspatial literacyspatial narrative • spatial sequence • store • store designtrappedUniversity College Londonuser experience design (UX) • Virtual Reality Centre for the Built Environment • wayfindingyou are here

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 JUNE 2011

The Island: Stephen Walter's London Series

"London is one of the great living palimpsests of our time. Its layers of history and its constant energy to re–invent itself fuels this vast grey magnet. I was spurd on by the great Map Makers of London's past – John Roque, Greenwood and Phyllis Pearsall (the originator of the A–Z). Informed by my own insights and knowledge, I combined further research on the Internet and through writers such as Peter Ackroyd and Ian Sinclair.

The resulting map, a spoof of the historical ones of old, would challenge the first impressions of its viewer; touching on the Capital's vastness, its secrets and its undercurrents. With this process in mind, I began to edit the information, keeping what I felt were historically important, interesting, relevant and amusing. These fantastical additions and epithets are purposefully innocent and acidic, trivial and serious. The Map is as much about the personality of its viewer than it is about of my own. In other words it acts as a mirror.

Britain is a collection of islands and it undoubtedly forms part of our identity. This provincialism; the centre of many industries and in particular the London Centric Art world and its rise again to a world city status add to its identity as an icon, separated from the rest of the country. I wanted to perceive London as another one of these 'islands', and so when mapping the coastline around its Borough edges I was happy to discover Carshalton Beaches coinciding with this border."

(Stephen Walter)

Fig.1&2 Stephen Walter, "The Island"

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ancestral domainsancestral domainsborders • Carshalton Beaches • cartographycity mapscultural identitydrawing • epithets • everyday • fantastical additions • graphic representation • Greenwood • hand-drawn mapshistorical importancehistorical map • Ian Sinclair • icon • islands • John Roque • layers of history • London • London Centric Art • map makers • map of Londonmapmakingmapspalimpsest • Peter Ackroyd • Phyllis Pearsall • provincial • provincialism • secretspatial narrative • Stephen Walter • streetsubversion • The Island • UKundercurrentsurban centrevisual communicationvisualisationworld view

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 SEPTEMBER 2008

Reebok World Headquarters: imposing architectural narrative

"The new building rises four storeys high to present a new sports arena–style façade. The space plan is based around a central spine, from which there are views onto an indoor basketball court and a running track that enters the building through a glass tunnel from outside. 'It's changed the way people wake up in the morning and think of the business. It's a catalyst for change,' says Reebok CEO Paul Fireman. 'You're living the experience.'"

(Jeremy Myerson, UK Design Council)

[The project centres on an imposing fixed architectural corporate narrative.]

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architectural narrative • corporate narrative • Paul Fireman • programmatic space • Reebok World Headquarters • running track • spacespatial literacyspatial narrativesport • sports arena

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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