Thursday, May 02, 2013

simultaneous perception and epistemology/synsethesia/simulacra of the city

Tony Hiss coined the phrase simultaneous perception in his  presceient 1990 book The Experience of Place: A New Way of Looking at and Dealing With our Radically Changing Cities and Countryside.

The introduction and first chapter are invaluable (read here..just a few pages missing)  in discerning a "full-sensed" epistemology of the city.
I am making connections to synesthesia and simulacra (well, an "even worse than the real thing"  anti-simulacra: “A damaged experience is not only numbing; over time we can begin to mistake it for the original.”)

For example:

 It alters what I know about my surroundings and about whatever is going on around me, and at the same time modifies my sense of what all these things mean to me. The change - one that is reasonably well known to all of us, or is at least lodged somewhere in our memories-lets me gently refocus my attention and allows a more general awareness of a great many different things at once: sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of touch and balance, as well as thoughts and feelings." (3)


The Experience of Place  (promo blurb):
Hiss uses the experience of place to help us understand how profoundly we are affected by the places around us. By bringing together the insights of planners, ecologists, psychologists, and environmentalists, he explores how our experiences in public places can restore our connection to our senses. Hiss uncovers why some places – the concourse of Grand Central Terminal or a small farm or the corner of a skyscraper – affect us so mysteriously and so forcefully. In doing so, he demonstrates how our society can continue to grow without destroying the places that have nourished it for generations – how we can design changes that, rather than harming us, will enhance our future lives.


“A damaged experience is not only numbing; over time we can begin to mistake it for the original.”

“Conscious noticing of what we’re experiencing, once we get back the hang of it, can be a common denominator, a language of connectedness between social, environmental, and economic concerns. Using the things we know or sense about places but seldom put into words, we can bring all our minds to bear on the problems of how our communities, regions, and landscapes should change.”

“Until recently, when people spoke about a vivid experience of a place, it would usually be a wonderful memory, a magic moment at one of the sweet spots of the world – an orange sunset over a white sand beach; or hearing the soft hooting of an owl while standing in a moonlit meadow; or standing up for one minute during the seventh-inning stretch of a sold-out playoff game at Fenway Park in Boston; or walking up Fifth Avenue in New York at Christmastime, dodging past roast-chestnut and hot-pretzel vendors, and catching a glimpse of the two stone lions in front of the Public Library, with fresh snow on their gray manes and big wreaths around their necks.”

“These days people often tell me that some of their most unforgettable experiences of places are disturbingly painful and have to do with unanticipated loss. Sometimes there’s less to see or hear or do in a place: the curving road in front of an old suburban house, for instance, gets straightened and widened, and suddenly a favorite grove of oaks or pines that the winds whistled through is chopped down and paved over. In the center of a big city, people who have been used to window-shopping from the bus on the way home from work find that they can’t look out the bus windows at night anymore because these now have a dark-green or bronze tint – and then, squinting tight, they realize there are no longer any store windows to see, because they have all been covered over by steel grates.”

“Today, often without even realizing it, four out of five Americans have moved into a new kind of home – metropolitan areas. And it looks more and more likely that, twenty years from now, those numbers will be closer to nine out of ten. America has had cities and suburbs for more than a hundred years. What’s new about today’s metropolitan areas is that, whether we wish it so or not, within each new metropolitan area the economies, the social problems, the environments – the destinies – of all cities and suburbs are tightly linked. They need each other to prosper, and by themselves they can’t solve either the problems we already know about or those that the 21st century will inevitably dump in our laps.”  Link

Later book:
"How We Travel"

Tony Hiss, "Deep Travel":
In Motion: The Experience of Travel:

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