Our task this week was to take a walking tour of Elephant and Castle outside of the university space with a sense of heightened awareness and observation.
Upon my first arrival at Elephant and Castle I found that as soon as I exited the station I was thrown into a state of confusion. I could see where I needed to be (directly across the from the station stands the main university building) but had no idea of how to cross the barriers and the busy main road in order to get there. I had to identify a variety of signifiers that lead me down into a subway/tunnel system – which still required roughly 20 minutes to navigate in order to simply cross the road to get to the London College of Communication. As I have become more accustomed to the area over time even as the space has changed, due to construction work and the blockage of the tunnels the journey from the station has no longer become so arduous and roughly only takes 2 – 4 minutes… depending on traffic.
As we went on the walking tour past the usual university space the change of scenery lead to thinking about how people adapt their actions to control and navigate around a situation in an unfamiliar space. We aren’t born with knowledge of how to cross the road safely, it must be taught to us over time using knowledge of the world. The mapping of the road markings and signifiers such as the pedestrian wait button and the change in colour of the lights on the crossing teach us how to use the system in an efficient way and soon enough once carrying the task out repeatedly this action becomes knowledge in the head to us.
As a part of the walking tour we entered a private park to get a feel of a different layout and type of space. We formed pairs to help each other navigate around the relatively small space whilst one of us had our eyes closed. This task required a lot of trust in your partner as an essential visual sense had been removed from the situation. When my eyes were closed I experienced a lot of hesitation of the space around me. I felt as though there was an abundance of constraints and carried the task out in a more cautious manner and feeling anxious of bumping in to something or feeling an object with an unfamiliar texture. Even though when my eyes were open I knew how to interact with the space and knew nothing would be of harm to me when my eyes were closed the trust I had of the area became non-existent. However, over time by using memory and a heightened awareness of my senses I developed a sense of where I was standing. The help of constraints such as a metal gate prevented me from exiting the park and according to the texture of the floor or by feeling around me I was able to feel more comfort with my eyes closed and begin trusting the space.
The awareness and familiarity we have of our surroundings ties in to our knowledge of the situations that occur around us. We have little to no control of them however we do have control of our responding actions. The walking tour established a connection between the things we are aware of and of the places we are unaccustomed to. Using memory and habitual actions I found by collaborating memory and familiarity with an unfamiliar setting you are able to adjust quickly and assess how to behave or use the space accordingly and by being in a space often you develop knowledge of the world.