Timescapes: Non-geographical approaches to landscape

Tiago Torres-Campos

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Research dating from the decades of 1970’s and 1980’s in the fields of cognitive science and environmental geography placed cognitive mapping as an integrated approach of measuring space by using time, pointing out that human’s perception of reality might be severely disconnected from the its physical support (Downs & Stea, 1977).

Technology, speed, movement and distance are interdependent concepts that have been promoting changes in landscape perception both in space as in time, to the point when “space becomes temporal” (Virilio, 2000). Instead of setting the tone for human life, landscape has become “a random network of pure trajectories” suggesting “a possible topography” (Tschumi in (Virilio, 2000)). The concept of the disconnection between cognitive mapping and physical reality is not new, but these concepts are increasing that disconnection. Landscape may be a reflection of it.

The methodology presented derives from two main theoretical conclusions: (a) that the disconnection between cognitive maps and physical reality increases with speed; (b) that people measure space by using time intuitively. Two hypotheses are then tested by conducting questionnaires involving small focus groups: (1) measuring space is more accurate with temporal distances than with spatial distances; (2) increasing speed applied to movement promotes stronger distortion in landscape perception.

Hypothesis (1) was partially demonstrated: the disconnection between cognitive maps and physical reality may increase with speed but it was also suggested that, sometimes, time might not be affected by speed. Hypothesis (2) was demonstrated with more certainty: time is a more intuitive tool to measure space than space itself, also being more accurate, homogenous and stable.

Conclusions in this paper also show the need to develop serious correlated research within the context of multi-task teams in the fields of cognitive sciences, environmental geography, architecture and landscape architecture. This research should be oriented towards ways of using time to raise awareness for the discrepancy between physical and perceived geographical relations. It could also focus on landscape perception and how it is affected by movement and speed.

Expected outcomes arising from this suggested research should present possible tools (analytical, technical, design) to understand the contemporary complexity of the landscape by using non-geographical approaches.

Keywords: cognitive mapping, landscape, movement, non-geographical mapping, space, speed, time
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventECLAS Annual Conference - Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 22 Sep 201325 Sep 2013


ConferenceECLAS Annual Conference


  • cognitive mapping
  • landscape
  • movement
  • non-geographical mapping
  • space
  • speed
  • time


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