Sunday, February 08, 2009

Hodological Space

I just came across the concept of 'hodological space' in a reading group discussion. Searching for the term, I found a good definition here.

The term 'hodological space' is derived from the Greek word 'hodos' , path, way. In contrast to the mathematical concept of space as presented on maps, plans, etc. 'hodological space' is based on the factual topological, physical, social, and psychological conditions a person is faced with on the way from point A to point B, whether in an open landscape or within urban or architectural conditions.

The concept of 'hodological space' was invented by the German social psychologist Kurt Lewin. According to Latane and Lui:

Lewin wrote that minimum distances in psychological space cannot be determined by a single metric or axiom as they can in Euclidian space. Psychological distance may be shorter than physical distance, as when travel is easy or pleasurable, or it may be longer, as when the route is unfamilar or frightening.

Hodological space is something all to clear to many cyclists. Selecting cycling routes involves many psychological and physical equations of gradient, scenery, noise, stresses, and safety before distance and directness. When the urban road system prioritises accessibility and directness for faster vechiles, cycling is often experienced through a maze unsignposted paths, alleys, and back-streets. This maze is not only disorientating, it is also stressful in that the new rider never knows when they will end up. It could be a quiet street or a 6 lane arterial road without a crossing? The anxiety generated from not knowing 'the way' is enough to put many people off cycling all together. However, paradoxially it is also a sense of disorientation that can contribute to making cycling such pleasurable experience. It is precisely because the view from the windscreen is so environmentally desensitising that many are attracted to cycling where one has to discover the world anew.


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