ideasCraig Stroupe | Associate Professor of Information Design | Department of Writng Studies | 1201 Ordean Court # 420 | University of Minnesota Duluth | Duluth, MN 55812 | 218-726-6249 | fax 218-726-6882 | cstroupe@d.umn.edu

Cognitive Mapping

Fredric Jameson defines cognitive mapping as a process by which the individual subject situates himself within a vaster, unrepresentable totality, a process that corresponds to the workings of ideology.

Jameson begins by comparing this ideological process of cognitive mapping to a physical process of locating oneself geographically:

In a classic work, The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch taught us that the alienated city is above all a space in which people are unable to map (in their minds) either their own positions or the urban totality in which they find themselves: grids such as those of Jersey City, in which none of the traditional markers (monuments, nodes, natural boundaries, built perspectives) obtain, are the most obvious examples. Disalienation in this traditional city, then, involved the practical reconquest of a sense of place and the construction or reconstruction of an articulated ensemble which can be retained in memory....

There is...a most interesting convergence between the empirical problems studied by Lynch in terms of city space and the great Althusserian (and Lacanian) redefinition of ideology as "the representation of the subject's Imaginary relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence....

The Althusserian formula, in other words, designates a gap, a rift, between existential experience and scientific knowledge. Ideology has then the function of somehow inventing a way of articulating those two distinct dimensions with each other. (Jameson 51-52)

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