The Bukowski Agency - Where Am I?

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120,000 words
Finished books available

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US: Doubleday, Jul 2009
Canada: HarperCollins, Spring 2009
China (simplified characters): CITIC Press
World French: Editions du Seuil
Japan: Hayakawa
Taiwan: Locus

ABOUT COLIN ELLARD

Colin Ellard (Photo: Lisa Sakulensky)
(Photo: Lisa Sakulensky)

An experimental psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, Colin Ellard's main interests are in animal behaviour, cognitive mapping, human navigation, neuroscience, urban planning, and environmentalism. His research in most of these areas has been supported by funds from national granting agencies and published in international scientific journals for more than twenty years. He has travelled widely for both research and pleasure, and has worked at several universities both in Canada and abroad. This is his first book aimed at a general audience. He lives and gets lost frequently in Kitchener, Ontario, with his wife, six children, a dog, a turtle, several fish, and the occasional gerbil.

You Are Here
(Canadian title: "Where Am I?")
Why we can find our way to the moon but get lost in the mall

by Colin Ellard

COLIN ELLARD DOES FOR PHYSICAL SPACE WHAT NASIM TALEB DID FOR RANDOMNESS AND TOM VANDERBILT DID FOR TRAFFIC: HE ILLUMINATES WHAT SCIENCE SAYS ABOUT OUR SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE AND HOW IT SHAPES OUR CONNECTIONS TO BUILDINGS, CITIES, CYBERSPACE, AND NATURE

You Are Here cover (US)We’ve all been there: wandering around a multi-storied parking garage searching for our car or wondering which direction we’re facing when we emerge from the subway. Yet our dogs remember exactly where they buried a chew toy three summers ago and ants in the Sahara find their way home after travelling a distance equivalent to a marathon.

In You Are Here, Colin Ellard explains the human proclivity for getting lost, comparing our ability to process physical space to the far-superior skills of animals normally considered less intelligent than our own species. Ellard describes the mental maps we develop to ease everyday navigation, whether it's noting a striking landmark or leaving a virtual trail of crumbs to find our Where Am I? cover (Canada)way through the woods. Travelling through natural, man-made, and even cyberenvironments, he offers sage and often amusing insights into the spatial design of everything from office cubicles and family rooms to malls and casinos, explaining why so many spaces fail so spectacularly.

From entertaininganecdotes to eye-opening facts to advice on how we can become environmentally responsible citizens, You Are Here provides a valuable perspective on the world and our place in it.

View the table of contents

PRAISE FOR THIS BOOK

“[A] smart, deeply satisfying exploration of how creatures from insects to humans handle the complexities of physical space…..his message is well-reasoned and important.” — THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER

You Are Here provides a colorful, well-charted atlas of our subjective mental maps--visual stories that we tell ourselves--and an impassioned argument for finding our true place in the world we inhabit.” — TOM VANDERBILT, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), Amazon.com review

“One of the finest science writers I've ever read.... It's fun, pure fun.” — THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

“Delightfully lucid ... Ellard has a knack for distilling obscure scientific theories into practical wisdom.” — THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“Ellard writes with admirable clarity …An anecdotally rich provocation in service of environmental awareness.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS

“[A] fascinating and exhaustive rundown of the processes involved in keeping us and other animals moving in the right direction … an absorbing read.” — GLOBE AND MAIL

“Ellard is able to entertain us with an explanation of the cold, hard science of navigation . . . to follow that up with an artfully constructed exploration of how our relationship to spaces plays a huge part in making us human is a rare feat.” — QUILL & QUIRE

“Colin Ellard’s new book, You Are Here, is a powerful inquiry into how we humans orient ourselves in space and identify places both familiar and new. As an architect, and someone who loves the experiential qualities of three dimensional space, this book took me on a journey to places I’d never even considered before—such as how other creatures on this planet orient themselves, and why it is that our prodigious brain can invent worlds that far outstrip the abilities of our more primitive orienting sensory apparatus. It’s a stimulating and provocative read for anyone who’s looking for a better understanding of how we process the world around us and orient ourselves within our habitations and living environments.” — SARAH SUSANKA, author of The Not So Big House

“This delightful, dense and illuminating book by Ellard, an experimental psychologist, explores how we navigate space and hone our sense of direction, despite being paradoxically spatially primitive and overly evolved. All animals, monocellular and multicellular alike, find their way to their basic needs—heat, light and nourishment—but while ants, for example, don't get lost and amoebas are guided by an “internal toolkit,” most human beings face unique difficulties. Unlike the Inuit, who have a superb sense of direction, most people find that the more sophisticated their environments, the weaker their grasp of space and direction. Ellard offers insights into how humans navigate their own homes and why they select certain spots for refuge—preferences influenced by gender, culture and history. He emphasizes the importance of orienting children to natural space as well as “virtual spaces,” and his chapter on cities serves as an excellent primer on urban planning and psychogeography, the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographic environment on the emotions.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“In this fascinating journey to the wild frontiers of human navigation, Colin Ellard makes it clear that the space around us has made us the species we are. As Ellard pulls together his research into Inuit hunting parties, search and rescue teams, deep sea fishermen and the problems of the modern city dweller, he reveals how our sense of space and direction – and its limitations – has affected every civilisation on Earth. You Are Here is witty and engaging and crammed with profound insights. What’s more, it’s useful too: if you, or your keys, have ever got lost, Ellard can tell you how it happened – and how to stop it happening again.”  Michael Brooks, author of Thirteen Things That Don’t Make Sense

“Ants find their way back to their nest and bees to their hives with remarkable ease, and homing pigeons follow flight paths over incredible distances with uncanny accuracy, but humans seem to need a GPS to keep from getting lost in a mall. Colin Ellard not only delves into such phenomena with élan, he also introduces us to the world of navigational research, a world most of us don't even know exists. Where Am I? is sure to direct you down some paths you've never explored before, and no, you won't get lost.” — Joe Schwarcz, PhD, author of An Apple a Day

Book's Table of Contents

Introduction: Lost and Found

PART 1 WHY ANTS DON’T GET LOST AT THE MALL: HOW HUMANS AND ANIMALS NAVIGATE SPACE

CHAPTER 1 Looking for Targets: Simple Tactics for Finding Our Way That We Share with All Other Animals

CHAPTER 2 Looking for Landmarks: How We Search for the Invisible by Using the Visible

CHAPTER 3 Looking for Routes: How We Try to Keep Track of Where We Are by Noting Where We Have Been

CHAPTER 4 Maps in the World: How Expert Navigators Can Use Specialized Senses to Find Their Way

CHAPTER 5 Maps in Mouse Minds: The Mental Maps of Space Possessed by Animals

CHAPTER 6 Muddled Maps in Human Minds: The Peculiar Nature of Our Mental Maps and How We Understand Space

PART 2 THE SPACES WHERE WE WORK, LIVE AND PLAY

CHAPTER 7 House Space: How Our Mental Maps Influence Our Behaviour inside Our Homes

CHAPTER 8 Working Spaces: How the Geography of Our Minds Influence Our Habits of Work and Play

CHAPTER 9 City Space: How Knowing (or not Knowing) Our Place Influences Life in the City, and How Cities Can Fail

CHAPTER 10 Cyberspace: How the Nature of Our Minds Makes It Possible for Us to Live in Electronic Places

CHAPTER 11 Greenspace: How the Features of Our Spatial Brain Influence Our Connections to Our Natural Environment

CHAPTER 12 The Future of Space

 

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