Describe Your City! Experienced and Physical Space in Descriptions of Public Places

How do people experience and describe urban space? Spontaneous, oral descriptions of urban places prove that descriptions of space consist of more than just objects scattered over a physical space.  Rather, these descriptions illuminate that which a city’s residents hold meaningful, for example, what usage they allow, which groups of people can be found there, or which events have taken place. Spontaneous descriptions paint a dynamic picture of a city that consists of both experiences and the physical environment. Over the course of a small interdisciplinary project we seek to investigate at a large number of such place descriptions from different perspectives: linguistics (Wolfgang Kesselheim), corpus linguistics (Noah Bubenhofer), and GIScience (Curdin Derungs). We want to utilize these descriptions in order to develop methods of analysis and visualization that enable an empirical study, and precise illustration, of the correlations between what is experienced and physical space. In the context of the URPP, our project will create connections between approaches that focus on the construction of space and those that consider space to be an objective dimension. Our project is directly affiliated with the interests being researched in Zurich from a linguistic as well as a geographic point of view. Special aspects of our project include that we:

  • analyze oral data
  • work with data collected on site (which can capture and reproduce the immediate impressions of a given space from the point of view of the person describing it)
  • take particular note of the textual character of the descriptions (sequence of descriptive elements, narrative sequences, etc.)
  • make sure that the results of the empirical analysis and visualization experiments regain entrance into the theoretical modeling of the permeation of experienced and physical space in terms of a “theoretical empiricism” (Hirschauer et al. 2008)

Project leadership: Noah Bubenhofer (TU Dresden), Curdin Derungs, and Wolfgang Kesselheim.

Funding source: URPP Language and Space.