I’m fascinated by the many ways that the settings of our lives affect how we think and feel. The stories of our lives can be told using maps—maps of migrations, travel adventures, old neighbourhoods, the insides of our homes, and our social networks. Our relationships with space and place reach into every corner of our lives from the mundane (how do we find our way to the grocery store?) to the sublime (what is it about the space inside a large cathedral that takes our breath away?).
In my scientific life, I study these kinds of relationships by presenting people with problems of space both in the real world and in simulated worlds generated using the tools of virtual reality. In my laboratory, I can place you inside anything from a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright interior to a stark, industrial cityscape in order to measure your psychological reactions to place. Out on the streets, I collaborate with museums and galleries to lead psychogeographic walks where I measure your psychological responses to the built fabric of the city. You can read more about my work at the website of the University of Waterloo’s Urban Realities Lab.
In my writing life, my greatest ambition is to illuminate the connections between the organization of the human mind and the order (or disorder) of life’s settings. Now, perhaps more than at any time in our past, understanding these connections is critical to our health, happiness, and perhaps even our survival. I believe that the solutions to some of the world’s most important problems lie more in understanding our psychology than in advancing our technology.