The Aesthetics of Cognitive Mapping

  • Ernest Ženko
Keywords: aesthetics, philosophy of culture, cognitive mapping, Fredric Jameson, Jean-François Lyotard


Cognitive mapping is a wide-ranging term that applies to a series of methods for measuring mental representations. These techniques, founded on George Kelly's (1955) theory of personal constructs, attempt to describe mental images that subjects use to encode knowledge and information. In his book The Image of the City (1960) Kevin Lynch uses the term “cognitive mapping” to refer to the conceptual maps that people develop to make sense of the increasingly complex urban landscapes they inhabit. Lynch used the term to refer to the mental maps urban dwellers used to navigate their surroundings. Borrowing the idea of cognitive mapping from Lynch, Fredric Jameson proposes the need for what he calls an aesthetic of cognitive mapping. Jameson uses the concept in a broader sense related to postmodern subjects’ difficulties in grasping the totality of the systems that enmesh them. Cognitive maps in this sense enable a situational representation on the part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society's structures as a whole.


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Ženko E. The Aesthetics of Cognitive Mapping. FV [Internet]. 2016Jan.11 [cited 2022Jan.17];23(3). Available from: