Designed Spatial Storytelling

A while back there was a French philosopher who went by the name of Guy Debord. He had an idea that he called dérive, many people know of this through a different type of phrase, basically that the journey is what it’s all about not the destination itself. The destination itself is of course important or else the journey would not exist without it, but that doesn’t mean the end destination is going to be the end of it all.

This idea is not just about a random wandering throughout the world but a control of the story being told through spatial design. The idea is that by creating spaces through storytelling it inhabits the mind and focuses on telling a story by weaving in and out of these narrative spaces. In the realm of storytelling its about creating just that. Spaces are created in order to inhibit certain emotional states and elicit certain reactions.

This isn’t necessarily even a new idea but has been a theme throughout history in all types of storytelling, and the exciting part is it is not confined to the traditional oral or written ways of telling a story.

The very nature of humanity utilizes spatial storytelling in order to convey what a culture or society is all about at the root of its system. For example back in the Aztec empire the way that the architecture was a means of showing who they were and what they believed as a culture.

An archaeologist by the name of Michael E. Smith proposed the idea that the Aztecs built their city of Tenochtitlan by utilizing spatial design to tell a story about what they believed in through their religion. As well as a place to legitimize their authority over the people.

This means that by designing the city in a certain way it played on the idea of a journey throughout the culture. The large temples with their layered rectangles all built up into a certain pyramid that was evident of their worship of the sun. These buildings were not placed in any random place either but a specific location for worship and veneration. Now it isn’t entirely clear if the Aztecs were conscious of this type of spatial storytelling that was unfolding around them, but they utilized it just the same.

It goes back to being an inherent part of human nature that deals with time and space as our minds tell a story about what is occurring. We are pattern seeking beings and spatial remnants lead us on the journey, not the destination. Just this one example is one of many about the possibilities of telling stories through space. In the modern day this is utilized through the video game medium that focuses on taking characters and their players through a similar type of journey. The players are engaged in their surroundings and the story or journey advances from the different changing environments leading up to the eventual conclusion or destination.

Tags: Storytelling


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