Dream Syntax

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work in progress

  • see also Mythogeography
  • ceiling height as changing the perspective or experience as well

I am interested in looking at dream spaces and developing a syntax for recording dreams.

I first encountered the idea of viewsheds (also known as isovists) through the work of Space Syntax, a London-based firm which conducts research on the pattern of human traffic through public spaces, and the viewsheds/visibility from various points along streets. Borrowing ideas from Bill Hillier's studies on spaces, its focus is on studying the way in which people's perceptions of spaces affect the way they interact with the spaces. As common sense will tell, complicated street layouts and blocked views are likelier to repel people and breed antisocial behaviour in those areas, whereas areas in open view through which people can navigate through in a straightforward manner are likelier to be popular areas, with a correspondingly higher property value; Space Syntax is the sort of research which means to provide information and "academic" evidence which city planners can then use to plan better and safer communities.

Viewsheds are defined as "areas of land, water, and other environmental elements visible from a fixed vantage point". In architecture, viewsheds are usually defined in reference to areas of a particular scene or of some historical value which is worthy of preservation, such as in the way green/open spaces may be intentionally preserved near public monuments or statuary for the sake of preserving a clear view of that monument. The point of defining "viewsheds" thus arises from the need to evaluate if that particular viewshed is still worth keeping -- in other words, whether it should be allowed to be "destroyed" or buried amidst the city. But my interest is not in the physical city; I have no authority to speak on that. I'm thinking more of that magical inner city that comes to life long after the lights have been turned off -- the architecture of dreams. In this respect, I think the idea of viewsheds is particularly pertinent to dream spaces; in looking at the viewsheds of dreams, what is brought into question is its worthiness to be preserved.

So what is the value of dreams? My dreams are of no consequence to others. But they are mine still, and just as real as any other experience I've ever had. I'm comforted by the glimpses of massive dream spaces which linger in my memory in the morning; these memories are no less valuable than my memories of tangible spaces which I've actually been in. For what is the city made of, but memories? Cities where people trail down familiar well-worn paths like pavlov's dog tugged along by a string of comforting memories, places where one remembers having been in and can almost re-envision in great detail -- perhaps cities exist only in the memories of its inhabitants, if the city did not have a view to be admired then it would lose its attraction and we might not stay in the city in the first place (although this sort of reasoning eventually makes a loop, I know, but bear with me for now). So to turn our attentions from hazy rose-tinted memories of old haunts to those hazy early-morning memories of dream spaces would not be so far a stretch.

Documenting dream spaces The question that arises is: would it be possible to document or even analyse dream spaces in the same way one would evaluate viewsheds for a real and physical city?

Perhaps as a product of my having frittered away so much time reading and producing fiction (or perhaps in spite of it all), I felt like vocabulary was limiting the way I wanted to record my dreams. Not to say that words could not suffice to describe many things: it was words that first gave me an impression of this city; and when I first came to London it was almost as if I had already seen it before through all the books I had read about it. The city was certainly alive and very real, and begging for a response (or so I thought). But to respond back to the city? With my words all I felt I could do were make maudlin comments; insubstantial and distinctly unsatisfying, barely scratching the surface with these sentimental alphabets and oh-so-precious symbols. Everyone did it too, lots of people have written of their experiences in big cities all over the world (there are countless anthologies celebrating stories about city life); and in a big place like this where there's space for everyone to do anything, you quickly figure out where your personal boundaries are: you learn to become content with what is within reach and accept that somewhere in this town there's probably another person exactly like you doing the same thing and both your paths will never ever cross, but... that's alright. Feels a bit like everyone is talking at the same time and no one can hear anyone anymore. Thats not the path I would like to go.

Formulating a dream syntax That is where structure comes in. Aha. Structure brings authority. If words were too flimsy for me then I would have to build a scaffolding around the idea first.

I began recording my dreams in the form of rough maps as well as the paths taken through the spaces. I like to think of it like I'm cutting a hole out in the wall. Cut-out holes in walls help to define the space by allowing light to enter and illuminate the room, and by allowing people to look inside.

major lines items leave room for detail scale, grid, legend color as visual aid elevation http://wikitravel.org/en/Wikitravel:How_to_draw_a_map http://inkscape.org/


if we can see the route we move towards them configurational modelling - is to do with movment configured in the sense like if there is point A B C in a row

in order to get from A to C you have to pass thru B, but perhaps you dont you can choose to pass from A to B2 then to C. so its not necessary

how do you record dreams? It's called memory.

http://www.spacesyntax.org/publications/commonlang.html http://www.spacesyntax.org/publications/context.html http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080803130014AAfeL0f