Space, time and memory: tales from a long road

Alan Dix

Computational Foundry, Swansea University, Wales

Keynote at ICSC 2018, 7th International Conference on Spatial Cognition, Rome, Sept. 2018

Full paper Open Access – DOI: 10.1007/s10339-018-0879-0


All roads lead to Rome: the Milliarium Aureum in the Forum marked the point from which distances were measured along the long roads that led in all directions.  However, this is not simply a statement about one end point; it says to, not from.  Roads are spatial, but journeys are temporal, with a beginning and an end.  Furthermore, in Imperial times and for a millennium after, Rome was the centre of power, temporal and spiritual; the 'to' makes clear that one's eyes should be cast towards its heart.  Our conceptions of space and time are intimately interwoven with the social fabric of human life.

In 1996, at the AVI'96 conference in Gubbio, I gave my first keynote, which considered how sight, sound and smell create different cuts through space and time, and call on memory in different ways to fill the void in current sensation.  Twenty years on, at Talis, I studied the changing nature of physical text in a digital world.  The written word takes a snaking line across the space of the page and through the volume of a book, preserving, prompting and promulgating memory.

During the Dark Ages, the laborious writing of Celtic monks on the Atlantic fringe was crucial to the continuity of knowledge. In 2013 I took my own winding route round the edges of Wales, exploring viscerally the relation between space, time and memory.  This talk will link lessons from that one thousand mile path and thirty years' study of time in user interaction.

Keywords: spatial cognition, maps, walking, Alan Walks Wales, HCI, extended eposodic experience


Space, time and memory: tales from a long road from Alan Dix

Related Publications

  1. Asimakopoulos S, Dix A (2017)  Walking: A Grounded Theory of Social Engagement and Experience. Interacting with Computers, 29(6):824–844 doi:10.1093/iwc/iwx014
  2. Auge M (1995)  Non-places: Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity. New York and London: Verso.
  3. Augustine of Hippo (AD 401)  The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book XI. (Tr. E. B. Pusey, 1876)
  4. Benford S, Giannachi G, Koleva B, Rodden T (2009)  From interaction to trajectories: designing coherent journeys through user experiences. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '09). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 709-718. DOI:10.1145/1518701.1518812
  5. Clark A (1998)  Being There: Putting Brain, Body and the World Together Again. MIT Press.
  6. Dehaene S,  Spelke E, Pinel P, Stanescu, R,  Tsivkin S (1999)  Sources of Mathematical Thinking: Behavioral and brain-imaging evidence.  Science, 284(5416), 970–974.
  7. Dix A (1996)   Closing the Loop: modelling action, perception and information.  AVI'96 - Advanced Visual Interfaces, Eds. T. Catarci, M. F. Costabile, S. Levialdi and G. Santucci. Gubbio, Italy, ACM Press. pp. 20-28.
  8. Dix A, Wilkinson J, Ramduny D (1998)  Redefining Organisational Memory - Artefacts, and the Distribution and Coordination of Work. Workshop on Understanding work and designing artefacts, York, 21st September 1998.
  9. Dix A (2002)  Managing the Ecology of Interaction. Proceedings of Tamodia 2002 - First International Workshop on Task Models and User Interface Design (Bucharest, Romania, 18-19 July 2002), C. Pribeanu, J. Vanderdonckt (Eds.). INFOREC Publishing House, Bucharest. ISBN 973-8360-01-3. pp. 1-9.
  10. Dix A, Sheridan J, Lock, S, Ellis G (2004)  absenT Presence. Position paper for EQUATOR Record and Reeuse workshop, UCL, London, 12-13 February 2003..
  11. Dix A (2009)  Paths and Patches: Patterns of Geonosy and Gnosis. Chapter 1 in Exploration of Space, Technology, and Spatiality: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, P. Turner, S. Turner, and E. Davenport (eds), Information Science Reference, ISBN: 978-1-60566-020-2. pp. 1-16
  12. Dix A (2013a)  Alan Walks Wales: one thousand miles of poetry, technology and community. Accessed 25/6/2018.
  13. Dix A (2013b)  The Walk: exploring the technical and social margins. Keynote APCHI 2013 / India HCI 2013, Bangalore India, 27th September 2013.
  14. Dix A, Gill S (2019).  Human comprehension of space. Chapter 12 in TouchIT.
  15. Harrison S, Dourish P (1996).  Re-place-ing space: the roles of place and space in collaborative systems, Proceedings of the 1996 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work, p.67-76, November 16-20, 1996, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  doi:10.1145/240080.240193
  16. Henrich J, Heine S, Norenzayan A (2010)   The weirdest people in the world? Behav Brain Sci. 33(2-3):61-83. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X0999152X.
  17. Hillier B (1996)  Space is the machine. Cambridge University Press.
  18. Ingold T (2007)  Lines: A Brief History. Routledge. ISBN: 0415424267
  19. Khalid H, Dix A (2010)  The experience of photologging: global mechanisms and local interactions. Journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. DOI: 10.1007/s00779-009-0261-4
  20. Lakoff G (1987)  Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46804-6.
  21. Lakoff G, Johnsen M (2003)  Metaphors We Live By.  The University of Chicago Press
  22. McCarthy J, Wright P (2004)  Technology as Experience. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  23. Parker A (2004)  In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Sparked the Big Bang of Evolution. Basic Books.
  24. Sobel D (2005)  Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.  Walker Publishing.
  25. Varela F, Thompson E, Rosch E (1991)  The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. MIT Press


traces of past journeys

visual perception

nasal perception

aural perception













Alan Dix 30/6/2018