Generating a mental map of Melbourne

Similar to Manhattan, the Melbourne CBD is a network of streets, a grid. Once you become familiar with your surroundings you can wander around, turn endless corners and still be aware of where you are. And yet, you can still stumble upon a new lane way or discover a whiskey bar on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

The experience of exploring the city with headphones on and being guided by a Google map is familiar to most of us – our destination recommended by Foursquare’s Explore feature or a tip from a friend, the journey of getting there drawn from Google’s multiple layers of data.

The challenge of finding new coffee in the city is a unique one. A write up on Broadsheet drew my attention to Little King Cafe, the map guided me up Flinders Lane and through the arch ways of St Paul’s Cathedral. Now when walking from the Bourke Street end of the city I simply wander in that direction, sometimes diverging from the path, but always ending up at my desired destination.

Mental models generate their own map of the grid, not made up of geological surveys and sensis data but the unique experiences and memories that lay hidden away in our subconscious.

Little King Cafe is now a part of my mental map of Melbourne.

Maps have meaning because they filter out all the chaos in the world. How different would Melbourne be seen through the cognitive views of its inhabitants? Maybe our routes would be different, some landmarks forgotten and others elevated (Starbucks would be omitted).

Of course, the only way to expand our mental data set is to explore.