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Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  290 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Library of Science Book Club selection
Discover magazine “What to Read” selection

“A really great book.” —IRA FLATOW, Science Friday

“One of the finest science writers I’ve ever read.” — Los Angeles Times

“Ellard has a knack for distilling obscure scientific theories into practical wisdom.” — New York Times Book Review

“[Ellard] mak[es] even the most mundane entomological
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Psychogeography is, in Ellard’s opinion, how our surroundings affect our moods and behavior. How plants make any place seem better- and make people less apt to destroy things. How featureless concrete expanses make a person nervous and unwilling to linger. How surroundings can awe, suffocate, sooth, or tempt a person (think the insides of shopping malls). He explains how and why people have these reactions, and how they can be used to manipulate people. He also goes into how digital technology ...more
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is generally about the psychology of place (referred to as psychogeography), though I feel Ellard strays in a few chapters that deal with technology. There are some interesting studies related here, both about how spaces affect us and how we're sometimes influenced by what we think we're supposed to like/want in a space (versus what makes us happy). A section on the use of paper maps vs lists of directions on phone or sat .nav. has me feeling vindicated about my championing of the ...more
May 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
When I finished this I thought that I must've missed something. The intersection of architecture and neuroscience that the title promised and the author believed he delivered just wasn't there.

Given his credentials, Ellard must be a smart guy. Unfortunately, his writing makes him sound like one of those people who expend a lot of effort trying to sound smart.

This hit on neuroscience. It hit on architecture. There was even a bit of overlap, but not enough to deliver. Mostly, it was rambling
Nurlan Imangaliyev
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
How do certain places, cities, buildings and devices affect us, our perceptions of ourselves and our lives? You can find some great research-based answers in this book.
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-nature
Although the title of this book, Places of the Heart (Bellevue Library, 2015) might suggest a romance novel, it is not. Instead author Colin Ellard has written about why we seek out certain kinds of places and how the evolutionary roots behind our choices might be overturned by virtual reality. He calls this emerging science -- a melding of architecture and urban planning with behavioral psychology -- psychogeography. I found the book an amazing mash-up of lopsided and unanchored summaries of ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great reference book about psychogeography in modern day cities.
A thing that stayed with me was the comment about the Holocaust monument in Berlin—that kind of perception, if you know it you know it.
Chuck Erion
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: currents
In The Margins book column for The Waterloo Region Record for Saturday, Feb 13, 2016
By Chuck Erion, former co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo.

Places of the Heart, Colin Ellard, Bellevue Literary Press, 250 pages, $27.95

Colin Ellard has been a professor of psychology at University of Waterloo since 1991 who specializes in psychogeography – how we experience places and spaces. His Urban Realities Laboratory conducts research in urban settings, including Toronto, Mumbai and Berlin. As a
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: planning
This was a struggle. I wanted it to end almost as quickly as it began. That said, I think the timing was my problem. This is a text book and a dry one at that. I should have left it for a reading period other than vacation when I am not looking for text books. I liked most of the topic chapters and found use in each one, but felt that it took too much effort to find that use.
Herve Tunga
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very informative and researched. I learn few unexpected things though did not find what I was looking for. Still a great read.
Rob Christopher
Jul 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Entertaining, with a lot of food for thought.
B. Rule
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book never delivers. Ellard fills out a lot of pages with various bric-a-brac, from tantalizing summaries of actual psychological studies on architecture or effects of place (few), passages geeking out on the VR rigs in his lab (many), and fatuous speculating on evolutionary psychology and/or the general metaphysics of place (scattered and scatterbrained). I found little insightful here, although it wasn't terrible for all that. He mentions lots of interesting stuff, primarily channeled as ...more
Essentially this is a 200+ page literature review. If you haven't suffered through academic research before that's a fancy word for covering everything that's already written on a particular topic. Special attention is given to Ellard's own work, the work of his students and collaborators. When I heard Ellard give an interview on NPR about the book is when it initially got my interest. And at points it delivered on that interest, but I had to wade through a lot of academic psychology in the ...more
Joseph Reilly
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Do you ever wonder why you hate or love certain buildings or landscapes? Ellard delves deep into Psycogeography in this informative read. Psychogeography is an exciting emerging field which in basic terms is the psychology of place.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: city
Read the first half of the book, skip the part about VR and smartphones (since the story told is too old for this kind of technology)
I had higher hopes for this.

It was disorganized, malfocused, and read like the phone book.

There's so much potential in this subject and I think the author missed it.
Jessie B.
Interesting ideas though it does ramble a bit
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
"This is an insider's view of the human response to a place," wrote Colin Ellard, who describes himself as a design and architecture groupie while working professionally as an experimental psychologist. In part, he wrote, this is the psychology of architecture.

For example, solitary wanderers strolling through an art gallery experience deeper and more frequent moments of engagement with works of art than do those who travel as couples or groups. While that seems obvious, Ellard's thoughts and
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book reminds us how profoundly we are affected by our built environment -- whether we realize it or not.

The last few chapters on digital "places" are less focused and insightful than the rest of the book.
Richard Wu
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Author Colin Ellard is in his fifties. Yet he is incredibly in tune with the technological world and its latest developments. Concepts like Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things are intimately familiar to him, and he provides genuinely insightful commentary, at length, on how they impact the human experience.

Make no mistake; this is a distinctly contemporary book. Even so, it makes me feel like I’m living at the forefront of a new technological era, worthy of awe and foreboding in equal
Ahn Mur
Objectively, I think this is a great book.
Subjectively, it changed my life. Every once in a while you get the chance to read something that articulates your feelings, fascinations, and potential trajectories. This is the joy of reading, of stumbling upon your fate. And that was Places of the Heart for me.
Writing these notes now for future reference.
It has become my mission in my career / pursuits to use VR study and apply the affect of space on one's psyche. To me, with my interest in this
John Benson
May 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Colin Ellard is a Canadian psychologist who looks at behavior the grow out the design and geography of the built environment. He also looks at how new technologies help us understand the built environment in a different way. As a geographer, who has studied place issues for many years, the topic interested me, but I wish the book had gone beyond the built environment and technology. I did find it helpful that Ellard added a scientific understanding of place, whereas most of the writing on place ...more
Sandy D.
Very thought-provoking book about architecture, communication, the Internet, and our brains. How does the built environment affect our behavior? Our emotions? The research on this is scholarly and astonishing (and much of the most cutting-edge stuff was done by the author), though Ellard's writing style is not always as smoothly captivating as that some of my favorite nonfiction authors. It's interesting to think about his ideas about monumental architecture as they apply to famous ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Parts of this book were extremely interesting and have given me things to think about. I want to seek out more books like this one. However, the book as a whole wasn't cohesive. The writing wandered a lot and could use more editing to make it stronger. I would also really have liked some illustrations! Overall, an intriguing topic, I'm very glad I read it, but I did a lot of skimming.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it liked it
My rating for this book reflects more that I've been thinking about these ideas, and so I didn't find as much information that was new to me as I'd hoped.

Ellard is an engaging writer, and this is an interesting topic, particularly it's implications for healing and for effective city planning.
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great introduction to an intriguing topic. Might work as a starting course textbook; plenty of notes and references that help the reader to find out more about the actual research.
Theresa Leo
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I haven’t stopped recommend this book since I read the first 3 chapters. Such thought-provoking and unique research lead by a captivating narrator.
Mills College Library
304.2 E44 2015
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was far more about psychology than I expected. Didn't really connect to place well. Not particularly revelatory.
Lucille Zimmerman
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book about how homes, workplaces, cities, and nature influence our brains and bodies.

Very interesting but at times it bogs down in scholarly information.
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well, I bought this book thinking it might help me with the decisions I am about to make about moving home - where should we be looking and what should we be looking for. Actually I got far more than I bargained for as the book swings into philosophical debates about what it means to be human and differentiates us from other mammals and, to be honest, rather scary suggestions about how the data we provide constantly through smartphones and fitness trackers could be used to control our whole ...more
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Colin Ellard was born in the UK and, at the age of 7, decided to follow his parents and siblings across the ocean to Canada, where he has lived ever since. Ellard is a research psychologist at the University of Waterloo where he directs the Urban Realities Laboratory. The main work of the laboratory is to explore the connections between psychology and the design of the built environment. Ellard ...more
“The relevance of these special properties of the hippocampus and their role in map learning comes from a consideration of the massive upsurge in our use of technology for wayfinding. By focusing on the blue dot of a phone map, rather than looking about at our surroundings and making the effort to form a genuine map, we are short-circuiting the processes that we've learned to use over previous millennia. As far as finding our way is concerned, we have become striatal stimulus-response machines, racing through time and space like feverish maze mice hunting for cheese.” 0 likes
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