Is It Possible to Eliminate Psychogeographic Boundaries?

Date: March 15, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Is It Possible to Eliminate Psychogeographic Boundaries?

Psychogeographic boundaries.

Not an everyday term, for sure, but it’s something we take part in practically every day even if we don’t know it. As a brief description, they are basically a physical location or defined area that a person’s emotional or attitudinal perception of affects or alters his behavior toward. Let’s look at an example…

Consider a big highway in a large city. You have the “inside” and the “outside” of the highway; “this” side and “that” side. One is downtown; one the suburbs. Often people in the suburbs will have an unexplained aversion to going inside a loop or highway, not because of busy traffic or road constructions, but because it’s not “where they go.”

English: Locke's idea of perception

It might be that it’s “downtown” or one is a “good” part of town and the other a “bad” part. So, it’s physical (the actual highway itself) as well as psychological (mental activity about what it means to cross that physical boundary or how they see it). It’s in most business’ or community’s best interest to first discover and then vet these boundaries to be able to change perception and draw traffic or build relationships. And it is very possible with communication, directed advertising, and physical changes.

While psychogeographic barriers can be difficult to accurately identify, knowing them allows a business to attract customers that would otherwise go somewhere else.

A great example of a psychogeographic boundary happens in churches or other religious or civic organizations. How many people do you see enter a sanctuary or meeting room and march right up to the front seats? Almost never. The front row, then is a major psychogeographic boundary. But why? They’re just chairs, right?

Let’s think of some possibilities…could it be that if a family’s or individual’s attendance isn’t regular or isn’t what they might perceive as “expected?” If they take that front row, the pastor or leader might notice their absence and pass judgment on their devotion or commitment. So they want to be able to “blend in” and enjoy a bit of invisibility to keep the image they want to project in tact. Maybe they run late quite a bit, maybe they don’t feel “worthy” of the front row because they see it as a position of importance. Again, there can be dozens of perceptions, some valid, some not so valid, but perception is reality.

So the leadership of the church or organization, if they want to break down these barriers, can easily address these attitudes, bring them out into the open and ease fears by speaking to the fact that we are all valuable and appreciated and there is no “important” and “unimportant” members, or that though participation your life will be enriched, but no judgment is passed if you’re not warming a seat every time the doors are open, whatever the view might be. Or maybe change the configuration if possible to eliminate one or two “front” areas and be more of a collaborative space.

As a business or organization, send out your feelers for the psychogeographic boundaries that might be coming in to play with your customers (or would-be customers) and members. Dig down into it and find those ways to blow misperceptions out of the water open communication.


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When Streets are Walls: Psychogeographic Boundaries

Date: March 8, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on When Streets are Walls: Psychogeographic Boundaries
It’s kind of amazing how unconsciously we function sometimes. We have our paths and our patterns. Sometimes we deviate, but perhaps not often.Then there are those never-crossed boundaries we all face. The boundaries are sometimes walls, rivers, or a mental block. But what about those boundaries we could cross, but you just don’t. What about “that street” that separates that good part of town from the not-so-good part? No one crosses from one side to the other. There’s no reason that boundary exists. It’s strictly mental and emotional. But that one 60 foot wide ribbon of asphalt is as sharp a definition between “here” and “there” as if it were a 10 foot stone wall.The same thing happens with rivers that run through cities. There’s “this side” and “the other side” of the river. But even though there are bridges aplenty that let us cross, it’s that mental and emotional boundary that exists for everyone.Guy Debord

These boundaries are called psychogeographic boundaries.

Psychogeographic boundaries are limitations that are mental, attitudinal, or emotional as well as physical. According to its founder Guy Debord, psychogeography is “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” Sounds a bit ethereal at first, but a couple more examples, and it will resonate.

Let’s say you have a great idea that you’ve researched and outlined that you feel would make your division more successful and increase profits. Your boss is a busy woman and often abrupt, but you really want to get your idea in there. You go to her office and see the administrative assistant is away from her desk, but the boss is sitting at hers, as you look through the doorway from a distance—but you continue down the hall. This is a perfect example of a psychogeographic barrier or boundary. There is a physical boundary, the threshold of the office, but there is a much more imposing boundary…your mental or emotional view of crossing that threshold. So you hold back and wait for “a better time.” Why didn’t you just walk in? This is psychogeography.

But it’s not just streets and office doors. This phenomenon occurs in every walk of life for everyone to one degree or another. Other examples might be not going into a particular part of town because you “don’t belong” or it’s not “your part of the city.” Or there might be certain stores you don’t shop in because of assumed prices or clientele who aren’t demographically or socio-economically similar to you.

The key to breaking down these barriers, which is essential for many businesses, is to figure out what those stoppers are…what’s keeping someone from feeling like they belong in your store or office and doing something to change perceptions. There may be many resistance factors, but often these unconscious barriers are shared.

Through market research the reasons can be identified and you can put focused effort or physical changes into place to help ameliorate the feelings of resistance and get more traffic to your business and more connection to your community on the whole.

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