The term vernacular geography refers to people’s conceptualisations of geographic locations. It encompasses both the names that people use when they refer to places and the language they use to describe these places. Furthermore, vernacular geography research is also concerned with the mental representations that underlie thought-about places. These representations include the mental maps that are conjured when giving route directions as well as the sets of criteria that are used to decide whether a building is in a given locality or not.
(1) In collaboration with the English Project, we are developing an ‘alternative name’ gazetteer. Alternative place names are unofficial names that do not currently appear on our maps. So far the general public has contributed around 2800 ‘alternative names’ for a variety of places and landmarks including towns, neighbourhoods, roads and roundabouts. More information about this initiative can be found on the Location.Lingo webpage. This webpage will also allow you to contribute an ‘alternative name’ of your own.
(2) We are also interested in the way in which information provided on map is used to infer information that is not represented explicitly. For example, to see whether place names on maps are used to estimate where locality boundaries are, local volunteers were asked to draw the boundaries of four localities on a map of Southampton. The name of the target locality (i.e. the locality for which a boundary had to be drawn) was always in the same place. The placement of the names of the neighbouring localities, however, varied. When the names of the neighbouring localities were placed closer to the target localities, the target localities were judged to be smaller than they actually are. Conversely, the target localities were judged to be larger than they actually are when the names of the neighbouring localities were placed further away. These findings show that place names on maps are used to estimate the extent of the named locality.
(3) A project that has just commenced explores how people represent change in the environment. For example, when a farmer divides off a section of a field, should that section still be considered part of the original field or does it become a new field in its own right? Addressing questions such as this one will inform how we record change in future.
We invite people local to Southampton to participate in experimental sessions that generally last about an hour. We also conduct online studies in which people who live across Great Britain can participate.
If you would like to become a research volunteer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org