You Are Here is a compelling plunge into the realm of orientation or way-finding in which experimental psychologist Colin Ellard questions why modern humans, with our big brains and technological advances, seem to be comparatively inept at navigating through our world.
The book begins with what amounts to a survey course in the navigational abilities of a variety of animals. Ellard's subjects include Sarahan Desert ants who travel circuitous routes across a terrain devoid of any landmarks in search of food, and will, upon securing their dinner, bee-line straight back to their nests with complete confidence as to their destination though it be up to 200 meters away; carrier pigeons, used since Roman times to convey information across great distances, appear to be able to navigate using the Earth's magnetic field; and the scout bee, sent out in search of food, returns to the hive and performs a set of movements known as the waggle dance in order to convey to his brethren the whereabouts of the nectar he has found.
In answering these questions, the author traverses a broad range of fascinating topics, from the evolution of our built environments -- our homes and workspaces, including the ubiquitous office cubicle farms, and competing theories of urban planning -- to the environments we've created in virtual worlds such as Second Life. Here, Ellard discusses our relationship to spaces, how they influence our feelings and movement, and how our preference for locations with broad vistas arose evolutionarily, among other ideas.
"The most prominent part of the house facade is usually the garage door, complete with a remote-controlled power door opener so that commuting homeowners can drive directly from the office parking lot to the interior of their living space without once making contact with the outside world."
Though Colin Ellard's path is meandering, You Are Here is ultimately an engrossing journey that will delight readers with inclinations towards pop science and sociology.