Howard Gardner, in his 1983 book Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, lists spatial intelligence as one of his original seven intelligences. Gardner looks at the navigational skills of the islanders of the South Pacific to help him formulate the idea that humans have the potential to recognize and use patterns of both wide and confined spaces. He nominates spatial intelligence as a discrete form of intellect to be considered equal in importance to linguistic intelligence. If true, then we all still use spatial imagery and spatial intellect--“whereness” and “whatness”--to maneuver within our environment (even if it is mostly a built environment).
People will always interact with places. Instead, it is our environment--our places--that have changed, as humans have become increasingly urbanized and exopolized.
The life-worlds of “reading” animal scat, seasonal markers, and locations of firewood or berry patches has transformed into the whereness and whatness of knowing the locations of the best urban spots for skateboarding; how to maneuver in a mall (the new hunting grounds) for the coolest jeans; and how to read the social cityscape for the singles bar that caters to your self-image; or for figuring out (using quickly produced maps) the transitory location of the next “rave.”
It is a spatial world (and temporal and material), after all. It cannot be otherwise.