Institut Jean Nicod





at Institut Jean Nicod 

Team Leader : Roberto Casati (CNRS/EHESS)


Disorientation has been a huge concern for mankind since the earliest uses of a space that is not just proximal or peripersonal. We do not only get lost — we also feel disoriented.

Popular wisdom has it that disorientation is no longer a problem, because of assistive, GPS-based devices. However, the idea that disorientation will disappear from the human landscape is wishful thinking at best. Cases of device-induced disorientation (intensive use of GPS-based navigation devices) are documented with increased frequency ; disorientation pathologies will continue to exist, related to aging, dementia and various disorders, with no therapy in sight ; and technology is not a universal or definitive solution (due to failure, power shortage, accidents, poor ergonomics, inherent complexities of the devices or improper use.) Finally, even though information is the key remediation for disorientation, contemporary environments are prone to information overload — in particular an overload of information aimed at remediating disorientation.

The Disorientation Group at Institut Nicod has provided conceptual tools to unify different strands of research and intervention on disorientation. In particular it has pointed out a double dissociation between getting lost and feeling disoriented, has characterised disorientation as a metacognitive feeling and has explored the consequences for the various fields tackling disorientation.

The group uses a conceptual/philosophical approach, informed by empirical data from the cognitive sciences, the neurosciences, ethnography and design studies. It constitutes a corpus of subjective disorientation reports and collects data on field trips, in partnership with public and private institutions/companies. 



The disorientation questionnaire

Did you ever feel disoriented ? Consider filling our

Online questionnaire on disorientation 

(a few minutes ; we will enormously appreciate narrative reports of disorientation situations in which you have been involved).

Available also in

French :

Italian :

Spanish :


Key articles (on disorientation as a metacognitive feeling and on unifying different research fields on disorientation) :


- Fernandez Velasco, P., Casati, R., 2020, Subjective disorientation as a metacognitive feeling, Spatial Cognition & Computation, DOI : 10.1080/13875868.2020.1768395


There is a large body of literature on disorientation, ranging from behavioral studies to the analysis of search and rescue operations. However, the subjective side of disorientation remains insufficiently explored and, as a result, there is no unified account of the phenomenon. A working characterization of disorientation is a first step in the direction of this unified account. Through the study of an array of subjective experiences of disorientation, we shall first distinguish between the objective condition of being lost and the subjective condition of disorientation. Our central claim is then that disorientation is a metacognitive feeling. Specifically, we claim that disorientation is a metacognitive feeling of low confidence in the subject’s online system of spatial representation.


- Dan Montello replied to our article. Here is our rejoinder :

The many faces of disorientation : a response to Daniel R. Montello Spatial Cognition and Computation, DOI : 10.1080/13875868.2020.1772267


- Fernandez Velasco, P., Casati, R., 2019, Disorientation and GIS-informed Search and Rescue, in The Philosophy of Geographic Information Systems. T. Tambassi, ed.. Cham : Springer, 241-251. ISBN 978-3-030-16829-2.


Nowadays, Wilderness Search and Rescue (WiSAR) operations revolve around the creation of probability maps using GIS planning tools (Doherty et al. 2014). Although this method has proven effective, there is a missing link between WiSAR theory and advances in other fields related to disorientation (e.g. psychology and neuroscience). A unified conceptualisation of disorientation is a crucial element for understanding the mind and behaviour of disoriented subjects. The central aim of this chapter is to explore how a unified conceptualisation of disorientation can contribute to GIS-informed WiSAR theory. The paper will open with a review of the work on disorientation coming from different fields, to then introduce the conceptual work that is needed for a unified account of disorientation. We will discuss two different approaches to WiSAR theory : a ring model and a Bayesian model. We end on a discussion on how conceptual work on disorientation and GIS-informed WiSAR theory can help each other advance.



Current team members

Valeria Giardino (CNRS), working on diagram-based reasoning

Pablo Fernandez Velasco (EHESS), Phd student, working on the metacognitive feeling of disorientation

Bastien Perroy (EHESS) - PhD student, working on temporal disorientation

Francesco Pierini (ENS-EHESS) - PhD student, working on the reliability of maps

Samaneh Yasaei (ENS) - PhD student, working on the epistemology of time-lapse techniques 


Former members

Agostino Pinna-Pintor, PhD (co-tutored with Turin University)

Robin Champenois, MA

Lena Coutrot, MA

Apolline Chaput, MA

Salomé Farge, MA

Louis-Marie Lorin (Internship ENS)


Pinna-Pintor, A., 2020, The notions of Format and Reuse within Embodied Cognition. Thèse sous la direction de R. Casati et A. Paternoster (Turin). 

Champenois, R., 2018, Mesure des capacités d’orientation en modalité passive. Rapport technique de Stage ENS sous la direction de R. Casati.

Coutrot, L., 2018, Sea Hero Quest. Capacités de navigation spatiale : du jeu vidéo à la réalité. Mémoire M2 CogMaster sous la direction de R. Casati.

Farge, S., 2019, La désorientation spatiale cinématographique : perte de repères en environnements virtuels non immersifs. Mémoire M2 CogMaster sous la direction de R. Casati.

Chaput, A., 2019, La représentation Scientifique des Nanoimages. Mémoire M2 Master Philo PSL sous la direction de R. Casati.

Perroy, B., 2020, Narrativity and narratives as means for temporal navigation. Mémoire M2 Master Philo PSL sous la direction de R. Casati.

Pierini, F., 2020, Why We Trust in Maps : A Philosophical Inquiry. Mémoire M2 Master Philo PSL sous la direction de R. Casati.

Lorin, L.M., 2019, Lost in the Interface : Presentation of the State of the Art in the Litterature. (Presentation at the Disorientation Remediation in Web Interfaces workshop, ENS-ENSAD, May 13, 2019.



Classes and seminars

(2020) Maps and diagrams (Casati/Giardino) 

(2019) Maps, diagrams and sketches (Casati/Giardino) 

(2019) Iconicity : What is a picture ? With Achille Varzi (Columbia) and John Zeimbekis (Patras) 

(2018) Disorientation : past, present, future EHESS (2019) Mental maps, paper maps, e-maps With Marcela Aguilera (Cordoba) and Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers)



- The Hutchins Masterclass (Oct 2018, funded by Iris Design and PSL-NYU Disorientation).

- Map Semantics workshop I, Paris (June 13, 2018) Organizers : R. Casati (CNRS-EHESS), A.C.Varzi (Columbia University, DE Invité EHESS). Funded by PSL-Columbia. Participants : John Kulvicki (Dartmouth), Catharine Abell (University of Manchester, DE invitée EHESS), Katerina Bantinaki (University of Crete, DE invitée EHESS), Jérôme Dokic (EHESS), John Kulvicki (IEA Paris and Dartmouth College), John Zeimbekis (University of Patras, DE invité EHESS).

Although maps are ubiquitous representational devices, are successfully used by millions of people each day, and are constantly redesigned and improved upon, the formal study of their semantics has been barely broached. How do maps refer to the world they represent ? How do they represent what they refer to ? Can maps misrepresent things, can they possibly lie ? What does it mean for a map to be true or false ? Are maps compositional ? Do they have a syntax that is coordinated with their semantics ? Can maps support ambiguity and other typical features of the semantics of natural languages ? Can we extend the formal semantics for maps to other kinds of representations, such as pictures and diagrams ?

- Maps Semantics workshop II, New York (March 29, 2019) Organizers : R. Casati (CNRS-EHESS), A.C.Varzi (Columbia University. Funded by PSL-Columbia. Participants : Liz Camp, Chris Peacocke.

- Disorientation remediation in web interfaces : 2D vs flattened 3D (May 13, 2019) at ENS Ulm in Paris (R. Casati, CNRS EHESS ; Julie Blanc ; EnsadLab) Co-organized by EnsadLab - PSL and the Institut Jean Nicod (ENS) for the Design and Spatial Intelligence project, funded by Institut Carnot Cognition.

- Experiencing Space Workshop London (May 28-29, 2019) UCL-Jean Nicod Workshop, Organizer : P. Fernandez-Velasco (IJN). 



Academic partnerships

NYU Abu Dhabi (NYU Global Alliance), EnsadLab (Carnot)

Industrial and Societal Partnerships

Attoma, RATP, La Main à la pâte



Field trips


- 2016 Transat Retour (R. Casati) December 2016- January 2017, partly funded by Lettera 27.

Dec 20th, 2016-Jan 5, 2017 : Transat retour, >2100 nautical miles from St. Martin (Caribbeans) to Horta (Açores), on Albatros, one of the celebrated Challenge 67 sailboats (no autopilot, no furling jib/mainsail), as part of a crew of 5 + DMM captain and DMM second. Totalling 45 three-hour watches separated by six-hour off duty periods. (That’s the “wrong way” and “wrong period” Transat.)

- 2018 Cognition in the Wind/Taqwim (Casati) May 2018, partly funded by Taqwim, and partly funded by IRIS Design and PSL-NYU Disorientation Remediation.

- 2019 Transat Arc 2019 (Casati), partly funded by Fonds de la Recherche, EHESS.

- Nov 24th, 2019-Dec 10th, 2019, Transat ARC, 2700 nautical miles from Gran Canaria to St. Lucie (Caribbeans), once more on Albatros. Ten crew members + DMM captain and DMM second. Arrived 11th in 200 boats, 2nd in Category B. Realized a time lapse movie of the full crossing.

- 2019 : Fieldwork in arctic and subarctic Siberia (Fernández Velasco), funded by the European Cultural Foundation, the Royal Geographic Society and TORCH. 

In collaboration with artists and anthropologists from the University of Oxford. Fernández Velasco embarked on two expeditions (in winter and in summer) to the Evenkia region of Siberia to collect ethnographic data about the wayfinding methods and spatial experience of nomadic and semi-nomadic Evenki reindeer herders and hunters. 




- Soldini, R., Cognition in the Wind. (Under scientific direction of R. Casati, featuring visual artist Simonetta Capecchi, an exploration of the social and environmental complexities of life on board.)

- Casati, R., Cognition in the Wind II : Transat ARC 2019. (First time lapse movie of a full transatlantic sail crossing.)



- Casati, R., 2013, “Knowledge of knots : shapes in action”. In. Kutz, O., Bhatt, M., Borgo, S., Santos, P., Shapes 2.0 : The Shapes of Things. Workshop held at the World Congress and School on Universal Logic, April 3-4, 2013, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3-20.

- Casati, R., 2016b, Preface to Giudici 2016. Fare il punto. La scienza della navigazione. Milano : Mondadori.

- Casati, R. (2017). Two, Then Four Modes of Functioning of the Mind : Towards a Unification of “Dual” Theories of Reasoning and Theories of Cognitive Artifacts. In Representations in Mind and World. Routledge. 

- Casati., R., Yasaei, S., 2019. The Philosophy of Time-lapse Movies : Vision makers. To appear in : Merlini, F., Bernardini, R. eds. The Age of Immediacy on Trial of Meaning. Proceedings of the 2017 and 2018 Eranos Conferences. Einsiedeln : Eranos Foundation / Daimon. Eranos Lectures Series.

- Casati R., 2019, Navigation as instrumental negotiation. Working Paper, Italian Academy, Columbia University.

- Fernández Velasco, P. (2020). Disorientation and self-consciousness : A phenomenological inquiry. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.

- Fernandez Velasco, P., & Casati, R. (Forthcoming). Positive and Negative Affect in Distributed Cognition. In The Politics of Emotional Shockwaves. Palgrave Macmillan.

- Fernandez Velasco, P., & Casati, R. (2019). Disorientation and GIS-Informed Wilderness Search and Rescue. In T. Tambassi (Ed.), The Philosophy of GIS (pp. 241–251). Springer International Publishing.


- Fernandez Velasco, P., Casati, R., 2020, Subjective disorientation as a metacognitive feeling. Spatial Cognition & Computation, DOI : 10.1080/13875868.2020.1768395


- Fernandez-Velasco, P., Casati, R., 2020, The many faces of disorientation : a response to Daniel R. Montello. Spatial Cognition and Computation, DOI : 10.1080/13875868.2020.1772267


- Giardino V. – Greenberg G. (2015), ‘Introduction : Varieties of Iconicity’. Introduction to the special issue of The Review of Philosophy and Psychology on Pictorial and Diagrammatic Representation, 6, 1 – 25.


- Casati, R. – Giardino, V. (2013), ‘Public Representations and Indeterminacies of Perspectival Content’. In : Enacting Images : Representation Revisited, edited by Z. Kondor, von Halem Verlag, Cologne, pp. 111 – 126.


- Giardino, V. (2010), ‘The world in maps : looking for treasures, neurons, and soldiers’. In : Studies in Diagrammatology and Diagram Praxis, edited by O. Pombo and A. Gerner, College Publications, Londres, pp. 145 – 165.


- Fernandez-Velasco, P. 2020, Wandering in a suspended time. The Oxonian Review.

- Casati, R. 2020, Désorientation temporelle, prise de décision et crise du Covid-19. Carnet EHESS.

- Perroy, B. 2020, Empêtrés dans le Covid-19. Revue d’une désorientation. Carnet EHESS.

- Casati, R., 2018, Technical Report on Chapter 0 of Cognition in the Wind - Taqwim 2018. 



Funded projects

1. DIAL (PSL). R. Casati, G. Puccetti (NYU), S. Bianchini (ENSAD)

2. ANR EEC Education à l’Esprit critique (dir. N. Gauvrit EPHE), R. Casati, E. Pasquinelli (2019-2022)

3. Disorientation Remediation (PSL NYU) R. Casati, 2018.

4. Cognition in the Wind I (EHESS IRIS and Taqwim Association.)

5. (PSL Columbia) Map Semantics R. Casati 2018-2019.

6. The Hutchins Masterclass (DEC New Ideas)

7. Dis : Disorientation remediation in web interfaces (R. Casati, CNRS EHESS ; Julie Blanc EnsadLab) (Carnot Cognition)

We study web interfaces using spatial metaphor in 2D and flat 3D in regards to cognitive sciences and theories and practices of graphic design. We are particularly interested in interfaces that allow users to access, annotate and organize multimedia documentary corpus. The aim is to study the organizational representation modes implemented in this interface, the strategies proposed the user to develop relationships between documents and to explore the corpus. We analyze some web design artifacts and develop a conceptual work around « web disorientation » with the help of cognitive sciences. 

8. The Cognitive Life of Maps (Italian Academy, Columbia University)

9. Cognition in the Wind II (EHESS Fonds de la Recherche.)

10. Evenki wayfinding winter fieldwork (European Cultural Foundation)

11. Evenki wayfinding summer fieldwork (Royal Geographical Society, TORCH)

12. The Philosophy of the Ocean (Bogliasco Foundation).



Casati, R. , ed. The Sailing Mind. Springer.

Sailing is with us for thousands of years, and will be with us for as long there will be oceans and winds. Can we gain a fresh perspective on it, a viewpoint from the inside, by asking theoretically-minded sailors ? I’m inviting leading philosophers, cognitive scientists, anthropologists and humanities scholars who happen to sail, and ask them to write a short piece on what they perceive of the intellectual complexities of sailing. "The intellectual complexities of sailing" include the challenge of the open seas, the peculiarities of that wondrous artifact which is the boat, orientation and wayfinding in extreme conditions, the environmental emergency and how sailboats can help us reconceptualize and address it, human factors and interaction, the language of sailors, bodily feelings, perception and action under time constraints.

Casati, R., The Cognitive Life of Maps..

Casati, R., Puccetti, G., Design Errands.

Casati, R., Philosophy of the ocean, 

Casati, R. Varzi A.C.,, Map Semantics.


Videos :

Maps Semantics Workshop I (2018) :