#010: A Lesson in Psychogeography

According to 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”

In practice psychogeography involves creating a ruleset for how you navigate the environment that surrounds you, in an attempt to discover new elements within this context.

For example, you could make a rule that whenever you see someone wearing odd socks you will follow them, until you see another person with odd socks at which point you will have a new guide. But it doesn’t have to involve stalking strangers; you could decide to rely on much more stable factors, maybe you will turn left or right at crossings depending on if there is an odd or even number of letters in that street name. The idea is that by having an independent set of rules in control of your movement, you have no influence in where you end up and you travel to places that you would have never gone to otherwise, experiencing new sights, sounds and feelings in the process.

On Tuesday 10th April YoYoPo and Digs decided to implement this theory by using a map of Prague to navigate the streets of London. The crazy fools.

Step 1: Choose your starting location

This is important. Try to find a location on the map equivalent to a location in reality that you can use to begin your journey. In our case a large cross-roads in Prague replaced Oxford Circus.

Psychogeography: Choose your starting location

Step 2: Choose your destination

You could choose a random area on your map to aim for. We chose a large pink area with a cross-hair shape. This was definitely a target!

Psychogeography: Choose your destination

Step 3: Choose your route

A general plan of what direction to take is good but you will probably have to adapt your route as you progress. Buildings in the way of roads means having to go around the block. No left turn in reality means having to find the next. Trying to maintain a similar distance is tricky…

Psychogeography: Choose your route

Step 4: Do it!

And there you go! If you compare the planned and actual routes you can see a similarity in their shape. The angles of turnings and distances between roads is different but that is something you can’t change.

Psychogeography: Do it!

As you can see using a ‘wrong’ map was surprising in that we didn’t end up in a random street or park but at an actual destination: Marylebone Station!

Adopting urban artifacts (a.k.a. random objects) found along the way as mascots is an acceptable tactic. In our case the mascot appeared as the legend predicted - a ‘Carron Energy’ flag which accompanied us from Charles Street and was planted in triumph at the destination.

Postmodern life could be described as a state in which everything beyond our own personal biography seems vague, blurred and somehow unreal. The world is full of signs and information, which stands for things that no one fully understands because they, too, turn out to be signs for other things. The real thing remains hidden. No one ever gets to see it… There is a power in the ordinary things of everyday life… we only have to look at them long enough to see it. - Peter Zumthor

Next time you have a spare afternoon try some psychogeography! Thinking up crazy rules is fun but actually following them is surprisingly theraputic; not having to think about what to do next can release your social tension.

“This article may be too technical for a general audience.” - Psychogeography on wikipedia
Peter Zumthor’s Thinking Architecture

One Response to “#010: A Lesson in Psychogeography”

  1. digs86 Says:

    lovely article sir - oh you do impress!

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