Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Friday, July 23, 2004day link 

 Psychogeography and the Dérive
picture What is Psychogeography:
Psychogegraphy is the study of the effects of geographical settings, consciously managed or not, acting directly on the mood and behaviour of the individual".

Psychogeography research is carried through non-scientific methods such as the derive, aimless drifting through the city, trying to record the emotions given by a particular place; and mental mapping, the production of mood-based maps.

Psychogeography was developed as a critique of urbanism by the Lettrist International and then by Situationist International in the late fifties. Today, it is pursued by artists, radical thinkers and, on an academic level, geography researchers.
Hm, sounds intriguing. But I'm not sure I get it. What exactly do you do? Wikipedia has some more details and types of psychogeography:
Disagreements have led to many variations in the practice which have included the following forms: Debordian; Literary; Generative or Algorithmic; and Quantum. Various factions claim to be or accuse each other of being: academic; occultist; avant-garde; proletarian; or revolutionary.
Just makes me more confused. I seem to get a better idea from this text: Psychogeography and the dérive.
...The situationists' desire to become psychogeographers, with an understanding of the 'precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals', was intended to cultivate an awareness of the ways in which everyday life is presently conditioned and controlled, the ways in which this manipulation can be exposed and subverted, and the possibilities for chosen forms of constructed situations in the post-spectacular world. Only an awareness of the influences of the existing environment can encourage the critique of the present conditions of daily life, and yet it is precisely this concern with the environment which we live which is ignored.

"The sudden change of ambiance in a street within the space of a few meters; the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres; the path of least resistance which is automatically followed in aimless strolls (and which has no relation to the physical contour of the ground); the appealing or repelling character of certain places - all this seems to be neglected."
So, like an awareness of the stuff of pattern languages in the environment. Charting how environments influence us, based on some kind of non-linear exploration. Mapping outer invironments based on inner states. And changing the rules about how we relate to the environment. An infinite game. What is a dérive?
Concealed by the functional drudgery of city life, such areas of psychogeographical research were seen as the ground of a new realm of experiment with the possibilities of everyday experience.

One of psychogeography's principle means was the dérive. Long a favorite practice of the dadaists, who organized a variety of expeditions, and the surrealists, for whom the geographical form of automatism was an instructive pleasure, the dérive, or drift, was defined by the situationists as the 'technique of locomotion without a goal', in which 'one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there'. The dérive acted as something of a model for the 'playful creation' of all human relationships. [...]

To dérive was to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and desires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed. [...]

...the situationists developed an armoury of confusing weapons intended constantly to provoke critical notice of the totality of lived experience and reverse the stultifying passivity of the spectacle. 'Life can never be too disorientating,' wrote Debord and Wolman, in support of which they described a friend's experience wandering 'through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London.'
Hm, what a weird and splendid idea. Anyway, this all seems to fit into my ongoing quest for the deeper patterns of life, beyond the superficial and confusing details that are swirling around us.
An example of a situation-creating technique is the dérive. The dérive is the first step toward an urban praxis. It is a stroll through the city by several people who are out to understand the "psychogeographical articulation of the modern city". The strollers attempt an interpretive reading of the city, an architectural understanding. They look at the city as a special instance of repressed desires. At the same time, they engage in "playful reconstructive behavior". Together they turn the city around. They see in the city unifying and empowering possibilities in place of the present fragmentation and pacification. This "turning around" or détournment is a key strategic concept of the Situationists. Détournment is a dialectical tool. It is an "insurrectional style" by which a past form is used to show its own inherent untruth-- an untruth masked by ideology. It can be applied to billboards, to written texts, to films, to cartoons, etc., as well as to city spaces. Marx used it when he "turned Hegel on his head." He used the dialectic in the study of history to expose the ideological nature of Hegel's idealism. The Situationists use détoumement to demonstrate the scandalous poverty of everyday life despite the plenty of commodities. They attempted to demonstrate the contrast between what life presently is and what it could be. They wanted to rupture the spell of the ideology of our commodified consumer society so that our repressed desires of a more authentic nature could come forward. The situation is based on liberated desires rather than alienated ones. What these desires are cannot be stated a priori. They will emerge in the revolutionary process of situation-creation, of détournment. Presumably, communality, unification, and public urban space will emerge as more desirable than commodification, fragmentation, and privatization.
OK, not the easiest stuff to read, but I like it. Wonder who's doing things like that around here. Sounds like something French avantgarde art and philosophy types would easily get into.
[ | 2004-07-23 15:35 | 11 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Software that lasts 200 years
Dan Bricklin writes about software that might last for a really long time.
In many human endeavors, we create infrastructure to support our lives which we then rely upon for a long period of time. We have always built shelter. Throughout most of recorded history, building or buying a home was a major starting step to growing up. This building would be maintained and used after that, often for the remainder of the builder's life span and in many instances beyond. Components would be replaced as they wore out, and the design often took the wear and tear of normal living into account. As needs changed, the house might be modified. In general, though, you thought of a house as having changes measured in decades.

Likewise, human societies also create infrastructure that are built once, then used and trusted for a long period of time. Such infrastructure includes roads, bridges, water and power distribution systems, sewers, seaports and airports, and public recreational areas. These also would be used and maintained without major modifications after they were built, often for many decades or even centuries.

By contrast, software has historically been built assuming that it will be replaced in the near future (remember the Y2K problem). Most developers observe the constant upgrading and replacement of software written before them and follow in those footsteps with their creations.
So, how about if we started building software as infrastructure that was meant to function for a great many years, despite changing conditions? Not that he provides the answers for exactly how to do that, but it is a call to think bigger.

It is not just about the software itself, of course. It is also about the format and media of data for example. A piece of paper can last hundreds of years. A digital CD surprisingly starts rotting within 10 years or so. It seems like we have access to 'everything' on the net and in various databases. But really we only have access to the most recent stuff, that happens to have been made in a recent format that still is popular. Only fairly rarely do we go back and convert the old stuff into the new formats.

Anyway, he specifically calls for the development of an different 'ecosystem' for societal infrastructure software. Certainly makes sense, as our societal infrastructure increasingly is totally dependent on databases and software. Makes the whole foundation of our society kind of shakey if it is based on pieces that stop working after only a few years.
[ | 2004-07-23 16:12 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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