a useful thing a pocket-map is!” I remarked.
“That’s another thing we’ve learned from your Nation,”
said Mein Herr, “map-making. But we’ve carried it much further
than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?”
“About six inches to the mile.”
“Only six inches!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon
got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile.
And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the
country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
”Have you used it much?” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “the
farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut
out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and
I assure you it does nearly as well." Lewis Carroll
Australian aborigines find their way in unfamiliar country
without using navigational instruments or notions of astronomy. They construct
cognitive maps based on myths, traditional songs and stories, which describe
in general terms the physical features of their ancestors' Dreamtime tracks,
camps and sacred sites. Their very precise geographical knowledge comes
above all from wayside conversations with other travelers who delight
in describing in great detail the places they know, either from firsthand
experience or from hearsay.
A far cry from Breton's experimental wanderings or Baudelaire's "flâneries",
our own daily itineraries would appear at first to be rather well-beaten
trails, limited in scope. Their very banality would seem to automatically
exclude any discovery or chance encounter. In the métro at rush
hour don't we sometimes feel we've seen those same faces so often they
have become landmarks? At least we're not on the wrong platform…
By asking participants to recount their paths across the city, this project
aims to build experiential maps based on such notions as landmark, district,
edge or boundary, path, rendezvous. What details reveal a neighborhood,
an intersection, a street? What characteristics of places or routes help
us to find our way in a complex urban center? What information is charted
on our mental maps? What makes them specific to Paris, London or Tokyo?
Many of our waking moments are devoted to getting from one place to another.
Although we often feel this is time wasted, like negative space in a graphic
design, it models the "positive" moments in surprising ways.
However mundane, each of our urban itineraries tells a unique story. Why
this particular trip today? How did we find our way? Which path, which
means of transportation did we choose? What was the weather like? What
did we see, hear, smell on the way? What remains afterwards? Our itineraries
reveal not only our personal choices or tastes but also cultural and political
determinations. The hundred kilometer trip from Jenin to Hebron on the
West Bank could take either two hours or fourteen, depending on whether
we are required to stop at the 24 army checkpoints on the way . To a greater
or lesser degree, our travel vicissitudes point to larger issues, providing
clues about living conditions in a given time and place.
Guy Debord defined the dérive [literally: “drifting”]
as “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives
involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical
effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey
or stroll.” Geography “deals with the determinant action of
general natural forces, such as soil composition or climatic conditions,
on the economic structures of a society, and thus on the corresponding
conception that such a society can have of the world. Psychogeography
could set for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects
of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the
emotions and behavior of individuals.” The Situationists looked
out for the subliminal messages in urban planning, for them psychogeography
was a sort of city-space cut-up. They developed specific techniques for
objectifying their “dérives”, such as navigating in
Paris using a map of London. Today members of the Utrecht-based group
have developed algorithms derived from Conway’s “Game of Life”
to determine their itineraries. “Generative psychogeography, strolls
following a route generated by an algorithm, has been developed to test
the proposition that once you start using the city in a different way
you will find out that there are a myriad of discoveries possible.”(
Wilfried Hou Je Bek).
A Map Larger than the Territory develops a Web application
that will enable participants to represent their urban travels online,
using images, texts and sounds. The result will be a kind of "Map
of Tender" charted by surveillance technology. Each trip can be analysed
and/or simply recounted. The five minute walk to school could be structured
like Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques, a shopping expedition
to the Printemps department store could mean advancing into the “Heart
of Darkness" of the January White Sales.
The project involves:
1. A Web-based method of notation for participants to recreate and visualize
their itineraries online, using both text and image files they have uploaded
and information available from the database and on the Internet.
2. A searchable, modifiable online database of participants’ urban
itineraries made up of information gathered online and links to other
material. At present the database contains textual descriptions culled
from responses to an online questionnaire. It aims to restitute the variety
and complexity of the narratives, allowing readers to draw meaningful
parallels. In order to consult it, one is asked to contribute an itinerary.
3. A rescalable, zoomable map interface that allows one to view all the
itineraries on file. The mapped relationships will be semantic, topographic
rather than strictly geographic.
4. An online Rummage Sale for used itineraries, a networked Market where
users can preview, download, buy, sell and exchange copyrighted, copylefted
or trademarked itineraries.
The database intentionally confronts descriptions of very different itineraries,
adults driving to work and children running off to play, well-worn commutes
and spontaneous joy rides, quick jogs over to the corner drug store and
slow traffic crossing town, early-morning dog-walks and late-night bar
hops, each capable of revealing a specific aspect of our urban imaginary.
The infinitesimal details of our subjective itineraries, which on their
own might seem trivial or anecdotic, take on significance when confronted
with others, many others. In conjunction with a great quantity of other
details, unique stories and ordinary trips, they form a new entity, a
dynamic whole which is greater, more intelligent than the sum of its parts.
The Map with its marketplace of itineraries and network of links holds
up a mirror to the city. The more a city favors diversity, the more lively
it is. Versatile, multifarious, abundant, it is a dynamic system that
results largely from simple interactions between its inhabitants and their
living spaces . Acting individually, interacting with others at a local
level, they produce complex, collective behavior at a higher, global level.
The Map, like the city as a whole, forms an organized complex system made
of “situations in which a half-dozen or even several dozen quantities
are all varying simultaneously in subtly interconnected ways". Rather
than creating an object for contemplation , this project focuses on the
interconnections, the ways in which data networks “work”.