I happily let myself be roped in to participating in some experimental psychogeographic research, run by a student at the University of Bristol, working on his master’s thesis.
The project’s aim was to get individuals to carry out a dérive, a walk, through urban space, with particular attention to the atmospheres of space. This, while using creative map making as a way to record the subjective experience of moving through the urban environment.
First, participants were to create their own map. Then, participants were given the map created by another participant, to use as a basis for navigation.
Map making at Potato Square
Using Apple’s Shortcuts application, I created a script that downsized photos I took to a 4×4 pixel image, which was then pasted on a map, in the place the photo was taken.
I walked around in the area around Largo da Batata (Potato Square) in Sao Paulo, in-between tropical rain storms, trying to figure out what the use was of shooting a series of images of 16 pixels.
At some point, I realised that I was being led by trying to find objects to take photos of, where the resulting 4×4 version was very similar to the high resolution original image.
For the end result, the map that was to be handed over to another participant, I mapped the shots I took, but then took out the actual map, the result below.
The sequential grid at the top of this post shows that, towards the end, my images were becoming more colourful, a direct consequence of trying to find objects, or surfaces, which, when resized to a 4×4 grid, would result in a similar feeling.
Somewhat annoyingly, for display, browsers, and image manipulation software, interpolate the image’s native resolution. Normally, this would result in better looking photos. But, when starting with an image of only 16 pixels, this results in blurry, moody, shots.
This ain’t quite Sheffield
For the second part, I was given a map made by another participant, for me to navigate with. The other participant had created a custom map in Google Maps, recording a meander through Sheffield.
Using the map of one place to navigate another, is a bit of a Situationist trope, after Debord brought this first up in his Introduction to a Critique on Urban Geography. I am not totally on board with the term ‘navigation’ in this context, as it implies, to me, requiring a direct connection between the map and the physical world, which doesn’t exist when you transpose the map of one place, to another. However, this disconnected map can function as a tool for moving through space, if not in the way that a map normally, or typically, is used.
In fact, when managing Kompl, we created exactly such a provision, where the map of one city could be used to explore another. But here, the virtual map was provided for the user to try and get themselves, in physical space, to certain locations on the virtual map, when overlaid on the real world, having to move through the real world to get to these virtual destinations.
That is, we made it into a game.
My counterpart’s record of their experience of Sheffield was very factual; a route overlaid on Google Maps, with a series of markers, identifying particular places with one or more images, and a little narrative.
How to take this data and use it to navigate Sao Paulo?
Having some experience with Photomarathons, I used the little narratives for each pinned location to inspire me in taking a, somewhat connected, photo. The result below.