4wcop Session Videos and RTE 1 Inside Culture special show

Videos for Friday and Saturday Main Auditorium Sessions.

It’s two months since the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography held in Huddersfield in 2017. The Friday and Saturday sessions in the main auditorium were streamed live and now we are happy to have the recorded videos on VideoHud.

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Fridayhttps://videohud.cloud.panopto.eu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=35b7f952-f43e-4f52-a777-28524e5b3e9a
Saturday: https://videohud.cloud.panopto.eu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=33167394-753d-4497-acdf-559963c81513

Of special interest is the recording of the controversial Fenella Brandenberg & David Bollinger on Friday morning which many have expressed their wishes to see, and which a few people had trouble hearing on the day.

Note that you can change the camera in the video viewer from slides and main camera (with extra video of the camera of the screen and the computer too) which might be useful for some presentations.

RTE Inside Culture

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The Irish national radio station’s RTE 1  Inside Culture show featured the World Congress, interviewing a number of participants and covering a wide range of things, amongst a rather good show about Psychogeography in general.  If you were at the Congress you might have met and chatted with Regan, or at least noticed a fella walking around with a large microphone – this is his work!

Sonia Overall, Morag Rose, Gareth Rees, Kevin Boniface and Barbara Lounder were featured,  as well as the voices of Graeme Murrell and Dave Smith that I could hear.

The 4wcop specific content starts at 19 minutes, but give it all a listen!

Inside Culture  http://www.rte.ie/radio1/inside-culture/ 

You can find the button to Listen at the end of the Inside Culture page. I think you have a month from Nov 20 2017 to listen to it.  Or you can listen to the show here:

 

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Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography 2017 : a brain dump

For the fifth year running I’ve been co-organizing the series of World Congresses of Psychogeography. You can read up about last years congress here. From 8-10 September in Huddersfield, the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography http://4wcop.org/ took place. The three days had around 200 people attend, with over forty events from the loony, the jolly, the thoughtful, to the sublime. I led three things, two participations, The Centre and Algorithm Walks and I represented the newly formed West Yorkshire Traipsers in hosting Derive Day. Here is my brain dump of the event as a whole and the things I went to.

The following week I also attended the RC21 Conference presenting with artist Gareth Jones on “Entangled Narratives, Concernful Dealings: Bringing Leeds Terminalia to Osaka through Creative Walking”. This academic conference had an all day stream on psychogeography chaired by Morag Rose, and attended by a few people who also came to the Congress.

Upcoming updates….
We live streamed the Friday and Saturday indoor sessions so I will try to update this post if we get these edited and up. There was a journalist from the Irish national broadcaster RTE there for 3 days and so I imagine there might be a radio show about the events in the future too.

General

You can view the programme and biographies  (archive.org link) and  view the lineup PDF here (archive.org link) – or on the site itself now or if the website has been updated, in the past section of the site. (incidentally, the whole website is open source and available on github).

Overall, as an organiser, it was great, I think we planned it well, compared to last year. Last year we basically put something on without knowing how many people would be interested in it, we just thought a handful of mates would attend, but we were swamped. This year we were more prepared. I think we had a good programme and people seemed to enjoy themselves. I also didn’t kill myself unlike last year. This year also saw planned evening social events in various venues.

The weather sucked, it was showers and sunshine and showed that the gore-tex on my shoes had a hole in them! But wasn’t too bad, I guess, people seemed dry on the whole, we were lucky. On the way back from one of my walks we were gifted with the most vibrant rainbow

Refreshments – It was a shoe string event – with no external funding, and all the events were free. The Students Union was open on Friday absorbed the load, we had plenty of light refreshments on Saturday (with a box full of left over shortbread biscuits) and were able to source some snacks for Sunday.

Venue – The Congress was in Heritage Quay  on Friday and Saturday and across town in the Support 2 Recovery Create Space . Heritage Quay had a good sized (100 capacity) auditorium and a break out workshop room but wasn’t suitable for exhibitions, and S2R was more informal with a large space for presentations and a couple of more casual rooms – S2R had more of a gallery angle and was suitable for exhibitions (we had 3 of them). Heritage Quay and the professional and diligent support from Dave Smith from there was indispensable – the congress wouldn’t be able to go ahead without that.

Personally, I think I did one or two many events myself – I should limit myself to just the one thing. I spent some time and thought and energy preparing for each event I ran and as a consequence and in addition to invigilating and general running around was a bit too much.

People – Some people did seem to attend to just the one event, whether it was a walk or a talk. I think that some of these didn’t register – we had about a dozen email addresses afterwards wanting to be put on the loop. Anyhow – registration, as we emphasised was mainly just to give us a good idea of numbers to expect, and wasn’t anything more than that. Several events were limited in size and capacity and had separate ticketing requirements. I imagine for the future – if there are more complicated ticketing arrangements a better process might be needed.

This year, we noticed that there were more psychogeographers staying around for more events. Last year several of the individual events were listed in the Kirklees Heritage Open Days brochure, and I think it got many local people directly attending, most of whom were puzzled by what Psychogeography actually is. This year the event as a whole was listed in the brochure, rather than individual ones.  We did have some more press coverage though. The superstore carpark walks got some attention from the Huddersfield Examiner

Accessibility – A few of the walks were explicitly suitable for people with mobility problems, but we didn’t really emphasise this. I think next year we should adopt the scheme as used by Otley Walking Festival: 1) wheelchair suitable 2) suitable for some mobility (walking stick) or by default 3) good / normal level of mobility required.

The programme overall was varied and wide ranging. I’m proud we were able to pull it all off! I can’t remember how many submissions we were not able to accept – they were less than a dozen I think. There was some comments which seemed to imply that people hadn’t heard about the call for proposals.

I’ll avoid explaining what the event was for the majority of the items, and request that the interested user read the programme to find out what occurred I’m missing out things I didn’t go on, or didn’t hear much about.

Friday Events

Fenella Brandenberg and David Bollinger – The Fundamentals of the Psychogeographical Method

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The world famous Bollinger & Brandenburg end psychogeography! (Heritage Quay)

To open the congress, we were treated with a very special talk. David and Fenella appeared from a cupboard where they had been waiting for 30 minutes before I introduced them. There were some audio problems and some people complained about not being able to hear it properly from the back. But they steamed ahead. There were several laughs and I think when people got the format they enjoyed it. The format was in the way of a read sequence of email exchanges between these two academics. David did say that one of his chapters of a forthcoming book was available to be viewed, and here it is: ‘Either put on these glasses or start eating that trash can! Psychogeographically walking with John Nada, Beryl Curt and David Bollinger’

Brendan Bootland, Suzanne Elliot and Nick Hartley – Psychologists Working Towards Social Justice: How Can We Walk The Talk?

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Brendan telling his experiences (@TykePsychoGeog)

This was a good presentation. The walk focused on a walk from Leicester to London. Brendan gave an interesting perspective of his past life in the streets and what it was like. I wanted to ask him whether he looks at the same places in the same way, or in a new way now. Nick gave an impassioned talk about the need for social justice and put it in the frame of current affairs and politics. His passion was echoed in Morags talk later that day (which I missed). I heard that a few people had several discussions with these folks afterwards. Many also rated this talk as a highlight of the Congress.

Graeme Murrell – Short Personal Heritage Walks

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Graeme waiting for his group of walkers

Graeme led a number of these walks, even stepping in at the last moment to cover for someone who couldn’t do their talk. The format was a short, 15 minute walk, good for folks with mobility problems, and was a left / right algorithm walk where at each turn, the walkers would take turns saying or doing something. It was a good social and fun walk. Graeme said that the idea was based on a business mans lunch trip, I think – 15 minutes to do a quick derive. Graeme has run Monocular Times for years and has been doing a range of psychogeography in the dark ages when no one really knew about it. http://www.monoculartimes.co.uk/index.shtml

Ursula Troche – Walking Over Edges: A Personal Embodied Practice Experience

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Ursula in Huddersfield. (from her blog)

I loved this session. She was self aware of her, let me say, non-linear thought patterns, and was able to play with this with a parallel to space and place. She gave a couple of poems which I think worked well, and think that it made an interesting view into psychogeography. I think she described some things about psychgeography, patterns and prescribed ways of using a place very well. Ursula has written up about the Congress on her blog here https://colourcirclesite.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/offshore-writers-delight-psychogeography/ and here https://colourcirclesite.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/west-yorks-in-a-nutshell-no-triangle/

Phil Smith – New Spectacle, New Drift, New Psyche

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An interesting talk. I caught some of what he was saying but missed every 1 in 5 sentences. Dense stuff. He’s a psychogeographer’s psychogeographer. He ended his talk with an announcement that he would not be doing any more talks about his walk, but instead be doing more actual psychogeography.
Phil’s excellent talk can be read here http://www.triarchypress.net/psychopil.html

Roy Bayfield – Psychogeography Of The Fourth World

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Roy and the Fourth World (@PhotoDerive)

Roy is a great speaker and this was a fun talk. His talk sparked off many coincidences with places and situations in my life, which no other talk did, because of this I bought his book which he was selling at the back! Roy is walking around Brighton finding the places where be got and read Jack Kirby’s groundbreaking Fourth World comic series (which is out of print and my library aint got none). I first heard Roy speak at a talk at Leeds Psychogeography Group a few years ago. His psychogeography is intensely a personal kind, I think but applicable to anyone. In his book, Desire Paths after each chapter he gives a series of “try it yourself”actions.

 

Saturday Events

West Yorkshire Traipsers – Introduction to Derive Day

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9 Sept. was Dérive Day, organised by Babak and Eduardo from Dérive App, a mobile phone app. Starting a number of times during the day, participants are presented the exact same task cards simultaneously wherever you are in the world. “Share your experiences on social media as a testimony to your own unique dérive, photos, thoughts and locations around the world. Dérive App is a mobile app for Iphone and Android.”
Traipsers are the new flaneurs – everyone who turned up became an owner and director of the West Yorks Traipsers. They could leave the organisation if they wanted to start up their own chapter.
A few people had some struggles both installing the app, then finding the group, joining it and starting the hosted derive. Some formed into huddles rather than go out individually.  It feels more of a collaborative locative game than a pure card based derive. I really like the nature of the hosted derive and knowing that others are attempting the same task somewhere else, and I like the embedded chat.  Personally, it’s not quite my cup of tea, at least for doing it alone. I’m not sure how many other international users were using it at the same time – but it certainly gave a global feel to it. There were some great comments about it.

Tim Waters (me) – The Centre

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Me dowsing over a historical map (@heritagequay)

The idea here was to have three activities, based loosley on temperament. Extraverts would go out to the town and speak with people to ask them where the centre was, intuitives would go and feel where the genii loci were which felt like where the centre really was, and some others indoors would look at historical maps, consult computers and dowse with rods and pendulums to determine the centre of Huddersfield. The talker group asked people and found the market cross area as being the most common centre, with the square outside of the railway also occurring (but less common). Intuitives found the area outside and even inside the library. They found it felt most comfortable. The map dowsers (I took part in this) also found the market cross. However, the outdoor groups who went to the actual market cross area found it oppressive, and repelled people. No genii loci found, possibly due to the weather. Next time – I think I need to give people more time to allow folks to swap roles, and at least people to go out and use the dowsing outdoors as well and less of the theory I think.
Interestingly we had some dowsers come along and we dowsed indoors – I think we really did independently spot responses at a couple of spots in one room. Possibly locations of power lines or water / sewage?

Sonia Overall – Mishtory Tour

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Finding secrets about ghost submariners on Sonia’s walk

This was a good walk and well attended. I felt there may have been possibly too many (although it was within the specified ticket limit). Format allowed 4 participants to take on roles and so in a way allowed most of the rest of us to take a less of a role, and be carried along on the story. I found myself thinking how certain characters are louder in a discussion and can come to dominate an activity. However, I think we all occasionally piped up and joined in. It was enjoyable and Sonia did guide the narrative and structure in a good way, encouraging a sense of story with plot, beginning and end. It was a kind of lived fiction, hard to tell what it was about, but it involved trapped russian submariners, the number 7, the elements of fire, earth, wind and water!

Elia Rita – I’m the City of Other Who Are The City – a participatory urban pilgrimage
pics and video.

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Elia and participants (from @Heritage_Quay )

This was the best thing ever. I’m happy that I was able to have this as part of the programme, and that some faith in Huddersfield and its people paid off. In
a way I’d like future congresses to have more interactions within the public space. Not that the congress was insular and inwards looking – we often looked out and went out, but that the people and place of Huddersfield can also be interacted with. But I also don’t want to run a performance art festival, so perhaps just having a couple extra things like this would be good.

 

I was a bit nervous about what the people of town might react and told her that you Yorkshire folks can be direct but not aggressive, almost childlike in the way they can ask questions. Elia replied by saying that she would explain the work before, and she did.
During the piece us walkers who were not protestrating were able to talk with people who approached them. Mostly it was curiosity. Some people were watching for several minutes, groups formed, I talked with a Catholic and a Muslim family, both who seemed appreciative of it, and could identify with the religious aspect of the piece..
One man with family expressed heartfelt thanks to her. I took loads of pics and a few videos:

 

Kevin Boniface, Steven Beever, & Marc Layton-Bennett – Most Difficult Thing Ever

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Kevin and band (@halifaxslasher)

Kevin is a poet (a beat poet?) and this was a musical performance with drums, keyboard and computer. There were a couple of issues with the audio and it was borderline problematic initially, but we worked it out in the end I think. Dave and the staff in Heritage Quay did a good job getting the right balance. People were laughing out loud (Kevins poetry is very funny) and really seemed to enjoy it. A great end to the day. http://kevinboniface.co.uk/

We then all went to the pub and had some pizza.

Sunday Events

Sunday was in another venue – S2R or Support to Recovery – a general wellbeing / positive mental health local charity, which does a range of activities increasingly outdoors, walks, workshops etc.

This space had, well, space for the exhibitions. One by Lloyd Spenser and one by Victor Beuhring

Lloyd Spenser Nightwalking

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Lloyd did a talk and exhibited his photography. He talked about how regular visits to a local hospice and the emergence after to another world of night, fog and lights. Lloyd also showed some of his earlier night street photography on the streets of Leeds. There were some really beautiful prints, and I bought a couple of prints from him. Here he is on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/people/lloydspencer/

Victor Beuhring – 25 pockets of […]

Victor exhibited his framed works showing things given to him in places by people. He has devised a wonderful way both of making new friends in an area, and discovering more about the area. We were happy that Victor was able to give a short impromptu talk about his talk to the assembled Congresseers. Victor also attended the RC21 talk the following week.

 

Gareth Rees – Superstore Carparks

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Gareth showing us around Sainsburys (from @anzrboo)

Gareth is a very personable and enthusiastic, intelligent chap, you could tell he put a good amount of work into this. Top marks for this walk, and for Huddersfield for having two very different carparks! It was a hugely enjoyable
walk. Gareth also won the prize for having the best t-shirt competition of the Congress.
This walk (he did one each on a more rainy but busier Saturday and on the Sunday which I attended) walked through supermarket car parks, looking at graffiti, artefacts, the structure, the ghost signs, white paint signs etc. Tesco’s car park was post apocalyptic and cave like with actual stalagmites and stalactites, and Sainsbury’s had a Dickensian village aesthetic. I’m encouraged to explore my towns superstore carparks now, if only to get a dose of this madness.
Superstore carparks are a way to read about society, it’s aspiration, it’s histories etc.

 

Sara Rees – Fragments for A City in Ruins

Sara is a film-maker and showed a delicate and thoughtful film, exploring what a place is, with regards to showing ruins in Athens. I think all the text were taken from well known text like Benjamin and Italo Calvino. I think it would require further viewing in a way, alone, perhaps. Sara showed the film twice on Sat and Sun and unfortunately, on the Sunday both the room was cold and there was some technical difficulties getting the sound speaker and projector working.
I’ll try to find a link to find a way for you to find out more about this, but it’s showing across the country now.

Aimee Blease-Bourne The red city inside out: A psychogeography of gendered space through the lens of the female body, specifically focusing on menstruation

I didn’t take part in this (I was running my own walk at the time) but was able to chat with Aimee before. Aimee created a number of handmade booklets with information about the walk, what to look for etc, and was able to make a collage / poster about what the walkers encountered when they got back. Her walk was very well attended, which I’m glad to see, although it’s not my cup of tea, generally.
Aimee has written a blog post and posted a video about her walk / work.

Tim Waters (me) – Algorithm Walks

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There were only 6 of us, so it was a smaller turnout than last year! Last year this walk suffered as there were over 30 on it, so I planned so that it could work with many people, but, hah! I didn’t plan on how it would work with only a few people. It was good though. I’m not sure it answered my theses, but the
walk was great and fun and I think people were engaged. Sonia came on it so
was in a way a co-leader. Rain and a bad knee and me being tired stopped
this a bit earlier. We were blessed by the most vibrant rainbow. Someone on my walk said “Huddersfield will never be the same again!” – referring to how his view of the town will not be the same, rather than some material difference, but I took it for praise.

Jason Kelly & Graeme Murrell Odersfelt Unorchestra

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A short introduction before the experience

What a perfect end to the congress! We could almost have this at the beginning and end to warm up. I thought it was fun, relevant, immersive and almost ritualistic about it. There’s a film here:  https://www.facebook.com/phil.wood.18/posts/10155316404614821

 

Bridget Sheriden – Drift In-between

Bridget did a talk earlier in the day, and we then waited until it was dark (after a pie and a beer in the Sportsman pub) to go on a walk. The talk was good – I liked it – it was certainly different, almost high brow art about it. Bridget’s films were projections where she would walk and film herself projecting something onto wherever she is walking, if that makes sense. So she walks with a portable projector, the projector is playing some film or other, and she in turn records this via a camera held above the projector. We got to do it too. One thing that cropped up in my mind as I was watching bridget’s films was that of nostalgia. She explained in the pub that one of the films had almost subliminal sound of children playing. But the idea was that there was something in between the two layers, and I think there is.

 

The walk – I loved this. I had to leave early to get the train back, and I imagine in a way that the route could have been chosen to ensure some darker bits to make the projection stronger, but perhaps this might have not been the point. It was hard this occurring both on the last day of the congress and late at night on a wet Sunday – I think all the organisers were all worried about not many people turning up, so it was great that we were able to get everyone out and attending to this. (starting from the pub was a good idea!)

 

Conclusions

Well that’s the dump finished. It’s basically just those things I went on, remembered. Thanks to those who took most of the pictures, I tried to give attribution / sources where appropriate, but let me know if you’d like better links. Also let me know of others blogs and reports and any relevant links I can add. Some people have asked whether there will be a fifth congress next year. All we can say is that we were so busy having fun that we forgot to do any closing plenary session, so the Congress is just on a long tea break….

Otley Psychogeographic Sound Walk. Notes from a talk.

Otley Walking Festival – Psychogeographic Sound Walk. Notes from a talk.

For the second year in a run I took part in leading a psychogeography walk for the Otley Walking Festival. The festival runs for a week and has dozens of varied walks from 20 mile hikes up fell and dale, walks looking for cup and ring marks anf from local history walks to walks around allotments, and people’s gardens. I did the “Psychogeographic Sound Walk”. Here is my notes for the introduction for the walk – I expected around half a dozen folks – but we had up to 20 people with a wide range of attendees.

Otley Psychogeographical Sound Walk

Hello and welcome to the first day of the Otley Walking Festival and welcome to the Otley Psychogeographical Sound Walk. If you are curious and have no idea what that means, I’ll tell you about it before we head off! Basically we are going to be walking reasonably quietly around the town actively listening with our ears at the sounds that we can hear in the environment around us. Wherever we go we will give our ears priority rather than our eyes.

So welcome to Otley! I think this would be a new way for you to experience and get to know the town. We will walk around the town, and have a half way stop in Wharfemeadows Park for an ice cream or a cuppa tea. Then walk a different route back and finish somewhere in the center.

So the format of the walk is that I will lead the walk and you will walk alongside or behind me. At certain lengths, like for example, walking through the busy market we will walk in single file, but at other times, it can form whatever form you want. Make sure you keep up. I don’t walk fast, but sometimes people can dawdle.

We have a back marker? The role of the back marker is to ensure that people don’t fall behind them, and that you know where you are walking. Give phone number to back marker. The back marker will wear a flourescent jacket like myself and it makes it much easy for me to glance back and see them and know that the group is within me and them. It helps for you too as walkers only need to think about if they are in the middle of me and the back marker.

Basically when you are walking you don’t need to worry about where you are going, so you are free to just listen. As we walk, I want you to try not to talk, but only talk about the sounds. We will stop occasionally and talk about what we have just heard and what we can hear. Remember that when you talk, others on the walk will hear you and that may affect the walk they are on. We can talk more about this now and during the break and afterwards. I’ll tell you more about this rule later anyhow.

Now, at times I will stop and then I encourage you to all crowd around me, this is so that we dont get in any others way, and also to ensure that you are all hearing the same things. After a 2 or 3 minutes in silence we can talk about the sounds we hear.

So no chatting and the only thing we can talk about are what we listen to (or cannot hear). When we are stopped we can talk more freely about the sounds. If you encounter a friend, just say “Im on a quiet walk, I cant talk now”, and another thing to fight against is the nervous silences when we feel tempted to break the silence. A walking group that doesnt make much sound is a bit of a silly thing both for other people to see and for us doing it. In a way by participating in the walk you are doing psychogeography as you would never have used this space in this way before. When we stop at the cafe we can natter and talk about anything then! I’ll also pass around the raffle tickets as this is a free event and the festival relies on raffles and your donations to survive. there are also some great prizes to win!

Some other rules – as we walk around we will need to cross roads. I will stop before crossing and you will catch up and we will form a group and cross as that group. Please use your own judgement when crossing roads, dont cross them blindly, and watch out for traffic. So if new people turn up you know, please tell them these rules!

There are a few steps here and there and some paths if wet might be slippery. There is a short park field will will walk across but you can walk around that bit if you cant make that.

So Psychogeography.

This is basically psychology (the mind) and geography (places and spaces). So we are doing something that relates to our mind and perceptions and the specific space (otley) and general spaces (how we walk about and experience places in general). For example, you know that walking in a town is different than walking in the country!

Psychogeograpyy as a term is vague though and has a few other definitions. The term was mainly coined by a group of leftist students, sorry I mean Intellectual Artists, in Paris in the 50s and 60s called the Situationists. They saw Psychogeography as a tool to expose the captialist machinery of the city – but they didn’t really give any ideas as to what it should be replaced with nor any tools on how to do the replacing (apart from marxism and revolution). One of the things they did was observe people as they walked around, and they saw a map of a girls students movements around Paris in a year. It was a simple triangle of routes- From home to university, and once a week to her piano teacher. They were appalled that someone so young should live such a constrained way in such a great and varied city. Of course you can interpret the girls life in many other ways, many of them positive and not one of alienation.

Psychogeography can be considered a practice of using space and being in a place in a different way so that you are not doing things the way that it’s set up for. By doing it you can in a sense break out of the rules of the game. Psychogeography can tell you about a specific place, about how we use and experience spaces in general and about ourselves and how we feel in different places and our own behaviours.

Sound Walks

A Sound walk is where you walk around listening to sounds in your environment. soundwalking is “… any excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment. It is exposing our ears to every sound around us no matter where we are.” Wherever we go we will give our ears priority Sound artists can think about a sound walk as a type of composition. Our speed of walking, the sounds and route we take could be considered a musical score in a way.

There are many sounds around us, and many things that you cannot hear! Some ambient sounds are inaudible or filtered out by our brain. Like the wind, or a road traffic hum. Some sounds are characteristic, landmarks or soundmarks of a place. Some sounds are clear signals – a dog barking, an alarm clock etc. The sound carries the meanining. Some sounds are out of sight and unknown. Some sounds you can see. Nature has a whole catalogue of sounds.

Now if you are thinking “thats easy, hearing stuff is easy” then you can consider how sounds change when you are 1) walking through a place 2) bouncing and reflecting off different materials 3) combined and overlaid with other sounds 4) the volume of a sound and the pitch of a sound. Truely actively listening can be tiring. But I want this walk to be interesting, so dont worry too much. Just give your ears priority! I’m not an expert and expect some of you to hear and notice things I cannot.

You can help concentrate on the sounds by not looking around so much – so if the way is clear, looking down instead of around might help, but thats optional.

Lets do a bit of a practice. Here we are outside courthouse. What can you hear?
I’ll give you the first one free, you can hear me talk! Easy. Now. Lets just close our eyes for a few seconds. I’ll tell you when we can open then. And try to list all the different sounds you can hear. Okay go.

Lead your ears away from your own sounds and listen to the sounds nearby.
What do you hear? Other people Nature sounds Mechanical sounds. How many continuous sounds?
Can you detect: Interesting rhythms, Regular beats, The highest, The lowest pitch?


Okay lets begin the walk.

—– end talk —-

 

The walk itself was good, and varied I think. Walkers noted how doing it sharpened every other sense too – even seeing. It was like meditation – mindfullness. That the surface where they walked on, stones, cobbles, grass, tarmac all become more noticeable. Drones from air conditioning units became more apparent – as well as how the sound of wind in trees in a way masked out lots of sound. One walker wondered if you could identify different trees based on the sound of wind in them. Bird song also becaome apparent. In parts, traffic sound become almost intolerable.

The route, roughly shown here in the map, took us from the centre through the busy Saturday market, and through the busy shopping streets, through the bus station, and to Sinclairs / Silvine Works factory. At each of these locations we stopped for a few minutes in silence and had a listen and then had a chat about what we heard and could hear at that spot. Then we wandered towards the river, through a park and into Tittiebottle Park and over the bridge, along the river where we passed another large group of walkers who were preparing for their walk to Farnley Hall. past the Bowls club which were playing a game, clack, and then the spectaclular weir. Then to the park proper and the ice cream stop for the break. After that we walked back to town, through a pub, into a church and through the centre again.

For next time I think I would end at the Park by the river. A few people ended at this spot, and on the second half, I was getting tired (we were also walking up hill). So the route for next time will be different.

4wcop Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography – Huddersfield. 2016

Intro

The Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography (4wcop.org) happened a few weeks ago in September and was held at Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield. It was organised by Phil Wood (Urban Therapist http://philwood.eu), Alex Bridger (Huddersfield Psychogeography Network and Academic Psychologist the University), Dave Smith (Participation and Engagement Officer at Heritage Quay) and myself. It was much popular than we imagined (or planned for) with 98 people attending with 368 cumulative attendance over two days and eleven events. People came as far afield as Utrecht in The Netherlands, Exeter, London and Birmingham! We didn’t have any external funding but had a little bit from the University and venue for some of the headline speakers. The majority of events, talks and walks were done at no cost, and all events were for free. A few of the events were also promoted and part of the Heritage Open Days (PDF) for Kirklees.

Psychogeography

If this is your first encounter with the topic of psychogeography, here is a quick summary of what it is. I gave this at the beginning of my walks:

Psychogeography is the study of place and people. It’s mainly a practised activity with walking at its core. You can learn three things from doing Psychogeography:
1) You can learn about a place (how it works, what’s there, what it is like).
2) You can learn about spaces and how places in general works (society shaping places, capitalism and cities, consumerism etc)
3) You can learn about yourself (what perceptions do we have, why do we feel this about that, how do we live your life in places, self reflection)

The walk or the “Derive” or drift is the main way people do psychogeography, and I think there are two main ways of moving.

  1. We walk according to our subconscious, we follow our own, or collective desires and let ourselves be drawn and influenced by the spaces we are in. We wander and move according to the spaces we are in. We walk to the places that attract us and away from those that make us anxious. The spaces and places we walk in shape our experiences.
  2. We walk according to random or a rule. We move more consciously into places which our desires may never have taken us. We follow a rule (such as take alternate left and right turns) or at random (for example, a roll of a dice) instead of relying on our own feelings or the feelings of a space.

Both types of walking can give us different things.

4WCOP Website

I developed the website (4wcop.org), using an adapted Bootstrap theme, Grayscale, swapping out the Google Maps API integration and using Leaflet. The code is open source and is also hosted using GitHub pages. A custom Mapbox tile style was developed using the Mapbox Studio online and shows the Heritage Quay venue. screenshot_2016-10-18_14-49-21

The site had sections for event listing, biographies, an about section and contact sections.

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History of the Congress

The name, the Fourth World Congress implied that we had three similar events, however the other ones were various and different. We all liked the self myth making nature of the Situationists, and their colourful descriptions of expulsions and history.

“The First World Congress of Psychogeography took place in June last year (2015) in two locations at the same time – Huddersfield and Leeds. The Congress was convened in order to host the launch of an edited collection of essays about current psychogeography in the United Kingdom (edited by Tina Richardson) and also to invite the Class Wargames collective to do a talk and to show how Debord’s Game of War works as a situationist board game with the aims being to use wargaming as a metaphor to explore the social relations of capitalism. Arguably, the hosting of these two events shifted the ley lines and seismic energies in the Northern Heartlands, as evidenced by a seventh levitation of the Odeon Cinema in Huddersfield. Members of the World Congress of Psychogeographers have previously levitated the Odeon Cinema a further six times previously in recent years! The second and third World Congresses may take place next year or they may indeed have already happened. David Bollinger the District Commissioner of the West Yorkshire Federation of Psychogeographers claims that that the second and third Congresses took place on June the 21st in 1984 and 2012, but we as the Huddersfield Psychogeography Network, argue that such claims are spurious. There are indeed some irreconcilable differences between Mr David Bollinger and the Huddersfield Psychogeographical Network with possible and necessary resignations from positions which may be required in the near foreseeable future.
For more details about the first World Congress check out the following links: http://particulations.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/the-world-congress-of-perambulatory.html and   https://notanotherpsychogeographyblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/world-congress-of-perambulatory-sutures-huddersfield-and-leeds-1314-may-2015/

Events

There were the following events

  • Harold Wilson’s Turbo Derive (Phill Harding).
  • Psychogeography Extreme (Phil Smith).
  • Scavenger’s Hunt (Sophia Emmanouil).
  • A Walk in the Park (Travis Elborough).
  • What is Psychogeography (Alex Bridger).
  • The Northern Powerhouse in a Post-Brexit World (Alex Bridger).
  • Walking Over Mines (myself).
  • Ghost Trails of Diaspora (Phil Wood).
  • The Studentification of Urban Space (Tina Richardson).
  • Getting Lost on Purpose (myself).
  • Any Other Business (everyone).

Many of the events were live streamed by John Popham http://bambuser.com/tag/4wcop

Here are some notes about the ones I went on:

Phill Harding – Harold Wilson’s Turbo Derive

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The Congress started with Phill Harding leading the Harold Wilson’s Turbo Derive. Phill Harding is a multidisciplinary artist who works with sound. The walk was, as it’s name suggests, a walk of very rapid velocity across the town. The main idea was to be in the moment as much as possible – no recording devices, no cameras, no headphones and no talking were some of the rules of the walk. It was both very fast, and very tiring – I think around 1/3 of the walkers who started the walk dropped out along the way (some reportedly went to the pub!). The idea was to move around the space in an algorithmically way, paying full attention to the sights and sounds around you.  The algorithm had many left turns, and I suspect was based on the Left-Left-Right rule of the glider from Conways Game of Life. We started from the statue of Harold Wilson, outside of the train station (see above) and walked around the town. We often were walking up steep roads and paths and some of the hilliest parts of the town! We explored around the Goods building by the train station, walking underneath and around it. We explored around the towns shops. We climbed up Cambridge Road and Clare Hill through the car park into some bushes, by a tramps bed with a fire extinguisher, and finished by Cambridge Lodge.
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This location was significant to two other events, a genus loci, as we shall see. The name “Clare Hill” gives a hint – it was where the Irish immigrants first settled in the town, and in this neighbourhood is where the Irish Centre still is. At the end of the walk Phill encouraged us to talk about our experiences. We discussed how we felt walking around the hills, about how some people dropped out, whether psychogeography was male dominated or not (we thought not – and in most of the events, attendances seemed equal between men and women. It was far less diverse in other ways though!), we talked about the rural and urban differences and how we should put in grouse butts in the towns and close neighbourhood for a season of shooting. We then walked back to the official opening event..

Phil Smith – Psychogeography Extreme

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Phil Wood, with ceremonial flat cap and a gavel from the Heritage Quay Archives (that had, apparently been thrown around in a Situationist meeting in the 1950s) officially opened the Congress, and introduced us to the third Phil of the Congress – Phil Smith, aka CrabMan and his talk about Psychogeography Extreme. Phil Smith has written widely about walking, performance and psychogeography. Here is the abstract of the talk:

“What is the future for psychogeography? To open the Congress, Phil Smith, in this talk, proposes future shifts in contemporary Psychogeography for a walking that is both quest and architecture and against a ‘Spectacle’ that invades subjectivity and pixilates public space. Phil will argue for an ecological walking that acknowledges the malevolence of the planet’s molten centre, for the taking back of the surplus of pleasure, and for new ‘grounds’ for a politics of the anti-Spectacle where our entanglement with distant things changes the here and now”

Phil’s talk was interesting and covered much about the topic. I think it got people thinking about psychogeography quite a bit. He introduced a concept of psychogeography in your mind – that is, if we can construct spatial mind-palaces (method of loci) in our brains – then we can do walks around these constructs. We can do psychogeography in mental places. I think, looking back up to my three learning points, may not help with a couple of them. If we construct a mental place, even if it’s based on a real place, the way we construct it is influenced by our perceptions. We may learn much about the place itself, being able to experience it mentally, and we could learn much about mental spaces, but I doubt we could get much self reflection. Perhaps having a memory palace and walking around it in an algorithmic way could be useful.

You can read Phil’s presentation here: http://www.mythogeography.com/psychogeography-extreme.html

Sophia Emmanouil  – Scavengers Hunt

“Calling scavengers young and old to follow a trail around the university campus in the search of items and stories, mundane or otherwise. The findings of the explorations will be exhibited in the Instant Museum of Curiosities at Heritage Quay, so come with a playful mood and an enquiring mind”

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I teamed up with my friend and puppeteer Anzir to explore the campus, inside and out. We found a varied assortment of objects. Things we found included feathers, half eaten chocolate, nails, wet paint signs, leaves, a plastic puzzle.

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Sophia Introducing the Scavengers Hunt

This event was split into two – in the first half we went exploring and found the objects, and in the second half we came back to the venue and created stories around the objects.

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Me and Anzir scavengering

We finished by putting some of the objects into little jam jars, labelling them, and exhibiting them in a display case – the Museum of Curiosities.

We wrote a song (based on Bagpuss) and I choreographed a dance, based on the objects.

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We then performed the dance:

Other participants created works of more beauty and creativity. Stories of themselves, the objects the found and performed poetry. Some drew lovely drawings. Sophia works alot with schools, health and arts organisations, community groups and other voluntary and community collectives in a public engagement process. Although we didn’t have any children on this walk, I think it was incredibly playful and fun.

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Travis Elborough – A Walk in the Park

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Travis Elborough talking about A Walk in the Park

Travis came up from London to give this fascinating talk about parks.

“Travis will present an illustrated, peripatetic survey of urban green space drawing on the material in his latest book A Walk in the Park (just out in Penguin), described as ‘fascinating, informative, revelatory’ by William Boyd in The Guardian, and his research during a residency in Victoria Park in East London with the Chisenhale Gallery in 2014-5. With their origins in aristocratic hunting preserves. Elborough argues that public parks have often proffered tame wildness to tame the wildness of the urban poor. As such their histories are steeped in age-old battles over land and liberty, work and leisure, taste and class, while currently they stand imperilled by government austerity measures and the invidious privatisation of free public space.”. Travis’s book A Walk in the Park has recently been released on Penguin Books.

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Tina Richardson with flat cap introducing Travis

His talk gave some interesting insights into the history of parks, why they came to be made, how they moved from the UK to the States (and the formation of Central Park). What types of uses there are in parks, the relationship with recreation. One theme was the influence and relationship of technology with parks – for example, landscaping and fountains with today’s use of CAD of planning. The main thing is the industrial revolution – increasingly worsened health and the need for clean air, increasing population and Victorian ideas about fitness, culture and the like.

Tim Waters – Walking over Mines

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Introducing the walk

I ran a walk entitled “Walking Over Mines”

“Tim will lead you over the labyrinth of concealed and invisible coal workings that lie just beneath the surface of Huddersfield town centre. His psychogeographic insights will give you a whole new view on the stuff beneath our streets.”

This walk was part of the Heritage Open Days programme as well, and so this had a fair bit of local history inside it. It was likely that many people would turn up who were not psychogeographers but who were curious about mining or local history – and I think on the day, we had about half of the walkers who just came for that. I think the total amount of people was 23. John Popham livestreamed much of the walk.

I spend a couple of days doing research in the Library and National Coal Mining Museum which was just down the road, including a visit to the West Yorkshire Archive Service. I also had several walks around the town to determine the route, get the timings right and make sure it was wheelchair accessible, and friendly with drop kerbs etc. On the day because we started a little bit late and had a larger group this made my timings off (something to learn from next time!) On the way back, to save time I thought we should take the direct route, instead of going through the town centre shopping area. The direct route, however, was along the demonic ring road, and was probably slower, as it had many timed pedestrian crossing points! A lesson for next time is to give more time for contingencies and groups.

The good librarians in Huddersfield Library got digging and showed me their mining collection – including some historical maps from the 19th century, and a great geological map. I took a photo of these, and georeferenced them on mapwarper.net

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For historical mine and shaft locations I consulted the National Coal Board website which shows these points.  Most of the shaft locations were on the historical map.  Some locations of mines were not on either maps – for example the Newtown Mill had a coal mine but was never shown. These missing mines were actually the subject for the walk – the time when the Ordnance Survey was doing its main mapping was around the same time as the first recordings of mines – the First Coal Act of 1842.

I then used UMap to make a couple of maps for the walk:

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http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/4wcop-mines-walk-geology_101667

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http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/4wcop-mines-walk_99250

History

It was during the Maps day at Heritage Quay in January that I saw Roger Lynch talk about the Great Mining Map and about mines in Kirklees. What struck me was that the nature of mines in this area was very different than elsewhere. When you think about coal mining what comes into your head are probably pictures of mining towns, strikes, big pits, large winch towers, mining communities and all the other local heavy industry. Here in Kirklees, the situation was much different. Because its to the west and is closer to the Pennines, the coal strata comes closer to the surface here. It’s easier to dig up. Mines occurred all over and people travelled from village and towns and did a bit of mining here and there. Mines were smaller, and didn’t last long. Most mines were called “day pits” meaning that they were mined during daylight hours and not that they lasted a day! They were either simple shallow bell pits or drift (there’s that derive connection) mines dug horizontally into a slope.
In some parts of the town of Huddersfield the coal seams were a foot down, elsewhere they were 10ft or 40ft – quite shallow compared with the larger mines.

These simple older style mines were less advanced, technologically than the larger ones. They would put young boys and girls down these mines. They were smaller and weighed less for the small seams and shafts. They didn’t even have ponies or steam winches in the region – there was no need.

The child labour was one of the reasons leading to the First Coal Act – where it was forbidden for miners to employ all girls whatever their age and all boys under 10. There were stories of children shabbily dressed, almost naked, and stories of mothers raising their babies underground. Mining children were described as being more feral than children who worked in mills and in industry.

Around the same time as children were being saved from mining was a change in how mining in Huddersfield worked. The town of Huddersfield belonged to and was controlled by the Ramsden family. The town, in the middle of the industrial revolution, was growing rapidly. shallow surface mines everywhere were often leading to subsidence and collapses. Ramsden decided that buildings were more profitable and better long term investment than mines. Mining was banned inside of a half mile radius and restricted for another 1/2 mile outside of it. Special rules were introduced, for example to leave enough coal under the Leeds Road and the Canal nearby – to take only 50% of the coal found there.

The walk

We walked along a few mining seams, had a look at the location of a drift mine, and visited the locations of the mines at Grove Pit, The Lane Mine and the Newtown Mill Mine. We also stopped at the top of the Hard Bed Coal seam very near the venue door, at the valley slope by the narrow canal on the university campus.

Dowsing rods.

images-duckduckgo-comI brought along some copper dowsing rods and I encouraged people to have a go at using them before and during the walk. We would use the rods to find coal.

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Dowsing over Grove Pit by the Stadium

The use of dowsing rods, at least little that I have gathered is that there are three main theories: Firstly that a mysterious outside force moves the rod, secondly that your body moves the rods unconsciously (the ideomotor effect) and therefore can detect water, coal, magnetic fields, etc, and thirdly that you are psychic and the rods are merely a tool to indicate certain things. I favour the second of these explanations, and told the participants that!

Indeed, I encouraged them to look at the coal and consciously make the rods move. Then move over the coal and then allow your unconscious to do it. I think several people were able to see how that worked.

The walk continued…

At each location I placed a piece of coal and we all stood around it and looked at it for 60 seconds in silence. We then left that piece of coal in the place. It both brought back some of the lost history, evoked the raw material, and was a different kind of activity on a walk!  At one location  – the Lane Mine – a site of several pits – and on Diamond Street (diamond is carbon is coal!) – we encountered a phoenix and a song bird. IMG_2422.JPG

It was sublime.

I had worried before the walk about how to make it psychogeographic – in the end it was more local history walk – but I had thought about doing dances, or collaboratively making a song.

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Dancing – during our bio-break at the pub, I discussed this and asked the group if there was a coal dance – by good luck, John Billingsley, the editor of Northern Earth was in the walk, and he said that the rappers – the dancing with metal sword type of folk dance – was thought to have originated from coal miners – the swords are actually tools used to mine.

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Looking at some rappers on YouTube – I was struck by how close the dancers got to each other, and how physcial and joined together they were, and how more energetic it was (compared to any variety of Morris dancing, for example). I would think that coal miners had to be as comfortable in physical and personal spaces. It could be said to be a claustrophobic dance style?

Phil Wood – Ghost Trails of Diaspora

We were late getting back from the mines walk, and I missed the beginning of Phil’s talk. Phil talked about some of the coincidences with places and people and families and Huddersfield. He framed the stories based on the locations he has been to over the years.

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The stories were primarily about immigrant communities to Huddersfield. The location of Clare Hill and Cambridge Road featured prominently, again here! That area was where these communities first started out.

You can see Phil’s talk in video here: https://bambuser.com/v/6451751

Tina Richardson – Town and Gown: The Studentification of Urban Space

Tina gave an interesting talk – view the slides and documentation here – about how private (as opposed to those provided by a university) halls of residence were changing how students used urban space and how urban spaces of the town and gown were changing.

Screenshot_2016-10-18_15-43-15.png Private halls are marketed to students much like an product is to any group. Tina looked at a range of halls in the region and beyond, and analysed the marketing material. Some interesting observations were that private halls were not a “party hostel” rather a place of serious value for money.

Clients were viewed as being co-opted into doing their bit – to making the community.

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One imagines that this means that students living there were expected not to make a noise, have parties all the time, and make the most of their investment. Indeed it seemed as if, compared to when I went to University, a private halls of residence is aimed at those students who want to get maximum luxury, safety, and value for money for their investment in their studies.

Tim Waters – Getting Lost on Purpose

I did another walk – originally called “Algorithmic Walking” and changed to “Getting Lost on Purpose”.  That’s four hours of leading a walk in one day! The plan was for this walk to be about a quarter in a workshop and the rest walking and relaxing. As organizers we expected people to be dipping in and out of events and hanging out in the space. We were not ready for both the numbers and the eagerness of participants. We didn’t have much on the way of a workshop, and no discussion of the theory or what I expected walkers to expect on it. As it happened then, this walk took me by surprise – and I thought I reacted badly to it towards the end – and I’ll give some ideas about why later on in this section.

As I wrote in the beginning of the post – walking around could be done in a kind of random or algorithmic way. The theory is that we can experience a place more consciously than just being drawn this way and that by the attractions and anxieties of a space. I was hoping that the walk would be a more active consideration of the areas we were walking and more active consideration about how we walk, and about how we react to the areas.

On the day, we had over twice as much people turn up, and we had to split into two groups. The instructions, without the above theory explained, were changed. This change led to a change in what I expected. Anyhow, the instruction was as followed: “The aim is to come up with ideas and methods for getting lost. I’ve got some props here, a dice, dowsing rods, compass, a street map to give you some inspiration. Grab a sheet of paper and a pencil and write one or a few ideas about how to get lost. For example you might throw the dice and if it’s 1 you go north, or you might follow your smell,  or you might want people to look for a colour etc”. After a few minutes people made several ideas. We shuffled them up, and devised a way so that every 5 minutes we chose and changed the idea. Here are a couple of photos of some of the ideas people wrote:
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The walk

I led my group with Alex being the Reader of The Ideas. We walked to and ended up at…YES Clare Hill and Cambridge Road!

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Some of our ideas were, if I remember correctly:

  • Follow the rise of the land and find a lookout spot
    • We went up the hill to the market
  • Follow places of worship
    • We went from Temple of Consumerism / shopping mall to the parish church
  • Navigate using natural phenomenon
    • We generally stressed out some pigeons before following a high flying crow
  • We had a couple of following colour rules – stop at red, and turn at blue for example
  • You are being chased by a beast! Run away
    • We fled from the beast market towards the jaws of another beast – a huge jaguar statue (outside car shop)
  • Follow someone
    • We followed two lads as they weaved their way across the main roads and ring road to Lidl supermarket, then we went up a hill following someone else
  • Spin around in a circle and follow the direction of where they stagger off to
  • Head in the direction of the nearest pub
  • Follow the stars
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Plants growing inside a showroom under the arches of the railway

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The other group had an interesting encounter with a local artist: Jake Mangel Wurzel.

This led to one of the younger participants, having a Wimpy for the first time in her life, as, with her dad they got separated from the rest of the group! She liked it.

The powers of the nice and the attractive are very strong. It was very hard to make sure the group stayed together especially a large group in an urban area trying to get lost. People are social and liked chatting to each other. Some walkers tend to dawdle and drift, and some are more active in their participation.  Those at the front of the group may be running off following the idea, but those at the back may be unaware a new algorithm had been chosen.

I did struggle to ensure that the group remained together. In retrospect the group was too big –  a couple of times we had to stop and wait for those behind to catch up because they were a bit slower crossing the road, and a couple of times we had to ensure that those who ran off ahead were brought back – towards the end I had turned myself into a kind of crowd control / lolly pop lady rather than another participant!

Our group’s walk finished in Cambridge Road. Again. As we were walking up one participant marvelled at how he, when he was himself an immigrant to the town, stayed in that hotel for a day!

We were going to make our way back to the venue and had one last idea to follow – follow the star or the nearest pub. The group split, those following the rule ran down the hill and some others were waylaid by a furry flower on a tree in someone’s garden:
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Getting Lost and Lessons Found

The owner of the house came out. He was a fellow academic and local historian and eventually offered to lead the people in for a tour of his house. Half of my group disappeared. They properly got lost! The other half who were following the stars and went down the hill eventually sent a scout to came back up the hill to look for everyone! This combined situation I didn’t handle well, and I think that the tiredness after 4 hours of walking may have contributed: I felt responsible for those taking part, I felt responsible for making sure the group stayed together, and I wanted those taking part to be actively following the rule – even if it meant saying “no” to an interesting attractive house, and also I thought it significant that those who spend 15 minutes at the house chose to stop taking part on the actual walk. But it wasn’t their fault – they were not given the briefing session on the theory, nor were they instructed to be actively resisting attraction and instead aiming for following the algorithms. Indeed, those who got lost by the house actually completed the stated aim of the walk – To Get Lost! – so people followed the rules of the walk after all! They also enjoyed themselves and had a unique experience which was literally at the high point – the peak of the walk!! Lessons learnt – in the future I will be more flexible with divergences, there should be smaller groups, participants should know the rules of the walk beforehand and perhaps everyone should have some part in the walk, like having to read out the ideas, or timing them, or documenting them etc. In reflection, many of the ideas or algorithms, because they were interpreted on the spot, and because they were often deliberately open to interpretation were affected by our tendency towards the nice and away from bad. I think we saw some anxiety in one part, for example as the rules took us into a park where The Town Youth were hanging out. I can bet you that in a drift we wouldn’t have gone into that area.

Everyone  – Any other Business.

The Congress was officially ended, with the decision taken to do another Fourth World Congress next year, with the Motion of No Confidence and formal Dis-Assembly of the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography, including any expulsions, unresignations and votes.

We hope to do another Fourth World Congress in 2017!

The New Cloud Atlas – Mapping the Physical Infrastructure of the Internet

Introduction

The New Cloud Atlas, (newcloudatlas.org) is a global effort to map each data place that makes up the cloud in an open and accountable way. It’s a project to find and map each warehouse data centre, each internet exchange, each connecting cable and switch. Anything of any physical significance in the operation of the cloud should be observed in some way, and recorded for everyone to see and use. Data is stored in OpenStreetMap and users can map things using the on site iD editor with custom telecoms presets for the first time. Map tiles with two styles have been produced and have now made visible this hidden infrastructure. http://newcloudatlas.org

The New Cloud Atlas, named after the nineteenth collaborative scientific data collection project, is about understanding and making visible the hidden “Cloud”. Although most of these telecoms features are in the open and in plain sight, many are missing from open datasets or may be considered sensitive. Telecoms infrastructure has immense importance in connectivity and power in our connected world  – the more connected a place is the more benefits it has. Indeed the lines of fibre optic backbone have become the new ley lines of the 21st Century powering the forces behind a new Psychogeography of places.

A bit about the name: The First Cloud Atlas was published in 1896 by the Permanent Committee of the first International Meterological Congress. Cloud weather observatories around the world were able to share consistent observations of the clouds and observe weather systems whose scale stretched over national boundaries. The publication of the International Cloud Atlas represented a move beyond national concerns and boundaries to an international perspective.

In addition to its important role in the predicting the weather, the vision is a surprisingly early call for infrastructural globalism and worldwide collaboration:

“If there be any branch of science in which work on a uniform system can be especially useful and advantageous, that branch is the inquiry into laws of weather, which, from its very nature, can only be prosecuted with a hope of success by means of very extensive observations embracing large areas, in fact, we might almost say, extending over the whole surface of the globe”

Site

The site shows frequently updated tiles generated from OpenStreetMap(OSM) data, details about the project and a custom OSM editor for making it easier to add map features. Here are some screenshots.

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Map, Transparent Tiles, Markers, Legend

 

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Cloud X-Ray Style, with scale independent(ish) building polygons

The Cloud X-Ray style, shown above was partially inspired by Kosmtik’s data inspector style, and it shows polygons that are enlarged at low zooms. Polygons should appear to be the same size on the screen as you zoom in. It gives a sci-fi cartography, but I find it very useful finding clusters of mapped features, as all features are shown at all zoom levels.

 

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Custom iD Editor with Telecoms Presets

Note: that you can also edit in JOSM or Vespucci OSM Editors using these presets here: https://simonpoole.github.io/new-cloud-atlas-preset/

Background

The New Cloud Atlas is a project initiated by experimental media technologist, artist and designer Ben Dalton with the design and research studio of Amber Frid-Jimenez and Joe Dahmen, and myself. Ben writes about the project – with the main idea that it’s about understanding what the Internet actually is in physical terms, rather than as something that remains clouded and mysterious:

The first appearance of the internet cloud was in network diagrams. The cloud symbol was used to stand in for complexity. The cloud embodied something of the way that the internet functions. The internet was designed to be ‘end-to-end’, so computers are meant to be able to connect to each other without interference as the message passes through a network of interconnections. Only the end points are meant to matter. The clouds here represent ‘something in the middle that is too complex to draw here’, a kind of neutral space through which information passes. It is an act of simplification, but it also contains an implicit statement that ‘the cloud will look after itself’ that this thing is going to carry on being there.

Beclouding is deliberately making something more confusing, in order to obfuscate or conceal its meaning. The use of the cloud has shifted in digital systems. The idea that ‘this is too complicated to think about’ has been moved front and centre and converted into a business model, shedding its innocence along the way. Through a sleight of hand, the cloud sometimes appears as a platform, and sometimes a material. This narrative rests on the idea that the services are to be trusted, and they can take care of themselves on your behalf. We trust them with our emails and our childhood photographs and our meeting plans and whatever else we use the cloud for. In this new definition of the cloud, there is a statement that ‘this is too complex to deconstruct or critique’. You shouldn’t try to look in to the cloud and see what’s there. It’s made up of vapour, and it’s not to be interrogated. Better to simply observe it from a distance and admire it at sunset.

Once the domain of national governments, information infrastructure is increasingly constructed, operated, and maintained by major multinational corporations. These corporations, which include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, have a similar vested interest in maintaining control over of the flow of goods and information once exercised by national governments, but a reach at once more extensive and less transparent.

Psychogeography

Regular readers may know of my interest in Psychogeography. The British Psychogeography of the 90s employed Ley Lines and “Magico-Marxism” using the language of the occult to explain the unknown forces of power at work in space and in places. I’m developing the idea that the new lines of power in the 21st Century are of Information – and the actual lines of light that transmit these bits of data, and the buildings that house them. More about that in walk or talk later on this year!

Another more obvious connection with psychogeography is the hidden in plain sight angle. These passageways of the internet are often marked, on manhole covers, in mobile phone masts, in big buildings in light industrial estates, but they are utterly overlooked. They may travel along the margins, along canals or train tracks. They are also sited in classic psychogeographical “liminal” spaces – beaches, margins of rural and urban, wasteland, on top of tower buildings etc.

OpenStreetMap and the Telecoms WikiProject

OpenStreetMap allows anything that exists and can be verified to be mapped. There is no notability rule that Wikipedia has, for example. So it allows manhole covers to be mapped in detail, it allows telephone lines and the assorted street cabinet boxes that crowd our pavements. You might get feedback as to how to map these features and you might get funny comments about why these features are being mapped (and indeed, mapping with OpenStreetMap is voluntary!) but pretty much all OSM mappers will agree that these features shouldn’t be excluded.

Telecoms features in OpenStreetMap haven’t been well mapped before. This is both good and bad in that the taxonomy (or folksonomy to be more accurate)  – the tags that describe these features -have not been standardized. We have the opportunity to define the tags, or at least standardize some of them to be more consistent across similar telecoms infrastructure features.

I started WikiProject Telecoms on the OSM Wiki, so please go there to see how to map and tag features – and if you are a telecoms, mapping or tagging specialist please suggest better ways to map these features! https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/WikiProject_Telecoms

The current features being rendered in the New Cloud Atlas map are:

  • Data Centres
  • Telephone Exchanges
  • Manhole covers
  • Telephone poles and wires
  • Submarine cables etc
  • Telecoms towers, masts, and antennae
  • Street Cabinets

Underground features may be more difficult to map – so we are relying on manhole covers which often show what its use and who operates the cable underneath (in the UK at least) – and those markings sprayed by utility companies, and some data imports. If you don’t know where an underground cable goes its probably best to leave it out.

You might have noticed that many of the options include sound and heat for the street cabinets. One of the side effects of today’s modern fibre optic street cabinets is that they are often installed with more power needs than copper wire ones – and so they need a fan. Often the cabinets are warm to the touch and sometimes they make a quite loud drone sound. This type of data can be useful, I have heard, to people who are vision impaired. Sound and touch can help orientate people in space.

Update: There is a JOSM Preset and a Vespucci Preset that Simon Poole developed

Open Data / Secrecy etc

It’s probably worth talking a little bit about the privacy and secrecy issues. Although the project isn’t about getting releases of data from companies and governments, and it’s not about uncovering the secret installations, it is about collaboratively mapping the world. Almost all of the information that will make up the New Cloud Atlas will be found in the field or in public information sources.

You may be reminded of a story in 2003 (2 years after 9/11) of Sean Gorman‘s PhD dissertation that the US Government wanted to make classified as although it contained only publicly available information (about the Internet connections in the US) he analyzed the data to identify the weak links – weaknesses that, for example, a disaster could take out or a terrorist could exploit.  Officials in the US Govt said that his dissertation should be burnt! Sean successfully graduated and started a mapping company with the DHS as clients. (I actually ended up working there at FortiusOne / GeoIQ several years after that for a bit). Now of course open data and open analysis is encouraged and promoted by governments (and following this trend check out Sean’s new startup Timbr.io).

You may also recall stories about how many national mapping agencies removed military bases (such as Aldermaston, or Greenham Common in the UK) from their paper maps – even when these bases were signed from the motorways and major roads and had nice big clear signs outside the fences.  A relic from the Cold War, perhaps. It appears to me that even in this current year the Ordnance Survey mislabels the Menwith Hill USAF/RAF Listening Base in North Yorkshire as just “Menwith Camp” with no indication of it’s real name, activity nor landuse (as compared to OpenStreetMap for example).

At this point, if you are curious, we should evoke the classic 1996 Wired Article by Neal Stephenson: Mother Earth Mother Board http://www.wired.com/1996/12/ffglass/ It’s essential if you are interested in reading more about the geo political and technology of international internet cable laying. It’s also a great read in general.

 

Liverpool Walk / Workshop

Ben and I ran a series of walks and workshops at FACT in June 2016. Cloud Dowsing Hunting for the Hidden Internet and Mapping the New Cloud Atlas

We used FieldPapers to give to participants and mappers and went around the streets of Liverpool.

Here we are near the main telephone exchange and data centre looking for manhole covers, cabinets and antennae, that’s me pointing.

13391350_1053402384736248_1279453524_n

You can view the photos I took on the Flickr Album https://www.flickr.com/photos/chippee/sets/72157671540933095

 

Development Notes

Code for the site is on github: https://github.com/timwaters/new_cloud_atlas

Mapnik / Kosmtik Style file and processing notes also on github: https://github.com/timwaters/cloud_mapping

Mapnik X-Ray Style

Of possible interest to mapnik style geeks could be the use of the scale denominator and PostGIS ST_Scale commands to scale up building polygons so that they appear to be the same size regardless of the zoom. If anyone wants to fix this to make it work better, please let me know!

select st_translate(st_scale(way, (!scale_denominator! * 0.00028) - (5 - z(!scale_denominator!)) ,
 (!scale_denominator! * 0.00028) - (5 - z(!scale_denominator!)) ), 
st_x(st_centroid(way))*(1-( (!scale_denominator! * 0.00028) - (5 - z(!scale_denominator!)) )), 
st_y(st_centroid(way))*(1-( (!scale_denominator! * 0.00028) - (5 - z(!scale_denominator!)) ))) as way,
 building AS type FROM planet_osm_polygon WHERE (building='data_center' ) AS data",

OSM Tile Generation

Tiles are kept up to date at around 15 minutes with the central OSM database. Occasionally a full planet import is done. I think I could use Lua scripting to ensure that the database remains lean. The system uses TileStache to enable the UTFGrids for the popups. Essentially we filter out a lot of stuff from the OSM database:

  1. Convert an osm.pbf file to an o5m file
    ./osmconvert  planet-latest.osm.pbf -o=planet.o5m
  2.  Filter the o5m file to an .osm file
    ./osmfilter planet.o5m --parameter-file=cloud_mapping/osmfilter_params.txt > planet.filtered.osm
  3. Import the .osm file into the database using the custom osm2pgsql Style
     osm2pgsql --slim -d gis planet.filtered.osm -S cloud_mapping/default.style
  4. Set up replication using Osmosis and osm2pgsql to get changes from OSM db
    osmosis --read-replication-interval  --simplify-change --write-xml-change changes.osc.gz
    osm2pgsql -d gis -S default.style -s -C 800 -a changes.osc.gz -e10-19 -o expire_e10-19.list

http://newcloudatlas.org/

Colliding The Mental Maps of Edinburgh with Mapwarper.net

Last autumn I popped up to Edinburgh from the North of England for State of the Map Scotland conference. Together with Edinburgh College of Art in Evolution House participants took part in series of workshops “Map.Makars”

I took part in a memory map of the city. The rules were: no looking at other maps, the map should include the venue, the castle, the train station. We drew, from memory the city on large pieces of paper. Gregory scanned/photographed these and put these on mapwarper.net to stretch them to fit. he then combined these together with an interactive and animated transparency control to create the Hand Drawn Map Collider “No-map Map Give it a whirl! http://www.livingwithdragons.com/maps/nomap-map/

Screenshot from 2016-04-22 11:26:11.png

My map, in case you were wondering was possibly the least accurate of them, coming from furthest away! http://mapwarper.net/maps/10907

Screenshot from 2016-04-22 11:28:00.png

 

Markov Chains, Twitter and Radical Texts

The next few posts will cover some pet projects that I did whilst not being able to work due to recent civic duty.  They cover things from the role of familiar strangers on the internet and anti-social networks, through to meteorological hacks, funny memes to twitter bots. The first in this series is about what happens when you use markov chains and radical texts with twitter.

Detournement is a technique now considered to the father of remixes or mashups, but with a satirical political nature. Have a look at the wikipedia entry for detournement if you want to know more about it. Basically you do something to something which twists or re routes it so that it makes new meanings. It was the Situationists, led by Debord who really adopted and ran with this as a practice.

guy_debord1

Debord would often frequently plagiarise other radical texts in his own work. (The Situationists were also the ones behind original notion of psychogeography – something that you may have caught me talking about before.)

So what would happen if we could detourn, or mashup, or plagiarise Debord’s own writings? And how about if we could publish it periodically, and how about if we had a 140 character limit? Yeah so this is my experiments with these ideas.

Bruna Rizzi; it is from this disastrous exaggeration. The peasant class could not recognize the practical change of products

The proletariat is objectively reinforced by the progressive disappearance of the globe as the bureaucracy can

Markov chains basically work like take a couple of sentences: “A lazy dog likes cheese” and “My house likes to be clean” then look at groups of two or three words together. Then if one of these groups share the same word (“likes”), make a new sentence using that word to chain together. “My house likes cheese” or “A lazy dog likes to be clean”. Markov chains result in sentences that look human readable. The more sentences you feed the population sample, the better or more varied the same of generated sentences.

Some radical texts are complete nonsense and really hard to read, so perhaps applying Markov chains to them can help reveal what truths the obscure language hide.

@markov = MarkyMarkov::TemporaryDictionary.new
@markov.parse_file "debord.txt"
raw_text = @markov.generate_23_words

My solution uses Ruby, the Twitter gem and the marky_markov gem.

https://github.com/timwaters/rattoo  is the work in progress twitter bot – it works currently on Heroku using the scheduler to periodically tweet a sentence, see if any other users have asked it questions and reply back to them.

John Gray on maps and cities.

A map can represent the physical structures of which a city is at any one time composed, but the city itself remains uncharted. This is not only because the city will have changed materially by the time the map appears. A map cannot contain the infinite places that the city contains, which come and go along with the people who pass through them. The map is an abstraction, simplifying experiences that are incomparably more variegated.

From The Silence of Animals. John Gray

Leeds Data Thing, Maps and Hackdays

Leeds Data Thing is a new group started in Leeds  (not to be confused with Leeds Ruby Thing!).

I spoke at the first event (read the write up from Rebecca) about Geospatial visualisations and  OpenStreetMap: Here are the slides:

Since then there has been a few other events as part of Big Data Week – including a load of great short talks.

This weekend there was a data hackday at the UK’s NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care in the centre of Leeds.

hipster photo

There’s a wealth of data on their website , but it was given to us as a mysql database, and we were able to enter remotely. On the first day I poked around the data and had a thought.

Hackdays

I often spend the first part of any hackday wondering what to do, and twiddling thumbs. I find that hackdays become for me a type of busman’s holiday – and this hackday was particularly geographical in nature. Most of the entries had some kind of data on map component. I think that these types of analyses, whilst being very smart and interesting – and may be exactly what the judges are looking for, may not exactly stretch the unexpected or “the hack” in the data.

Fortunately there was plenty of latitude for exploring things laterally. The most interesting dataset was listing the chemicals and drugs each practice spent money on – but I couldn’t find much to do with it.   What caught my eye was the dataset listing the names of the doctors surgeries, practices, medical centres. If I think about my neighbourhood I can pass about half a dozen doctors in a very small area. Leeds is well covered (or perhaps just my area is!) . I was reminded of James Joyce’s quote about being unable to cross Dublin without passing a pub. Perhaps the same can be said for Leeds and doctors!  The names of the surgeries were also interesting. Names such as:

Chapeloak Surgery
The Avenue Surgery
Dr Ca Hicks’ Practice
The Dekeyser Group Practice
The Highfield Medical Centre
Chapeltown Family Surgery

Wonder if the more “leafy” the name, the more “leafy” the neighbourhood it was in? Perhaps the more grandiose sounding practices had more patients? Perhaps the smaller sounding ones had better patient satisfaction reviews?

At the venue, it appeared that I was the only one to be using Linux on the desktop and so the wifi did not work – so I had a bit over one hour to put something together. Decided to go with the concept of “Leeds is covered” and wanted something showing the labels of the practices over the areas where they were. Filling out the map, so to speak.  The hack was called “Tim’s One Hour Data Challenge” and here is the end result:

Leeds is covered