Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ryan Bercaw - Urban Algorithm

I chose to use my neighborhood for the project. I haven't lived here long and wanted to find an inventive way to explore the area around my apartment. The process took me around my neighborhood surprisingly well, and worked out as a way to take a simple walk in places one might not usually go.

My simple rules were to stand outside my apartment at 1918 Diamond and go the direction of the first car that passes me. From there I would stop at every street corner and go the opposite direction of the first car that comes to the intersection while I'm there. Human contact comes into play in that the flow of people driving their cars dictated where I would go. Although I went down a few back alleys, the fact that certain roads were traveled much more than others meant that I was stuck on them for much longer than others.

The map shows my path and how it was very convenient about getting me around multiple roads close to my apartment and then back to it. I think what made this project successful was the fact that every road (except the one I started on, Diamond) was one way. This made it possible for there to be no confusion as to where I had to go, and no walking back and forth on one sidewalk over and over.
Map of my path. Norris is a pretty busy street and as seen I was brought there multiple times.
My first time turning onto Norris.
Turning off Norris for the second time and onto 18th.
This car that brought me onto 20th was essentially the one that marked the halfway point and started the trip back.
Despite them both being pretty heavily traveled roads, I had to stand on this corner of 19th and Norris for about 5 minutes in the cold rain before a car came.I was happy to see this car come down 17th because it meant I could go back up to Diamond and get home.

Weekend Assignment

I apologize in advance for the shakiness of the cell phone camera. Enjoy.

I started my journey with 2 rules on purpose because I wanted to see if at some point I would need to make other rules. I did. Something that seems as simple as walking and something that can take you into unknown lands can be complicated and land you back where you started.

Rule 1. Only make right turns.
Rule 2. Only cross the street at stop signs.

I started off walking in the middle of 25th Street in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. My rules revolved around stop signs and right turns. However, I noticed half way into it that there were no rules for dead ends. I decided then to stick to the right turn rule. About 3/4 into the walk, it stumbled upon me that there were more traffic lights in the area then stop signs so I made the rule of making rights at traffic lights. The rule differed a little then the stop sign rule because even though you could make a right, you were not allowed to cross the street. Starting off with two rules then turning into four as I was going made home my final destination.

If I would have instilled more rules in the beginning, my project may have differed. My may have been different due to the constant traffic lights that a rule was not made for until later. However, Philadelphia is simply streets that run parallel and vertical so maybe my final stop would have been the same.

Urban Algorithm - Charly Joung

For my urban algorithm project, I chose my own neighborhood to explore. Even though I have been living in the same area my whole life, I realized that there were many parts of it I have not noticed or even been to.

Every time I go to the nearby gym, I take the same route - the fastest and easiest way possible. I decided to apply urban algorithm to my route and my rule was to go about a certain pattern for turns onto streets (not alleyways or one-way streets going the opposite direction for obvious reasons). The pattern was:

Left, right, left, right
Right, left, right, left
Left, right, left, right
Right, left, right, left
And so on, until I've reached my destination.

Although the trip took a little bit longer than usual, I discovered a couple streets I have never even heard of, much less been on. And the whole experience was odd to me because at certain points of the trip, I felt like I was not in my neighborhood.

I documented my whole route here:

Also, here is a map I have created to show my original route in yellow and my route with the algorithmic pattern in blue.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Psychogeography and the dérive

I think that the idea and concept of psychogeography and the derive is an effective idea, similar in mind if not necessarily concept to the narrative landscape, as a way to view surroundings and settings that you may be acquainted or familiar with in a new and enlightening perspective. When passing through areas with destinations or purposes in mind, you may miss out on the real feel of the area around you and things you might not have noticed before or in the previous perspective you had. The derive suggests viewing an area on its own without preconceptions or purposes to guide you to any specific view, and psychogeography and its types of activities suggests new and alternative ways to viewing an area by traversing it in a different manner than you may be accustomed to.


I think the whole concept is great. People just don't stop to see the aesthetic values of their surroundings enough. Sometimes we stop for a moment when we happen to notice the sun setting on a clear day, but people for the most part never stop to examine their surroundings and really reflect on how they make them feel/what they think. This is something I am actually looking forward to doing this weekend in my spare time.

A Psycho Stroll-Daniel Speers

What I have learned about Psychogeography during this reading can be summed up in this sentence. Its a Game! At the end of the second hyper link it was almost written out for us that it was a playful game of creative movements. Psychogeography is the movement through a location not based on natural formations but some other pre set rule. For example some adventurer's would follow their noses, pursuing any interesting smells, this would lead them down roads and avenues based completely on their sense of smell. The article brings back the arguments of Capitalism vs Communism yet again which to me is intriguing. Why is it so prevalent in the experimental art forms.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Basically. I think it would be really awesome to try and do one of these type of "adventures". Now while I feel it serves little purpose overall (or maybe my lack of understanding of purpose), I don't think that takes away from its awesomeness. The idea that rather than having set destinations in a city, our destinations are the surprise is something I never even thought of. When I travel to a new city, I typically know what things I want to do. For instance, what stores i want to see, what restaurants, events, even people. Not having any idea where your route will lead however is an entirely new experience that can only be recreated if you were actually dropped in a foreign city and were lost. In the case of the experiment though I feel its a little safer. I don't think it is foolproof though. Cities all have commonalities of their structures, as well as certain indicators by the people in the city of where they are going or where they have been (i.e. a shopping bag). After a few blocks we basically will have an idea of what type of an area we are in, whether it be a residential area or a ghetto or shopping district. Nonetheless, I hope I get a chance to do this in a city I've never been to.

Algorithmic Psychogeography

Thomas de Quincey idea of being a drifter is creative . He basically just wonders around the city and decides where he wants to go based upon his own curiosity. I think it would be awesome to have the entire class do this one day, even thought we would never have enough time in one class period to do this. We could do a different algorithm then 2nd right 2nd right and 1st left, maybe make we could do it backwards or come up with a completely different theme. If we had the walk at a big park. At the park instead of blocks we could use tree or maybe a certain number of steps a person would have to take before having to turn right or left.

Random city walk

I found Thomas de Quincy's idea of random city walk very intriguing. A city is the perfect place for an activity like this. Constant visual stimulation and endless possible routes make this an ideal location. I find both the curiosity aspect and the "turn rules" aspect interesting for different reasons. If walking and turning curiously, subjective objections can be applied. But when rules of where to turn are implemented, the walker has no choice but to follow a "set" path.

"With no other goal in mind than to satisfy his curiosity about what might be discovered around the next corner, De Quincey spent entire days randomly strolling around London."

For some reason this quote reminds me of a goldfish in a fishbowl. Why does the fake castle in the bowl seem so appealing? For a fish, it is an ever-lasting visual stimulus with it's 3 second memory span. I feel like this can be related to the somewhat endless possibilities within city limits for a person to walk, with visual stimuli around every corner.

John Curall- Locative Media

I just realized I somehow forgot to post about this reading. I found the locative media stuff very interesting. I have long cringed at the history lost when older buildings are bulldozed in favor of a parking lot or whatever. Especially a lot of the old theaters. These places all have a story to tell that a simple plaque could not do justice. Using digital media seems like an excellent way to tell those stories and keep them alive, especially in a media driven society. I think it would be a great way to preserve history. I am sorry I was sick when you had the guest speaker about this. I would have probably found that presentation to be quite interesting and enjoyable. I look forward to exploring this topic in the future.

John Curall-Algorithmic Psychogeography

I found the reading on algorithmic pyschogeography quite interesting. I am big fan of exploring and wandering through cities by car and on foot. You can learn so much about a city and discover some thing you might not of found otherwise. I also have a bit of a wandering spirit in me. I have travelled around the country quite a bit through the jobs that I have had. I always found the concept of "wandering the earth" an interesting one. Although I think I would rather do it with money then the backpacking drifter sleeping on the street or wherever route. I'm not sure how I feel about the applying of weird rules and mathematic patterns thing. I am not interested in what weird patterns would be created. I would be more interested in the random things I could discover in the city, so I would be more in favor of the random wandering. However, if you feel like you already know a city pretty well and even the random stuff seems not to be generating anything new or unpredictable, then it might be interesting to see what these other methods would produce.


I really appreciate the idea of drifting as a science. Living in Center City often presents me with 50 different ways to get to a destination, allowing me (depending how urgent my plans) to wander through many smaller side streets and in new mini neighborhoods. I would love to participate in one of the algorithms described in the article, it sounds like a fun adventure. However, I don’t know what outcome the experiment conductors are looking for? Are they setting up experiments to see if people create patterns? Or are they looking for how people decide where to wander? Again, this sounds like a fun idea, but I don’t know what the point is beyond entertainment.

Algorithmic Psychogeography

I think that the use of a simple directional algorithm for use in urban exploration is very interesting. Though it essentially places a restraint on exploration of the area by making participants follow directions that are set in stone, the sheer amount of different outcomes is staggering. The use of GPS technology and online maps may also prove to be an interesting asset, as they can actually highlight the paths and outcomes taken.

The article also briefly mentioned other things or directions that may be implemented into the algorithm, including the interaction of participants, and the meeting of participants potentially changing the directions of one another. I think that this would put an interesting twist on the project, and perhaps even be an answer to the idea that humans interact with one another on very simple terms.

Algorithmic Psychogeography--Laura Napolitano

This is an interesting article because it talked about reacting to one's surroundings based on a few simple rules. Algorithmic Psychogeography has a certain outcome based on how you respond psychologically to your physical surroundings. This would be an interesting exercise to try in class, but it would definitely be very time consuming. I think something like this could only be attempted in large cities like Philly or NYC because if it was done in suburbs or rural areas, there wouldn't be much change from one turn to the next. Adding a video camera that picked up what the participant sees and hears would be an interesting aspect of the experiment as well.

Psychogeography and the dérive

I really liked this idea of the derive, i think mostly because i feel like i have participated in this action many times and did not even know it. I feel like i used to do it all the time when i was younger, before all my friends and i got cars, but now i feel that whenever i am walking somewhere i am only focused on getting to where i am going. After reading this article, i am planning on observing everything as i walk to class and to other places all around the city, actively participating in derive.


I think the idea of dérive is so interestiong because not only does it provide a common link between each person it also links the environment to each of us. Though there are slightly different deffinations for dérive, I feel that most people particupate in this action, while mindlessly walking through neighborhoods and absorbing their history.

Psychological Space

Visual language is very important in how we act and we re act to unfamiliar places. Philadelphia for example is simply mapped to some. It is all streets of numbers verses words. Neighborhoods are key. Many people represent a neighborhood. This representation can transgress into different form of art from paintings to song lyrics. The art form is also influenced by the space within the urban settings.

Street signs direct us. Even when wondering we can not physically walk through buildings. Some direction and route is mapped out.

Space is something we take for granted. We always want out space and no one to invade it. However, to make the society work, we all must work together. Interaction is important whether or not it is intended. Scheduling is something we take for granted as well. Even though life is very unexpected, we still don't like it when things mess up our routine.

Psychogeography and the Derive

It is interesting to consider the human effect on the environment around us as well as the way in which technology can be a bridge between as well as a wall between humanity and the environment. The idea of wandering around a space with no particular destination and goal is an interesting one. I often find myself wandering around parks or Philadelphia with no particular destination. It is a good way to try and interpret your surroundings. It is also important to realize that the point of derive is to bring people away from the privatized, fragmented type of urban sprawl and move it more towards a community.

Algorithmic Psychogeography - Charly Joung

I find the idea of urban exploration and mapping city landscapes interesting because it allows for a different experience of your surroundings while being able to share those experiences with others. With that in mind, I feel that algorithmic psychogeography adds another dimension to urban exploration, but also detracts from the randomness of exploration. Algorithms creates constraints on the explorer's feelings and actions of a drift, and ultimately causes that drift through space to become somewhat of a directed trip.


I found the most interesting aspect of this article the idea of figuring out how people move through space. I looked for other examples of how people move through space, and how they are controlled through architecture. Department stores and casinos came to mind. They are designed to get people to meander around, focusing on the merchandise rather than where they are going. The result is confusion in many cases. We could circumvent this process by walking in a straight line through the store, but we never do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ryan Bercaw - Derive

The most interesting thing to consider, in my opinion, after finishing the reading is how often we are subjected to derive without realizing it. The article makes it clear that derive differs from surrealist automatism in that it's the surrounding deciding where the subject travels to, rather than the subjects subconscious (as we often do when we go for walks to clear or minds), but in an urban environment, the visual language of the city may play a bigger part in our course of travels then we may immediately assume. It could be an interesting excercise to pay more attention to the paths we take when traveling different places paying attention to how often the locations being traveled on are the main reason that path is traveled in the first place.

Psycho-geographic Exercise

I chose to read this one because in my Steadi-Cam class, this is essentially what our next project is. The article talks about how if you give a person or group of people specific rules to follow it could be a fun way to explore or visit a place. It said that depending on when people did it circumstances could change and everyone would encounter different things when they did the walk. I got a chance to do a small walk the other day with a iPod video to walk along with and it was pretty interesting. You see the way something was then and the way it is when you do it and it puts a cool spin on the experience. Overall I believe its a great experimental activity that has potential to be very successful, especially in this time period with google maps and GPS and all that stuff.

Psychogeography and the Dérive

The concept of psychogeography is a very interesting one especially for individuals who live their daily lives in a city. Dérive, defined by the situationists was, 'to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and desires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed.' So few of us take the time to just wander around the city without any destination. We are always planning out routes and stops along the way. The concept of just moving throughout a city and allowing its surroundings to influence where to go next is a concept that is difficult to grasp for me personally because I am so anal about knowing where I am going, what time I'll get there, what I'll be doing and so on. It would be very interesting to dedicate an entire day to simple exploration of the city. Documenting this with a video camera could turn in to a really interesting blog idea. If one blog dedicated to this idea alone encouraged individuals in major cities to document their personal experiences with a particular city, I think it would become a really interesting homage to places throughout the U.S.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Reading about the Situationist idea of psychogeography brings up many questions. Why is it most people never really seem to notice the environment of the city in which they live? What makes us walk how we walk and move down the sidewalk? What is it that makes our neighborhoods--especially noticeable in Philadelphia--change so quickly from seemingly "safe" to seemingly "unsafe"? I think it's a good practice to slow down and study what informs our urban landscape and creates its atmosphere, instead of simply walking and ignoring the streets we're familiar with.