So off and on this week, I've been nosying about the (inaugural?) Psychogeophysics Summit, a meeting of enthusiasts in the pseudo-scientific pursuit of erm, pyschogeophysics. Which is in essence, adding a measurement angle to psychogeography. Participants had come from as far afield as Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Austria and Italy.
Basically, the guys made lo-fi equipment that recorded or was guided by light, sound, radio waves, etc, and used it to look at the city in a new way. The interesting part for me was the looking at a city in a new way, not driven by utility, as opposed to the tinkering with kit to make devices.
Some of the workshops and walks that I found interesting (didn't get to go on them all):
- The GPS walk/game: Where one group of walkers tried to avoid accurate detection by GPS by heading underground and walking down narrow streets, etc and the other group trying to be 'found' by sticking to high ground and walking down the middle of wide streets. Definitely forces you to think about yout
- The idea of 'walking algorithms': Seeing where a 'programmed' walking route, i.e. forward, 6th left, 1st right, 1st left, repeat... takes you. A different type of structure to impose on urban exploration - as opposed to tourist attractions for example.
- One of the guys, Ryan (don't have a link, sorry), managed to record a nuns choir practice from outside the convent with basically a plastic crate wrapped in copper wire, which brings up all sorts of privacy issues but was quite a beautiful thing.
On Thursday, there was a bunch of informal talks given by members of the group.
A guy called Gordo, who kinda does this for a living, talked about a project he'd done where he'd got people to walk around the city with a skin sensitivity device (basic lie-detector, records change in skin resistance, i.e. sweat) which was attached to a camera. Whenever the subjects were stressed, the camera would take a picture. Apparently there were lots of pictures at traffic lights.
Another of his projects involved a corset (think airplane seatbealts not Moulin Rouge) which tightened the more wi-fi was about. Scary.
Our friendly neighbourhood Dutchman Peter Kazil, took us through his heroes, some obscure Dutch scientists who had made breakthrough observations about the world around them for their time. Including a guy who found rocks in The Netherlands.
He also went through the stuff he'd noticed on his trip, like the wear on the city from how its used and pigeons showering in the rain (tangentally he brought up the idea of birds speaking in dialects, which i like). It was really nice to see the city through foreign eyes. "The city has a memory about how it's used". That's a nice quote that will stay with me.
Christian Nold did a similar study to Gordo's, using galvanic skin response sensors, but on a much larger scale, creating emotional maps of cities and towns (see more here).
I kind of feel guilty about the ideas I had, which take psychogeographic principles and commercialise them, so earnest were the summit participants. So I'll keep them under my hat a little longer and bring them out only when I've exhausted the last Lolcat idea.