It turns out Lonely Planet is not just in the business of helping you find your way, but also helping you get lost. I came across their experimental travel series when I was doing some concept development recently for a heritage site. A project I am working on at the HKU’s DPI research group, which Hubbub is an industry partner of. Anyway, we were thinking about heritage sites and the tendency of caretakers to facilitate exploration in the traditional sense: putting up nameplates, creating routes, offering tours, etc. But many of these sites, the one we were working for in particular, are wonderful places to aimlessly wander around in. When I myself visited it, I was taking photos of places that felt secret, or were surprising in some way, such as unexpected perspectives. So we began to think about ways of engendering this spirit of “getting lost” in people.
The Lonely Planet experimental travel guidebooks serve as one example. They of course have part of their roots in the ideas of our good old friends the Situationists. As does the game Bocce Drift, which I’ve written about here before. But there’s more nice ways to get lost. Such as Drift Deck, a set of cards that generate a route through a city as you go. I also like that it has little assignments that challenge you to meditate on your surroundings. It can be as simple as the assignment given to students by a friend of mine, who designs for societal issues in underprivileged neighborhoods: draw a straight line across the map of the area you’re interested in and follow it. Collect what you find and map it. Simple. It has all the characteristics of what I think these “machines for getting lost” should have: a generative mechanism, an incentive to perceive your surroundings in a new way, and a means to share what you find with your friends.