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Machines for getting lost

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.

Drift Deck by Julian Bleecker

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Pepijn
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:12 | Permalink

    This reminds me of a photographer gave her(his)self assignments and used the same set to visit several cities. She(?) even used the cards to pick her hotel, place to lunch etc. Assignments would be something like: go to the biggest fountain and find someone with a bagpack. Follow the person wherever he or she go. When they enter a building find the nearest restaurant, etc etc. And all documented with photographs.

  2. Menno Faber
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 14:10 | Permalink

    Reading your interesting post I thought of an IDFA documentary I once saw: Diceworld (1999). Using only a dice and a imaginative mind some people get ‘lost’ as well ;)

  3. Kars
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 14:28 | Permalink

    That’s an interesting example Pepijn. No chance of finding those photos online, I presume? Menno: I really need to get around to reading The Diceman, the book on which this documentary is based. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Pepijn
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 19:07 | Permalink

    The finding of the photographer’s name and a link was a journey in itself. First had to remember where I saw the photo’s. Turned out to be at ‘Nederlands Fotomuseum’ in Rotterdam during a seminar I visited some time back. But when, they change the expo every few months. So on to the mailbox for the confirmation of my seminar ticket. February 2009. Then back to the site, darn, not in the expo (had to google all photographers, didn’t recognize any of them.) Then, while drifting in the archive I found it with the new additions to the collection two months before my visit. It is a little bit different from what I remembered, but it is very situationist.

    http://www.nederlandsfotomuseum.nl/index.php?option=com_nfm_agenda&task=view&id=162&Itemid=196

    here are pictures of the book: http://www.motivegallery.nl/?page_id=2749

    There should be an interactive webversion somewhere, but I couldn’t find it.

  5. Kars
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 22:56 | Permalink

    You’re a veritable web detective Pepijn. Thanks for the suspenseful story, and the links.