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Psychogeography: the next 50 years . Dr Andrew Evans University of Leeds. Personal narratives, Political data. Psychogeography is about personal experience of space. However, Situationism was, at its core, a leftist movement.

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psychogeography the next 50 years

Psychogeography: the next 50 years

Dr Andrew Evans

University of Leeds

personal narratives political data
Personal narratives, Political data
  • Psychogeography is about personal experience of space.
  • However, Situationism was, at its core, a leftist movement.
  • Psychogeography set out to pervert the dictated meanings of spaces.
  • But this was only a tool to enable people to build their own narratives and a new politics of space.
  • This would break The Hegemony Of Commodification and introduce new richness into our lives.
personal narratives political data1
Personal narratives, Political data
  • The last 50 years has seen an increased democratization of the notion of experience in architecture.
  • However, the personal nature of narratives is not engaging for decision makers:
    • What influences them is votes, not voices.
    • If they engage with other narratives it is largely to mark out the cities as progressive places to do business.
  • The Regional Spatial Strategy: Economics is still the dominant issue in the politics of space.
personal narratives political data2
Personal narratives, Political data
  • Theorists try to mediate between policy and people, but:
    • No real person talks like a left-wing theorist.
    • No decision makers will listen to the call that real people be heard.
  • In another 50 years, it is unlikely anything will have changed.
  • Decision makers like:
    • Discrete lines on maps.
    • Big numbers not voices.
personal narratives political data3
Personal narratives, Political data
  • The answer: we have to take the voices to the policy makers, in a form they understand.
  • We have to allow people to elucidate spaces in a voice they normally use.
  • Only then can we really allow people to start reclaiming space and its development.
vernacular geography1
Vernacular geography

When asked, for example, to define and explain areas where they are afraid to walk in the dark:

  • The datasets people use are continuous and discrete, at differing scales, historical, architectural, and mythological.
  • The resultant areas linguistically ambiguous.
  • May be bound by prominent landscape features for convenience, but are more usually diffuse.
  • Often have different levels of intensity within the areas.
vernacular geography2
Vernacular geography
  • Evolved to make things easy to remember and discuss.
  • Gives us geographical references that include associated environmental, socio-economic, and architectural data.
    • “He lives in the grim area by the docks”
    • “I’m going down to the shops”
  • Gives us a connected socio-linguistic community with shared understandings (and prejudices).
    • “A poor little baby child is born… In the ghetto”
    • “This is a local shop, for local people”
vernacular geography is important
Vernacular geography is important.
  • Represents psychogeographical areas in which we constrain our activities.
    • “I wouldn’t walk through the rough bit of town at night”
  • Conveys to our socio-linguistic community that this constraint should be added to their shared knowledge and acted upon.
    • “That’s a pretty high crime area”
  • This private and shared geography influences billions of people every day.
  • But it’s hard to tie directly to objective data so we can use it to make policy or scientific decisions.
capturing vernacular spaces
Capturing Vernacular spaces
  • Let’s take an example policy makers would find relevant now: an area people think of as “high crime”.

“fear of crime will grow unless unchecked.

As an issue of social concern, it has to be taken as seriously as…crime prevention and reduction” (Home Office 1989).

tagger input gui
TaggerInput GUI
  • Spraycan of different sizes.
  • Attribute information box.
  • Send button.

Tim Waters

Was: Policy and Research Unit,

Bradford Council

output gui
Output GUI
  • Click on map of combined areas.
  • Comments of the people who weighted that area as most important float to the top.
crime and understanding
Crime and Understanding
  • Looked at crime ratings vs. confidence in local knowledge.
example analyses
Example analyses
  • How does fear of crime vary with:
    • personal victimhood?
    • media exposure?
    • conditions (summer vs. winter)?
  • Current models based on aspatial demographic, psychological and temporal factors only accounted for ~1/3 aspatial fear levels.


  • Treatment of such information as data is difficult.
    • How do we compare with traditional data?
    • What kinds of algebra can we do?
    • How do we define accuracy and appropriateness?
  • But many of the assumptions we need to make are already accepted in standard techniques.
  • Many techniques are available from more clear-cut areas.
    • Mereotopological calculi
    • Supervaluation semantics
    • Fuzzy Logic / Logics of Belief
    • Statistical / Probabilistic techniques
towards post modern geographical information
Towards Post-Modern Geographical Information
  • But what would it look like if all data was like this?
  • How do we construct the world? Through the internalisation of socially negotiated concepts.
  • Post-modern Geographical Information would centre on social negotiation.

Here we have one component of a narrative “that a space is dangerous” in a form policy makers can use.

hierarchy of social negotiation
Hierarchy of social negotiation
  • Our system allows people to define an object and attach a single meaning to it.
  • As well as negotiating space, we must negotiate meaning.
  • Hierarchy between:
    • Official Ontologies
    • Social negotiation of meaning
    • Free-form folksonomies
social negotiation
Social negotiation
  • Not easy.
  • Processes for social negotiation through use:
    • Amazon: The word “architecture” is defined by people with the same taste in books
  • System would have to work at multiple scales to provide both aggregate mega-voices, and highlight individuals.
danger robinson
Danger, Robinson
  • The deadly sins of Psychogeography
    • Commodification
    • Over-theorisation
    • Computerisation
  • So, other than an opportunity to sneak real people into Policy what advantages are there?
  • The same advantages the web offers: the chance to build single personal narratives into an understanding of the world.
the future is now
The Future is Now
  • Example: OpenStreetMap
    • Public control of data.
  • Example: Photosynth
    • Builds memories of objective space into a coherent picture.
  • Google Groups about areas.
    • Expressing new meanings for features.
  • Hacking GoogleMaps
    • Still a sense of the perversion of meaning.




Grant Schindler, Georgia Institute of Technology

the easiest way to predict the future is to build it
The easiest way to predict the future is to build it
  • Imagine if there was a system that built a new understanding of space from personal understandings.
  • Such a system might well initially represent the status quo.
  • But it would be built by the people, for the people.
  • It would be ripe for a whole new set of Psychogeography tools fit for the 22nd century.
further info
Further info
  • Thanks to Tim Waters (Bradford Council), Alan Grainger (Leeds Uni), Steve Carver (Leeds Uni), Richard Kingston (Manchester Uni), Kevin Cressy (City Uni).
  • More details, various papers: