dinsdag 30 november 2010

De Bonte Berm

De Bonte Berm (1979) by P. Zonderwijk appears to be a classic book on Dutch appreciation of spontaneous vegetation along the motorway. Somewhere in the 1970ties this was supposedly a fringe position that became the norm: under influence of Zonderwijk's thinking the berms alongside the motorways started to be maintained in a way that would foster the growth of colourful herbs rather than grasses. 'Berm', I looked it up, in English is a Dutch loanword, 'bonte' means colourful. It is not a terribly interesting book, in fact I wonder what I should do with it -> perhaps I should wrap it up waterproof and leave it behind somewhere

maandag 29 november 2010

From within the forest does not exist (Tukano Psychogeography)

Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff on the Tukano classification of environment:

 ...The Indians do not share our concept of nature, they divide their natural environment not only in what we would call ecosystems, but also segregate certain parts of the environments for their specific atmosphere . Now this is not quite the right word and I must try to explain this concept. There exist spots and spaces such as a beach, a watershed, or a tree, where people are said to be subject to unusual sensations, although there seems to be no obvious reason for it as far as the environment is concerned. But there is something in the environment that triggers off these reactions. These places or spaces do not constitute ecosystems, but the Indians mention them in any enumeration of ecological subdivisions as essential parts of the environment.They are liminal spots where transformations are likely to occur,places where all values are abolished and replaces with others, places that lie outside of time. It is obvious that we are entering here a dimension of the imaginary, but as these places do exist in reality as landscape features, and are singled out by the Indians as components of their concept of nature, I shall include them in the discussion that follows.
The Tukanoan Indians recognize at least 20 named subdivisions or areas of their environment. 
  1. The maloca and its immediate surroundings or patio
  2. Productive garden
  3. recuperating garden
  4. old abandoned garden and house sites
  5. dense forest
  6. open forest
  7. caatinga forest
  8. riverine forest
  9. swamp forest
  10. hills
  11. hillocks
  12. river
  13. rapids
  14. pools
  15. streams, creeks
  16. headwaters
  17. confluence
  18. island
  19. beach
  20. salt-lick
  21. sites
All these subdivisions of the environment are believed to be charged with energies which continuously emit messages to which humans react in different ways. Many of these environments are resource areas of food or of raw materials of daily consumption, and in this manner the individual is in permanent contact with several subdivisions, and in occasional contact with most, if not all, others.    

dinsdag 23 november 2010

The biography of the Evening-Primrose

Do you remember that scene from The Devil Wears Prada where the Prada-devil asks the intern why she is wearing what she is wearing? The intern responds with something like: O just something out of a sale, and the Prada-devil retorts fiercely with a compressed history of that particular colour-fabric, how Yves Saint-Laurent included it and it then trickled down into street fashion, where, at the end of its life, that silly nerd girl could buy it cheap as if it had fallen from the sky??

The Oenothera (the evening Primrose or the Teunisbloem) is a biennial yellow flowering plant that grows lavishly around my favourite cryptoforest. They were in fact so abundant that I seemed to have completely failed to make a picture... I just took them for granted but the species, as a common Dutch weed, has a long history,  a distant origin and an exciting future. Of the four species of Evening Primrose one is a hybrid unique to Belgium and the Netherlands.This is what I mean when I say it has a future.  

The genus is 70.000 years old and first emerged in Central-America from where it colonized the rest of America four times, following as many ice-ages. This explains the great genetic diversity; the genus counts 125 species. The first plants arrived in Padua, Europe in 1614. 

Initially they were a desired garden plant but as they prefer poor soils, they grow very well along rail road tracks, sandy dirt fields and disturbed soil in general. On richer soils they tend to be out-competed by other plants.

The entire plant can be eaten and it was a staple food in the diet of many native American people. In Europe it has been called Gambon Vegetal because the pink roots taste like ham.  There is lively trade in its oil. 

Forgive me for this second-hand wikipediasms of this page; I just try to instruct myself to remember that the weeds of our (urban) landscape came here because of very specific historical processes in various time-scales (from the geological to the human to the biannual).

The picture above shows the yellow flower (that yellow dot in the middle) of the Evening Primrose amidst a bunch of other weeds growing in a little derelict municipal plot near my house. This picture was taken last week (mid November). I never tried to take pictures of flowers before and it turns out to be damn hard.

maandag 22 november 2010

There is life next to the motorway

One of the greatest psychogeographical assets (of the Cryptoforests) of Westraven is the contrast of its wide open space with the density of its tower block and multi-layer car park. This charm continues when you pass underneath the bridge at the end (which happens to be Utrecht graffiti hall of fame), follow the street that is one-way inroad to the IKEA car park, (its not meant for pedestrians so be careful), and which, once you passed the gate, runs along the same motorway that so thoroughly isolates Westraven. The road itself is an empty wedge between two backsides, that of the shops, that are never busy and the steep slope of the motorway. The two slopes of the same road look completely different; this one is steeper, receives more sun and may have been planted differently. The Westraven side consists of a uniform body of trees, unkept and wild, this side is also unkept but with an entirely different feel, and obvious visual differences as you walk passed it. 

From inside the Ikea Carpark, on the right is the hidden thoroughfare to Westraven. 

Coming from the Ikea there is a fence running for 300/400 meter, and then ... a deep desire path! The RWS building gives a sense of relative location.

The trail to the right
A feral chicken in Utrecht is more special than a castle in Scotland, a temple in Thailand or a sheep thief in Oz.

The trail from behind.
Another angle, the trail doesn't seem to go anywhere and I 'think' that it is used to drop of stolen goods 
orchestral + architectural = orchitectural (plant growth)
A chicken! I was on my way back when I spotted this fine example of a domestic chicken. They do escape and live free but what a surprise. I saw three of them. 
Am I right in thinking that this is Japanese Knotweed

It looks like Japanese knotweed (at least my untrained eye), but reader Ed suggests that it is a clemantia. 

Anybody knows what these are? Galls.
#Chickenleak: A few weeks after posting these pics I learned of two possible explanations for the origin of these chickens.
 1) They are dumped by the local SPCA.
2) They are survivors from a population maintained by the Ministry of VROM who had their offices where the IKEA is now. This would mean that these chickens outlasted VROM for at least 10 years.  

vrijdag 19 november 2010

The Origin of the Ditches

Viti-Vití (or the Origin of the Ditches)
Viti-Vití was just like a person, he had a nose, he had a mouth, he had ears and he had two eyes. He had everything we people have.

Viti-Vití was married to a woman of his own tribe. He had a brother-in-law, a mother-in-law, and a father-in-law.

Viti-Vití decided  to get honey out of the hive. He went as it was getting dark, because the bees were very fierce.

Viti-Vití took his wife and brother-in-law. They went into the forest. When they got there, Viti-Vití said, “Brother-in-law, who going to climb the tree, you or I?”

“I’d rather that you went.” Answered the brother.

The wife had brought a large clay pot for the honey.

Viti-Vití climbed up in the tree, carrying a shell to bore holes in the hive, to pull out the honeycombs. From up in the tree, Viti-Vití told them bring the pot close to the tree to catch the honey in, but he was doing nothing of the kind.

Viti-Vití was using the shell to turn is right leg into an animal’s leg. With the shell he was cutting the leg, or rather, scraping it to make it thin and end in a point. On the ground, his wife and brother-in-law kept asking him to throw down honey.

Viti-Vití threw down honey to them. But what was falling into the pot was blood from Viti-Vití’s leg.

As it was dark, they could not see that it was blood. The two of them, wife and brother-in-law, ate up all the blood Viti-Vití had thrown down to them. Suddenly Viti-Vití’s brother-in-law began smelling blood. He became suspicious and went to check the pot. Discovering it was actually blood, he said to his sister, “This is blood. What can he be doing up there? He must be going crazy. We’d better get out of here and leave him alone. You go ahead and I’ll be along shortly.”

Viti-Vití’s wife went off.

Up there in the tree-top Viti-Vití continued to work on his foot. He asked his brother-in-law, “Well, have we got enough honey yet?” “We have half a pot.” The brother-in-law knew that the half a pot was Viti-Vití’s blood and said, “I’m moving just a few steps away. The bees are getting ferocious and biting us. We can’t take any more.” He was talking and waving his hand in front of his face at the same time. Saying that, he began to move away slowly. When he was a little way off, he started to run.

That left Viti-Vití all by himself, but he thought his wife and his brother-in-law were down there.

Waiting for him.

Viti-Vití had meanwhile given his leg the shape he wanted.

From up there, Viti-Vití shouted, “Brother-in-law, oh, brother-in-law!”

Since he got no answer, he said to himself, “Where could they have gone?” As no one answered he climbed out of the tree and on the ground continued calling to the two of them.

Before she left, Viti-Vití’s wife had dumped all the blood out of the pot.

Viti-Vití kept calling, but no one answered. He decided to go home to get the two of them.

When he reached home, he found everything shut up. Out of fear, his brother-in-law had closed the entire house.

Viti-Vití from outside ordered them to open up. His brother-in-law did not want to open, because he knew if he did, Viti-Vití would kill him with his pointed foot.

Viti-Vití’s leg had become very long and pointed. It was his weapon. Viti-Vití peered in from outside, but he could not see his brother-in-law, who was hidden.

“Where are you, brother-in-law?” he asked.

The brother-in-law did not answer and would not let his sister, Viti-Vití’s wife, answer.

Viti-Vití got tired of calling to his brother-in-law and his wife. As nobody had answered him he decided to leave that very hour for the forest, taking with him all his people.

 Everywhere he went that seemed a nice place to live, Viti-Vití would make long deep ditches and leave part of his people there, and he himself would continue travelling.

He advised all of them to build their villages outside the ditch, within the semi-circle described by it. The ditches were almost always arc-shaped, and one end always let to or away from the water. The ditches, Viti-Vití  recommended, should be used when it became necessary to protect themselves against cold winds.

In almost every habitable place he found, Viti-Vití left a few of his people and a deep ditch for shelter. Viti-Vití still lives today with some of his people on the shore of the great kuikúru-Ípa lagoon, at one end of a ditch, where it meets the water.

At night Viti-Vití’s footsteps can be heard. They make a dry sound when he steps on the ground with his pointed leg: toc, tim, toc, tim.

That is the sound.

The above Kuikuro myth was collected by the Villas Boas brothers and first published in English in 1973. That would have been the end of it, if not for Michael Heckenberger archaeological work in the area. Working with Kuikuro informers, he uncovered a vast network of pre-Columbian settlements, the so-called Garden Cities of Xingu. The Kuikuro of today do not recognize these remnants as part of their cultural heritage. Heckenberger notes that many cultural traits (pottery and village lay-our for instance) suggest some form of cultural transmission between the Kuikuro and those people constructing the ditches. The Villas-Boas brothers in their book hinted at the existence of old settlements and it is no coincidence that Colonel Fawcett got killed in the same area while searching for the 'cities of Z'. In fact Ellen Basso, an American linguist, by surprise, was told the story of Fawcett's arrival and departure from a Kuikuro village. The story of Viti-Viti is a prime example of fiction as part of the process of reinhabition, a way to make a home from an alien landscape. 

maandag 15 november 2010

The Unofficial Countryside

Through the many reviews of his new book I came across Richard Mabey's old book 'The Unofficial Countryside' (1973). These are Review Review for his new book, 'Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature',  and the title alone is enough to rouse our interest in Mabey, a London writer, forager and cryptoforester avant-la-lettre. The unofficial countryside is a bit of a crap name, because the areas he visits and writes about are clearly part of the city and it doesn't help either that Mabey is a birdwatcher: the annoying thing about birdwatchers is their habit of wanting to tell you about every blue tit and gold-crested ding-dong they have seen, even if it has no relevance at all to the overall story. It is probably the first book of its kind and many things Mabey writes have now become accepted; an admirable feat. But I have to say that I found it a slightly disappointing read. Perhaps I had too high hopes. Iain Sinclair re-reviewed it for The Guardian in May 2010.  

vrijdag 12 november 2010

Turning Japanese

Japanese Knotweed, Fallopia for short (NL: Japanse Duizendknoop), must be the Guerilla Gardener's weapon of choice. Either you pay me 1000 euro or I will sow the damn superweed in your prize-winning ornamental garden! "It can grow three quarters of an inch a day and its roots can burrow 10 feet down, cracking concrete foundations and damaging walls and roads." It's one of the world's top 100 invasive species and it took £70 million pounds to remove it from planned 2012 London Olympics sites but it is edible. According to piece on the BBC website: "There have even been reports of mortgage companies refusing to lend to house buyers whose dream homes have Japanese knotweed in the garden. " See it dance/grow here. 

The Here is one image of Japanese Knotweed on the site of the London Olympics and here is more.

The Nth mind

When making associations from the starting-concept of the third  Nth landscape the first stop can only be Brion Gysin and William Burroughs' The Third Mind.   
It is not the history of a literary collaboration but rather the complete fusion in a praxis of two subjectivities, two subjectivities that metamorphose into a third; it is from this collusion that a new author emerges, an absent third person, invisible and beyond grasp, decoding the silence. The book is therefore the negation of the omnipresent and all powerful author—the geometrist who clings to his inspiration as coming from divine inspiration, a mission, or the dictates of language. It is the negation of the frontier that separates fiction from its theory.

The Nth landscape is the negation of the omnipresent and all powerful nature. Sounds great! 
You and Brion have described your collaborations over the years as the products of a "third mind." What's the source of this concept?

BURROUGHS:A book called Think and Grow Rich.
GYSIN: It says that when you put two minds together. . .
BURROUGHS: . . . there is always a third mind . . .
GYSIN : . . . a third and superior mind . . .

BURROUGHS: . . . as an unseen collaborator

donderdag 11 november 2010

When desire trails turn nasty

These are a fascinating set of screenshots from a Youtube video (I can't find it at present) showing how pressure from the outside world creates the need to make trails for the demarcation of ownership, not for any practical use. 

dinsdag 9 november 2010

The Embarrassment of Weeds (an eye-witness account).

The Embarrassment of Weeds (an eye-witness account).

Because cryptoforestry does not pay the rent I also keep (and by the end of the month: used to keep) a part-time job with a governmental agency located in Westraven, the area that is also the cryptoforest hotspot of Utrecht. My office is a twenty-two-storied tower block flanked by two additional lower wings and surrounded by a paved ornamental pond that should be filled with water but currently isn't. And this is where the cryptoforesters gloating begins. 

The two years old pond is a landscaping piece meant to add topical grandeur to a prestigious architectural redevelopment. The paving is done with light and dark grey stones of average size, laid out in a breezy wave pattern and presumably some bullshitter of an artist (or rather a bunch of German landscape architect bullshitters: Hey! Do want to add the pictures below to your portfolio??) cashed in handsomely for this "silver platter" 'design'. The trouble started when the water that was pumped in from a nearby stream started to suffer from algae that very swiftly covered the water with a thick dark green mat. An applause resounded through the building when the first ducks arrived but elsewhere in the office angry telephones were most probably made to the contractor. It was spring and the smell that came of it was foal. After a week or two, three man arrived in a minibus and they spent three whole days wading through the knee-deep water, dragging the algae ashore, creating a huge pile of the stuff next to the main entrance. The water was clear again, but, of course, as every one with a brain could have predicted, you can't possible remove algae this way. Very soon, at exponential rates, the water was again covered with a layer of waterweeds as thick as the first time. Add a few more weeks and the minibus returned. This time four man spent three days amassing a pile of vile smelling algae but with the same final result, very soon the water was hidden from view again. To my regret I never made any pictures of all this. After this they tried with new water but with no better result. The water was pumped out and that was it.

After standing dry since winter, the pond became a beautifully varied patchwork of weeds growing through the cracks this summer. I am not a botanist but I have counted at least 15 different species, nettles, grasses, flowering plants, all coming knee-high, showcasing a rich palette of forms and colours. A spectacular sight but an unwelcome one as the minibus returned, this time to mow. I really should get a camera because I missed all this as well. After a month or so, the vegetation was back, not as high, the summer was nearly gone, but the pictures below give a good impression of its variety: it really is a spontaneous garden with a resilient beauty all its own. But I wish I could show you what it looked like in summer.

The pond is probably not deep enough and maybe there is excess heat from the building itself or the basement, whatever the reason, it seems a fair bet to say that the pond is really a pond scum incubator. It will be haunted by 'weeds' forever. My observation covers only the first year. The roots below the pavement are now well established, the plants have found the easiest ways through the cracks and now they will start to challenge the structural order of the pavement. The pattern in the pavement is already smudged, and the paving will wobble, opening spaces for the sprouting of bigger plants and even trees. Only brute measures can scare the forest away now. I have often noted that architects, designers and their ilk like to be complimented, and that they especially like to compliment themselves. If anything turns out to be wrong with their work there is always somebody else to blame. Go read about Rem Koolhaas for an example. So I suppose this is all my fault, well, thank you, my pleasure.   

This tragedy of the underbrush is being played out in the front yard of the governmental agency in charge of the Delta Works, amongst many other crucial infrastructural works, and this is why it is especially embarrassing. My job never gets me near people in the know but I hear the shame whispered, the feared ridicule implied in blandly formulated asides in email communications. Because the question is: would you hire a contractor to built the defences the country will rely on against rising sea-tides if they are unable to do a simple ornamental pond? 

In the realm of symbols, the weeds are the great disruptors. 

"Underneath the pavement the beach", said the situationists: reality is more interesting: "Through the pavement the Cryptoforest".  

'Smaak' is the monthly governmental brochure on governmental architecture. The blissful June 2008 issue was devoted to the Westraven refurbishment 

Shiny architectural porn, shame on the 'art' of photography.  This is how you will never see it again.

zondag 7 november 2010

The pavement mushroom

The Agaricus bitorquis is also known as the spring agaric, or pavement mushroom, "as it has been recorded pushing up paving slabs". And not just slabs either judging by this pictures.



woensdag 3 november 2010

The loss of diversity is the long tail of the agricultural revolution

Diversity is in an undisputed worldwide crisis. In Europe, where we have long ago eradicated a staggering amount of it, we take biological and cultural poverty for granted, as a normal, even desirable, fact. We are conditioned to think of our mind as a single-language engine, learning another language is difficult and always far from perfect. Anthropological evidence however suggests that in a language-diverse social environment a good working knowledge (even if only passively) of 5, 6, 7 languages (and not just dialects) is routine. Scarcity of diversity, in our social and economic climate, is a downhill process of shifting baselines; quoting John Waldman:
Every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new normal. Scientists call this phenomenon “shifting baselines” or “inter-generational amnesia,” and it is part of a larger and more nebulous reality — the insidious ebbing of the ecological and social relevancy of declining and disappearing species.

The above Ethnologue statistics put a number on the linguistic impoverishment of Europe. In 'Farmers and Their Languages: The First Expansions' (2003) Jared Diamond and Peter Bellwood add many complicating factors obscuring the picture, but the general trend is clear: by exploiting a few selected types of plants and animals agriculture created power and this power translated into linguistic monocultures.
Until the end of the Pleistocene, all people on all continents lived as hunter-gatherers. Then, at different subsequent times between about 8500 and 2500 B.C., food production based on domestication of relatively few wild plant and animal species arose independently in at most nine homelands of agriculture and herding, scattered over all inhabited continents except Australia. Because food production conferred enormous advantages to farmers compared with hunter-gatherers living outside those homelands, it triggered outward dispersals of farming populations, bearing their languages and lifestyles. Those dispersals constitute collectively the most important process in Holocene human history.

The agricultural expansions ultimately resulted from three advantages that farmers gained over hunter-gatherers. First, because of far higher food yields per area of productive land, food production can support far higher population densities than can the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Second, whereas most hunter-gatherer societies are mobile, most food-producing societies are sedentary and can thus accumulate stored food surpluses, which were a prerequisite for the development of complex technology, social stratification, centralized states, and professional armies. Third, epidemic infectious diseases of social domestic animals evolved into epidemic infectious diseases of crowded farming populations, such as smallpox and measles— diseases to which the farmers evolved or acquired some resistance, but to which unexposed hunter-gatherers had none. These advantages enabled early farmers to replace languages and societies of hunter-gatherers living in their main paths of expansion.

dinsdag 2 november 2010

The bugs are after you...

Connected to an earlier post on mosquitoes as the natural defence mechanism of forests against human invasion, from the book from which these photos came, comes the following quote on insect guerilla.

Listen to Adrian Cowell:

For the next few days we advanced at a steady mile and a quarter a day. But we were moving into a deeper valley, and soon progress became slow and trying. There were so many biting flies that a hundred marks could be counted on every hand; and in the evenings, if you tried to pull away the crab-like ticks, the flies pounced on every exposed inch of skin. The mosquitoes hunted in clouds, a foot-insect laid it eggs beneath our toe-nails, and the horse-flies had such long bloodsuckers that just when you taught that you were protected by three layers of hammock, blanket and jeans, they would stab you neatly in the behind.
At the cutting-head, Pripuri had to be careful of the hornet's nests which hung in the bushes. We ran when we heard his shout, and once, when I was stung four times on the lips, I was delirious for most of the night. In one camp, about fifty ants scrambled on to our shoes and up our legs at every step, and in another, the whole ground seemed to be black and moving. One Indian was stung by a scorpion, and several Kayabi were bitten by the inch-long "formigao" ant, whose bite can bring a fewer.
But is was the sweat bees that won the title of plague of plagues. As soon as we stopped moving they swarmed up our nostrils, down our ear-lobes, under our eye-lids, crawling over every centimetre of our body, sucking for salt. Someone had once told me about the 'Geneva convention' of the jungle; if the flies bite by day, then the mosquitoes fold their wings at night. But in the soggy forest between two ranges of hills we were breakfast, lunch and dinner for everything that was hungry, and there was one novelty which not even Claudio [Villas-Boas] had met before,. Hard marble-sized boils appeared on exposed areas of skin, obviously caused by bites; but though we watched, we never discovered who did the biting. 

maandag 1 november 2010

Psychogeographical Mark-Up Language

Somewhere in 2004 (?), inspired by the Locative Media Lab (the link is a wikipedia write-up after the fact that misses the point though) meet-ups, I launched PML or Psychogeographical Markup Language. Locative media, as a movement, fantasized about location aware and augmented websites and services before the infrastructure to do so (even wifi was still scarce at the time) existed. People did try to build it but when google launced their maps application in August 2005 it blew us all out of the water. The current buzz for 'augmented reality' to me is just commercial rehash for rich kids without imagination. I miss the locative scene because it brought so many smart people together, on the other hand it sucked to be always the stupidest person in the room. 

PML was the daftest idea ever: you can't package psychogeographical hotspots as if their sardines to be canned and distributed and I should have known it at the time. Thank goodness Google Maps was not around or I might have been foolish enough to do a PML application.

Have omitted the example-file, the two-tone tags are still charming.

So, here be dragons & do not gloat too much:

(Psychogeographical Markup Language)

Somewhat like the Necronomicon, PML has been a non-existing protagonist hovering around this site during flights of fancy concerning the recording and sharing of psychogeographic data. However PML does exist, actually it starts to exist more and more.

What is PML?

PML is a set of keywords lifted from various sources that can be used to capture meaningful psychogeographical [meta]data about urban space. PML is a unified system of psychogeonamic classification that lurks behind the psychogeogram: the diagrammatic representation of psychogeographically experienced space.

PML is the base layer for a psychogeographical content management system that can:
1) be used to transform a mass of subjective data into an objective representation
2) be used as an engine that, after being fed certain parameters, generates new psychogeographical drifts
3) be used to develop further a cartography that negates the territory
4) be datamined to show never before suspected patterns in the urban fabric
5) be fired up into a new mythology for urban space
6) be used to take the fingerprint of a city
PML incorporates work done in fields like annotated space, geo-tagging, mental mapping, GIS & collaborative mapping but is different in that it aims at the invisible & the absurd.

Dynamic Urban Data

PML data can be recorded by groups or by individuals. Datasets can be made collaborative in one afternoon for a certain neighbourhood, or it can be updated continuously for a specific place. By following semantic web specifications (PML is in XML/RDF) we hope to add to the slow process of physical places getting a presence on the web.

Markup what? How?

PML is an open standard, different communities might want to use their own set of pre-defined tags. PML however comes with a small list of carefully chosen tags to prevent immediate Babylon between different collaborative mapping communities. PML is definitely in need of an abundance of concepts to name & identify different types of space, while PML data is by definition subjective data, PML does not cater for aesthetic judgements.
Two different fields are included the PML-file for non-tags: one field for a factual description of what you are tagging, the other for a psychogeographical description for the poets amongst you.

Places can be perceived as:

Distinct (when a place is distinct in any way from the surroundings)
Open (the node present itself as welcoming, it seems to invite your entrance)
Close (the node present itself as not welcome to visitors)
Lively (a place seems evolving, a centre for social interaction)
Ease (a place where you feel at ease, a friendly atmosphere, positive vibes, etc)
Desolate (a feeling of being at loss)
Hectic (too many sensory perceptions)
Terror (a place that 'expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of live')
Horror (a place that 'contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates' the soul)
Stim (a point of stimulation)
Dross (a space that is ignored, a wasted space)
Colour (instead of tagging with words, this tag allows for classification using your own colour-coding system)

Psychogeographers don't try to discover any of these attributes in a space, but rather the qualities described within the tags finds them.

Tag sources?
Horror & Terror  
Terror: "Expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life" 
Horror: "contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them"
The Terror/Horror distinction was first made in Ann Radcliffe's essay 'On the Super-natural in Poerty', first published in 1826. This distinction is a classification in the definition of the sublime made by Edmund Burke: 
"Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite to idea of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotions which the mind is capable of feeling...". The contradiction to this definition to the sublime is the picturesque. 
Stim & dross
Stim: "a point of stimulation" 
Dross" a space that is ignored, a wasted space"
Stim & dross are terms coined by Lars Lerup. Here are some quotes from his Book 'After the City' (2000). 
"The metropolis, like the surface of a lake during a rainstorm pocked by thousands of concentric ripples, is bombarded by a million stims that flicker on and off during the city's rhythmic cycles."     
"Pools of cooled air dot the plane, much like oases in deserts. Precariously pinned in place by machines and human events, these pools become points of stimulation-stims- on this otherwise rough but uninflected hide, populated only by the dross-the ignored, undervaluated, unfortunate residues of the metropolitan machine. Space as value, as locus of events, as genius loci, is then reduced to interior space, a return to the cave. In these enclaves or stims, time is kept at bay, suspension is the rule, levitation the desire..."

PML as necronomical entity also returns in the Landscape-expression, without namespaces and embedded in OnlyOneNativeSpeaker generality of non-hierarchical description intended to be used by only one. But don't let that stop you.
The spacenamespace project by Jo Walsh is especially instructive as it pioneered the translation of physical space to the web

Location Linked Information, a project by Matt Mankins at the MIT Media lab (2002), in many ways has explored parallel lines of thought:http://web.media.mit.edu/~mankins/lli
Even though he calls it 'imageability', Kevin Lynch's 'The Image of the City' (1959) is a psychogeographic classic. 
Markups are derived from urban & literary theory: Kevin Lynch, Lars Lerup, Ann Radcliffe, Jane Jacobs, Elias Canetti, William Wordsworth.  


[Originally published in 2003 on the socialfiction.org website]

programming .walk for dummies
Example 1

// Classic.walk



1 st street left
2 nd street right
2 nd street left


This .walk example shows the classic generative psychogeographical algorithm, that urban exploration haiku, written down like a pseudo-computer language .    

Example 2
// T = Time (in minutes)
// E = Exportcode
// C = Counter

E = 2
C = 0



X = E

1 st street left
2 nd street right
X     street left

When 2 agents meet


Exchange E

C + 1


Count T 0 to 60
If time = 60


Abort to Root
Print C to socialfiction.org



Or in straightforward English:

Your export code is 2
Repeat the following instructions; walk the first street left, second street right, then you take the street left that is indicated as your export code. Every  time you meet another psychogeographer you exchange export codes. This new code will change the 3rth turn.

Remember how often you exchange export code.

When you have walked for one hour you return to the place your are supposed to meet.
Once arrived there report the number of encounters to socialfiction.org."

For this simple talk this would do just as well. But when, like in the examples coming up next, the functions the applet will have to perform are getting more complicated a verbal explanation will require a lot more text of a very dense nature as the instructions must be interpretable in one way only. Symbolic logic serves the purpose of single minded communication much better than any natural language.

All the action happens between the { } after the Repeat command. Also notice that in this applet individual agents participating in an experiment are connected through the exchange of their E (Export code). This is a feature that was not available in the first example but without which it would be impossible to design a psychogeographical computer: an interconnected bunch of small applets, called .walk software (or if you like walkware) that runs (or rather walks) on top of the hardware, the street grid.      

Example 3
// Fibonacci .walk
//  1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, ...

Z = 1
Z(x) = 0


Z      Left or right {random}

Z(y) = Z
Z = Z + Z(x)
Z(x) =  Z(y)


In example 3 we start to see the power of writing down the rules for algorithmic walks in symbolized rather than plain English.

This applets differs considerably from the 2 examples above;
First: there is no succession of turns, there is only one turn that can be left or right that because of the {random} command can be chosen by the agent.
So when Z(x) = 5 the psychogeographer enters the fifth street. When this street happens to be at a crossing with both options available take the one you like.            

Second: this applet computes it's own next turn. In example 3 this happens according to the Fibonacci number series.

This series is infinite & following this .walk applet to it's logical conclusions must soon becomes surrealistic, if not downright absurd. 

Example 4  
// Divide.walk
// 8/2
// C = Counter

A = 8
B = 2
C = 0
E = B



If E = A
Print C to socialfiction.org

C = (C+1)

C street left or right {random}

E =

Everybody knows by heart that 8 divided by 2 gives 4, but only Slashdot creeps can divide 19 by 6 from the top of their head & come up with the correct answer of 3,1666... With the applet in the next example you can just do this kind of calculations. This does mean the introduction of decimals.

In example 4, C (counter) counts the times it take to divide a number, that is the answer to the problem 8/2, C also determines the next turn. Every variable could be used to determine this, but using the counter makes this count easier to remember especially when the outcome becomes higher this might be handy. 

Example 5
// Divide.walk
// 19/6
// C = Counter

A = 19
B = 6
C = 0
Cdiv = 0
Q = 1
E = B
Turn_X = 0



If E > A
E = (E-B)
A = (A-E)
A = (A*10)
Q = (Q*10)
E = B
Turn_X = 0

Cdiv = 1/Q
C = (C+Cdiv)
Turn_X = Turn_X + (Cdiv*Q)

If E = A
Print C to socialfiction.org

Turn_X street left or right {random}

E = (E+B)


The walk in this case means taking sequences of turns, first the 1st to the 3rd left or right, then the first left or right, then infinite clusters of the 1st to the 6th turn left or right. The comma is always behind the first cluster.  

Remember that the syntax of these .walk is not fixed. Applets can be written in any way, can mimic any known computer language. It would be worthwhile to think of a way of formulating statements/rules that don't resemble the languages used in the ordinary computer world, this would stress that .walk is not merely an offshoot of something that is already existing but that it is a whole new field of research.

This last applet shows how pedestrian activity can be made to function as a non electrical computer, able to perform difficult calculations while the agent walking it doesn't need any mathematical skill at all. .Walk is not only meant to platform independent it should also be designed in such a way that everybody can execute any applet.
At the same time the walkware is still producing non-intuitive routes for urban exploration that is it's main function. By connecting different applets, all executing their own rules, doing computations in the meantime, a giant psychogeographical computer emerges.

The first experiments in executing .walk software were done with variations on example 2. The main goal was to find out the frequency of agents crossing paths during an experiment.

The higher the frequency the easier data generated by the individual agents are spread through the network, this adds speed to the processing power which is in itself correlated to the number of agents involved at any given time.
The pace of the psychogeographers is another crucial factor in the speed of calculations.

From past experiments it has been determined that with small groups (8 simultaneous applets active in Rotterdam [Nov. 2002], 6 in Londen [Dec 2002]) the number of encounters that take place in one hour are rather low: only once twice, often only once & just as often no encounters at all take place. This calls for separate .walk applets that don't compute anything themselves but gather & transfer data through the different nodes of the Psychogeographical Computer. This might be done by giving them rules that are responding to the movement of the other agents. Because past experiments showed that generative psychogeographical walks doesn't result in crossing enormous distances, but rather a circular movement around an schizoid sort of imaginary axis, these agents might employ the tactic of patience to locate the others.

From here .walk can be used to construct walkware like peripatetic databases, psychogeographical artificial memory, or .walked calculations can be fed to software that renders visuals, sound or behaviour. Future tutorials will outline the concepts behind this examples of possible use of .walk.