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:
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.  

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