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Communicating (in) the city of Århus

Psychogeography of the urban landscape

Simona Conti

Communicating (in) the City 2010


Prof. Lone Koefoed Hansen

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Table of contents

Foreword....................................................................................................Errore. Il segnalibro non è definito.


Psychogeography: creating a loose space through mapping activity........................................................4
Augmenting the urban environment: Hidden and Hybrid..............................................................................7
Listening to the city ........................................................................................................................................................8
.walk and scripting the space......................................................................................................................................9
An Århus Mis-Guide ................................................................................................................................................... 10
Conclusions..................................................................................................................................................................... 11
Bibliographic references: ........................................................................................................................................... 12

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Foreword

The main purpose of this paper is to understand and analyse what the concept of living and
communicating a city (and communicating in the city) is about. Lots of authors have treated
(and continue to treat) topics dealing with urbanism and its relationship with society and with
single individuals (or little group of them). They treated themes related to mapping the complex
and articulated space of a city, finding new ways of represent it, live the urban environment in
uncommon and surprising ways, etc What all these authors attempting such a discovering path
have in common is the purpose to extend the official and accepted meaning of “city”, enriching
it of aspects of unofficial, subjective and subversive. The common aim of all these authors’
research is to reshape the term itself of “city” to give it a new, opener and more inclusive
meaning. This attempt to discover new ways of thinking and consequently communicating a
city grows mainly out of the fact that a city isn’t a static, fixed and “one-way reading book”.
Instead it represents a pure block of clay that need to be modelled by citizens, tourists or just
passer-bys to acquire some significance. Society and mankind give sense to things especially
when they ‘inhabit’ them. Vice versa “without concrete spaces within which it is enacted, society
remains a meaningless abstraction” (Lefebvre, 1991). It represents a natural process we simply
can’t avoid: while wandering around a city, while discovering its “hidden places” or simply living
a urban space day-by-day, our mind naturally build a personal and subjective model of that city.
Several factors contribute to this complex and articulated process. The purpose of this paper is
to analyze some of those factors using a practical set of assignments I made during spring 2010
in the context of “Communicating (in) the city” course, that took place at the Department of
Aesthetic in Aarhus, Denmark. All of these assignments generated new perspectives around the
concept of “living and perceiving the urban space”. All of them together constitute a single,
complete set, a practical case study (whose main object is represented by Aarhus itself) rising
from and grounded in theory dealing with the re-conception of urban space.
I will try to explain what does psychogeography mean using terms like “hidden”, “hybrid”,
“.walk”, “audiowalk” and “mis-guide”, trying to constantly link practical assignments to a
theoretical background to generate an overall and inclusive new meaning of the cityscape.

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Psychogeography: creating a loose space through mapping activity

“Lacking officially assigned uses, leftover spaces and abandoned spaces lie outside the ‘rush and
flow’ as well as the control of regulations and surveillance that come with the established uses
of planned urban public space. [..] An abandoned railroad maintenance building in Denver
becomes and unofficial ‘museum of graffiti ‘ ” (Karen & Stevens , 2007: 8).
Karen & Sevens analyse an explain what could it mean for a public space to become loose and
how people can affect this transformation towards a wider and more inclusive interpretation.
They assume that people, through their active participation to public and shared landscape can
reinvent and re-conceive the space in new and more creative (and even non-official) ways.
“Looseness depends in part on the overall structure of the urban environment” (Karen & Stevens ,
2007: 6). Affordances offered by the urban space can be reinterpreted and re-used (or simply re-
conceived without being physically used) by people and elements intended for one purpose can
easily serve another. This kind of “re-thinking” the urban space is something that can actually
have a lot to do with the activity of mapping urban landscapes. Mapping is one of the main and
strongest strategy of fixing geographical/political/social elements and in a way also of “laying
down the law”. “Maps are preeminently a language of power” (Pinder, 1996: 405) and they have
been used during the centuries as a way of embedding particular “set power relations and
production and reproduction of social life”. Contrasting the common assumption of the
objectivity of cartography (often considered as an absolute and exact science), during the recent
years a critical literature on the power of maps has emerged. Cartography, according to Michel
Foucault, has to be considered as a form of power-knowledge and it involves the exercise of
power through its procedures of classifying , categorising, hierarchising, normalising and
disciplining and therefore they represent a “technology of power” (Pinder, 1996: 408-9).

In 1950s and 1960s, the Situationist International, a radical art and political group based in
Western Europe together with its avant-garde predecessors in the Lettrist International
developed a theory of “psychogeography” and “psychogeographical mapping”.
Psychogeography tries to surpass the concept of “cartographic objectivity” introducing the
wider concept of “subverting cartography” as a means of exploring and trying to edit the urban

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landscape to give it new meanings. This use of non-official ways of representing and drawing
the urban landscape enable the spread and the discover of new and hidden facets of a city.
Guy Debord, one of the most important member of the SI (Situationist International) avant-
garde group affirmed that the principal aim of the his group was to break out the conditioning
official cartography and to quest another use of the urban landscape.
Debord created five “psychogeographic maps of Paris”, whose titles were so fancy to
immediately distance them to ordinary cartography: “The naked city”, “Discours sur le passions
de l’amour” (also known as “Guide psychogéographique de Paris”), “Paris sur la niege”, “The
most dangerous game” and “Axe d’exploration et échec dans la recherche d’un Grand Passage
situationniste”. These representations of Paris looked more like tales and adventures than
cartographic representations. They were more about atmospheres, scenes and events than only
about streets and buildings (Pinder, 1996).

Figure 1. Guy Debord "The naked city", 1957

“The naked city” is a graphic reorganization of Paris—consisting of 19 cut-out sections of the


city connected by a network of swooping directional red arrows (in figure 1 they are in black)
describing the author’s attractions and repulsions. This representation of Paris is broken and
fragmented, totally different from the fullness of most cartographic representations.

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“The fragments were plundered from existing plans of Paris through the process of détournement .
Along with the methods of psychogeography, this was another key tactic developed by the
lettrists and situationists in which objects, images or words were ripped out of their original
context and then juxtaposed – carefully and deliberately, not randomly – to create new meanings
and effects”. (Pinder, 1996: 419)

And as Debord defined it “the détournement is the reuse of preexisting artistic elements in a
new ensamble” (Debord, 1959: 67)

Another basic practice of SI group is the dérive:


“(the derive is a) technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful
constructive behaviour and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different
from the classical notions of journey and stroll. In a dérive one or more persons during a certain
period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for
movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the
encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think:
from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed
points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.” (Debord, 1958:
62)

The artistic situationist strategy of détournement and the practice of the dérive were the logical
bases that inspire the creation of my personal and subjective map of Århus (see assignment 2,
appendix). The aim of this task was to make visible something invisible, to open to the most
(through the mapping process) hidden and secret spaces of the urban landscape. Broadly
speaking, “hidden” is to be intended as something that is invisible to the majority, something
that the official representation of the cityscape doesn’t show and in the most subjective
interpretation of the term, “hidden” is something that reside in our mind. Taken this as a general
assumption, my personal and subversive map of Århus let emerge a facet of the City to which I
normally pay a lot of attention: urban art and urban forms of expression that take form as
painted house façades, stickers, labels and whatever urban artists’ creativity could invent. My
purpose was to fix in a map something that embody my interests and meanwhile I attempted to

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create something that is both personal and interpersonal, something that expresses my
subjectivity but that could easily be used by anyone, anytime.
The result is a reasoned repository of urban art forms I ran into while wandering around Århus
during a freezing afternoon in February 2010. I divided such art expressions in different
categories (house façades, MorMor art, installations, paper crafts…). In doing this, my
subversive/subjective map of Århus as a public open museum, represents a form of discourse
which is actively involved in the social construction of reality.
Moreover, my personal representation of Århus could be part of the “everyday mappings” area
of critical cartography described by Crampton & Krygier as “whether performative, indigenous,
affective and experiential or narrative, (everyday mappings) creatively illuminate the role of
space in people’s lives by countering generalized and global perspectives” (Crampton & Krygier,
2006: 25).

Augmenting the urban environment: Hidden and Hybrid


Linked to the concept of hidden spaces to be discovered, there is also the concept of hybrid
spaces. “Hybrid space” is just one of the terms used to designate the same concept: authors use
also the expressions of “augmented space”, “locative technologies”, “mixed reality”, “augmented
reality”, “augmented virtuality”, “wearable computing”, “ubiquitous computing”, “hybrid reality”.
No matter what expression is used, the very core of Hybrid Space is the fact that different
perspectives of reality are offered. De Souza affirms that:
“hybrid spaces merge the physical and the digital in a social environment created by the mobility
of users connected via mobile technology devices” and “users do not perceive physical and
digital spaces as separate entities and do not have the feeling of ‘entering’ the Internet, or being
immersed in digital spaces, as was generally the case when one needed to sit down in front of a
computer screen and dial a connection”(De Souza e Silva, 2006: 262).
This way, the use of mobile/portable technologies can influence the perception of urban space.
The adding of new layers that enrich the cityscape but that can’t immediately be seen or
perceived make ‘hidden’ and ‘hybrid’ two sides of the same coin. For example, from a physical
point of view, an hybrid space can be considered also the “electromagnetic field” that surround
us everyday and that come actively from GSM, WiFi, Bluetooth and passively from everything
that emit electromagnetic waves (like household electrical appliances). Anthony Dunne and

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Fiona Raby, two researchers of London Royal College of Art, worked in a project concerning the
augmentation of space/reality through the discover of invisible territory of electromagnetic
fields (or “hertzian space” as Dunne called it): The Placebo project (see assignment 3, in
Appendix). Its main objective is exactly to create an hybrid space and to provoke and let people
think about something they often ignore, something that is not visible but that inhabit
continuously the surrounding space. The project consist of 8 placebo objects that react to the
presence of electromagnetic fields letting people see something that is apparently invisible. The
Placebo project define the Hertzian Space as a kind of hybrid space because, according to Usque
"[it] encourages us to think not of silent static structures that surround us but rather of fluid
dynamic fields beyond the edge of natural perception […]" (Usman Haque, 2004: 1).
Disclosing what is commonly hidden to human perception, Raby and Dunne dealt with lots of
aspects already treated by situationist theory: both the English researchers and the avant-garde
movement attempted to create new perspectives of the space that we inhabit, trying to surpass
official, common and superficial interpretations with uncommon, surprising and even bizarre
representations and reorganizations of reality.

Listening to the city


The realm of sounds is something people often forget. In spite of this, the urban soundscape is
an essential part of a city, something we can’t avoid and that constitute the real nature of it. As
we are often really accustomed to sounds, they become part of an hidden layer of our everyday
lives. But if for just few minutes we stop and try to concentrate on the sounds the surround us
we can surprisingly find out a facet of the space that we inhabit. Murray Schafer analyzed how
the world soundscape has changed from the past to nowadays (with the increasing of human
and technological sounds) and how environmental sounds can be categorised according to their
intensity and occurrence. He distinguishes Hi-Fi soundscape to Lo-Fi soundscape:
“A hi-fi system is one possessing a favourable signal to noise ratio. The hi-fi soundscape is one of
which discrete sounds can be heard clearly because of the low ambient noise level. The country is
generally more hi-fi than the city; night more than day; ancient times more than modern. […] In a
lo-fi soundscape individual acoustic signals are obscure in an over-dense population of sounds.
The pellucid sound – a footstep in the snow, a train whistle in the distance or a church bell across
the valley – is masked by a broadband noise.” (Schafer, 1973: 24-25).

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Through her audio-walks, the Canadian artist Janet Cardiff plays with sounds and voices to
investigate the “connection between the self and the city, between the conscious and the
unconscious, and between multiple selves and urban footsteps” (Pinder, 2001:1). Her audiowalks
create a layer that overlaps the urban geography and augment it, relating it with subjectivity,
memory and representation. In doing so she create Hybrid Spaces that contribute to the
enrichment of focuses and perspectives on the City. In assignment 4 (see Appendix) I reported
my personal discovery of one peculiar soundscape in Århus (a 30 sec soundbite): that of the
RisRas Fillianganggong pub in Mejlgade, sited in the dynamic latin quarter of Århus. This new
perspective of that particular place offered to me new ways of perceive it, live it and think of it.
At 18:30/19 of February 19th 2010, RisRas pub sonically appeared as a lively, cheerful and cozy lo-
fi soundscape!

.walk and scripting the space


One of the simplest and best ways of exploring a city landscape to discover hidden and
unknown places is actually to walk on it. Pinder describes the activity of urban
walking/exploration as “a means of engaging with, and intervening in, cities” (Pinder, 2005: 383).
In “Arts of urban exploration” he discusses some manifestations of psychogeography (like walks,
games, investigations) that contributed to develop critical approaches to the cultural geography
of cities. One particularly funny manifestation of urban exploration is the “Human scale chess”
game invented by Brooklyn-based artist Sharilyn Neidhardt in 2003. In this game each
participant plays the role of a human chess piece an the board is eight square blocks of a city.
Somewhere in the middle of the board, two expert players will play a game of chess and after
each move, the appropriate piece will be called via mobile phone and given instructions on how
to move. This performance represents a way to “script” the space, is to say to ‘write’ something
on the space surrounding us. According to Andersen and Pold
“a scripted space is experienced in many different ways, but an important aspect is the feeling that
something is going behind the façade and that there are powers controlling and structuring what is seen
and experienced. The immediate experience of the urban is disturbed by the feeling that there is
something unreadable, but still scripted, programming the space” (Andersen & Pold, 2010: 4).

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In assignment 5 (see in appendix), I was supposed to perform in group a .walk (or “algorithmic
walking”) in Århus and swap my .walk description with another group and perform their .walk.
The .walk project has been developed by Wilfred Hou Je Bek and the Dutch group Social Fiction
in 2003. “The classic version directs walking according to a pattern of turns such as ‘ first street
right, second street left, first street left and repeat’. […] Namely, the generative logic (of .walks)
remove questions of goals, choice and habit in terms of route and in so doing opens space for
surprise and the discovery of hidden significance” (Pinder, 2005: 397). What emerged from
the .walk I performed with my group is that, contrary to the dérive concept, which is by definition
freer and opener and subjected to will, the scripted space embodied in the .walk instructions
transformed us in something like the chess pieces of Neidhardt’s human scale chess. Anyway,
like in the dérive, the .walk made us discover hidden places we never noticed in Århus and we
where surprised to discover that some findings we made were noticed also by another group
that perform afterward our .walk. This convergence of interest points in the urban landscape is in
accordance to the definition of psychogeagraphy given by the situationist Guy Debord in 1955
as “the study of the effects of the geographic environment on the emotions and behaviours of
individuals”.

An Århus Mis-Guide
The final outcome of the course Communicating (in) the City 2010 has been a page that should
have contributed , together with the pages created to all the other students in the course, to an
Århus Mis-Guide (Assignment 6 in appendix). The main purpose of this final task was to
re‐interpret the Situationist practice in contemporary urban environments (particularly relating
to Århus ). The Mis-Guide concept was originally thought and developed by Wrights & Sites , a
performance collective of five artist-academics (Simon Persighetti, Cathy Turner, Stephen Hodge,
Phil Smith, Tony Weaver), based in Exeter, southwest UK.
“In 2003 a collaboration with the designer Tony Weaver led to the production of a quite beautiful
object, an alternative city guide book entitled An Exeter Mis-Guide. This promised to ‘give you the
ways to see the Exeters no one else has found yet’, incorporating among its 90 pages a ‘journey
in smell’, an ‘angry walk’, a ‘ walk for exhibitionists or reality-TV-show wannabes’ and a set of
‘touch tours’. (Wilkie, 2007:108)

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Then in 2006 the collective create a more general Mis-Guide, the so called “A misguide to
Anywhere”. Instructions here, as the title suggests, could be performed by readers in any place
of their choosing. My final concept page for an Århus Mis-Guide is that of “Tagging the city”, is to
say to leave pieces of paper with a thumb-up hand printed on it (which can easily be used as a
thumb-down/in whatever direction hand). They can be used as "I like it/I hate it/I (….) it" symbols
which can be enriched with comments or colours and put in any place of the city: on the table of
a pub, attached on a wall, in the shelves of a supermarket etc... These physical tags have the
potentiality to enhance and enlarge the comprhension of the city, to suggest something to
other citizens and tourists and to create a physical open/editable layered museum and archive
of thoughts and feelings in the urban landscape. Just like urban artists silently do

 
Conclusions
In this paper, I mainly tried to explain what was the aim of Situationists and their theory of
psychogeography. A set of assignments made during spring 2010 in the context of
Communicating (in) the City course, dpt. of Aesthetic, in Århus represented a way to practically
cover and explain many of the aspects of this theory. What Situationists attempted to do was to
create new perspectives on things and particularly on the perception and production of the
urban landscape, avoiding all sorts of official, pre-structured and rigid vision of the City. It is
impossible to think the urban space only one way, owning just one perspective on it. While
considering a city, we have to critically open our mind to a multi-perspective appropriation of
the space that embed history, politics, society and lots of others aspects. Waking through a city
following a set of weird instructions, paying attention to sounds, mapping the urban surface in
uncommon if not even bizarre ways, discovering hidden places, augmenting them and creating
hybrid spaces are just some ways I ran through (theoretically and practically) in this paper. The
clear refusal of what Debord called the passive “Society of Spectacle” represented by the
contemporary consumer culture and commodity fetishism, arose from the need to let people
actively engage in things, to have their own interpretation of the world and the space that they
inhabit. Having clear such a framework, an Århus Mis-Guide is a way to break the rules of the
known and accepted and to actively and critically rediscover the urban space of Århus.

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Bibliographic references:

 Andersen, Christian Ulrik and Pold, Søren (2010). “The Scripted Spaces of Urban Ubiquitous
Computing”, (Aarhus, in press).

 Crampton, Jeremy W. & John Krygier (2006), “An Introduction to Critical Cartography”, ACME: An
International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 4 (1), 11-33

 Debord, Guy-Ernest (1958) “Theory of the Dérive” in Ken Knabb (ed.), Situationist International
anthology (Berkeley, Calif.: Bureau of Public Secrets), 62-66

 Debord, Guy-Ernest (1959), “Détournement as Negation and Prelude”, in Ken Knabb (ed.),
Situationist International anthology (Berkeley, Calif.: Bureau of Public Secrets), 67-68.

 De Souza e Silva, Adriana (2006), “From Cyber to Hybrid: Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of
Hybrid Spaces”, Space and Culture, 9 (3), 261-78.

 Franck, Karen A. and Stevens, Quentin (2007), “Tying down loose space”, in Karen A. Franck and
Quentin Stevens (eds.), Loose space: possibility and diversity in urban life (London: Routledge), 1-
34

 Haque, Usman (2004), “Invisible Topographies”, Receiver

 Lefebvre, Henri (1991), “The production of space” (Oxford, OX, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA:
Blackwell), pp 26-33.

 Pinder, D. (1996), “Subverting cartography: the situationists and maps of the city”, Environment
and Planning A, 28 (3), 405-27.

 Pinder, David (2001), “Ghostly Footsteps: Voices, Memories and Walks in the City”, Cultural
Geographies, 8 (1), 1-19.

 Pinder, David (2005) “Arts of urban exploration”. In Cultural Geographies vol. 12, no. 4. SAGE, 383-
411

 Schafer, R. Murray (1973), “The music of the environment”, Cultures, 1 (1), 15-51.

 Wilkie, Fiona (2007) Review of "Mis-guide to Anywhere" PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art.
PAJ 86 (Volume 29, Number 2), May 2007

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Appendix :

Portfolio

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Assignment 1
Create a wiki profile of yourself

Hej! I'm Simona Conti and I was born on 22nd june 1986 in
Arezzo, Tuscany…in the very heart of Italy!

I would define myself an artholic and a “cinephile”. I like


design, art, photography and generally doing creative
things.

I'm studying interaction design in a MA study course in


Siena, Italy and from February to June 2010 I will be in Århus,
for an Erasmus program of 5 months. One of the reasons I
chose "Communicating (in) the City" course is that I found it
full of topics and contents relevant to my major (Interaction
Design) and I loved the course title at first sight. My
expectations about the course are those of finding out new
perspectives related to perceiving the urban landscape,
which I consider a mix up of lots of factors: humans as
individuals, human as groups of social beings that form
network of interactions, buildings, streams, ways full of
crowd flowing everyday in different directions, voices,
sounds and lights…that's pretty a complicated and
charming mixture of ingredients that I want to explore and
analyse better and better during this course.

Well, looking forward to start the games! :)

Hej Hej!

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Assignment 2
Make a personal and subjective map of Århus

Being the artistic expressions spread all over the urban area one of
the main things I notice when I first visit a new city, I decided to
create a map of Århus based on this "hidden" (in the official
cartography and to the eyes of many people) realm. I'm a real
newcomer of Århus as I arrived here about two weeks ago (author’s
note: I first came to Århus at the end of January and the
assignment was to be made before the half of February). Therefore,
working for this assignment has represented a very good pretext to
discover this cold (to me, as an Italian citizen!) Scandinavian town
maintaining a critical and analytical look, but in the same time
leaving room to emotions and subjectivity.

I took my reflex cam, my map of Århus to orientate (and to avoid


walking in the same streets several times) and I decided to…just
follow my instinct! Little by little, step by step, I found out plenty of
little (or sometimes very big-sized) urban expression forms. Some
of them excited me, some moved my soul, some surprised me. And
even if the snow and the rigid weather tried to put me off, my
investigation led me to impressive connections between all these
little expressive footsteps of urban art.

As an open-air museum, all these pieces of art have been


voluntarily spread into the city area. No ticket is required, just to be
a very good observer. You could find out originally painted house
façades or stickers drawn by urban artist MorMor, paper-crafts and
poetical messages hung up on street signals, installations and
statues, strange benches (like those of Jeppe Hein) or maybe a Blu's
(http://www.blublu.org/) work of art
(http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3245/2788795799_63b2c4e9bb.jpg).

There's no limit to art expressions. The real limit ‘inhabits’ our mind
whenever we seem not to notice such surprising and charming art
expressions (or even the sum of them).

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Her er Aarhus!
I've participated to Kultursyge photo competition (the core of the competition was to take some photos of hidden
places in Aarhus) simply sending the photos that I took to make my personal map of Aarhus. Those pictures where
shown at the "Her er Aarhus!" exhibition (25th march-11th april 2010) that showed the planned urban
transformation of Aarhus as a candidate city as 2017 European capital of culture (the exhibit was sited at the
Ridehuset, Vester Allé 1, Aarhus). One of my photos was also published in one of the brochure distributed at the
exhibition.

Here there are some pictures…of my shown pictures!

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Assignment 3
Find a place marked by a hybrid space

The Placebo project is a 2001


experiment in taking conceptual
design beyond the gallery into
everyday life. We can consider it as a
kind of HYBRID SPACE because,
using Usque words, "[it] encourages
us to think not of silent static
structures that surround us but
rather of fluid dynamic fields
beyond the edge of natural
perception […]" and it make us
acknowledge what has been called
'hertzian space' is to say "a real (i.e.
non-virtual) space that affects us but
which we only know about through
use of our instruments " (from
"Invisible topographies", 1, Usman
Haque). Tony Dunne and Fiona
Raby (founders of the interaction
design research studio at the
Royal College of Art, London)
devised and made eight
prototype objects to investigate
peoples' attitudes to and
experiences of electromagnetic
fields in the home, and placed
them with volunteers. The objects
are designed to elicit stories about
the secret life of electronic objects — both factual and imagined. They are purposely diagrammatic and vaguely
familiar. They are open-ended enough to prompt stories but not so open as to bewilder.

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Once electronic objects enter people's homes, they develop private lives, or at least ones that are hidden from
human vision. Occasionally we catch a glimpse of this life when objects interfere with each other, or malfunction.
Many people believe that mobile phones heat up their ears, or feel their skin tingle when they sit near a TV, and
almost everyone has heard stories of people picking up radio broadcasts in their fillings. Dunne and Raby are not
interested in whether these stories are true or scientific, they are interested in the narratives people develop to
explain and relate to electronic technologies, especially the invisible electromagnetic waves that electronic objects
emit.

Authors of the project: Tony Dunne and Fiona


Raby design works deal with the theme of
Futures and Alternative Nows and the subtle
psychological relationships between people
and objects. They practice a kind of design
whose main objective is to provoke people and
stimulate reflection, is to say critical design,
which is often difficult to distinguish from art
production because of its strong conceptual
content. As Usman Haque say "architecture,
the design of spatial experience, and art, the
production of cultural experience, have not for
several centuries shared as much common
ground as they do now. The overlapping
territories of art and architecture have come
about in large part because of technological
developments that upset conventional
understanding of spatiality" (from "Invisible
topographies", 1, Usman Haque). “We are
interested in using design as a medium, to ask
questions and provoke and stimulate people,
designers and industry,” has affirmed Tony
Dunne. “We are exploring things that exist
somewhere between reality and fiction,” adds
Fiona, as they explain their philosophy of
design.One of the purpose of the project was
that although reality can't be changed, it
could be changed the perception of it. Like a
medical placebo, the objects in this projects do
not actually remove or counteract the cause for
concern, but they can provide psychological
comfort.

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1.Parasite light
A light that feeds off the leaky radiation of household electronic products;
it only works when placed in electromagnetic fields, near an electronic
product. It uses an electric field sensor to relate the intensity of its function
(the amount of light emitted from 20 LEDs) to the strenght of field it senses.

2.Compass table
EM fields given off by electronic devices placed on the
table's surface (like mobile phones or laptop) cause the
25 compass needles to twitch and spin. This table
reminds you that electronic objects extend beyond
their visible limits.

3.Nipple chair
An electronic field sensor and an antenna are mounted beneath the
seat of the chair. Nodules embedded in the back of the chair vibrate
when the chair is placed in an electromagnetic field and the sitter is
made aware of the radio-waves penetrating his torso, reminding him
that electronic products extend beyond their visible limits. It is up to
him whether he stay and enjoy the gentle buzz or move to a 'quiter'
spot. As fields can also flow up through the sitter's body from electric
wiring running underneath the floor, the chair has footrests so that you
can isolate your feet from the ground.

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4.Electro-draught excluder
This object is a classic placebo. Strategic
positioning of this device helps deflect stray
electromagnetic fields. Though the draught
excluder is made from conductive foam, it is not
grounded and therefore it doesn't really absorb
radiation, but it creates a sort of shadow/barrier or
comfort zone away from EM waves where you can
simply feel better.

5.Loft
A place to keep precious objects safe from
electromagnetic fields.

6.GPS table
The table has a small display set in its surface which either shows the
word "lost" or its co-ordinates. It should be positioned by a clean
window with a clear view of the sky.

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7.Electricity drain
By sitting naked on a stool, accumulated electricity drains from the body
into the chair then out of the house through the earth pin of a special
plug.

8.Phone table
The mobile phone is given manners; the phone's ring is silenced when
it is placed inside the drawer and instead, the table top gently glows
green when the phone is called, such as, like Usque suggests, "flashing
stickers and accessories […] added to mobile phones [that] light up
when a call is made or received, […] consumer-friendly indicators of
increased electromagnetic intensity." (from "Invisible topographies", 2-
3, Usman Haque)

Here you can find some more info about the project
- http://www.interaction.rca.ac.uk:8080/people/staff/anthony-dunne/projects/project2.html
- http://www.dunneandraby.co.uk/content/projects/70/0
- http://www.designinginteractions.com/interviews/DunneandRaby

Bibliography:
- Dunne A., Raby F. (2001) "Design noir, the secret life of electronic objects" (Google book sample)
- Haque, Usman (2004), “Invisible Topographies”, Receiver

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Assignment 4
Find a place marked by a hybrid space and make an “audio-stand”. Find a place that you find
sonically interesting and communicate it to the rest of us in a soundbite; max 30 secs. It doesn't
have to be from Aarhus, but you could use this assignment as an opportunity to listen to the city
you currently live in.

I recorded this 30sec "audio-stand" in one of my favourite places in Aarhus, the "RisRas Fillionganggong" pub in
Mejilgade 24. It's an intimate, woodish, "patch-worked", warm place where people can relax and have one (or more)
beers. You can't order food inside, but you can bring your own (a kebab perhaps?)…I found this really exciting! I
went there (again) on Friday 19th march with two friends of mine, eating delicious muffins (just bought at the very
close "Jeremy" bakery shop in Mejlgade 27) and drinking liquorice teas. It was 18:30/19, so it was full of people
chatting, drinking beers and smoking narghilés, as usual…
Definitely feeling in a "hyggeride" place while there…I simply love it.

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Assignment 5
Create and perform a .walk and swamp your walk with another group

.walk by Simona Conti, Chiara Artini, Alessia Vidili

In group, make and perform a .walk


(also described briefly in Pinder "Arts of Urban Exploration" and in Hemment "Locative Media". Both from the course
readings). The
walk must have exactly 3 turns (a sort of code with 3 strings).

Our .walk:

//Å + ticking heels .walk


repeat for 1 hour
[
2nd street right
1st street left after you see an "Å" somewhere
Turn over 180° after you hear some heel ticking
]

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.walk performed on April 8th from 16.45 to 17:30
Here it is the map describing our .walk . Each coloured line defines one of the three strings of code:
- 1st string = pink line,
- 2nd string = blue line,
- 3rd string = green line.

We decided to start our walk from the very downtown (Ryesgade), in front of the railway station….

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…the code instructed us to turn right in Rosenkrantzgade…

..there we saw an "Å" on a restaurant sign…

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…we turned left in Fredensgade and there we saw a Vintage and SecondHand clothes shop that we never noticed
before that..really interesting :) …

…we crossed Sønder Allé, but we immediately heard some heels ticking on the street. We turned over 180° and
went back in Fredengsgade…

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…then we turned at the second street to the right: again Ryesgade! There we see the second "Å" in an advertising
along the street…

…then left in Rådhuspladsen and straight on in Vester Allé untill…

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…we heard some shoes heels ticking on the sidewalk near the AROS museum…tick tick…

…we went back and turned right in Park Allé and we….

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…saw again an "å" (lucky us?!)…

…then we turned left in Banegårdsgade and in few seconds we heard again some heels ticking on the pavement…

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…we turned back again…

…and we turned right in Frederiks Allé…

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…immediately sighted an "å" in a pub menù…

…we turned left in Skt. Nicolausgade…

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…and we walked straight on along the Scandinavian Center…

…and on and on trying to hear someone with heels shoes passing…

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…but we finally came at the end of Gebauersgade, in front of the railways…no way to go straight, no pretty woman
passing…This "system bug" ended our .walk after 45 minutes and almost 4 loops of code.

Second part of the assignment:


On Sunday april 11th 2010 from 15:30-16:30 we performed group 2b .walk. You can look to our map of the walk, see
4 pics and read some observations here in group 2b page.

What do we do exactly?
Create and perform a .walk.
Swap your .walk description with another group and perform their .walk too

 Document your own .walk performance on a map


 Document your performance of the other group’s .walk in a map and 4 pictures

What to submit prior to Tuesday 10:00


Make a seperate wiki-page for your .walk. On this page you write the .walk code and upload your own walk's map.
Write on the wiki-page of your partner group's .walk (the one you swapped with) below the group’s own map: write
a bit about your experience, upload a map and the four pictures.

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We decided to start the a.walk from the corner between Immervad and Lille Torv (close to Magasin and 7Eleven).

Graffiti wall and spring coming.

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A cool statue we never seen before.

Sun and shadow.

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The discovery of an other nice cafè.

About our experience…

1.We spent about 15 minutes going straight on Kystvejen because we couldn't hear heels ticking.
2.We entered in a loop walking from Kystvejen to Helgenægade and vice versa.About 10 minutes for 100 mt!
3.We passed through the Arkitektskolen Aarhus because we didn't hear heels ticking.
4.When we came out from the Arkitektskolen courtyard, we arrived in Paradisgade street. We were in front of Cafè
Paradis.
After 55 minutes, we couldn't hear that annoying sound, we couldn't go straight on, so we deicided to stop
and have a coffee in the ca

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Assignment 6
Create a mis-guide page that contribute to the creation of a full Mis-guide of Aarhus

Concept: Tag the City


Each place of the city can appear completely different to different people (and even to the same person, in different
moments and parts of the same day) according to the concepts of "situation" and "drift/dérive". The "When" and
"Where" determine the "How". Just like the great impressionist painter Monet, who painted several times on
canvas the same cathedral during different moments of the day with different lighting (the series "Rouen
Cathedral"), people perceive the urban space in a really peculiar and situation-based (or "impression-based")
manner.

1. 2. 3.

1. Claude Monet "Rouen Cathedral, Facade (Sunset)"

2. Claude Monet "Rouen Cathedral , Facade I"

3. Claude Monet "Rouen Cathedral, Full sunlight"

This subtle and subjective kind of space perception could enrich and augment each place. People could externalize
these impressions converting them into forms of public(/artistic?) expressions just by tagging the city and
adding little physical tags all around the urban landscape. Tags are simple and flexible (a thumb-up hand which
can easily be used as a thumb-down/in whatever direction hand) "I like it/I hate it/I (….) it" symbols which can be
enriched with comments or colours. They can enhance and enlarge our perspective of the city, suggest something
to other citizens and tourists and create a physical open/editable layered museum and archive of thoughts and
feelings. Just like urban artists silently do.

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My own "Communicating (in) the city" experience
Some final thoughts about the course:

1. What is your most memorable experience from this course? It could be with regards to readings, artworks
or your assignments.
I think to have 2 most memorable experiences from "Communicating (in) the City" course:
• The double performance of the .walk in Aarhus
• The snow performance (the one regarding how people subjectively map the space that surround them) made
during one of the first lessons of the course

2. Name the text that you liked the most (or that you learned most from)(or that provoked you the most).
Why?
“A misguide to Anywhere” by Fiona Walkie -> it has really been a pleasure to read it, especially after having
developed a good knowledge of “Communiting (in) the city” and urban perception/mapping/building. I have really
enjoyed it fully and to me, it represented a sort of summary of the whole course contents and a way to rethink on
issues touched during all the lectures.

3. Name one thing that you have learned from the readings (or, which text did you like the most). Why?
I especially loved (and consequently learned from) the SI theories about how to re-conceive a city and a urban
space: the "drift/dérive" situationist concept, the "situation" as a way to actively live and re-shape the places we
ordinarily walk through. These lectures explore something I've thought about for a long time, a lot time before
starting this course. I think to have always owned a good sensitivity towards the urban landscape and elements
connected to it: this sensitivity has let me fully understand and enjoy the themes treated during the course.

4. Which artwork/ artefact/ performance presented in class did you like the most (or provoked you the most).
Why?
Both the “Sound of Silence” listening performance (by experimental musician John Cage) and the subjective
mapping experience made in the Aesthetic dpt. courtyard, during the last snowy days of February. Both these
experiences have had a strong impact on my own way of rethinking something I’ve been always used to (subjective
mapping and sound/absence-of-sound listening) but without paying too much attention to them.

5. What was your reply to the assignments? List them all and think about how to present them – as a whole –
to the others; as a collection, what have they contributed to the course?
All my assignments can be found here-> http://communicity2010.wikidot.com/simona-conti

1. Presentation of myself
2. Creation of a subjective and personal map of Aarhus (in my case a representation of Aarhus as an open air
museum fulfilled with urban art)
3. Description of a hybrid space (in my case the "Placebo Project" by Tiny Dunne and Fiona Raby)
4. Making of an "audio-stand" (in my case a recording of noises and sounds of the central RisRas pub)
5. Creation of a .walk and (double) performance of two .walks through the city of Aarhus, following 3-lines
codes
6. Creation of a page of an Aarhus Mis-Guide (in my case, the concept of my page was "Tagging the city with
physical tags")

All my assignments are presented as a sequence of pieces that dialogue together and contribute to build a
"practical theory" of the thinking and re-thinking of the city of Aarhus and in general of any city. All these
assignments represent a way of "learning by doing" that made my knowledge stronger and open my perception of
the urban landscape. Moreover, my assignments as well as the ones of the other students enrich the contents of the
course using a peer-to-peer strategy that is really useful and has a lot of advantages (like finding out new and
"fresher" topics to treat)

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6. Which assignment do you find most in line with the course content? Why?
I think that the assignment “create a subjective map of the city" was one of the most in line with the course content.
It was a real way of let us all externalize and perceive the urban landscape as a new place to visit/live/understand.
The concept of "dérive" is in a way caged in everyone of us, but it is difficult to notice/methodologize it. The
accomplishment of that assignment represented a solution to this ingenuous lack of attention on things generally
perceived as secondary/not-relevant to us. It was a way to overturn canons and standard ways of looking to the city.

7. Which of your assignment replies would be most suited a mis-guide? Why?


Again, I think that my reply to assignment n. 2 ("create a subjective map of the city") is the most suitable for a Mis-
Guide concept, being it the one that let me think the most on course theories and basic concepts.

8. What could be changed in order for it to become a better mis-guide?


Maybe it could simply be opened to a wider public asking them to rethink to the city as an open art museum in
which they act as actual artists that contribute to make the urban/exhibit space better and more beautiful.

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