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[as experienced by www.socialfiction.org]
Summer 2001 Walking is the best way to experience the environment, but how to walk in such a way that is becomes not just a tool to be a spectator but to actively explore it. We decided to use what we learned from the 'Game of Life' & complexity and combine that with the legacy of psychogeography, a sub-cultural strand in the pedestrian culture which can be traced back all the way from the Flaneur, the British pedestrian writers of the Romantic age to the peripatetic school of Aristotle. All these influences are folded together in (generative) algorithms like this one: first street right second street left first street left repeat In theory walks generated in this way never run into an obstacle that forces the pedestrian to stop meandering. In reality cities should be redesigned from scratch & people should be made flawless by genetic modification to reach the situation where the human compliance to the complexities of an algorithm as a psychogeographical device is perfect. Participation in a generative psychogeographical experiment forces you to adopt to the characteristics of a machine, you are pushed through streets like an object in almost closed loops which are connected by sudden rushes straight forward. There is a sense of alienation involved in navigating in this manner but that feeling is never realized completely: the algorithm which should be able to produce a walk without navigational friction repeatedly produces more confusion than certainty: the algorithm becomes chaos. In this sense a generative psychogeographical experiment must always fail, it's not pixel clean movement, it isn't a Flash animation come to flesh, its dirty, it's algorithmic noise & we love it. generative psychogeography is a pleasant state of displacement: it's the city-space cut-up. The technology will find uses for the street on it's own. On 26th of August 2001 socialfiction.org performed the first experiment in algorithmic pedestrian culture as a new methodology in psychogeographical action research into all aspects of the urban condition. The initial results were powerful & suggested such a large field of possible research that could not do it on our own & therefore declared our algorithm 'open source'. To make clear that we were serious we announced the Hot Summer of Generative Psychogeography 2002 as the umbrella under which hundreds of psychogeographical swarms could operate, interact & in general make it more fun/worthwhile/surprising etc. Because we worked with an algorithm it seemed reasonable to borrow the concept of 'open source' from software development. To open something implies that it was closed beforehand, in our case the code was (literally) on the street from the start. But because the idea of people spontaneously cooperating on the same thing is such a powerful way of development, as it helps you to overcome the limits of your own skills & imagination, we adopted the term anyway. There is also a more philosophical implication involved in open source that goes beyond the scope of the collaboration of Linux geeks programming Bill Gates out of relevance. Open source has become a key value in the much larger issue of creative & educational freedom which are part of a free society. Stanford's Lawrence Lessig 'refrain' captures the political implications of open source best: 1)Creativity and innovation always built on the past . 2) The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it. 3) Free societies enable the future by limiting the power of the past. 4) Ours is less and less a free society. Open source is necessary, progress implies it.
Open source & psychogeography were connected from the start. Open source activists claim that every act of creativity should (eventually) enter the public domain. Psychogeography has always been about open sourcing the city, to make all parts, all spaces, of the city available to everybody, to overcome your own habits imposed by social reality, to negate stratification. Practising psychogeography always implies the right of unrestrained mobility, of creating a public domain out of otherwise lost urban area's. The protection of the past from present day creativity does not need to be specifically enforced by legal actions like the ones the music business employs to crack down on sampling, P2P networks & bootleg culture. The prohibition of reinterpreting the past might also happen on the level of symbolic power. The situationists, well known for their scorn for everybody who didn't think exactly as they did, were the greatest enemies of the further development of psychogeography because of their dogmatism, the same dogmatism their legacy is defended with today by some obscurantist zealots: just like a musician can be inspired by Gary Glitter without borrowing anything from his style the post-freudian, post-surrealist psychogeography of the situationists has been glamrocked into oblivion by the international network of psychogeographers that emerged out of the Hot Summer. The goal of the Hot Summer was to generate creativity by being creative. We didn't want to protect our creativity for those unworthy like the situationists did, we want it to spread & we want it to be stolen because it proves to us that it's worthwhile. Anybody who steals our ideas inspires us to create something new that people want to steal as well. But stealing is the wrong word here, it was already yours to begin with.
After the Hot Summer The Hot Summer has turned into a lukewarm autumn. Great experiments have been undertaken in several places, enthusiast people have taken the idea to new places & new conceptual grounds. Interesting discussions have enfolded on the mailinglist. New collaborators & new friendship have been made. This not a detailed list of what has happened in the Hot Summer, if anything this is a manifesto of the larger ideas behind a network of people dedicated to exploring their environment & the possibilities of algorithms in non-computational ways. The summer is over but the project endures, the network is still active & the invitation is still open: Wherever you are & whoever you are: have a look at all the different sites, join in on the further development of generative psychogeography, take these ideas as the jumping board for your own activities. Be creative.