When you wander off the digital path
Wake up snooze the alarm > check Twitter > check Instagram > Advertisement: SALES (check until you remember your bank balance then go back to Instagram) > check Facebook > check News Source > Advertisement: Clear Blue 99% accurate (I shouldn't have Googled early signs of pregnancy last night, do the algorithms think I am pregnant?) > repeat in the exact same order the next morning.
To wander: characterised by aimless, slow, or pointless movement: such as
a: that winds or meanders
b: wandering course
c: not keeping a rational or sensible course
Wandering without a purpose, taking in your environments, without thought of your destination. Asking yourself how a place or building makes you feel, behave. There is a consumer refusal with psychogeography. The term was coined in 1950s Paris by Guy Debord, who sought to go against the Society of the Spectacle at the time. Or in other terms, to stop consuming, to remove himself from the commodified public space and take in his surroundings in a more earnest way, connecting himself, and his new founded Situationist movement, to cultural (rather than capitalist) production.
‘Dérive’, or drift, was defined as the “technique of locomotion without a goal,” in which “one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.” Wrote Situationist Sadie Plant. This refrain from psychogeographers usual movements and motives is what they are still seeking and enjoying today.
Wake up snooze the alarm > check Twitter > check Instagram > Advertisement: SALES (check until you remember your bank balance then go back to Instagram) > check Facebook > check News Source > Advertisement: London Wellness Centre (I shouldn't have Googled back pain last night, do the algorithms think I need a chiropractor?) repeat in the exact same order the next morning.
Capitalism is a closed world, each day we take the same paths and routes to work, stop at the same coffee shop and buy the same things from the same Prets for lunch (Advertisement: Your nearest McDonald’s is only 6 meters away). Being online is no different, as corporatisation has taken hold; the internet has become more and more like the cities and towns in which we inhabit. Individuals become one of a million passers-by in a constant state of liminality, taking the same routes and always ready to spend.
Reading Where to for Public Space by Constant Dullaart, he says that faux public space IRL, such as City Mile, match URL faux public spaces. The World Wide Web is a collection of privately maintained environments linked together, hence the reason for legislation on the internet and the flow of profitable information through these websites.
My mind is taken to the death of Vine (RIP VINE), a truly free space online, to drift, to derive, away from corporatisation, a space to wander and wonder, without thought, away from advertisements and consumer culture, a place where user-generated content was freely accessible. Except, this was exactly the reason for its demise. It was unprofitable, and therefore not warranted online.
Wake up snooze the alarm > check Twitter > check Instagram > Advertisement: SALES (check until you remember your bank balance then go back to Instagram) > check Facebook > check News Source > Advertisement: Personality quiz: Anxious or lazy? (I shouldn’t have Googled dying from a hangover, do the algorithms think I am an alcoholic?) > repeat in the exact same order the next morning.
Psychogeography was intended to cultivate an awareness of the ways in which everyday life is presently conditioned and controlled, the ways in which this manipulation can be exposed, subverted and resisted, and the possibilities for chosen forms of constructed situations in the post-spectacular world. The point of psychogeography for the Situationists was to gain a perspective of their environments, to be aware yet chose to go against. It isn’t the case of having cities and places stop still, to not develop or change, but to be aware of these changes and use them in their wanderings.
What is more ‘everyday’ than the internet? This too can be exposed, subverted and resisted, in order to wander off the digital path, away from corporate surveillance sites, aimed to algorithmically sell to you. (Sponsored: Chipotle Mexican Grill, avoiding gluten? Going vegan?) It isn’t the case to wish for idealistic and naive 90s cyberspace, but to be aware of the surveillanced space and use it to your advantage.
Such disorientation was craved by the Situationists. It was a means of showing the concealed potential of experimentation, the pleasure and play in everyday life. They considered chaos to be a valuable means to exposing the way in which the experiences made possible by capitalist production could be appropriated within a new enabling system of social relations.
Psychogeographers saw the city as a place of unification and empowerment, where they would go off the structured path. They used detournement to turn attention to the ruptures of society. For the situationists this was seen in poverty stricken Paris, despite plentiful material goods. We can see this happening online today, despite the turmoil we feel politically. People take an image: reshare it, repost it, hashtag it, like it, tweet it, and its original meaning has gone, it's been reappropriated into a new community. It’s been taken from its algorithmic path, on an unpredictable journey, usually stemming from web forums such as Reddit, Imgur and 4Chan. These sites are key leaders in this detournement, albeit, they’re often hate fueled and transgressive. However, the support networks on these forums (although equally argued as internet troll clubs) is paramount. They are truly public spaces, to drift as you so wish.