Ctrl-N/ journal: repository of texts, research and documents on cities, mapping, networks, psychogeography and the experience of places; Written and maintained by Olivier Ruellet.


Open Source Urbanism – Rethinking public space in an age of pervasive communication · October 29th, 2009

Open-Source Urbanism - Rethinking public space in an age of pervasive communication

Open Source Urbanism – project website, initiated by Rory Hyde and Scott Mitchell.

Théorie de la Dérive (Guy Debord) · November 18th, 2006

In his text The Theory of Dérive (1956), Guy Debord seeked to convince the reader to let emotions resonate when looking at and experiencing urban spaces; The Dérive – the French word for an aimless stroll – institutes the city as a network of narratives, of experiences and events. Space itself becomes the product of inhabiting. “To dérive is to notice the way in which certain areas, streets, or buildings resonate with states of mind, inclinations, and desires, and to seek out reasons for movement other than those for which an environment was designed. It is very much a matter of using an environment for one’s own ends, seeking not only the marvellous beloved by surrealism but bringing an inverted perspective to bear on the entirety of the spectacular world.” 1

The Dérive is somewhat related to Flânerie, a word coined in the mid-eighteenth century by the French poet Charles Baudelaire to describe the typically Parisian leisurely exploration of city streets by pedestrians, detached observers of the industrial metropolis. The Dérive can also be likened to the surrealist street adventures of André Breton 2, in which night promenades in the city are raised by a succession of dreamlike impressions and romantic fantasies.

1 Sadie Plant, The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationst INternational in a Postmodern Age. London and New York : Routledge, 1992.

2 André Breton, Nadja . Paris : Gallimard, 1927.

Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography (Guy Debord) · March 18th, 2006

When writing Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography, Guy Debord was seeking a new way of life in the observation of certain processes of chance and predictability in the streets:

“The sudden change of ambiance in a street within the space of a few meters; the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres; the path of least resistance which is automatically followed in aimless strolls (and which has no relation to the physical contour of the ground); the appealing or repelling character of certain places – these phenomena all seem to be neglected.” 1

Debord observed how he could extract urban areas that had been drawn through and delineated by the emotional and behavioural responses to those spaces that conformist town-planning would ignore. His psychogeographic map entitled “The Naked City(illustration) shows the fragmented experience of pedestrian wanderings, where meaning is found through walking the streets instead of motoring through them, where it is the pedestrian who creates a mental ordering of the cityscape instead of the city forcefully imposing its structure upon the individual character of these experiences.

1 Guy Debord, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography, in Les Lèvres Nues # 6, September 1955

Guy Debord, The Naked City (1955) Illustration of the hypothesis of drifting plates in psychogeographic