Monday, December 13, 2010

The Circuitous Route : Slice Four

Continuing the meaty bits (or the stale bread bits) of my recent talk, "The Circuitous Route : Chance, Information and Geography" .......

There is a saying in business circles - "if you come up with a good idea, franchise it". So if we assume for a moment that the application of chance and randomness to exploring the environment is a good idea, how can it be franchised? How can I become the Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Psychogeography? One way would be to simply ratchet the study up : look at West Yorkshire in 20 squares, 50 squares or 100 squares. There must however be a limit before repetition sets in. Alternatively one could switch the geographical focus or widen it. Random Britain would be an interesting idea - an exploration of the country in twenty random square miles. But given my luck each of the twenty squares would finish up at the top of a mountain or in the middle of a deep, dark Scottish Loch.

One could, of course, go all the way and apply the principle to the earth itself. Indeed you can turn this approach into a jolly Christmas game. Go to the opening sequence on Google Earth, the bit where you have a circular globe. With a flick of your mouse you can start the world spinning. Next close your eyes but keep your finger on your mouse button and at a random point, right click. Then zoom in on the point you have chosen. Do this two or three times and see what you get. If your experiment is anything like mine, the first thing you discover is that the world we live in is mostly water. If you assume that one bit of water looks very like another, just follow up the random clicks that give you land. You might then find that what isn't water is mostly desert.

Another game you can play - especially if you live in Britain and are suitably aged - is what I call Pensioners' Poker. If you are over 60 (although the qualifying age is in the process of increasing by stages to 65) you are presented with a pass that allows you to travel on any bus free of charge. My father - who must also have been a psychogeographer - invented Pensioners' Poker. You go to the local bus station and armed with your pass you get on the first bus to leave. After a pre-determined number of stops you get off the bus and explore the area fickle fate has taken you to.

The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. At which point let me direct your imagination to the fourth of my random squares, West Wood near the village of Calverley.


  1. I tried your Google Earth spinning globe randomness. From the first six clicks, I hit water 4 times and Alaskan ice twice!

  2. Helen : It would be interesting to know how many times you would need to spin and click in order to find a picture which included any hint of human habitation.

  3. I had thought that the next logical move after the 10 random squares in West Yorkshire would be to tackle the surrounding counties, one county at a time, 10 squares each, and gradually expanding outward from your home county. That'd keep you busy for a while, eh?

    As for Pensioner's Poker, that wouldn't be possible here; there is absolutely no public transportation system out here in the middle of nowhere. Back in Newport that would have worked wonderfully, and expansion to other parts of Rhode Island would be easy. But here there's no chance, alas.

  4. I love Google Earth and I've done the random click but took me six goes to land on Florence . . of course I went there. As for the franchise, what about a 'pensioners' Britain. Places you can go with your free public transport ticket. The Lonely Planet for Septegenarians.

  5. I loved the "Kentucky Fried Psychogeography" line. Just sayin'.

  6. It's finally dawned on me that your Squares blog reminds me of an exhibition I saw at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, years ago. The artists (husband & wife team I think) threw darts at a large scale map of the world then went off there and reproduced an area of exactly what they found - sea, road, a ploughed field...

  7. Jo : my approach is much safer!


History, Economics And The Price Of A New Suit

This Halifax advert from 1922 proclaims “the pound buys more at Pinders this Spring!" Such words are unfamiliar to us living at a time ...