Walking on algorithms

.walk by socialfiction.org
No software but walkware

“No software but walkware. (…) .walk is the name for the pedestrian software that will be used in the construction of a ‘psychogeographical computer’ which will use the city as hardware.

Algorithms are by no way limited to computer software, and computer – as devices which execute algorithms – are by no way limited to chip-based electronic hardware. La Monte Young’s “Draw a straight line and follow it” is a plastic example of an algorithm which can be executed by any kind of being or hardware which thus acts as a “computer” executing the algorithm. “.walk” by socialfiction.org is based on this very concept of a, quote, “non-electric computer”. Computations are executed not through electricity flowing through the transistor gates of a processor chip, but by walks through urban spaces.

The history of urban walks as artistic activity begins in the 19th century and could be told as a one of a gradual demystification: from Baudelaire, the romanticist flaneur as he was portrait by Walter Benjamin over the Surrealists – remember the walks through Paris in Breton’s “Nadja” and Aragons “Paysan de Paris”, already rationalized under the influence of Freudian psychoanalysis – to the Situationist International, which re-thought of flaneurism as “psychogeography” in terms of a postmarxist sociological urbanism. Socialfiction.org consciously continues this tradition by calling its project a “psychogeographical computer which will use the city as hardware”.

The documentation of “.walk” explains this as follows: “Because we were already exploring walking around on algorithms, it was a logical step to modify these little programs into something that actually solves problems. Theoretically these individual .walk programs could be connected into a computer. In the ‘programming .walk for dummies’ text it is shown how you can solve quite complex computations by stripping them down to their smallest factor & have a interesting walk at the same time.” A “.walk” sourcecode might look like this:

// Classic.walk
1 st street left
2 nd street right
2 nd street left

More complex .walk algorithms allow to execute multiplications and divisions through city walks. .walk has been practically employed in London and Rotterdam. Classical psychogeography is thus turned into what socialfiction.org calls “generative psychogeography”, with urban drift being finally put to a practical end. However, “.walk” could also be seen the other way round, as romantic deconstruction of computing and its concealed metaphysics of architecture.”

by Florian Cramer
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