Thursday, September 15, 2011

Social Spaces - Phase 1

Oblique Dérive

Urban life is regulated by city planning. Streets form the pathways which guide or influence all movement within a city, and determine the health of the blocks they envelop. The health of these blocks psychologically influences an individual’s level of attraction to that area. The psychological and physical boundaries of the city plan directly determine movement through space.

The act of the Dérive is to “drift” through an urban space guided by psychological pathways in preference to physical ones. The goal of this act is to navigate city spaces in a way which circumvents the constraints of planned pathways and to explore, experiment, and discover new environments that would regularly remain unfound.

The Oblique Stratgies system was devloped by Brain Eno and Peter Schmidt as a creative problem solving tool for creative problems. This system uses a deck of cards imprinted with instructions or questions that would alter the path of an artist’s progression through thier work. If an artist is stuck or uninspired, these cards plant the seed of a new idea to circumvent the psychological block.

I propose, then, a form of the dérive that addresses both the physical and psychological constraints of an urban landscape. The Oblique Dérive is an influenced tour through city spaces. Calling upon the Oblique Strategies, and the act of the dérive, a wanderer will recieve instructions to guide their movement, creating unique tours through the city which may never happen even with aimless wandering. It is an inflexible system for flexible results: recieve your instruction, follow the instruction as you interpret it, repeat.

The Oblique Dérive consists of a simple hand held device. The device is an audio player with recorded instructions, the only control being a single button which allows you to recieve your next instruction when pressed. Instructions are stored on and played from a memory card and received through headphones, allowing for further influence on a journey. Users can share sets of instructions: spoken word, environmental sounds, music, silence - they are all equals. The device plays back the audio at random, which means that instructions (or auditory cues) may be delivered in quick succession or with great space between.

The kit will consist of an enclosure, an MP3 player board, SD card, headphone jack, and headphones.


Enclosure: $8 (radioshack)
MP3 Board: $10 (
SD card: $10 (Best Buy)
Headphones: $10 (variable)
Headphone jack: $.50 (

Possible instructions for auditory guidance:

Increase your elevation.
Do I need an umbrella?
Find rhythm.
Approach your fear.
The quickest route, the longest time.


  1. I think the success of the work will rely in the content/discourse of the instructions you give. The ones you list are nicely intriguing. The ones like increase your elevation, or find rhythm promote exploration, investigation, and even extroversion (due to the fact the individual is participating in the process).

    However commands that are less literal and more emotive come to an dropoff of analysis of the environment. I look forward to seeing this work in action!

  2. How are you planning on initially populating the instructions on the device? The source of the suggestions could be a really interesting aspect of the final form the work takes, since that will be user's primary level of engagement. It could also be worth investigating if the device could allow recording on-the-fly so the user would not need access to a computer to modify the instructions.


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