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robertogreco : micheldecerteau   7

Due North | VQR Online
"I arrived in New York in October 2005 and immediately began walking all over the city, exploring for hours at a time. As I traversed its landscape, I discovered a topography of social conditions. Some days, I would linger on Thirty-Fourth Street among the glamorous workers of Midtown Manhattan rushing to and from their high-rise buildings—in swift pursuit of their ambitions, I’d assumed. I’d watch them zigzag around and dart past the enthusiastic tourists filing into the Empire State Building, that colossus rising majestically above as a beacon of hope and symbol of American derring-do.

Then I’d stride northward, eager to explore Whitman’s “Numberless crowded streets – high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies.” A little over two hours later, I would end up in Harlem at the courtyard of a housing project on 125th Street, where residents lounged on benches and welcomed each other with cheerful banter. They also welcomed me, and I sat beside them, took one of the kiddie’s box drinks they offered, and enjoyed their jovial talk in that relaxed, open space in Harlem far removed from the hurried dynamism of Midtown.

But as I’ve circulated through New York’s streets, nothing reveals the city’s opposites in stark juxtaposition like the walk from the Upper East Side to the South Bronx, two neighborhoods separated by a brisk ninety-minute walk, or a quick twelve-minute subway ride. I’d call them neighbors were it not so clear that they occupy such distinctly different worlds. To walk the streets from one to the other, as I often do, is to bear witness to a landscape of asymmetry. The city that comes into view is one of uneven terrain, vistas of opportunity alongside pockets of deep poverty too often lost in the periphery.

In early 2006, almost six months after moving to the city, I was hobbled from roaming around because of a botched surgery on my right knee. A few months later, I switched hospitals to the Hospital for Special Surgery, located on the Upper East Side, where I eventually underwent two more surgeries to get back to walking the streets without chronic pain. As a result of the operations and follow-up physical therapy, the Upper East Side became a regular destination. I spent a lot of time watching people go about their lives, many of whom were middle- and working-class people employed in hospitals, museums, universities, hotels, and elsewhere on the Upper East Side. Plentiful as these workers were, they didn’t define the neighborhood—at least, not in a way that forcefully impresses itself upon the mind when you think of the Upper East Side. No, the population that embosses its mark on the neighborhood is the wealthy—the extraordinarily wealthy, to be precise.

The Upper East Side houses one of the richest zip codes in the US. This wealth touches almost everything in its vicinity. Many of the less-flush people I met going about their days worked at institutions that were among the world’s finest—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Hospital for Special Surgery—and that were easy access for their upper-class neighbors. In addition to stellar medical care and world-class museums, I’d walk past some of the city’s best private schools, public libraries abuzz with parents and nannies—many of whom were foreigners—playing with children, and music schools with eager and not-so-eager kids developing their skills. Here was a neighborhood stocked with the resources for worldly success.

Walking through that part of the Upper East Side was not unlike a jaunt in a museum. On Park or Fifth Avenue, for example, one could walk for hours and admire magnificent buildings fronted by well-manicured gardens and quiet, clean sidewalks. Serenity suffused the atmosphere. Nothing seemed out of place, and, to my untrained eye, it all looked unspoiled.

There are stunning apartment buildings that look like cathedrals in high heels. Überchic boutiques—throne rooms of specialization meant to cater to people with the most rarefied, and demanding, of tastes—abound. You can pick up scented shoelaces for your teen daughter from a store filled with accessories for tweens, buy a bra for a few hundred dollars from an Italian lingerie store, and then drop off your puppy for a spa day, all in under a half hour. And, shhh, the stores were very quiet, I’ll-glare-if-you-speak-loudly quiet. I was often hushed, too, since sticker shock often dumbfounds me. Though, I should confess, something perverse in me wanted me to scream upon entering those hush-up stores.

All around are luxe restaurants with patrons to match, and sophisticated bistros with fresh-looking, pleasant-smelling—oh, those lovely scents!—upscale clientele. And for outdoor relaxation and play, Central Park is a quick stroll away—across the road, even. It’s as if the neighborhood was curated to cater to the needs and pleasures of its wealthy residents. Dig through the historical record and you’ll find that, indeed, starting with Fifth Avenue in the late nineteenth century, later joined in the early twentieth century by Park (formerly Fourth) Avenue, elegance and convenience have characterized the Upper East Side’s moneyed class and its tony residences.

Yet, for all its beauty, the neighborhood today feels like a welcome mat with spikes, or, more aptly, like a museum after closing time. You could stand nearby and look in, but that’s as far as you could go: admiration from a distance. My feet met their limit.

So much of the lives of the very wealthy was a mystery to me, not least because I couldn’t hope to stand and chat with them. The city was this enticing language I was learning, but they were a cipher. They lived, as my friend and walking companion Suketu once put it to me, in vertical gated communities—fortresses within layers of insulation. I’d see them shuttle from cabs or chauffeur-driven cars into their elegant buildings fronted by attentive doormen. Or I’d see them interacting with each other as I strolled past a posh establishment. They were sharply dressed ghosts; I would see them for a brief moment, only for them to quickly disappear into vehicles or buildings as mysteriously as they came.

There was a come-hither-stay-away quality to it all. Apartment lobbies looked inviting, but dapper doormen in their white shirts and black ties stood between you and them. Brownstones were beguiling, but you dared not sit on their steps. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone my shade, the color of the neighborhood’s nannies and gardeners and janitors but not their neighbors (at least, none that I saw), was more unwelcome on a stranger’s stoop.

Nor would I ever see people hanging out on their own steps. The beauty of the Upper East Side, the visual allure, had a placidity I felt detached from. There was something disquieting about all that silence. Certainly, one of the joys of living in the city is the wonderful solitude it affords, the option to, as E. B. White memorably put it, opt out and announce, “I did not attend.” The city is a place of escape as much as it’s one of pilgrimage, and, to someone outside of their circle passing through, the affluent inhabitants of the Upper East Side resemble a group who entered a compact to “not attend.” The serenity felt fragile, and I feared that if I did anything that was perceived as a threat to it, no matter how simple—approaching that friendly face to have a chat, leaning over to inhale perfumy flowers—that I would be promptly reminded that I could inhabit those streets only so much.

When I leave the Upper East Side on foot, the streets declare it to me almost immediately. I cross Ninety-Sixth Street—on Park Avenue, say, and the picturesque quickly recedes. Islands of gardens are supplanted by train tracks that tear out of the ground and rise alongside and above houses, transporting streams of Metro-North trains and dispersing noise across the neighborhood. Pristine sidewalks are replaced by dusty ones, and time and again micro-dirt tornadoes, with candy wrappers within, whirl around. And luxury mansions are replaced by tenement-type buildings, row houses, and “superblocks” of housing projects.

And the population becomes increasingly darker. A lot more. And friendlier. A lot more. More Spanish is heard (significantly so), more bodegas are seen on corners, and the hum of the Upper East Side gives way to a skipping, sometimes clamoring, beat. (On weekends with good weather, there are block parties aplenty). You almost begin to wonder—at least, I often do—if East Harlem is the town crier announcing, “Yeah, you’ve left the Upper East Side. The South Bronx is three miles, and an hour’s walk, thataway.”"



"On the way back home, Suketu drove through the Upper East Side, past glittery boutiques and sexy bistros, enticing department stores and showy high-rise apartment buildings. At that moment, I recognized that, for me, there wasn’t much difference between cutting through the neighborhood on foot and in a car. There was, of course. But leaving from Hunts Point, where time in a car away from residents removes so much of the neighborhood’s pleasure, and arriving in the Upper East Side around fifteen minutes later, only to recognize that I felt at arm’s length from a lot of its residents even when I walked through, reminded me that inequality also deprives the very wealthy. In ensconcing themselves in their circles, the very wealthy had cut themselves off from a range of perspectives and temperaments and stories—stories that are a central part of their city’s vibrancy and appeal. In Hunts Point, I witnessed deprivation due to an absence of resources; in the Upper East Side, I witnessed deprivation of a different, but related sort: the absence of enriching interactions.

I became an obsessive walker as a matter of necessity. Too poor to take taxis when I was growing up in Jamaica, and living in a … [more]
walking  serendipity  2014  garnettecadogan  nyc  inequality  discovery  wonder  possibility  ebwhite  wealth  waltwhitman  rebeccasolnit  micheldecerteau  observation  flaneur 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Whyfinding: what pervasive gaming has taught me about 3D videogame design | Christy's Corner of the Universe
"The thing I came back to was my experience with pervasive games. Those games set in the actual world — on websites, social media, newspaper, in your street. Is my frustration because I’m corrupted by my background designing and playing pervasive games? In pervasive games I could actually pick up a bow. I could actually be crawling through the cave. Is the problem that I want the seamlessness of mission play and can’t get it in some 3D games? So I played with that idea. What is the difference in how the missions would be designed and experienced in a pervasive game versus a 3D digital game?"



"Looking for Internally-Motivated Navigation

I looked at works that seem to be about this internally-driven navigation of space: Michel de Certeau’s ‘Walking in the City’ in The Practice of Everyday Life [PDF], Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space [PDF]; Walter Benjamin’s The Arcade Project [PDF], John Stilgoe’s Outside Lies Magic, and Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking. I jumped from flâneurs to the larp movement to (with the help of Johanna MacDonald) Laban drives (link, link) — all in the hope of finding design techniques relating to internal motivation. I remembered my theatre experiences and thought maybe that relates to my type of play.

These works are all about internally-driven movement, but specifically about a free-movement, where you walk (or run) where you please and with a particular way of seeing. This is related, but doesn’t explain exactly what I’m talking about. A common thread in these works, however, is that it is about being present in the moment…in the world…in the streets. I look around to the rise of digital exploration games, and see a similar trend. Indeed, I don’t think the growing attraction to open world games, experiential games, and thin play is  coincidental. These are parallel phenomena that speak of an urge for a different kind of experience: one of being present in the (digital) world. But these types of experiences are often couched in phrases such as agency or choice that an open world games affords, such as the “exploring freedom in World of Warcraft.

There are many reasons for the attraction to these types of experiences (both as designers and players), including having an alternative to the magical dad stories of first-person shooters, and the reflection a “walking simulator” affords. Indeed, there are more and more of these sorts of games, or “first person exploration games, ” “first person adventure,” “story exploration games,” “a game of audio-visual exploration,” “non-combative exploration games,” or “not games,” or whatever. There are well known ones such as Gone Home, Dear Esther, Proteus, Bientôt l’Été, as well as ones more recent or in development such as Ether One, Dream, Sunset, Firewatch, Virginia, and HomeMake, and Hohokum.

I believe that one of the attracting factors of these games is the desire for intrinsically-motivated movement. (This trait, however, certainly isn’t shared by all of the community-created “walking simulator” tags on Steam.)

It isn’t as if exploration is ignored in conventional videogame and theme park design though. For instance, Scott Rogers talks about enabling exploration by creating subpaths or alternate paths that people discover that get them to the main attractions. But this way of navigating space is different. It isn’t just about exploring space either. Most of the internally-driven movement I found though, was about exploring or viewing space differently. There is something else. Then I found it.”
videogames  situationist  worldofwarcraft  digital  sandboxgames  freedom  exploration  flaneur  derive  2014  johnstilgoe  larp  larping  gastonbachelard  micheldecerteau  walterbenjamin  rebeccasolnit  wandering  whyfinding  pervasivegames  gaming  games  play  maps  mapping  landscapes  landscape  gamedesign  motivation  visualattention  attention  christydena  experience  dérive 
august 2014 by robertogreco
intro to landscape studies - YouTube
"The modern age of landscape is an age where social interactions, markets, and developments are routinely channeled by institutions invisible to the ordinary individual. State infrastructure and capital have made immense and irreversible the effects of building, in the form of corridors, monuments and waste, channeling everyday paths and interactions in new space. In the era of modern building, the secrets of landscape are constantly hidden in plain sight.

To learn to see the landscape, western writers first had to learn to describe it. Unlike studies of rhetoric, which stretch back through the classical tradition, structural studies of the phenomenology, politics, and psychology of landscape only matured in the nineteenth century, in the era when state intervention began to physically reshape the shape of trade, agriculture, and the city at an unprecedented scale. Psychologists like Georg Simmel and cultural critics like Walter Benjamin imported the science of rhetoric and the…"
podcast  digitalhumanities  rebeccasolnit  streets  space  place  micheldecerteau  economics  politicaleconomy  policy  geography  urbanism  urban  cities  architecture  landscapearchitecture  modernity  institutions  literature  history  walterbenjamin  georgsimmel  interdisciplinarity  landscapestudies  2008  infrastructure  class  landscape  joguldi  interdisciplinary 
february 2012 by robertogreco
youarehere2011 | Just another WordPress.com site
"Imagine an alternative version of the city archive. Rather than collecting documents and images focused on important historical events, it values the varied, daily experiences of present-day city residents. Instead of filling box after box with records about major landmarks and the city center, it preserves the sounds, emotions, and observations of neighborhood life. What might you find in such an archive? What would you contribute to it? Can such an archive strengthen our personal and collective ties to place? A hundred years from now, could it help us remember urban life in a different way?"

[via: http://twitter.com/lubar/status/139305923255599104 ]

[See also this reading list: http://youarehere2011.wordpress.com/suggested-reading/ ]
providence  rhodeisland  cities  psychogeography  readinglists  geography  place  guydebord  deniswood  josephhart  simonsadler  katharineharmon  gayleclemans  krisharzinski  kevinlynch  yi-futuan  micheldecerteau  donaldmeinig  christiannold  ericfischer  hitotoki  jasonlogan  conflux  provflux  situationist 
november 2011 by robertogreco
The Practice of Everyday Life - Michel de Certeau - Google Books
"In this incisive book, Michel de Certeau considers the uses to which social representation and modes of social behavior are put by individuals and groups, describing the tactics available to the common man for reclaiming his own autonomy from the all-pervasive forces of commerce, politics, and culture. In exploring the public meaning of ingeniously defended private meanings, de Certeau draws brilliantly on an immense theoretical literature to speak of an apposite use of imaginative literature."
books_toread  micheldecerteau  behavior  socialbehavior  2011  commercialism  politics  culture  autonomy 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Michel de Certeau - Wikipedia [via: http://twitter.com/joguldi/status/73414744849129472 ]
"…Certeau's most well-known & influential work in US has been The Practice of Everyday Life.…combined his disparate scholarly interests to develop a theory of the productive & consumptive activity inherent in everyday life. According to Certeau, everyday life is distinctive from other practices of daily existence because it is repetitive & unconscious. In this context, Certeau’s study of everyday life is neither the study of “popular culture”, nor is it necessarily the study of everyday resistances to regimes of power. Instead, Certeau attempts to outline the way individuals unconsciously navigate everything from city streets to literary texts.<br />
<br />
Perhaps the most influential aspect of TPoEL has emerged from scholarly interest in Certeau’s distinction btwn the concepts of strategy & tactics. Certeau links "strategies" w/ institutions & structures of power who are the "producers", while individuals are "consumers" acting in environments defined by strategies by using "tactics"."
art  culture  history  urbanism  micheldecerteau  via:joguldi  via:steelemaley  research  strategy  strategies  tactics  thepracticeofeverydaylife  power  religion  colonialism  grids  cities  urban  living 
may 2011 by robertogreco
jeweled platypus · text · Grids of tubes and wires (the city and the internet)
"wrote an essay about how learning to use internet is like learning to live in city…for class where we read urban critics/philosophers/sociologists Walter Benjamin, Michel de Certeau, & Georg Simmel…lived in 19th & 20th centuries, talked about: what happens to people when they move to cities, how it feels to live in dense urban centers, & whether “the city” is imaginary place…Some of their concerns about experience of mass urbanization are similar to concerns…about experience of mass internet use: dealing w/ infooverload, wandering in non-linear fashion, learning unfamiliar interfaces, developing less sensitivity to shocking sights, finding connections w/in fragmented communities, encountering thousands of strangers every day, & acting badly when anonymous.

…resemblance btwn physical & virtual worlds is not surprising…“city is an archetype of human imagination”…social aspects of web modeled on places where many of its developers, entrepreneurs & designers live: SF, LA, NY…"

[via: http://twitter.com/tcarmody/status/21262061506 ]
walterbenjamin  micheldecerteau  georgsimmel  cities  2009  psychology  urbanism  urban  society  culture  city  internet  social  flickr  del.icio.us  youtube  flaneur  brittagustafson  online  web  urbanization  non-linearity  learning  explodingschool  colinward  strangers  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  fear  tcsnmy  anonymity 
august 2010 by robertogreco

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