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City Islands – on the Linkage of Everyday Locations

Debord’s psychogeographical map The Naked City (1957) challenged traditional ideas of mapping relating to scale, location, and fixity, and drew on the work of urban social geographer Paul-Henri Chombart de Lauwe’s concept of the city as a conglomeration of distinct quarters, each with its own special function, class divisions, and “physiognomy,” which linked the idea of the urban plan to the body. An important strategy of the pyschogeographical was the dérive, “a technique of transient passage through varied ambiences”.

Image by Guy Debord on Redefining the Basemap

The image of the Naked City has help visualizing the fragmented experience we all have of the urban environment we live in. The mode of transport plays an important role, but so does usage, distance and function.
As an example for the differences in experiencing and linking the city spaces, two participants from the UrbanDiary project have been chosen. It happened to be a couple and the way they “use” the city could not be more different. Within the pattern of everyday activities, the main vehicle to create the structure of the experienced space is the mode of transport. In this case, the female uses the bus to travel to work and has therefore a continuous space between the home location and the work location (top diagram). The male in the example on the other hand uses the tube to travel between home, work and pub. The result is a number of very local island scattered over the city, leaving him with not means to connect them spatially.

Image by UrbanTick for UrbanDiary

The link between the urban plan and the body is not obvious on a daily basis but becomes more apparent over time through the routine. The daily rhythm allows to connect the physical experience with the memory of the activity.