DEFINE Dérive Research

Having been stuck in a rut for quite some time now, I have been trying to find ways to motivate myself and get some clarity. Unsurprisingly I decided to go for a walk. During my research I found an app called Derive, which provides prompts to take the user on an unexpected walk, so I thought this might help trigger some ideas. I also decided to take a ‘proper’ camera with me, because I find photography a really helpful way to process ideas as well as documenting things. I took a 35mm camera instead of my DSLR because I really like the physicality of film, and the idea of winding on the film as I walk, plus I have much better lenses for it!

The app gives prompts about where to go and what to do when you get there. Suggestions such as “Take a photo of something or someone old. Continue in the direction of the sun.” are broad enough that they could be done in a wide range of settings, but specific enough that the user doesn’t have to think too hard about them.

I walked for a while, although I didn’t cover much ground in that time. When I got to “Move a few hundred meters towards the nearest body of water.” I realised that these prompts could be geared towards nature, and the exploration of nature in an area.

Over the rest of my walk I wrote some of my own-

  • Find something growing in an unexpected place. Document it 
  • Find a bird in an unusual place
  • Document the nearest tree
  • Head towards the nearest body of water
  • Head towards the nearest green space
  • Document something that is out of place 
  • Document a reflection
  • Find an empty lot or construction site and document whatever is growing/living there. 
  • Look for something decaying. Document it and try and find it next time you go for a walk. 
  • Find a street with a natural name
  • Find something which has been enclosed which shouldn’t be
  • Find something that has been trodden on or snapped
  • Find a trail or track
  • Find something growing up/through a fence
  • Document a pattern or trace that isn’t manmade 
  • Find a landmark you will be able to spot from somewhere else
  • Draw a straight line on a map and follow it
  • Put some film in your camera or buy a disposable one. Take one photo standing by each lamppost on your street. 
  • Follow the course of a waterway

Some of these are explicitly about nature (Head towards the nearest green space), and some are more to encourage the users to question their relationship with it and perhaps to draw attention to the disconnects (Find a street with a natural name). These definitely need refining but it’s a good place to start.

I have also found this ‘Walk Idea Generator‘ by Steven Dalley, which I really enjoy. These are user-submitted ideas for walks, some more practical than others.

Below are the photos I took on the walk. Most of these were of specific things the prompts guided me to, but some were just things that caught my eye.

I recounted this walk to the cohort in our Peer-to-Peer session that evening and said I was still feeling lost about how to resolve this into anything. Sasha pointed out that I didn’t need one resolved outcome (I do know this but I still need some idea of what I’m working towards or I get overwhelmed by options), and suggested I create a brand, and then situate all my experiments inside that. This feels like a more manageable solution, and gives me lots of options, so I think I need to get serious about the experimentation now.

This also gave me the angle I really needed to get to grips with my essay. I have spent so long trying to write but not really had a point I was trying to make, which is incredibly frustrating. I still don’t have a full first draft but have written loads more today than in the last week put together. I rewrote my question slightly based on the events of the day –

How can we use psychogeographical theories to connect people to the often-overlooked nature in cities?