Psychogeography: creative cultural research

As I have explored in my previous post on the playable city games within Bristol, the creators aim to get the players to relate emotions to parts of the city that they may not have done before. These ideas are all traced back to back to Debord’s definition of psychogeography:

Psychogeography is an approach to geography that emphasises playfulness and “drifting” around urban environments. It has links to the Situationist International. Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.”


Psychogeography and politics

When researching Psychogeography, i found that there is often a relationship drawn between Psychogeography and politics. Merlin Coverley discusses the way that Psychogeography is often considered as a political act because act of ‘drifting’ around an urban environment means walking around an environment that is hostile to pedestrians. Cities are designed to look successful, economically and visually, but the act of walking means that you discover the forgotten areas (such as ghettos) by cutting across established routes designed for cars, buses etc. By revealing these discarded areas, walking becomes related to the characteristic of political opposition to authority.


Psychogeography as a business method

I found a short business proposal in an online journal called ‘Claiming the Streets: Feminist Implications of Psychogeography as a Business Research Method’ which discusses how ‘Psychogeography offers an approach to gaining an understanding of the ways that human behavior is shaped by the geographical environment (Coverley, 2006)’ and the way in which this could benefit a feminist study, using Psychogeography to gain a ‘real world experience’ for women in the workplace rather than a more quantitive study.


Psychogeography and literature

‘In English writing, or more particularly in London writing, there is a visionary tradition that is best represented by the motif of the imaginary voyage, a journey that reworks and re imagines the layout of the urban labyrinth and which records observations of the city streets as it passes through them’

Psychogeography is most traditionally known as a literary form from the Avant Garde movement. Daniel Defoe, one of the main contributors to the development of Psychogeography wrote novels on the city of London, recreating it as a gothic and haunting place and told through the point of view of his own character. Another name in the development of Psychogeography is De Quincey: ‘De Quincey is the prototype psychogeographer, his obsessive drifting affording him new insights into the life of the city and granting him access to the invisible community of the marginalized and dispossessed. For De Quincey, the city becomes a riddle, a puzzle still perplexing writers’

This leads me directly on to my own research project. I feel that Psychogeography as a form of literature fits well with my Alice in Wonderland game, as I think the book, in some ways, is a form of Psychogeography. The whole story is based around a main character (Alice) drifting through an unknown world, with mythical characters, which many theories say are representations of the real world and political figures at the time of publishing. Therefore, my project becomes Psychogeography within Psychogeography: a game that aims to change the way in the which the players see and feel about the city, based on the way the Lewis Caroll altered his own world at the time.





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