Friday, December 5, 2014

Straight Line (Psycho) Mapping and the HS2

According to Tom Jeffreys, author of an interesting story on psychogeography and mapping in yesterday's Independent, all maps lie, especially when they are produced in support of the proposed HS2 route in the UK.

Placing himself firmly in a tradition of systematic wanderers, mappers, and psychogeographers such as Iain Sinclair and Guy Debord, Jeffreys notes that the field of wandering psycho-mappers is saturated, especially in urban milieux.  His mapping project starts from Euston and makes its way through countryside, starting out through the Edgelands (aka The Unofficial Countryside) now favoured by these oddly motivated individuals, the counter-mappers.   Sinclair himself did something like this in London Orbital, and as we know Sinclair sets the gold standard (alongside Self, see below) for truly psycho geographies.

How does a person actually walk in a straight line anywhere anymore?  Answer: they don't (and Jeffreys didn't either).  The author of Mind the Gap only made it through about half of his planned 10 day journey, resorting to hitching a ride in a car to complete the London-Birmingham leg.

What is the point of walking in a straight line, other than to demonstrate spatial stubbornness, prove a point, and achieve pyrrhic victory, of the sort people like Will Self seem to favour in the absolutely fabulous Psychogeography (in which he 'walks' from London to New York via their airports/airplanes)?

The answer: to show that all maps lie, that the ground truth is never what we think it is, and that it is full of local ephemera, individual perceptions, and communities in jeopardy of being sliced in half by the lines the map introduces into life-worlds willy-nilly should we choose to follow its dictates blindly.  Which is exactly what the mappers of the HS2 are proposing to do.  Therefore, read this article:  Mind the Gap.

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