Wanting to map the "psychogeography" of Paris in the 1940s, the Situationists—a prominent art collective at the time—came up with the concept of a dérive: "an unplanned tour through an urban landscape directed entirely by the feelings evoked in the individual by their surroundings." The idea was a response to rampant capitalism, as the artists saw it, which was leading people to live ever more routine lives, walking the same walks every day, and never following their senses. The concept was a way of reconnecting with the city, and understanding how certain areas evoked certain feelings in the individual.
More recently, the concept of the dérive has got new life as a series of apps. The modern-day Situationists are app designers looking to direct users in random and strange ways, so they can become better associated with their surroundings, whether by foot or by car. We came across four:
The Dérive App "gets you lost in your city and lets you share that experience with others." It does this by serving up task cards calling users to search for architectural, urban, or social points of interest, such as following taxi, moving towards the river, taking a seat in the park, or finding a tree, say the creators. Users can create their own "decks" and form groups where members collect their experiences online. The app was developed by Eduardo Cachucho, Babak Fakhamzadeh, Ian Barry, and Nora Noone.
Serendipitor is designed "to introduce small slippages and minor displacements within an otherwise optimized and efficient route." You enter a starting point and destination and it gives you "instructions for action and movement inspired by Fluxus, Vito Acconci, and Yoko Ono, among others." It was developed by designer Mark Shepard in Rotterdam, who suggests taking photos along the way and sharing them with friends.
A modified car GPS system, Random GPS "takes you around the world as an endless journey, determined randomly, and constantly recalculated." From Stéphane Degoutin, an artist and writer in Paris, the device starts talking as soon as you turn it on and can't be intervened with to change course.
From Broken City Lab, Drift guides walkers "using randomly assembled instructions" and asks users to "look for something normally hidden or unnoticed in our everyday experiences." Users then have to take pictures of the object and upload them to an app. Justin Langlois, one of its developers, told Emily Badger at CityLab that getting lost—or drifting—was a way of “unfamiliarizing” the neighborhood. “When you’re lost somewhere, you really go out of your way to pay attention to these visual cues that become significant markers in your mind.”
If you're looking to get out of a routine, a randomized walk seems like a good way to go, and you might even get some exercise in the bargain.