Guy Debord’s - The Naked City (1957)
Guy Debord’s Naked City, present the most radical departure from the grid. In reaction to the rational city models embraced by Parisian postwar planners in the 1950s, he and his colleagues co-opted the map of Paris, reconfiguring the experience of the city through its authority. By manipulating the map itself, they intervened in the logic of the city, constructing an alternative geography that favored the marginalized, and often threatened, spaces of the urban grid. Torn from their geographical context, these areas were woven together by arrows inspired by the itineraries of the drift or “dérive.” These “psychogeographic” maps proposed a fragmented, subjective, and temporal experience of the city as opposed to the seemingly omnipotent perspective of the planimetric map. As mapping is used as a tactic to bring together personal narratives about urban space, the Situationist maps provide a useful example of visualizing a subjective view of the city.
The central problem with these maps is not in the way in which they confront norms of cartography, but the duration to which they are bound. The ephemeral nature of psychogeographic space meant that these sites could quickly shift through the pressures of development. The Situationist maps in turn become an archive of a specific moment in the life of the city. However, if these maps incorporated time, they would be able to show the migration or disappearance of these psychogeographic spaces, highlighting and critiquing the urban trends that were / are shaping the city.
Although the Situationists most likely regarded these maps as a record of the drift and a means for provoking new tactics for inhabiting the city, they also represent a valuable schema for creating new forms of cartography. These maps uniquely propose a networked model in which spatial events are abstracted from the grid and linked according to their typology. As databases form the engines of the contemporary base map, the information they contain may be retrieved in multiple configurations, allowing for a range of methods for visualizing the space of the city. The vocabulary of geo-spatial metadata behind the contemporary base map should be expanded to include a broader set of terminologies, allowing for new interpretations of the urban landscape. For example, querying space according to ambient phenomena such as its emotional associations or pollution levels. As suggested by Kevin Lynch, visualizing urban space as a montage of typologies may in fact be closer to the fragmented way in which we create our own mental maps. Perhaps we can begin to use database driven maps to understand place within a system of relations determined by their relevance to our queries, rather than their geographic location.