Monday, March 26, 2012

Map of the Week 3-26-2012:I'm Just Walkin'

Google Map of the streets, in red, that have been traversed so far by Matt Green.  He intends to walk every street in New York City, all 8,000 miles of them!  From: The New York Times, March 25th, 2012, Leaving His Footprints on the City, at

Here we have another great example of a “walkabout,” in this case a ginormous walkabout.  Matt Green, former civil engineer (who used to design roads!) completed in 2010 a walk across the United States, from Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York to Rockaway Beach in Oregon, and has just now embarked on his next adventure – walking every street in NYC.  He estimates it will take about 2 and a half years to complete the walk. 

Why is he doing all this walking?  “… those who walk for the sake of walking are called on to distinguish themselves from ordinary pedestrians.  In Teju Cole’s recent novel ‘Open City,’ the narrator, a psychiatric fellow at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, takes aimless walks ‘as a release from the tightly regimented mental environment of work.’  The British novelist Will Self — who has published two books on psychogeography, or the effect of topography on the human psyche — once trekked 20 miles from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan. ‘I walk,’ he said, ‘in order to somatically medicate myself against the psychosis of contemporary urban living.’  
Mr. Green’s reasons are less succinct, though similar in spirit.  ‘People tend to narrativize neighborhoods in New York, saying such and such a place is hip, or poor, or ugly or barren,’ he said.  ‘This walk is a way of understanding a place on its own terms, instead of taking someone else’s word for it.’”  From

In the Times article, there is a nice short video – a combination of the reporter’s interview with Matt and the reporter joining him in situ for part of what is likely a typical day for Matt.  Matt also has a website where you can see his progress and view some of his really quite interesting photos that he takes along the way. (Map with hyperlinked photo icons)

Matt Green taking a photo of a mural in the West Farms area of the Bronx, during one of his daily walks.

Just this week, I sat in on a class at the Mackintosh School of Architecture called “Mapping the City.”  For this week’s assignment, the students (advanced undergrads and Master’s students) were asked to read a short text by Guy Debord, the “father” of psychogeography, and then in pairs, to do a “drift,” and report back to the rest of the class.  Each pair of students was assigned a different part of the city for their “drift,” and most had never been to these areas before.  It was interesting for me, a relative newcomer to Glasgow, to see what fresh perspectives (or not, as the case may be!) the students brought to their exploration of random walking given a particular starting point, but no other restrictions or parameters.  A bit different from what Matt Green is doing, since he is on a mission to cover every street, (albeit not in a dogmatic, methodical way, it seems!) but I think some of the objectives are the same – the appreciation and notice of the details of everyday life in a great city that can ONLY be obtained by walking. 

See previous posts on Emotional Mapping and Wanker-Free Drifting for more on Will Self, psychogeography, Flaneur-ism, and the art of the drift.  

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