[-empyre-] Location and data


I've been interested in this disscussion over the past few weeks, and the
great references and projects that have been discussed, so it seemed time I

My collaborator Jen Hamilton and I have been wrestling with this issue of
whether the line made by a gps can 'tell' us, or an audience anything or not
for some time. The line made by a gps during a journey made by a person can
tell that person a great deal, but unless other information is given with
the line, it remains just an abstract line. (I don't know if other list
members would agree with this though).

We've been reading Michel de Certeau's essay 'walking in the city' from his
book 'the practice of everyday life' - in which he talks about the map, or
view from above as being separate from, and telling us nothing of the
experience of walking from within the city. He also makes a great analogy
between language as a set of rules and vocabulary, and a map, and therfore
between the way an individual speaks a language, and travels through a city,
thus the way a city is spoken by its inhabitants.

In our work we've been attempting to bring these two things together, the
abstraction of the map, with the detail and individuality of a persons own
journey (with gps device) through the city.

These things have been explored through scultpural means, partly because we
find photographic, and audio media limiting in the ways in which it can
express the spatial and embodied practice of travel (walking/car). The
exhibition we've just completed at Folly gallery in Lancaster, UK
(www.folly.co.uk) uses 34 walks with local people to discover the city of
Lancaster and its neighbouring seaside town Morecambe. When seen together
these 34 gps lines draw a sinuous seafront which most Morecambe residents
gravitate towards, and a tangled city centre which Lancastrians seem to
We've also been doing some research in Cumbria, Uk, through Grizedale Arts
(www.grizedale.co.uk) looking at how walkers use gps as a promise they won't
get lost, and how the Mountain Rescue teams use gps in trying to find lost

Finally we're producing a phone app with bluetooth gps device, so that we
can use mobile phones to draw gps lines which can be transmitted immediately
back to a website, on which a live feed (e.g. Weather) can modify the
quality of the line. It will also be a collaborative tool, allowing several
people to simultaneously draw to the same image, from different geographical
locations. We're hoping that this will allow us to show work that is still
evolving, so that the gps route does not become static when it returns to
the gallery, and so that an audience can use their own mobile phones to


Jen Southern
Mobile phone research sponsored by FACT, NESTA and The Arts Council of

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