Defamiliarization III: Aimless Walk

*This text is written collaboration with the entire group*

After seeing the first Oyster travel log, we decided that using the travel log to create something ‘aimless’ was too limited. We then came up with the idea of using people’s missed connections as a starting point. We found a website called Love on the Line in which people could post these missed connections. In this way at least the data used to create our ’structured aimless walk’ is more random and varied then the data in the Oyster travel log. From there we came up with a plan:

*Take 4 Love on the Line postings as a guide for our wander around London

*Attempt to find a person who fits the description in the post within the location of the post (i.e. ‘I saw you between Victoria and Oxford circus. You had blonde hair…so we would go back and forth between Victoria and Oxford Circus until we found someone with blonde hair)
*We will document this by talking to the person, writing down the conversation, and taking a photo of the person
*Our route will also be recorded by the ‘GPS’ on Stephen’s i-phone
*We will then post new postings about our search for the original people in the posts on Love on the Line
*Our roles: Loes was the talker, Stephen was also a talker and the i-phone man, Nick was the navigator, and Renee was the note taker.

But what is the ‘aimlessness’ about this plan?
Aimlessness is: to have no point.
Aimlessness is: to have no hope.
Aimlessness is: to have fun.

As the signature becomes replaced by the password, we attempted to put the standardized password onto random people. There is no point. We weren’t there when the observation first happened, and based on the basic descriptions of these posts our chances of finding the actual person with blonde cropped hair, drinking a Costa coffee and wearing jeans are slim. It could be anyone, and we are pointlessly seeking out a standardized person.

As we put passwords on people, we must, in turn, create our own password to log onto Love on the Line in order to create our own posts of our aimless search. There is no hope in a response. People must know of the site to read our posts. They also must register to use it. Not everyone that uses the tube–not every blonde with cropped hair will read our post. We are also creating posts based on previous posts of people we have never met (or most likely will not meet when we do our aimless wander), and are posting these posts according to our own journey (i.e. we put that we were on the Victorian line at 12, because that’s when we were really there and not when the original person who put the post on the Love on the Line was there). Therefore, we are looking for people that have no connection to us in our own time and journey, and therefore do not actually have hope of getting a response. After all, we don’t even know if these people exist.

As we mentioned before, the travel log idea seemed limited. With the Love on the Line plan, it was at least something that interested us in some way. We had fun.

In the end, each of our different forms of documentation created different stories that were in part connected through Love on the Line but that did not join together in a unity. In other words, we did not end up creating a whole but many parts that each describe a day spent in London in different ways. In this way our project was really aimless as we did not achieve a point in the end, we did not find ‘That Bloke from Gospel Oak,’ and instead, created several different narratives of a walk through London.

– Textfile
– Photos
– Perlscripts to call up textfile and photos

Societies of Control

Graham initially cautioned against our idea in favour of the Oyster Card, as the Oyster Card provided a window onto the society of control. Upon reflection he was right, as our chosen means of getting aimless did not afford a viewpoint to how informational systems block access to some worlds. We were fortunate that the iPhone provided us another, different window into a ‘society of control’.

We were doubly fortunate that Alan was on hand to explain to us how the iPhone maps function works upon our return from our aimless wander. Even though the iPhone 3G and 3GS have a GPS chip they also utilise an AGPS method of triangulation assisted by Skyhook Wireless.

Skyhook uses Wi-Fi triangulation to find you, meaning among other things it grants a lock on your position much, much quicker than GPS, and without the demanding processing power of a GPS chip. It is also capable of locating people even if they are indoors.

Skyhook is interesting in the way they developed their triangulation method. For a start Wi-Fi is a rubbish triangulation tool unless you have a map of every Wi-Fi network. So Skyhook sent a car down every street of America, each car containing a laptop outfitted with antennas and equipment that sends out probe requests, to detect nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi networks. The Skyhook database currently includes more than 100 million wireless networks and 700,000 cellular towers. It should be noted that both public and private networks are mapped as part of this network. In their mapping of (expansion towards) Europe and Asia they currently employ a fleet of 500 drivers.

If we wish to see which ‘other worlds’ Wi-Fi triangulation makes possible, I think looking at the amount of location based apps is the best illustration possible; some pretty crude analysis (on my part) of the charts offered by Skyhooks stats ( show that approximately 2400 location based applications have been made available on the iPhone alone from Jan to June of this year. This works out at roughly 400 a month. I don’t want to credit Skyhook with making all of these possible, but it does enable non – GPS chip devices, such as the iPod Touch, to have location based applications.

Skyhook have directly partnered with several companies (mostly APP driven) and they share any location information uploaded to their website. There are a good variety of APPs partnered with them, but the choice control ones have to be

LifeAware: helps to notify family members of your whereabouts by sending automatic alerts when a family member leaves or enters a customizable geographical zone.

One of the first posts I see when browsing the instamapper forum is “Can I track my teenager on her iphone w/out her knowing?”

SIM Checker lets users set a phone number and email address to which SIM Checker will send alerts if a different SIM card is installed in the device

(this latter instance is but one of many apps which lets the object control itself as an object)

Skyhook wireless opens the door into our private realm in a manner of speaking, as it is capable of locating people even while indoors, if the Wi-Fi is sufficient. There is a new smartphone technology at the development stage now called Surroundsense, that utilises accelerometers, cameras and microphones to determine what type of building or environment that you are in. – it has achieved about 87% accuracy. Surroundsense merely makes use of features that are common on most current smartphones, thus begging ‘Big Brother’ like question raised by a 2006 FBI case of roving bugs, and unrelated cases of mobile phone stalking (see links below)

Matthew Fuller talks about considering which worlds are blocked by objects, and Deleuze places emphasis on passwords(codes) determining whether access is allowed or denied. Most pressingly for me was what worlds aren’t being blocked, because merely using the Maps feature once on your phone will enable Google to collate data on your location. This information will not personally identify you, but it will code you as an entry in a database somewhere. Maps is also the one area where Google do not explicity state what they will use the collated data for (

Deleuze says that control is short term and rapidly shifting, but at the same time continuous and unbounded. I take this to mean something like Graham was saying, that societies of control constantly undulate around us, but in spite (or perhaps because) of the continuous movement that we are nonetheless always enveloped and complicit in them. On a more practical level, I think it illustrates that monolithic power and control is harder to maintain in these societies. The nature of the app market itself is an illustration of that. Upwards of 50000 apps have been released this year, this is in a market that is only over a year old, and yet is attaining a ubiquity of presence in society. Mr. Morgan of Skyhook Wireless is also aware of this ephemeral quality of control, noting that Google could make a similar system available for free, and has thus filed numerous patents to protect the Skyhook way of assembling their database. I suspect that patents are better understood as part of the societies of discipline.

Self Healing/Auto-Poietic

One of the many patents Skyhook as filed is United States Patent 7493127

US Patent Continuous data optimization of new access points in positioning systems

The way this patent works is the best practical media example I’ve come across of an auto – poietic structure so defined as: structures which produce the components which, in turn, continue to maintain the organized bounded structure that gives rise to these components.

Mr Morgan. describes this as self healing however.

The way it works is; every time an object utilizing skyhook scans for a location it begins with a scan for nearby access points and cell towers. The resulting access point information is then compared against the central reference network. Known access points and towers (those already in the reference network) are used to calculate the location of the object.

Any access point or cell tower that is either not in the database or was previously associated with a different geographic location is automatically identified and its current position entered into the database. In this manner, the object automatically fixes and expands the reference network as it is being used.

For as many of these smartphone apps that are frivolous or distracting, there are many that afford user control over objects, or domains of their interaction, or which indirectly submit the user allopoietically to another society of control. In both respect the objects facilitate movement in a circuit – like society of control. The primacy of the user is what I took from this, both the cited Skyhook partnered apps reflect a desire for control on the part of users which is not so easily attributed to state apparatus.

The Rise and Rise of Skyhook

Roving Bug

Scare Stories


15 October 2009 10:15am
N 51.49538 W 0.14484
Meeting at Victoria Rail Station, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

First set of directions:
Man seeking Woman | Victoria line, London, UK | from admmir6 |
We hit it off when we got stuck between Victoria and Oxford Circus this afternoon. I never got your name, but told you mine – Charlie. You said you worked at a hotel near the Aldwych Theatre. You had short blonde cropped hair, dark blue VB jeans, drinking a Costa. Encore?

15 October 2009 10:41am
N 51.49546 W 0.14441
You thought I was going to take your money or bank details, or beg for a pound. All I wanted was a chat but you walked off without looking at me.

15 October 2009 11:10am
N 51.51501 W 0.13709

We were the imiant, you were the Polish(?) lady with the short blonde hair and dark blue jeans. We found you at last. But you were with a very possessive man that insisted on being in the picture with you. At first I wasn’t sure you spoke English, but luckily you did.


Second set of directions:
Woman seeking Man | Piccadilly line, London, UK
You had brown hair, a red jacket and were reading Metro…you were goreous! Get in touch…

15 October 2009 11:37am
N 51.51185 W 0.12904
We were the imiant. You had the most radiant smile and a bright red jacket. You were so sweet, we could have talked all day if Michael Jackson hadn’t turned up. I can’t believe you thought we were in his Jackson 5…


Third set of directions:
Mon 5th Oct | Man seeking Woman | Piccadilly line, London, UK | Firewithin
We were on the tube, Piccadilly line heading towards the Leicester Square station. I was sitting on the opposite right side of you, where you were standing next to your guitar.. We gazed at eachother and smiled.. We then again saw eachother when you left with a silent goodbye. Next time I will slap myself and come say hello…If you are reading this by any chance, it would be great to hear from you..! :)

15 October 2009 11:52am
N 51.51175 W 0.12863
I saw you sitting on the tube between Leicester and Russel square, you seemed sweet and I asked if you maybe were the girl with the guitar…You weren’t but I found out you were Dutch! You and your friend ahd come to London for a weekend of shopping and partying but were just on your way back…I died a little.

15 October 2009 11:54am
N 51.51175 W 0.12863
Lady with the guitar where were you? I couldn’t wait all day.


Fourth set of directions:
Sat 3rd of October | Woman seeking Man | Leicester square-Regent street, London, UK
Double take moment through the Leicester Square crowds heading towards Regent Street between 2 and 2:30. you had the Magnun P.I. Aviators & flower shirt going on…. HA! I was dressed in white. Tell me what I was holding so I know it’s you. Hope to hear from you? Curiously yours, Mia xx

15 October 2009 11:54am
N 51.51175 W 0.12863
You were sitting outside a pub having drinks with friends. I thought it was you, you’re sunnies looked like aviators and my heart skipped a beat. On closer look…it wasn’t you, nor aviators, nor a floral shirt. You did ask me out but I ran, no beer before noon for me.

15 October 2009 11:56am
N 51.51178 W 0.12907
I chased you down the street towards chinatown, thinking your sunglasses were the aviators covering those amazing eyes I drowned in…It wasn’t in the stars for us as they were a different model of Ray-Bans, which name I can’t remember.

15 October 2009 12:08am
N 51.50954 W 0.13693
Hi you were the guy with aviators. We talked, you said you had left your flower shirt at home and your brother doesn’t own one but I didn’t know what to believe, you might have been pulling my leg. I fell even harder for you when I heard your Italian accent…Silly me thinking I had to look for you at an optician’s on Regent Street. No optician would have a floral shirt.

15 October 2009 12:18am
N 51.51480 W 0.13570
I kept my eyes out for you on Regent street but all I could see were snobs in fancy cashmere sweaters and red corduroy trousers. I’d seen enough and was ready for lunch. Maybe you’ve gone back to Hawaii, and maybe I should come and leave these Regent Street snobs be.


15 October 2009 1:12pm
N 51.51171 W 0.13982
Lunch at Posini’s where we were tortured by the forces of English mustard. We shed a tear or two.


Fifth set of directions:
Woman seeking Man | Central line, London, UK
I got in at TT court road, I was reading the paper and looking at the sport section, this guy sitting next to me smiled at me until I left the tube 2 stops later :) I smiled back.

15 October 2009 1:23pm
N 51.51610 W 0.13043
We shared  a smile and the automated mechanical stairs lifted you into the light and out of my life. It had to be you, I’d recognize that smile anywhere. Msg me!!!

15 October 2009 2:04pm
N 51.30140 W 0.052138
Stephen runs into a friend (quite the stunner….) on London Bridge station. Did fate perhaps acknowledge our project and helped us find love on the line?


15 October 2009 2:25pm
N 51.29320 W 0.033917
When the baby smiiiiilllees! We saw you on the train from London Bridge to New Cross with your stunning baby. You were on your way to the dentist to get a root canal….brrrrr. You’re little one mesmerized us with his lashes, he couldn’t stop smiling at Nick and farted like an old man.

15 October 2009 2:35pm
N 51.28291 W 0.022589
You overheard our converstation about the people at stations asking for used day travelcards in order to sell them and make little profit. We thought it was probably the smartest idea, you disagreed and interrupted us, telling us it’s not right and it’s “cheating the system” we loved your passionate response and apparent loyalty to “systems”. Would love to talk some more and show you how much fun it is to cheat systems instead :)


In command line:
cat aimless_walk.txt
to read the text above (the entire documenation in text).

Retrieve photo ‘Blonde’:
# Opens the image and displays on screen
use Image::Magick;
open (IMAGE, ‘blondecropped.jpg’);

$image = Image::Magick->new;

close (IMAGE)

Retrieve photo ‘Aviator’:
# Opens the image and displays on screen
use Image::Magick;
open (IMAGE, ‘aviator.jpg’);

$image = Image::Magick->new;

close (IMAGE)

Retrieve photo ‘Regent’:
# Opens the image and displays on screen
use Image::Magick;
open (EMOTICON, ‘aimless_evidence.bmp’);

$image = Image::Magick->new;

close (EMOTICON)

Retrieve image ‘totalmap’:
# Opens the image and displays on screen
use Image::Magick;
open (EMOTICON, ‘aimless.bmp’);

$image = Image::Magick->new;

close (EMOTICON)

Defamiliarization, Exercises, Psychogeography