I was delighted to be asked to speak at TEDxEHL last month at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. I used my 15 minutes to argue that we are currently going through an Exploration Revolution, but that we’re not making the most of it… especially in schools. The talk takes place during the 125th anniversary of National Geographic, a year in which many people have been asking the society “what’s left to explore?“. This short video answers that question and more.
The latest edition of Ecological Urbanism is terrible doorstop. The first edition is 655 pages, smells good, weighs 2kg and keeps most of my other books in their place. Despite its strengths, it can’t do video… something the latest version on the book can do. The original hardback book by Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty features hundreds of photos that I took while walking across Mexico City, Mumbai and London for Urban Earth, a project in urban exploration that I started in 2008. Out today, the new version splits the book into digestible chapters and includes over 15,000 photographs within the 3 Urban Earth films that I made by taking pictures every 8 steps while crossing these massive cities. You’ll find the films in volume 2, Anticipate, and are accompanied by a short piece of text that Kye Askins and I wrote. I’m delighted to see the films come to life in the book. I hope you enjoy it.
The Ecological Urbanism project has a Facebook page that you can follow here.
Next month I’m going to be making my way to Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland to give a talk at TEDxEHL 2013. Among others, I’m going to have the pleasure of sharing the stage with Caroline Duetsch Kubik, Mela Kocher and Doug Manuel. I’m excited to be taking part and can’t wait to work out what I’m going to say…
Last year I was lucky enough to be invited into National Geographic in Washington DC to give a Nat Geo Live! presentation. Part of National Geographic’s Geography Awareness Week this is my 50 minute presentation compressed into 20. I hope you like it.
I’m always fascinated to discover the reasons why explorers and adventurers do what they do. In November Ben Saunders (@PolarBen) gave a TED Talk in which he described his amazing solo trek across the Arctic (from Siberia to Canada) and explained his main reason for the journey.
“One of the magical things about this journey however is that because I’m walking over the sea, over this floating, drifting, shifting crust of ice that’s floating on the surface of the arctic ocean is that it’s an environment in a constant state of flux. The ice is always moving, breaking-up, drifting around, re-freezing.. so the scenery that I saw for nearly 3 months was unique to me. No one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the vistas that I saw for 10 weeks and that, I guess, is the finest argument for leaving the house.”
Ben’s story is inspirational and his reason for leaving the house is certainly captivating, but I’m not convinced that the exclusivity of experience or sole ownership of it are the best reasons to explore. No doubt taking such an extreme trek is geographically (in location, distance, scale, environment and human isolation) beyond what most people would do, but surely no one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the same vistas for any period of time? Growing trees, moving cars, changing window displays, rotating kebabs and dogs running in the park are all always changing and so are our gazes and our opinions. If the finest argument for leaving the house is to have a unique experience, all we have to do is be semi-conscious of the fact our experience is unique. We don’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to have sole ownership of our experiences on it.
That said, I’m curious about the reasons why, as a tourist, traveller, explorer or simply someone bothering to leave the house, I enjoy a place or event because I’m the only one who has experienced it compared to experiences that are, to some degree, shared. When does sharing heighten, intensify or improve and when does it dilute, obstruct and corrupt? Clearly is depends entirely on the situation.
I enjoy the music festival scene in the UK and go to several major events each year. Something that’s often described is a tipping point where the festival organisers have sold too many tickets and the community feel of the event is lost. In the case of Glastonbury, the UK’s biggest festival, the organiser’s themselves have complained of there being an imbalance in the age of their audience… it’s ageing. Those who have been going to Glastonbury for sometime often complain that it’s become too big and too mainstream. That said, the feeling of being part of a massive drifting, shifting and moving crowd is often just as important as the band on stage. Everyone who is present creates the geography of the moment, the atmosphere that creates the place and so the destination that everyone has come for. Are these camping festival survivalists who brave the elements to enjoy this unique location any less an explorer because what they seek is music together rather than snow alone? I don’t think so.
We are all explorers, or as the poet Kate Tempest (@katetempest) would say, we are the Brand New Ancients.
Last week I had great fun helping to make this live Guerrilla Geography video with National Geographic Education for Geography Awareness Week. What do you think of it?
I love this short film by the Light Surgeons.
I’m looking forward to speaking at a National Geographic event at the Wellcome Collection tonight ahead of the 125th anniversary of the organisation. The evening for commercial supporters of National Geographic in the UK is called the “New Age of Exploration”. In my short presentation I plan to (re)frame what ‘geography’ is (much like in this recent interview with Geographical Magazine) and then touch on an ‘exploration revolution’ that is taking place. Technology is not only changing how we conceive, plan, organise, conduct, share and review our explorations, but the number of people who can engage in them.
I love this short video by ito! showing four years of edits on Open Street Map. It’s an awesome example of collaborative and open exploration that involved over 750,000 registered users and shows collaboration at its best. For me, some of the most exciting cartographic ‘events’ in this video are where sparks of activity appear in countries, regions and neighbourhoods that were otherwise left uncharted or unpublished by governments and other organisations. It all demonstrates that places are not just discovered once, they can be discovered and rediscovered millions of times as they change and new people and other animals visit them. It’s a video that shows an Exploration Revolution that you are unavoidably part of…
I’m recently back from a trip to Maui, Hawai’i. While there I was lucky enough to go underwater exploring with Emily Schell from National Geographic. I did not have my contact lenses and so my vision wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it was awesome to check out so many fish. By far I loved seeing the curious Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the state fish of Hawai’i, the most. I didn’t snap a picture of the triggerfish on our snorkeling trip, but I spotted this one swimming through Honolulu a few days later. Cool fish, aye?
If you’re wondering how to pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua’a then this culturally enlightening (?) article from the Daily Mail (!?) will give you a decent lesson.
For over a year the Urban Earth website has been offline as I’ve focused all of my attention on Mission:Explore.Net. The time has come to bring the network of urban explorers back to life. Over the course of this month I’ve been facilitating a number of explorations across London. So far these have included (un)violent and remote walks. This image was taken in north London during the remote walk. Tomorrow we’re going to be following (un)healthy routes through areas of London that suffer most from depression and suicide.
The last of this series of walks is on March 10th. This is going to be an exciting event involving around 100 people. Split into around 20 groups, we’re going to start in different places outside of London and work our way in to the city’s centre. The Urban Earth website is the perfect way for people to meet, plan and share their explorations.. and so in the next few days reborn it will be. Beyond this big exploration of London my hope is that the community will use the site to organise more inspirational and innovative ways of exploring cities.
Watch this space.