3 Bridges in Libre Graphics Magazine

When I was in New York in 2011, I made a few new pieces of work using my GPS difference technique. One of these was 3 Bridges, made by collecting the GPS data as I walked across the bridges that connect the Southern tip of Manhattan to Brooklyn. From North to South, these are the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge respectively.

Each of these bridges is a completely different experience to walk across – you may be in a tunnel of iron girders, alongside busy subway tracks or out in the open with a criss-cross of suspension cables rising above you. The different characteristics of the the bridges are reflected in the different GPS ‘fingerprints’ shown by the lines in the drawing.

3 Bridges

3 Bridges has been reproduced in Issue 2.1 of Libre Graphics Magazine (entitled Localization/Internationalisation).

We react to regional differences, as well as efforts at internationalisation, in varied ways. In a world that has become increasingly globalised, we may hope for ways to communicate more effectively with others, or we may cherish our own regionally-specific terms and ways. We may create habits and classification systems which help us to trade knowledge and understanding with others, or we may take refuge in personal eccentricities.Editor’s Letter: Localisation and internationalization, ginger coons

I was given a sneak peek at the print copy a few days ago and it’s a lovely piece of work. You can order your copy from http://libregraphicsmag.com/ or you can download pdf versions to view or print yourself.

Ground Covered

An accumulation of GPS tracks in Google Earth - the series of lines across Central Park and the set of three bridges represent two new pieces of work, the loop of yellow near the bottom represents two new friendships and the remainder represent a lot of looking and learning.

I recently went through my notebook and pulled out what are, for me, the resonant points from my 38 days in NYC. These come from various – and often multiple – sources:

  • Radical changes occur when you link solutions to a new system.
  • Fringes are very important.
  • Porosity (leaving gaps for others to work in) is very important.
  • What you think of as being possible is dictated by your past experience and/or what you think of as being the problem // You cannot see what the future post-leap will be // People will use the X in ways you cannot predict.
  • Failure as a measure of progress.
  • The importance of documentation and of working in a do-ocracy // Mapping possibilities through experimentation.
  • Often the best teachers are those who have just learned for themselves.
  • We’re not making things, we’re making things that help us to learn about ourselves // Making probes to reveal more about the world // our apparatuses and questions reveal new possibilities .
  • The importance of triangulation // We show up through our interactions and relationships with others.

The challenge is now to digest and assimilate.

Urban Sensation Transformers

Another workshop at the BMW Guggenheim Lab:

Participants will create wearable objects that alter and enhance their experience of the sites surrounding the Lab.

And that’s what we did!

Urban Sensation Transformers about to embark on a tour of the neighbourhood

I’m a big fan of things that provide an alternative lens through which to experience the city, and this did exactly that in spade-fulls. With the added bonus of working with other senses, not just sight.

Following on from the Spurse workshop where we had explored sensing the environment through a stick whilst blindfolded and wearing earplugs, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the idea of an extended sense of touch. I’d found that with the single stick we were using before, there was a tendency to use it to jab at the ground. Sweeping movements often resulted in the tip getting stuck and everything seemed very ground orientated, neglecting the new possibilities of now being able to reach up far higher than usual.

To try and remedy some of this, I attached a dowel (this time a lot thinner and shorter) to each of the digits of my right hand:

Urban Sensation Transformer

I could now not only reach up a lot higher than usual, but also explore gripping and stroking my surroundings in a way that felt like a more natural extension of my sense of touch. A strange combination of something that at times seemed quite sinister, but also led to much childlike exploration of sound on railings and other bits of street furniture.

[I note I’m using the word “explore” a lot – this is a good thing!]

I particularly enjoyed my new super powers of being able to reach up to touch leaves, being able to feel both sides of a tree trunk at once and touching a few NYC icons such as the metro signs and crossing lights.

I also made a few connections with others – those with modified senses of touch, those who stopped us to ask questions and those who were also carrying sticks…

An apparatus for making the wearer's gaze shift upwards as viewed through an apparatus for making the wearer  see things through a green-tinted tube.

I was also sporting a visor designed to encourage me to look up more. I’ve been kind of self concious about this since over-hearing some New Yorkers saying you could always spot the tourists because they were the ones looking upwards!

The visor has some unforeseen effects on communication (my voice seemed muffled to me, so I ended up speaking LOUD LY AND CLEAR LY in stereotypical Brit abroad fashion, and I could only address people directly in front of me) and on navigation (I could still see in front of me and still had my peripheral vision, but was now missing the stuff in between – crossing roads became a matter of trusting those around me because I couldn’t see what the traffic was doing). It worked nicely in terms of affecting my perception of place, though – even the most grotty of locations seemed to be all blue sky and treetops to me!

The grotty median looked pretty idyllic to me...

Below is a slideshow of my photos from the workshop. I love how much we achieved with our craft materials and a short build time. I’d very much like to repeat this again on my home patch somewhere…

In transit

Grand Central Terminus. What’s the opposite of terminus? An appropriate term to signify beginnings? How is the man in the burgundy jumper feeling? What will the mother decide to do? Does the young woman in the red top want to go?

Grand Central

Grand Central

The girl in the red jumper purchases a ticket and then returns home to Poughkeepsie

Today I intended to walk across the Manhattan Bridge, but I lost the detour and spent ages trying to find where I was supposed to go. When I found it again, it was dark and I got scared and gave up. I should have heeded the sign.



Two minutes and sixteen seconds at Canal Street station standing still, leaning against a pillar listening to the different sounds all around me. You probably won’t hear the rats bickering, but it made those around me pause and take notice too.

Manhattan in cross-section

For the last few weeks I’ve been walking across Manhattan from East coast to West and back again gathering GPS data.

West of West 81st Street

East of East 79th Street, about 50 minutes later

I’m interested in how the land use (and therefore the effect on the GPS) varies as you move inland, gradually moving into more affluent areas, then the open space of Central Park, then out to the coast again.

As I repeat the process for different streets, I also get a sense of the change in landscape as I move further North: Midtown East becomes the Upper East Side becomes East Harlem; Midtown West becomes the Upper West Side becomes Morningside Heights.

I’ve recently reached the stage where I’ve been able to get the traces printed out and it’s interesting to see the ghosts of the city in the lines.

First printout of the processed GPS data

I’m looking forward to getting back home and being able to print them out full-size to enjoy and explore in more detail.

Hello Stranger

Workshop with Kio Stark.


  • Approach a stranger.
  • Ask if they will help you with a project and answer a question on camera.
  • Ask them what they are afraid of.
  • [interact]


(Of course the most intimate and revealing was off-camera.)

What are you afraid of? #1 from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Collated results from all of the stranger-finders


  • City as potential interactions and potential for interactions.
  • Rules are unwritten …but can be bent.
  • Interactions with strangers as a mechanism for connecting to place.
  • Strangers are good for your brain. New people; new ideas.
  • The importance of interesting things (points for conversation) happening in public places.
  • The importance of providing spaces for strangers to interact.
  • How the rules are relaxed in transitional spaces (train stations, elevators etc).
  • The unexpected works!
  • The value of conversation.
  • The value of making interactions where there was none before.


  • How does it change things if we go about the city knowing we are somebody else’s stranger-in-waiting?
  • Can we lower the barrier to interesting interactions?
  • What would a signalling system look like to enable others to see if we were open to new encounters or not. (update 03/10/2011: This question’s been bugging me as being too obvious, so I’d like to use it as a starting point Signtific style to get somewhere else.)
  • Thinking there’s an empathy barrier analogous to an enthalpy barrier. What novel catalysts can we provide to lower the barrier?

The relationship between activation energy (Ea) and enthalpy of formation (ΔH) with and without a catalyst, plotted against the reaction coordinate. The highest energy position (peak position) represents the transition state. With the catalyst, the energy required to enter transition state decreases, thereby decreasing the energy required to initiate the reaction


After the workshop I stopped to help a man measure a bit of sidewalk that was longer than his tape measure.


I’ve been in this city for less than three weeks, and already I’m wrapping myself in the comfort of habit: where I eat; how I get from place to place; my daily routine.

As a result, I’ve been trying to mix things up a bit. It’s amazing how much difference just crossing the road at a different intersection makes. If instead of walking along E 52nd on the Southern side and turning left down Lexington before crossing at 51st to enter the subway, I cross at 52nd and walk down the opposite side of Lexington, suddenly a view of the Chrysler building is revealed.

The joint second tallest building in the city, and I had no idea it was there until I changed my habit by a few tens of metres.

I only bought them because of the barcode…

If half the world’s population is now living in cities, I suppose that must mean a fair few grannies live in tower blocks; it’s just not a skyline I have been trained to associate with the notion of homemade-ness…

Mapping now possible

There’s still work to be done, but over the last couple of days I’ve finally been able to replicate the traces I’ve previously been using two sat-nav type devices to make, using my home made Arduino-based system instead.

This feels good.

From here I can go anywhere.

The iPaq-in-each-hand technique

The 3-arduino-2-GPS-modules-and-a-micro-SD-logger-hidden-in-a-bag-so-as-not-to-scare-people-too-much technique

Whilst I’m using this set-up for logging, there’s painfully little feedback on whether things are working as they should, however once I return to the UK I’ll be experimenting with using it to drive various visible and/or audible things and of course putting it inside the Colony creatures.

In the meantime though, I shall be testing, testing and more testing.

Mapping possibilities

Yesterday I took part in Spurse’s Mapping the Distributed Self workshop at the Guggenheim Lab: “Can we develop a different view of the self—a self that extends beyond our skin, out into the surrounding environment? One that is distributed and woven into the environment?”

At the moment everything’s reflecting back onto Splacism as we try and figure out what it is and what it might be.

Amongst a whirl of kitten carousels and collapsing wave functions, I’m now pondering the opportunities for working with digital tools and materials for creating new ways of perceiving our surroundings and encounters.

Assemblages; perspectives; co-composition; possible states; experimentation; meeting local conditions; mapping as fiction-making; disintegrating tales; the needs of the self.

Can we explore differently in order to reveal new possibilities?

Through the use of new tools, do we get a new world to interact with?

How do you arrive at the places that are not yet mapped?

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