Cyber Busy-bodies or enabling community engagement?

I was interested to see the Fix My Street site linked on the new Labour blog thing Labour List. Basically you just put your postcode in and report any problems you see in your area – marking them on an annotatable map e.g. street lights not working, remove graffiti please (nice that this is one cyber forum where manners are still the norm).
In 2004 I met the Urban Planning Department in Wycombe to discuss the derives we were doing in the area – particularly the algorithmic derives that led people into areas where they wouldn’t normally wander. We pitched it as a way of fostering a renewed engagement with the local environment, of increasing civic pride. The planners and environment department read this as an excellent way of getting people to photograph and report fly-tipping and graffiti rather than the mass exercise in psychogeography that I had envisioned.
Fix My Street therefore has me caught in two minds between being beguiled by the poetry of low-level community concerns and the fact that the site seems well used and disappointed that the entries aren’t more guided by ambiences and that there aren’t posts along the lines of ‘strong resonances of the 16th plague pit in Lever Street’

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BS Johnson in High Wycombe

Did a classic walk in from Wycombe to Wooburn last week, along the River Wye. We’d gone down to do a talk to the Fine Art students at BCUC and I’d had this urge to walk home, chart the changes taking place to the area where I grew up as they manifest themselves along the river which gave the area it’s purpose and its identity.
But before I got onto the river I couldn’t resist a diversion to Gordon Road where BS Johnson satyed as an evacuee. Somebdoy contacted me via this blog to point out the long descriptions of Wycombe in his novel ‘Trawl’.
I started reading him because he lived in Claremont Square, Islington, just down the road from me, the top of Penton Mound. He writes about night-time schleps around Islington in ‘Albert Angelo’.
It’s another reference in my ‘autopobiography’.

You can read about the walk here: http://remappinghighwycombe.blogspot.com

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Remapping High Wycombe and BS Johnson

Haven’t blogged here for a while because I’ve been occupied with another project in High Wycombe http://remappinghighwycombe.blogspot.com. I’ve been working with my sister carrying out a psychogeographical survey of the town, doing various derives and some straightforward walks. It threw up another link in my ‘Autopobiography': writer B.S. Johnson who lived in Claremont Square, Islington and also Gordon Road, High Wycombe. I was reading his novel ‘Albert Angelo’ for its topographical descriptions of Islington when someone emailed me to tell me that his book ‘Trawl’ (also in his ‘Omnibus’) had a long description of parts of High Wycombe.
We capped off the project with a long walk circumnavigating the town in the spirit of Iain Sinclair’s ‘London Orbital’ and Andrew Kotting’s ‘Galivant’ sending back 10 second video clips via mobile phone to an installation in the town centre where they were displayed on a screen. This worked really well and is something we may repeat.
But now I can return to the Islington streets, tracking their moods and atmospheres, and anything else that takes my fancy.

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