Dérive, “We help you get lost”

Cultural Analysis: Case Studies Course 2019

12/06/2019 12:00am—1:00pm. Starting from the front door of P.C. Hoofhuis, all the group members- Nina, Rupert and I started a special one-hour adventure of exploring Amsterdam with the Dérive App.

In a normally day-to-day routine for me as a student, I would pass by Dam square on my bike to class, trying to use as least time as possible but still turn out to be late for school quite often. However, this afternoon, although with the cloudy and gray sky, is meant to be a different story. We are taking our time to orient ourselves with random instruction from an app, instead of work, study, or normal sightseeing.

We managed to finish 21 tasks during this one hour, arranging from easy tasks such as: turn left, find a tree, look for something that’s framed, to more difficult challenges, like finding a parked sports car, taking a photo of a stranger’s shoes after greeting him and make compliments to the food vendor after taking a bite of hotdog and licking fingers. Here were a few tasks that couldn’t be done, because public telephone booth is not common anymore. 

Nina grows up in Amsterdam, who is a great help during the adventure. She knows that in which café we can find a cat. I am the app instruction reader; Rupert is the camera guy. Teamwork makes things better. Of course, this trip makes us laugh a lot. 

It also provoked some thoughts. The phone booth failure reminded me of that in April, during my trip in Keukenhof tulip garden, an elder Swiss lady complained to me how difficult it is for her try to live without a mobile phone. She is about 70 years old, but energetic. She has travelled almost all-around Europe, north, south America, and Asia before. Her resistance for using more technology is somehow respectable for me. She described the world as free, adventurous, and human before the excessive application of technology. Everyone is always in the digital world now. People book everything online, in advance. 

We had some theories we discussed in mind. One of them is Lauren Berlant’s definition of glitch as “an interruption within a transition, a troubled transmission. A glitch is also the revelation of an infrastructural failure.” When a break down happens to any city electricity system, people start to realize how life is closely bond with electricity. This can be an example of a glitch that revels the infrastructures of modern society. Generally, an electricity break down is caused by a force majeure, such as natural disaster. However, the Dérive App can be seen as a non-passive method of experiencing a glitch. The instructions from the App is not made for carving individuals into the conventional, such as the rigid daily routine, for surviving, maximizing profits, or any other specific purposes.  Instead, it encourages a detouring by imposing unusual tasks, although with the help of an App.