Urban Drifts 2009 – 2014

Sonic, photographic bike maps 2009 – 2014

Urban Drifts is a series of research–driven bicycle rides through urban spaces. Making use of the Situationist International concept of the dérive, this project looks to see what new insights personal, mobile data, psychogeographic sound maps, photography, and performance can shed on the relationship between urban landscapes and the emotions and actions of inhabitants of that space.


For each ride, an initial direction is selected and then the local surroundings, such as the architecture, the sounds, the smells and the overall feel of the space is the guide. Dropping usual motives for movement and action (such as commuting or heading to a destination), the attractions of the terrain and the encounters lead the way.

Photographs are taken throughout the experience; buildings that catch an eye, passersby along the route, a hill, a ravine, or a tree along the path. Positive or negative, these are moments that move the urban drifts forward.

The mobile device and personal sensor data that is collected addresses the behavioral and emotional aspects of today’s mobile, urban environment, and reimagining this data allows for review and reflection of the rides in new ways. As opposed to wayfinding, surveillance, or other nefarious forms of monitoring, this process and perspective on personal mobile data sheds light on an individual’s movements through a city in both an analytic and emotive way, revealing the many currents, vortexes, and urban magnets that affect and propel them.

To create these maps, a custom-written Max application interprets the personal mobile data of these rides as sound; making use of the latitude, longitude, elevation, speed, direction, heart rate, temperature, etc, the program expresses these in various tones, beats, samples, field recordings, and percussive elements. These sounds are then manipulated in a performative way to express the physical and psychological impact of the rides. Through projections, various photographic moments and data visualizations of each ride are displayed.

As opposed to mapping the experience of the ride only as an ordered data set, the performance is more representative of the personal aspects of the experience.

This work was exhibited as part of the recent gallery exhibit, refest, at CultureHub/La MaMa Galleria.

Here is a selection of recent sonic performances of these rides:

For more information about this project, please check out the full description here, written during the initial project in Fall 2009 during my time as a MFA DT student at Parsons.