Have you ever felt like your smart phone is running your life? The little touch-screen task master tells you where you need to be and when. It lets your boss track you down whether or not you want to be found. It speeds you up when all you want to do is slow down and enjoy nature, maybe even contemplate your place in the cosmos.
Now there’s an app for that. Artists Leila Christine Nadir and Carey Peppermint have created Indeterminate Hikes+. It redefines your relationship to your phone, and, yes, even to the world around you. “We’ve always been nature lovers, but we’re also digital artists, interested in mobile devices,” said Nadir. “Phones help keep us busy, directed. Is that necessary? Or is it just the way we use them? We wanted to reinvent our phones in ways that might be infused with more environmental mediation, awareness.”
A few weeks ago Grid photographer Christian Hunold (by day a Political Science professor at Drexel) and I joined a group of Drexel students, faculty, as well as Nadir and Peppermint for a University City demo of IH+. We started around 36th and Market and took the scenic route to 38th and Lancaster. You might not think of that stretch of West Philly as particularly scenic, but that was the point. IH+ plots you a randomized path from Point A to Point B. Along the way the app offers ideas designed to defamiliarize your route: “Find a place to sit down. Ask passersby if they have seen a rabbit in the area.” “Wildness is transient, fleeting, and unpredictable. The wild is here all around you. Take a photo of something wild that will not be here tomorrow.
“We’re losing the ability to just sit and look around,” Peppermint said, “we’re not saying this will save the world or fix everything, but it will permit us to take the time back.” For more information, visit ecoarttech.org/projects/indeterminate-hike.
BERNARD BROWN is a full time bureaucrat, recovering blogger, and amateur herper.