Navigating the city has become something of nonevent. Armed with smart phones, would-be urban explorers can uncover all of the city’s secrets or wade in its endearing banalities, effortlessly summoning generations of data—planning, mapping, building—at the swipe and tap of a finger. In an instant, the pedestrian is transformed into “psychogeographer”, an increasingly bankrupt distinction given the ubiquitous streams and integrated content that all but remove the challenge and surprise from perambuling about the urban environment.
But what if you were to leave the city and all of its digitized promises behind and step, literally, into the great American expanse? Oh, with nothing but your smart device to help you find your way from coast to coast. How would you even begin to plan that kind of trip?
That’s the premise behind “Go West”, a new collaboration between Audi Urban Future Initiative and Architizer that is sending one blogger across the country with nothing but a 3G signal and the clothes on her back (not too mention her new spiffy solar-panel-sporting backpack). The goal: Find your way from Boston to San Francisco in 14 days without money (no worries, there's a $100 emergency fund) or any paid/planned means of transport. Use your phone to toggle all and every form of social media—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram—to reach out to the country’s netizens for a free ride, a spare couch or bed to sleep in, or, most importantly, a hearty meal. Stow away on a ferry, train, or pick-up truck; schmooze or barter a ride onto a semi, tractor, or motorcycle. In forging these new connections on the fly, the trip will test the limits of “social mobility”.
Our intrepid blogger is Lindsay Rule, aka Archispotter, a grad student at UPenn who is pursuing a Masters of Architecture. A native of Oklahoma, Lindsay says she has spent much of her life in a car, ferrying across highways and cities alike, where public transport is underfunded and underused:
"Being from the Great Plains, I can truthfully say I have lived half of my life in a car. Seriously. Public transportation is spoken about with mythical reverence in Oklahoma. Public buses appear with the same frequency as unicorn sightings, and even walking somewhere is generally out of the question (unless you include the few dozen steps taken between the parking lot and your destination)."
Fearless blogger Lindsay Rule
Lindsay is now off to Boston, where she will meet with interdisciplinary firm Höweler Yoon Architecture--who are collaborating with AUDI to rethink infrastructure in a sustainable way—for tips and things to keep a look out for. Tomorrow, she will kick off her two-week trip, passing first down through the East Coast Corridor before passing into unknown territories (the Midwest, the Dakotas, Wyoming?) and finally arriving San Francisco. Lindsay will be blogging, tweeting (#somotrip), and tumbling all along the way so be sure to follow her on all her media channels. Be on the lookout for more posts covering her trip right here on Architizer. Stay tuned!