Relearning the Art of Urban Exploration

Some of the most popular apps - from Google Maps to Yelp - let you take the guesswork out of planning your urban agenda. But for those that still want to experience the delight of spontaneous discovery, a new generation of app will help you get lost.

It seems an odd commentary on our time that we would pine for the unpredictable, and even inconvenient. But, "[e]asy access to vast quantities of information has increased the value of the unknown, and technology is emerging to meet this need," says Anja Wolf, who points to several apps that facilitate the kind of unexpectedly rewarding wandering that seems inceasingly difficult to undertake.

"AWOL, for example, is a package of algorithmically generated routes that help people get lost in cities. It even includes a nonworking compass. There is also the web service GetLostBot, which tracks the places you visit over time and offers alternatives when they become too repetitive. As for apps, Drift facilitates getting lost in familiar places, and Serendipitor helps with finding things by looking for something else."

"Perhaps we're beginning to see our cities with new eyes, as full of potential for aimless treasure hunting with or without the help of technology," writes Wolf. "There remains so much we don't know about the places where we live, so much to discover. Moving outside our comfort zones and forgetting what we're looking for may help us find new pleasure in city living."

Full Story: Learning to Get Lost in Cities


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