WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM?
An algorithm is a computing or problem solving operation. A specific set of instructions or rules to follow.
WHAT IS A WALKING ALGORITHM?
A walking algorithm is a set of instructions or rules to randomize and guide your observations and/or movements on a walk. It’s a little like a board game where you pick a card, roll a dice, and get instructions that tell you how to move forward or backwards on the path.
WHY USE A WALKING ALGORITHM?
A walking algorithm is a way to observe a familiar space with fresh eyes and encourage you to notice more as you walk. The algorithm also gives you a way to remove your habit from walking and randomize your walk – taking you to unexpected places and looking for different things along the way.
WRITING YOUR OWN WALKING ALGORITHM
To start planning your algorithm use a series of IF … THEN statements - IF (Observation or condition) THEN (ACTION)
EX. IF you see a bird THEN walk straight – or – IF there is a fire hydrant THEN turn right
Then to account for different possibilities you adapt the first idea into a YES or NO question -
EX. DO you hear music? YES – turn right, NO – walk straight - or - IF there is a fire hydrant – turn right. IF there is not – turn left
If you can even build 1 set or sequence of these actions - you’ll have a great walking algorithm.
Once creating one sequence feels easy try adding in some other variables or a 2nd sequence.
Ex. Do you hear music - turn right, Do you see a fire hydrant - Turn left. Do you see both or neither - walk straight.
Next You’ll need to pick a way to begin...
There should be a separate instruction on starting that will flow into your IF/THEN sequence.
Ex. Start on your front porch – IF you see a bird turn right …
Start at the corner – Do you hear music? YES … NO...
...and a way to End your Walking Algorithm!
You can write a simple phrase like “end the cycle when you’re ready to go home” or make it
another direction - “after 5 repetitions of the cycle walk to where you started”
DRAWING THE FLOWCHART FOR YOUR ALGORITHM:
Use different shaped bubbles for different types of instructions, different lines connecting the bubbles for different levels of your sequence, And use arrows to show the direction you move through the sequence.
EX. below you can see bubbles are the questions, star bubbles are yes/no answers, and the boxes are the directions or actions.
WHAT ELSE COULD YOU CREATE AN ALGORITHM FOR?
What else would you like to approach with fresh eyes? Algorithms are a problem solving tool - what issue or topic could you investigate or work through with an algorithm?
Social justice? Difficult conversations? Environmental Justice? Personal care? Mental health? A painting?
THE INSPIRATION FOR WALKING ALGORITHMS
I developed walking algorithms because I wanted to create a system that would help me break out of my routines and find a fresh way of approaching exploration and reflecting on the world.
Walking algorithms are inspired by the brainstorming activity of making a flowcharts and the Guy Debord's activity called DERIVE which is french for “drift”. It’s a way to move through a landscape without any plan or route helping to disrupt our understanding of a space and start to see it with fresh eyes.
Most of us are people with busy schedules and lots of stressors, and I think it's hard to actually let ourselves act randomly. However, I believe engaging with our environment and connecting with our surroundings can be a powerful stress reliever, inspirational, and a democratic act. These walking algorithms provide an entry point to a new environment or a new way to approach a familiar landscape.