Joshua Berlow, a native of Bethesda, MD, first became interested in psychogeography while living in the Washington area in the mid-'90s. After moving to Baltimore in 2000, he formed first the Baltimore-Washington Psychogeography Association, which morphed into the International Psychogeography Institute (IPI) and set up a Facebook page in July of last year in order to change the psychogeographic norm of naming organizations after local cities and regions.
French for "to drift," dérive is a kind of aimless walk looking to explore a city's landscape and its mental/emotional resonances, and it is central to the practice of psychogeography.
There are precedents for perceptive urban wandering, such as Daniel Defoe's writing on 17th-century London or the figure of the flâneur or "stroller" of Paris' 19th-century arcade. But the origins of psychogeography today are largely associated with the Situationist International-an organization of artists and activists dedicated to critiquing the consumerist establishment of postwar French society-and its leading theorist Guy Debord, whose definition from the 1955 essay "Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography" laid out the basics: "Psychogeography sets for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals."
"When most people are walking in their everyday life, it's to get something specific or mundane done. You're getting groceries, you're dropping your kid off at school, or [have] another specific goal in mind. The idea behind psychogeography is really to get lost, to not have a goal in mind and go where your fancy leads you."