Guy Debord, the author of “Theory of the Derive” and “The Society of the Spectacle,” includes in his books the idea of a basic concept or practice called derive, a technique of rapid passage through spaces.
It all started with the movement known as the Situationist International (SI). Which worked from 1957-1972 to subvert the conservatives ideology of the Western world. They believe that all rules and sterilization of the world was making it dull and lacking spontaneity and playfulness. Why not, they thought, have the people make choices on what kind of architecture they want to see in the cities? Since they are going to live there they would want to know what kinds of experiences they want to have.
The derive involves playful and constructive behaviors and an awareness of psychogeographical effects. They take on a very different approach from just strolling or taking a journey. If a derive the individual, or several individuals, drop their every day tasks and activities and go on with movement and action. They let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and what they find there. They do not have a motif in mind, they are just experiencing the city open to new perceptions.
A derive should not be merely one or two hours, the individual should not be aware of the time. The intention is to have a mental map of duration and your surroundings.
So how exactly does one “derive”? Well as a new learner and practitioner of the concept, going to the place without an ultimate motive, clearing your mind of subjections and judgments to your surroundings is a very hard thing to do. Although you have been to this area of the city thousands of times before, it must never reflect on your past experiences. You have to let the surroundings absorb you.
Theory of the Derive excerpt by Debord