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The Open Source Walking Project and the TAZ

The internet enables large numbers of people to contribute to a project without top down management. We have seen it with computing, mainly, but the idea can be applied to many things. In conversations with various friends including Rich Lisney, of Bimbler fame, the following has emerged.

I have long been intrigued with the idea of long distance walks. I’ve done, or half done, a few official ones: Cleveland Way, Ridgeway, Mackenzie Way, GR10, GR65. However, despite the fun of doing an established walk, it is more challenging to design your own long distance walk. And then name it and pepper the stiles/trees/fence posts with little circular walking arrow signs, produce a guide book/web site and encourage others to walk your walk. 

Ideally people who live near to each section of the walk will get the directions from the web site and walk their section. They will add signs and wear down paths to indicate the way. (The way should probably follow existing paths or rights of way). The more people who walk your route the better it will become as people will make improvements and label them with signs they have downloaded or bought from the website.

In the past, creating a long distance walk was a huge project requiring a lot of top down administration. Now it can happen almost instantly, and painlessly. Once the idea is out there anyone can start walking sections straight away.

No doubt some people will object- that always happens- but the people on the ground for that section will deal with these objections not the website operators whose role is simply to inspire and inform a thousand walkers to take up their bedrolls and boots and head out there, criss-crossing the planet with myriad new trails.

I think it is time to update the concept of the temporary autonomous zone -TAZ- which has seen its greatest recent development in the festival field. The TAZ, briefly, is an idea by anarchistic thinker Hakim Bey, that states that true and authentic interactions are only possible in situations that are not monitored and weighed down by government interference, red tape, officiousness, pettiness, routine. Parties, raves and festivals are obvious examples of TAZs. But with the internet, which makes a TAZ so easy to organise, comes the burden of unofficialdom, which occurs more and more at festivals these days. Burning Man was cool when it was a few hundred, but 25,000 people off their heads? Too successful for their own boots? Maybe; or it could be the bandwagon effect, now the routinemeisters and dull badgers have leapt aboard the festival bus, using the internet to plan and monitor their events I’ve seen a creeping sense of boredom/ ‘they’ world bullshit/officiousness seep into festivals of all colour and stripe.

As always a wake-up call to move on, the real bus never halts forever. The new and viable option for a TAZ, which uses the internet effectively without being strangled by it, is the creation of instant long distance walks, the MORE the BETTER. Out walking with your friends, doing something bigger than just a ramble but still something with some vitality and genuine lifeforce about it, the open source walking project suggests a new direction for sustained grass roots activity immune from the vampiric attentions of those who seek to control...



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