A walk is a tool and a platform


The latest issue of Craig Mod's Ridgeline, his excellent newsletter about walking to which you should all subscribe, appeared in my inbox with the above title and got me all excited because it would make the perfect manifesto for Walkspace. Walking as tool for creating something new, be it ideas or actualised work. Walking as a coherent and defined platform that enables an anticipated outcome but allows for serendipity and surprises.

Of course, letting my mind race ahead like that meant mild disappointment as Craig was giving the title to a talk at a tech conference where the audience build digital tools on digital platforms, but that's OK.

The talk is worth watching because it summarises a inspirational walk Craig did last year where he tried to find a good balance between being connected and being alone. He would be travelling with a camera and a phone but he would set strict rules on how he would use them. Some, like having to take a portrait of a stranger before 10am, forced him to have encounters he might not have. Others, like restricting him communication with the outside world to one SMS text message a day, enabled him to, as he says in the talk, "be present in the world while connecting with my community in meaningful ways."

Along the 1,000km walk over 43 days Craig would send a photo and a text message which would be relayed to anyone who had opted in to receive them. These recipients could reply but Craig would not see the replies until he got home where a large book containing his photos, messages and all the replies would be waiting for him.

As someone who uses walks to take photos (or uses photos to take walks) and has experimented in the past with platforms like Twitter or Instagram to document a journey, I often struggle to know what to do with the documentary detritus, or whether capturing the walk detracted from the walk itself. Cross City Walks is a perfect case in point – was it made or broken by the way I co-opted it as a tool/platform?

Casting the walk as a tool could be a useful way of mitigating this. A tool is, fundamentally, matter which has been shaped to facilitate an outcome, be it a hammer to bash in nails or a rocket to get you to the moon. If you know why you're undertaking a walk (and that can be a big "if"), how can your act of walking be shaped to facilitate that?

Subscribe to Craig Mod's newsletters and explore his extensive writing on his website.