Exploring a city through a derive

When looking into De Certeau’s theory, he suggests that you walk through a city not view it. He argues that  walking in the city has “its own rhetoric” and with people’s limited scope as they move about and write their own course of subjective use of the urban space “the network of these moving, intersecting writings compose and manifold story that has neither author nor spectator”.

De Certeau, “the pedestrians of a city create it through their walking about, as an objective mass made of subjects which escape any planned or regulated scheme of the city. The pedestrian, while walking in the city, has his own style, which is a sort of language which speaks about the city and take part in creating its meaning.” In walking in the city, the pedestrian gives new meanings to places and streets which are not the same as those originally assigned to them. Pedestrians, for De Certeau, create the meaning of the urban space by applying their imagination to it through the manner in which they move about the city “linking acts and footsteps, opening meanings and directions, these words operate in the name of an emptying-out and wearing away of their primary role. They become liberated spaces that can be occupied”. 

We used De Certeau’s theory in ‘walking in the city’ and applied it to Guy Debord theory the derive. A derive is an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travelers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience. Having applied the two theories together, to make sense of our location, and to avoid what the city wants us as tourist to look at, we did two of Debords derive, to explore the city in depth.

We did the random directions derive, we started off at the hotel, and took turns at choosing random directions to follow. With these directions we found ourselves at VE Stinadech, here we found a wall full of communism related graffiti and we had our first sighting of and old style communist tenant building (Panelak).

We did a second derive called the wrong map, this derive involves us taking a map of another city for example the map of Bucharest and using it as if it was a map in Prague. We used a Bucharest map and mapped out a route starting from Intercontinental hotel to Parliament Palace. When we used this route in Prague, it lead us from our hotel in Prague through Charles Bridge and the final destination which was The American Embassy.

Bucharest Map 

map hotel praliament building 2

Prague Map 

map prague

Lesoda Otu-Iso

Constructivist Grounded Theory

After talking a bit about constructivism and grounded theory, I would like to discuss now constructivist grounded theory.

This type of research was developed by Charmaz, a student of Glaser and Strauss, she points out the a researcher has to look beyond date, to seek meaning in ideologies, environment, beliefs and values, all in the context of the participants. There is an underlying assumption that the interaction between the researcher and participants “produces the data, and therefore the meanings that the researcher observes and defines” (Charmaz, 1995, p. 35) also she assumes that “data do not provide a window on reality. Rather, the ‘discovered’ reality arises from the interactive process and its temporal, cultural, and structural contexts” (Charmaz, 2000, p. 524). To enrich these data, Charmaz (1995) has positioned the researcher as coproducer, exhorting them to “add . . . a description of the situation, the interaction, the person’s affect and [their] perception of how the interview went” (p. 33).

Charmaz (2000) developed the theme of writing as a strategy in constructivist grounded theory in her later work, when she advocates a writing style that is more literary than scientific in intent. She has argued that constructivist grounded theorists are impelled to be analytical in their writing but that their style of writing needs to be evocative of the experiences of the participants (Charmaz, 2001). The researcher’s voice need not “transcend experience but re-envis[age] it . . . bring[ing] fragments of fieldwork time, context and mood together in a colloquy of the author’s several selves—reflecting, witnessing, wondering, accepting—all at once” (Charmaz & Mitchell, 1996, p. 299)

Charmaz, K. (1995b). Grounded theory. In J. Smith, R. Harré,&L. Langenhove (Eds.), Rethinking methods in psychology (pp. 27-65). London: Sage

Charmaz, K. (2000). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 509-535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K. (2001). Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context and method (pp. 675-694). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Charmaz, K.,&Mitchell, R. (1996). The myth of silent authorship: Self, substance, and style in ethnographic writing. Symbolic Interaction, 19(4), 285-302.

Bucharest- urban layout and the role of city centre

Within the urban layout, the role of city centre is crucial.  The distinct central clusters, their spatial configuration are their evolution in different periods of time, offer a meaning to the existing urban structure of the city of Bucharest.

In an organically developed city spatial configuration, the city centre has the crucial role of providing a compulsory basis for the functioning of the city as an economically sustainable centre; However, the socialist modernizations through which Bucharest went through, caused a power relationship between centre and the governmental buildings, where the ideology was the force that overcame space as a generator of social boundaries.

The socialist urbanism had the most significant role in developing the nowadays Bucharest urban layout as the spatial configuration of Bucharest was directed from an instrumental use where social necessity shaped the city, towards a symbolic use where ideology was reflected.

Bucharest manages though to portray the character of two environments: the Civic Centre (a district in central Bucharest which was completely rebuilt in the 1980s as part of the scheme of systematization under the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu) and the historic centre (represented by few streets, reminiscent symbols of pre-communist Romania).

The tenant blocks of the Civic centre, alongside Ceausescu’s Palace are the most outstanding memories of the socialist era. The 3 km long boulevard (Bulevardul Unirii – centrally located) has the function of linking “important destinations” (The People’s House and a car park) by giving structure and comprehension to the city. However, neither the boulevard itself, nor its strategic position encourages participation; people prefer other boulevards for evening walks since this one isn’t going anywhere.

On the other side is the remaining historic core of the city which was build on the ruins of the Princely Court (Curtea Veche) and represents an archaeological reservation. Most of the historic centre’s buildings date from the 19th century and many of them are in a bad condition, but they are significant as they symbolise the country’s survival. The public and the private domains have a close relationship which resonates through the multiplicity of entrances sporadically located between residences, passages, restaurants or shops. There is close communication, people shouting from window to window, recreational areas, and all of these gives the people the feeling of a private yard.

centrul vechi



Marina Gogeanu