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.


Space is a term that can be referred to as a boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and event have relative position and directions. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it with time.

The concept of space is considered to be of fundamental importance to an understanding of the physical universe. So many scholars have defined the concept of space, according Gottfired Leibniz  viewed space as a collection of relation between object, given by their distance and direction from one another (Leibniz, 1890:45). Immauel Kant also said neither space nor time can be empirically perceived, they are elements of a systematic frame work that humans use to structure all experiences (Cited in Dikshit, 2006:70) . Leibniz he also analysed space as not more than the collection of spatial between objects in the world: ‘space is that which results from places taken together. This brings us to the simply definition of space ‘space is an abstract; it is defined through maps and geography that are physically labelled (Leibniz, 1980:62).

Our main focus in this research is the geographical and culture space and mapping out our space (ie our research location), to make sense and meaning to the research.

Geography is the branch of science concerned with identifying and describing the earth, utilizing spatial awareness to try to understand why things exist in specific location and this is done by cartography, it is the mapping of space to allow better navigation for visualization purposes and to all as a locational device.

Geographical space is often considered as land and the have a relation to ownership usage (in which space is seen as a property or territory). Space also impact on human and cultural behaviour as one person’s space is different from the other. Space also being an important factor in the design of building and structures.

As a result of our research topic, we need to map out our space to make sense to us, but before doing that we need to look into the meaning of maps, According to Peter Jackson 1989, he refers to map as a meaning of a way we make sense of the world, rendering our geographical experience intelligible, attaching value to the environment and investing the material world with symbolic significance (Jackson, 1989:1). So this to say space is important in mapping out geographical culture.

In simple term a map is a visual representation of an area a symbolic depiction, highlighting relationship between elements of the space as object, region etc. According to O’Connor 2002, he said many maps are static two dimensional, geometrically accurate or approximately accurate representation of three-dimensional space, while others are dynamic or interactive. Many maps may represent any space, real or imagined (O’Conner, 2002:16).

All this maps with descriptions have embedded meaning in them about a space, and how one can relate to a space individually, collectively and culturally. This again has to do with cultural geography – Cultural geography is the study of cultural products and norms, in relation to space and place, it focuses on describing and analysing the ways language, religion, economy, government, and other cultural phenomena vary. In understanding cultural geography one has to understand the unique cultural character of a space.

The understanding of cultural location is to recognize that each, cultural location as space has its own unique cultural characters. How to understand this is to approach a city space and its cultural characters. Giving that Prague is our primary focus, which its cultural location (geography and character) is a distinctive one.

Prague is the capital of Czech Republic, it is the fourteenth largest city in European Union, it situated in the North West of the country, it is 496 square KM about 1.2 million inhabitants live there. The Vitava River is a defining geographical feature as it rolls through the city. Prague is spread with in the Vitava River basin over a series of nine hills: Lethna, Vitkon, Opys, Vetrov, Skalka, Emauzy, Vysehrad, Karlov and the highest Petrin. The city centre of the city lives on both side of the river and was/is traditionally divided into four sections.

  • Hradcany (hill on the left bank), site of Prague castle, a complex of Palaces and churches that dates from the 10th century.
  • Lesser Quarter: (below the castle) area of winding streets Baroque Palaces, gardens and medieval houses.
  • Old Town (on the opposite side of the river connected to lesser quarter by Charles Bridge) site of the old town square and many Gothic building.
  • New Town (connected to old town) newer developments including Wenceslaus square.

The city has a temperate oceanic climate, with its warm summer and chilly winter, since the fall of the iron curtain Prague has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destination, it is the sixth most visited in European city after London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, and Berlin. The city contains one of the world most pristine and varied collection of architecture (Geography of Prague, 2012).

The understanding of a map makes sense of space, place and culture, having done a research on space and map, this enable us make understand of our primary research location.



  • O’Connor J.J and E, Robertson, 2002: The History of Cartography. Scotland , St Andrews university.
  • Peter Jackson, 1989: Maps of Meaning. Unwin Hyman Ltd.
  • Leibniz. G, (1890). The Philosophical works of Lelbniz.
  • R.D Dikshit (2006). Geographical thought:  A contextual history of Ideas. Prentice. Hall of India.


Lesoda Otu-Iso

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