[L/M NET] Konstantin Weiss > “Floating through crowds”

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I love going through the crowd. And I love to do it fast. You won't get the same experience just by walking, neither slowly nor at normal pace. It's a special thrill. It brings you to a special state of mind. And it might be an attitude of life.

Sometimes you're late, hurrying to get your train, and then you are forced to go as fast as you can. But that is not the best condition, as you have too much thoughts about your train in your head. What I am talking about is the movement by foot at fast velocity through a crowd – just for the sake of it.

I don't recall when I learned to move fast through crowds. It must have been somewhen in the childhood of my home city in Siberia. One million people living next to each other, sharing the same squaremeters for loving, hating, longing, existing. And moving. I don't recall when I learned it, but I often wonder how great it works. Floating through a crowd.

The setting

There is the stream of people going in your direction. There is the stream of people going in the opposite direction. And then there is you, having a destination. Spiced with unpredictible movement of some people, this is the setting you need. It is the setting you need to get to this state of floating.

The path

As a general rule: Don't go with the crowd stream of your direction. It is too slow, will always be. Don't go against the stream of the opposite direction. It will slow you down, has too much resistance. You won't be fast enough to manouver beweeen people. And it's useless trying to go on the fringe of the crowd (at a wall e.g.). You will dump all the time. Instead: walk in between the streams, in between the both motions. This often invisible space is the key to fast movement. This is your path.

The perception

You will notice how your perception changes. You experience the crowd as a whole. You start to intuitively predict the projectories of people. You know how constant the trajectory of every person is. You feel their speed. You see the gaps. The crowd starts feeling like one organism, not many. One swarm. And you know then where your trajectory is, almost seeing it laid out.

The body

Your body then adjusts to this swarm. Gently you increase your velocity or decrease it, just so you fit into the gaps between people. Your torso slightly rotates, shoulders even a bit more, so you don't touch other people. There is little effort spent. Your movement almost feels like floating. Like a boat floating through waves that are higher than you, and you gently adjust the route, just with a few paddle movements. Easily you are twice as fast.

The state of flow

That movement at speed is a satisfaction of its own. You get into the state of flow. You are present. There is no future. There is no past. All your senses are present. You feel the swarm, and you don't notice yourself anymore. At that mental state you move fast. And you are calm inside.

The gaze

Then there is the way you look. You don't look at any particular person. You don't look at any particular detail. You gaze into the distance, straight forward. But you see. You see the whole picture, quite precise. People moving, obsticles, chances, risks. That gaze has even more. It is as if people feel your gaze. They clear the way in the right moment, so you can pass without slowing down.

Our animal selves

For a while I started to actually look at those people, trying to guess whether they clear the way deliberatelly. They don't. They seem not to notice it (except you bump into them). It is as if we learned the rules millions of years ago. Our bodies know how to move, our reptile brains coordinate well so we don't think about it. Which is great. We adjust, we people communicate unconsciously with each other. Body language. We still are animals that learned to be part of a collective.

Moving is living

My decisions in life, the way I work: sometimes they are like moving through the crowd. Being inbetween, enjoying some speed, being focused. I don't intend to do it on the costs of others. People who do that sicken me. But I'm convinced you can get quite far by not following the average and not being 'against' just for the sake of it, either. Doing your thing and focusing on your goal while staying on top of things. That's just it.

I don't take it too seriously. But I wonder if other people experience the same.

(ralf says:
Konstantin is the latest L/M NET member. I got to know him via his blog some time ago and met him in Cologne before he left to iA Zurich.

Since we all must learn much more about culture technologies, culture, and technology it is really great to have him here.
Please enjoy his posts.)

Konstantin is a partner of iA in Zurich. He consults and develops concepts focusing on User and Reading Experience. He blogs at konnexus about the impact of culture technologies and UX. Twitter: @konnexus