While this list of “20 Ways to Win the War Against Seeing” came out of a project a professor created for a class on product design, I think all of us could benefit from trying them. Here’s a sample:
Spot something new every day
Another student, Gaïa Orain, focused her solution on a two-block walk she made every day, and that had long since become so routine she could have sleep-strolled it. So she made a conscious effort to “see something new” every day — turning this routine walk into a kind of open-ended game.
Let a stranger lead you
Thinking about strangers reminds me of Vito Acconci’s well-known “Following Piece,” performed over a period of weeks in 1969: Daily, he would pick a random person, and follow her or him around New York. This would continue until his subject entered some space Acconci could not (a residence, for instance, or a car that promptly departs). In one case, this meant sitting through a movie when the person he was following went to the cinema. The exercise could last a few minutes, or hours, depending on what the stranger happened to do. I doubt Acconci would characterize his goals as having much to do with “paying attention,” per se, but borrowing his practice would be an adventure in seeing the new.
Misuse a Tech Tool
This has been another recurring theme. One student used a chat/dating app designed for gay men to (“obsessively”) monitor the number and locations of users within 400 feet. Another used the macro filter on her digital camera to study the textures of street objects on her walks to and from school. A third started using the compass on her iPhone to orient her gaze — wherever she walked, she’d take a look toward true north, and whatever happened to be there, “introducing a degree of randomness into what I saw.”