The Great Chicago Drift

Registration for the Great Chicago Drift is now closed

Registration for the Great Chicago Drift is now closed.

Psychogeography: mapping one’s emotive and recollective reactions onto urban landscapes

Emerge from campus to wander the “wild” (and not-so-wild) spaces of Chicago in the Great Chicago Drift. The “rules” of drifting are simple: we give you a starting point. You (and your friends) find your way there, and – following a walking algorithm you choose – drift thru the cityscape, creatively reflecting on your emotional reactions to (and the memories/stories sparked by) the places you discover along the way both in your Drift Notebook and on Instagram, letting others share glimpses of your discoveries. Your journey will contribute to a map and a photo exhibition (to be opened in 1155 E 60th on October 15), chronicling your encounters with the city.

Drift is sponsored by Chicago Studies in collaboration with the Program on the Global Environment and the Urban Architecture and Design program and is based on a method of interpreting cities that was developed by the mid-20th-Century Situationists working in Paris and other European cities.  We expect that most drifts will take around 2 hours to complete; you can drift any time during the program window (Saturday, 9/25 from 8 AM - 2 PM). 

A Drift Notes notebook cover

The Great Chicago Drift will take place rain or shine! Registrants will be assigned a starting point; some drifting companions (if you don't bring your own); and will be issued printed "Drift Notes" notebooks, "Design Your Chicago" pencils for sketching and reflecting, and tie-dyed bandanas to help you feel a bit "driftier."  Drift packet pickup details can be found below. Registration for the Great Chicago Drift is now closed.

    Registration for the Great Chicago Drift is now closed.

    Register your team of no more than 5 participants (unless you are members of the same household). Each team, including all of team member's names and emails, must register to receive an event packet and swag! You may also register as an individual and request additional team members.

    While registering you will notice the form asks whether you would prefer to drift in a more natural (e.g. a city park or other greenspace) or built (e.g. a highly urban) environment.  Be sure to confirm your choice with your team in advance!  Note: given the nature of the drifting, you will likely experience both environments. The questions is, where would you like to begin your journey?

    Following your registration, your drifting location will be revealed via email early on September 23. Once you know your drifting location, we recommend you discuss a travel plan with your team in advance. All drifting locations will be accessible by public transportation. 

    All drifters will receive an event packet containing an instructional and reflective "Drift Notes" notebook, branded pencil, and other related swag for each registered team member! Event packets will be available for pickup on 9/23 (8:00AM - 8:00PM) and on 9/24 (11:00AM-1:00PM or 4:00PM-8:00PM) at the Urban Lounge located at 1155 E. 60th Street. If you are unable to attend packet pick-up, please email Tess Conway at

    Prior to your drift, we recommend convening with your team to discuss day of logistics and travel plans and to review the "How to Drift" section of your Drift Notes notebooks.

    Specifically, we recommend:

    • Choosing a specific meeting place for departure and setting a travel plan to your assigned location
    • Collaboratively creating your drifting rule(s) in advance of the event - again, see the "How to Drift" section of your Drift Notes for more information on drifting rules
    • Decide which Instagram account you'll be using to share out your group's photo reflections during your drift
    • Fill out the inside cover of your Drift Notes notebooks 
    • Follow @chicagostudies on Instagram
    • Use the "resources and recommendations" section of this page to learn more about the history and practice of psycho-geography!

    The #GreatChicagoDrift has begun! The length of your drift is entirely up to you; your reflective notebook has space for 10 pauses, but the actual number you complete is ultimately your choice. Drifting typically lasts for 2-3 hours, be sure to account for travel time as well.  You can drift anytime on Saturday, 9/25.  NOTE:  If you're a first-year, you're actually only FREE to drift between 8 AM and 2 PM.

    Enjoy your adventure with Chicago and the sensation of spatial liberation!

    Whenever you get back to campus, be sure to fill out the last couple of pages of your "Drift Notes."  These include instructions for submitting some of your favorite reflections, sketches, and overall impressions of the drifting experience to Chicago Studies.  The materials you submit, as well as any photos your team shared over Instagram, will contribute to our Great Chicago Drift Gallery in three weeks (10/15, see next paragraph).

    Join Chicago Studies and the Urban Architecture and Design Program for the opening of the Great Chicago Drift Gallery! This event will take place during the October 15th's Chicago Friday in the Urban Lounge (1155 E. 60th St.). All Great Chicago Drifters are invited to meet, share their psycho-geographic story, and discuss their unique experiences of spatial liberation. We'll be displaying our favorite photos shared via Instagram (@ChicagoStudies, #GreatChicagoDrift), as well as sketches and other materials shared post-Drift. Submit your Drift materials here.

    Register for the Great Chicago Drift Gallery Opening.

This event is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public dining may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.