John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, turning the watched into the watchers.
But if you wanted to make sure your touristdar is fully calibrated, perhaps you should've taken this guided tourist-spotting tour in Amsterdam. You just might've learned something, such as that gathering indecisively around bridges is "typical tourist behavior" and that international visitors to Amsterdam sometimes take off their shirts on the street, because they "think it's normal in Holland."
Reversing the roles of natives and wayfarers was the idea of Evan Roth and his students at an urban-hacking workshop at the Amsterdam School of the Arts for a July course titled, almost unbelievably, "Remix Culture." Roth is a Paris-living graffiti artist who has honed unusual techniques in New York and other major cities; I'd link to his website, but Google says it might be hacked. (It's probably a joke.) Other aspects of the class included the lecture "Creativity as Conversation in the Interactive Audience Culture of YouTube" and a primer on the Art Reserve Bank, a local experiment to create an economy based on handcrafted coins.
On July 4, the budding "hacktivists" roamed around the city, encircling confused globetrotters like they were zoo animals on the loose and looming in for photo ops. You'd expect the tourists to lash out in fear or run for the nearest hotel or public bathroom, but they take the carnival-like scrutiny well. Perhaps that's because, as the colorfully apparelled guide points out, they're at heart "not dangerous."