Monthly Archives: November 2014

Introducing Simon Cook – PhD Student

Hello Surgeons!

I officially joined the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group as a PhD student in October this year, and although not technically new to the department or to the blog, I am here to introduce myself as part of a series of new students saying ‘Hello world’.


Personal Profile

I joined the Department of Geography at RHUL in 2013 to undertake the MA in Cultural Geography and have since stayed on the do my PhD under the expert supervision of Professor Pete Adey. Prior to this I was based in the wonderful School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at Plymouth University from 2010 – 2013 where I really gained my enthusiasm and passion for human geography. My postgraduate studies are funded by an ESRC 1+3 studentship.

Research Interests 

I am a human geographer with broad interests that transect social, cultural and transport geography. My principle research enthusiasms include:

  • Running geographies
  • Corporeal mobilities
  • Active transport
  • Connections between transport geography and mobilities research
  • Intersections of transport, sport and leisure practices
  • The revitalisation of sport geographies
  • Mobilities design
  • Mobile methods
  • Public geographies/engagement

My research concerns a range of banal and mobile practices that occur in public spaces and their importance for street-level politics, urban design, the experiences and meanings of everyday life as well as understandings of place, space and mobility. I am intrigued by practices that cross-boundaries, that can simultaneously be transport and leisure modes and the tensions that these can conjure up. I also hold a wider interest in methodological innovation and public geographies. All these curiosities are currently manifest in my PhD study that is a broad project exploring the mobile practice of running with a specific focus on run-commuting and running’s potential as a transport mode. This project is provisionally titled Run-Commuting in the City: Movement, Meaning and Experience and seeks to 1) understand the emerging practice of run-commuting, 2) assess its potential as a transport mode, and 3) explore what can be done to encourage the practice.

Run-Commuters.  Thanks to Gareth Lewis for the image.

Thanks to Gareth Lewis for the image.

Contact Details

If you want to find out more about my work and discuss any of it with me (and please do), there are a range of ways to follow my research and contact me:

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Introducing Mark Bicton – ‘Creative Entrepreneur in Residence’

When I came to the first Landscape Surgery of the year, it was energising to meet so many members of the group and hear brief accounts of such great, wide-ranging research. I’ll be with the group (very part-time!) until next Summer, as Creative Entrepreneur in Residence. Working with Harriet Hawkins, my residency will help to devise and test participatory creative writing as a way to engage local experiences and responses to environmental change.

Funded by a Creativeworks London grant, my aim for this time at Royal Holloway is to develop a series of writing workshops on a ‘water environment’ theme, engaging local people’s individual and collaborative creativity on the experiences or prospects of impacts such as flooding. But I also hope to learn about your research and interests: what you’re reading, what you’re writing, the connections you’re making between your work and the world. Geographical ideas have a strong pull on my imagination and help push my own writing. I’m not sure I’d have applied the word ‘entrepreneur’ about myself until I went freelance a couple of years ago, I’m certainly drawn to the word’s origins in early 19th century French – entreprendre: to undertake. According to the OED, it originally denoted the director of a musical institution. While that certainly isn’t me, a creative undertaking to bring together research and fiction and to impact people’s imaginations sums up part of what I’m trying to do in bridging my own experience with future possibilities.

After an interesting but overly optimistic foray into physics and astronomy, I’ve worked around environmental change for over twenty years. Starting with programmes to engage small businesses with resource efficiency and reduce our impacts on the environment, I moved into the challenges of adapting to the impacts of environmental change on us. I worked with regional climate change partnerships and national programmes to build adaptive capacities in the face of uncertain but unavoidable climate change. But I also became aware that I was missing out on some ‘critical mass’ in our ability to respond meaningfully to risks that seem far away, in the distant future, or abstract – in other words, that generally lack the bite of the ‘here and now’.

I’d already taken a career break to think about this gap when, by good fortune and a lack of planning on my part, I ended up on a short contract with Exeter University, where I entered into the world of cultural geography for the first time! Something must have worked its way under my skin, because a couple of years later I took their MA Climate Change, a multi-lensed perspective that helped me to locate some of that ‘missing mass’ in creativity and collaboration. I worked with a local novelist on short story workshops she was running to help people create and share their imagination of what the future could be; with researchers on local perceptions of coastal change and memories of river flooding; and with a load of residents and managers on the tension between lay and expert knowledge on change.

As a result of my time on the MA, I began to develop my own creative writing again: something I’d abandoned when I first went to university and embarked on what I thought would be a straight science career. I’m now half way through an MFA Creative Writing at Kingston University, which I’m using to develop my approach to writing about change. One strand of my work is building a collection of fragmentary fictions to explore ideas in Anticipatory History, a research publication that has had a strong influence on me since my time at Exeter. And I’m interested in the ideas of Jane Bennett and others on the liveliness of matter, of Susan Leigh Starr and others on the possibilities for boundary objects that help enable divergent voices to collaborate on critical issues, and of Mike Hulme and others on why we disagree about climate change. I’m actively involved in the work of TippingPoint, a charity working to promote cultural responses to climate change; this Summer, I organised two events with them, bringing together writers and other artists with experts in policy, science and social science.

So I’m excited about this residency with Royal Holloway, which will enrich my own work, develop useful creative practices that we can take forward and, I hope, contribute something to the work of the group.