AAG Dry Run: Miriam Burke, Pip Thornton and Simon Cook

17204138_10155050018541948_275600179_nOn a (finally slightly more spring-than-winter-like!) afternoon, the Landscape Surgery group gathered at Bedford Square to hear early versions of some of the papers being presented by group members at this year’s AAG Annual Meeting in Boston. We heard from Miriam Burke and Pip Thornton (pictured left), who delivered fascinating material; whilst Simon Cook, who was unfortunately unable to make the session, offered his apologies, but also had some fascinating material to share.

Miriam, Pip and Simon are also convening sessions at the AAG – below are both the summaries of their papers, and the description of the sessions they are convening.

 

Miriam Burke

Paper Title: Threads, ties and tangles: exploring the idea of ‘more than human’ social reproduction as a means to cultivate caring practices for the climate using participatory art practices

Abstract: In their ‘feminist project for belonging in the anthropocene’ Gibson-Graham (2011: 9) argue the anthropocene calls us to recognise we are all participants in the ‘becoming world’, everything is interconnected and learning happens in a stumbling, trial and error sort of way. In their spirit of experimentation and participation, this paper explores how community creative practices impact the social worlds in which they occur. My approach to feminist philosophy for climate change is one that takes seriously the idea of an interdependent, care-full and emotional world, which has a resonance with ideas of both new materialism and social reproduction. While ideas around vitaility, materialism and assemblages, such as those of Jane Bennett or Bruno Latour, are neither expressly related to climate change or feminism, their ethical connotations are that our bodies, our nonhuman neighbours and the material matters with which we live are interdependent. Social reproduction also values material and bodily labour, it is the ‘fleshy, messy, stuff of everyday life’ (Katz 2001: 711); in attending to the work of maintaining and reproducing day to day livelihoods there is a parallel with the materiality and mundaneness of new materialism, yet social reproduction it is most often focused on an exclusively human social reproduction. Using the example of a community participatory arts project, this paper explores the repercussions of thinking through a ‘more than human social reproduction’, one whose labours care not only for the human participants, but where social responsibilities and rights are extended to participants both nonhuman and material.

Keywords: Climate, art, participation, feminism, environment, social reproduction, materiality

 

Part of the Paper Session that Miriam is convening: ‘Feminist approaches to a changing climate’

Session Description: “If our species does not survive the ecological crisis, it will probably be due to our failure to imagine and work out new ways to live with the earth, to rework ourselves and our high energy, high consumption and hyper-instrumental societies adaptively… We will go onwards in a different mode of humanity or not at all” – Val Plumwood (2007:1). Taking inspiration from Plumwood, as well as from Gibson-Graham’s (2011) ‘feminist project for belonging in the Anthropocene’ this session explores the different facets of a feminist approach to climate change and invites speakers to discuss ideas, actions and research around this theme. We are especially interested in presentations that explore how feminist approaches to the ecological crisis engage with bodily, relational, vital, inorganic, sensory and emotional (to name but a few) responses to climate change. Many scholars see binary thinking as deeply implicated in the anthropogenic crisis that is facing life on earth. Dalby (2013: 40) argues that ‘the modern assumption of nature as separate from humanity, of the environment as an external element of the human condition, were never a very accurate portrayal of life in the biosphere’. Critiques – from feminist scholars and others – of hyper-separation are pushing us to move beyond the divisive binaries of human/ non-human, subject/ object, economy/ ecology and thinking/ acting (Gibson-Graham 2011). However, in mainstream discourse around climate change, concepts such as technological fixes, carbon budgets and idealised CO2 levels appear to reinforce binary ideas of a predictable and independent global system. Feminist responses from geography and beyond have critiqued many aspects of the study of and action on climate change. For example, Nancy Tuana (2013) applied Donna Haraway’s (1989) insights into the supposed ‘value neutrality’ of western science to the ways in which climate change data is created and disseminated. Julie Nelson (2007) took a feminist approach in her critique of the Stern Report in which she argued that connections to others and the environment are integral parts of human life and cannot be ‘discounted’ by mainstream economics. As the climate changes, so too must societies – either proactively, reactively or both. Naomi Klein (2014) suggests that one way to look at climate change is as an opportunity: an opportunity to overhaul inequalities in global society in order to save both our own species and others. Engagement with feminist ethical theories, which acknowledge histories of exploitation and cultivate ethical and social ecological relationships, may offer some useful tools as we continue further on this journey (Cuomo 2011).

 

Pip Thornton

Paper Title: A Critique of Linguistic Capitalism (and an artistic intervention)

Abstract: In an age of ubiquitous digital technology and information exchange, the selling of words has never been more lucrative. Digitised words are capable of carrying far more than linguistic meaning, and as such are valuable commodities in the advertising marketplace. Nobody knows this better than Google, which made its fortune from the auctioning of words through Adwords; a form of ‘linguistic capitalism’ (Kaplan, 2014) in which the contextual or linguistic value of language is negated at the expense of its exchange value. But what are the residual cultural or political effects of this algorithmic exploitation of language? As the linguistic data we create and upload is tailored to court search algorithms, and keywords take on referential values unanchored to narrative context, digitised language has perhaps reached peak performativity (Lyotard, 1979); linguistic input narrowed and restricted to achieve maximum financial output. This paper explores what happens to creativity in language when its passage through digital space is necessarily directed through certain obligatory passage points. But more than that, this paper is also an attempt to make the side-effects of linguistic capitalism visible through artistic intervention, exposing the politics lurking within the algorithmic hierarchies and logic of the search engine industry. I will therefore be explaining and demonstrating my own attempt to reverse this performative logic of production in the form of a research/art project called {poem}.py which I hope goes some way in rescuing language from the clutches of the market; re-politicising it (Benjamin, 1936), and reclaiming it for art.

Keywords: digital, algorithm, linguistic capitalism, google, poetry, language, art

 

Part of the Paper Session: Curating (in)security: Unsettling Geographies of Cyberspace (2), that Pip is co-organising with Andrew Dwyer from the University of Oxford

Session Description: In calling for the unsettling of current theorisation and practice, this session intends to initiate an exploration of the contributions geography can bring to cybersecurity and space. This is an attempt to move away from the dominant discourses around conflict and state prevalent in international relations, politics, computer science and security/war studies. As a collective, we believe geography can embrace alternative perspectives on cyber (in)securities that challenge the often masculinist and populist narratives of our daily lives. Thus far, there has been limited direct engagement with cybersecurity within geographical debates, apart from ‘cyberwar’ (Kaiser, 2015; Warf 2015), privacy (Amoore, 2014), or without recourse to examining this from the algorithmic or code perspective (Kitchin & Dodge, 2011; Crampton, 2015). As geographers, we are ideally placed to question the discourses that drive the spatio-temporal challenges made manifest though cyber (in)securities in the early 21st century. This session attempts to provoke alternative ways we can engage and resist in the mediation of our collective technological encounters, exploring what a research agenda for geography in this field might look like, why should we get involved, and pushing questions in potentially unsettling directions. This session therefore seeks to explore the curative restrictions and potentials that exude from political engagement, commercial/economic interests, neoliberal control and statist interventions. The intention is not to reproduce existing modes of discourse, but to stimulate creative and radical enquiry, reclaiming curation from those in positions of power not only in terms of control, but by means of restorative invention.

 

Simon Cook

Paper Title: Stopping on the move: tales from the run-commute

Abstract: Running is often represented as a mobile form concerned predominantly with uninterrupted motion. Runners frequently lament disruptions experienced on a run and seek to minimise their occurrence through risk-taking and transgression, such crossing roads at undesignated places/times. It is also clear that, beyond simply being habitual acts, the decisions made about stopping on the run are also a matter of culture, identity and experience for many runners. So what happens when the imperative of punctuality is added to these mobile situations? This paper reports on an ongoing project seeking to make sense of the rise of run-commuting (the practice of running to and/or from work) and explore the lived experiences of this form of movement. Combining a range of mobile-ethnographic methods with metrics and physiological data from activity tracking technology provided novel insights into the embodied cultures of stopping, waiting and dwelling on a run-commute. In particular, this paper will reveal the wide-range of suspensions that take place on a run-commute, from those disruptive to those desired, as well as the actuation of, and bodily labours involved in, slowing, stopping and accelerating once again. This leads to a discussion around the varying cultures of stopping on the run and the ways in which this enables us to rethink the relationship between running, rhythm and movement. Dwelling, it transpires, is not merely an undesired annoyance in the taking place of mobility, but can punctuate mobile practices in a range of surprising and significant ways.

Keywords: mobility, running, commute, stopping, immobility

 

Part of a paper session called: ‘Mobile dwelling 1: Labouring’, co-organised by Andrew Gorman-Murray and David Bissell.

Session Description: What might it mean to dwell in a mobile world? Travelling-in-dwelling and dwelling-in-travel (Clifford, 1997) have been important geographical preoccupations, especially over the last two decades. However, the intensity and configuration of these processes has arguably changed during this time. In particular, we have witnessed the rise of complex new mobility and migration practices related to work and employment (Cresswell et al., 2016), at a range of different scales. The intensity of these practices has been shaped by changing technologies of travel and communication, changing geopolitical forces, and changing economic circumstances. In light of such changes, we believe that the time is right for a reappraisal of what mobile dwelling might mean to geographers. We invite papers that address mobile dwelling through a diversity of theoretical and methodological perspectives. Papers in this session explore the relations of labouring that mobile dwelling creates. Mobile dwelling involves all kinds of bodily labours that stem from an array of material practices and processes. This labour signals a diversity of active competencies, skills and habits; and more passive modes of sustaining or suffering situations. These forms of labouring induce strange sorts of socialities, reworked intimacies, perhaps characterised by fleeting, ephemeral and weak ties (Nowicka, 2006). Mobile dwelling can also rework relationships of paid and unpaid labour, intensifying or breaking down certain forms of inequality in the process, and giving rise to new forms of valuation. They address the methodological labour of tracing, narrating and performing mobile dwelling, such as multi-sited ethnographies, mobile methods, and more traditional methods repurposed for narrating mobile dwelling.

 

For more information of Miriam, Pip and Simon’s phd projects and experience more generally, you can visit their sites; Climate and Creativity , Linguistic Geographies and Jographies respectively.

 

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