Monthly Archives: June 2019

RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Midterm Conference 2019

 

Photo by @rgsmidterm2019

Attendees at the end of the RGS-IBG PGF Midterm Conference (Source: Twitter, @RGSmidterm2019)

 

This year’s Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) Postgraduate Forum Midterm Conference was held at Manchester Metropolitan University from 24th to 26th April. Royal Holloway was well represented at the conference by PhD students in the Department of Geography, and here a selection of our cohort share their experiences from Manchester.

 

Megan Harvey

I was really thankful for the opportunity to present some of my preliminary PhD work at this year’s fantastic RGS Midterm Conference. My paper, entitled The Geographies of Sleep: Corporatisation, Codification and Dreams of Subversion, was allocated to an oral presentation session that sought to explore various developments in ‘innovative research methodologies’ that are being utilised in incredibly exciting and often interdisciplinary capacities by postgraduate researchers. From the outset, this demanded an identification of my research’s technical approaches, encouraging me to critically reflect on the alternative investigative techniques that I plan to implement. As I expressed throughout the presentation, most of my inspiration, both conceptually and empirically, comes from adopting and adapting knowledges from not only the social sciences, but from neuroscientific and psychological fields of study. Resultantly, I argued that my PhD’s ‘innovative’ practice is merely a consequence of my attempt to bridge the scholarly gap in scientific vocabulary that currently dominates sleep research. In essence, I called for the cultivation of a ‘neurogeographic’ research methodology that will challenge the lexicon of sleeping and dreaming and recognise the cognitive, embodied, and experiential aspects of its performance through a geographic lens. Only through doing so can we begin to truly understand the phenomena’s impact within our restless capitalist society.

For me, the experience of presenting my work to the RGS Midterm audience was wholly encouraging. It allowed me to gather invaluable feedback and advice on my own research, meet some brilliant individuals from outside of the Royal Holloway contingent, and become inspired by the sheer quantity of great work that’s going on within the discipline of Geography at the moment!

 

Nina Willment

It was really lovely to be able to attend the RGS Midterm Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University in April. I always forget how much I enjoy this conference and it is my favourite conference of the year hands down! The atmosphere is always so friendly and welcoming and I always end up meeting and spending time with some really wonderful people who also happen to be fab academics. It was really lovely this year to be asked to chair a session on ‘gender and class mobilities’. Chairing a session was really nerve-wracking at first, but in reality it’s kind of like being the host of a (very scholarly) party?! You are just in charge of making sure the speakers keep to time, everyone knows what they are doing and generally just has a good time! At the conference, I also stepped down from my role as Chairperson of the Royal Geographical Society Postgraduate Forum. Getting involved in the Postgraduate Forum has given me valuable insight and experience of working as part of a wider committee and within the Royal Geographical Society as a whole. I’ve also had the chance to meet and work with a really amazing group of postgraduates from around the country, many of whom have now become really good friends of mine. Every year the PGF look for new committee members for a variety of roles on the committee and it is really a great opportunity to get involved which I would recommend to anyone. More information can be found on the RGS-PGF website here. You can also find more information about becoming a Postgraduate Fellow of the RGS here. Huge thanks go out to Jamie, Gail, Valerie, Matt, Fraser, Harry and Maria from Manchester Metropolitan for organising such a fun and fantastic conference! Roll on 2020!

 

Alice Reynolds

It was really great to attend my first RGS Midterm Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University this year. It was rewarding to meet other young researchers and academics and to share with others the experiences of doing a PhD. It was particularly interesting to hear about such a range of diverse research being undertaken by geographers, and I am excited to follow the journeys of other researchers as their research develops.

I presented in a session titled ‘The Geographies of Education’ which consisted of my research on student housing in Dublin, a presentation by Ellen Bishop from the University of Leicester on the educational experiences of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities in a mainstream secondary school, and a presentation by Amy Walker from the University of Birmingham on the materialities of children and young people’s homemaking in post-separation families. As my first time presenting at an academic conference, it was a really supportive environment to do so and I presented to less than ten people in our session, so it was a small enough group to not be too intimidating! It’s a useful opportunity to test out some of your research ideas and progress so far, and gain feedback in a supportive environment.

Not only was the conference a good opportunity to meet other PhD students, it was also great to meet other academics and hear about their stories from academia. There was also a range of workshops to choose from. I found a workshop on publishing particularly useful; and I also particularly enjoyed Dr. Morag Rose’s workshop on using walking as a research method, a method which I have never really explored before. Now I know more, I think it could be particularly useful for my own research. I also enjoyed viewing the posters produced by other PhD students, so if you are thinking of attending the conference in the future but don’t want to give a presentation, a poster is also a great way to demonstrate your research. Of course you don’t have to do either, and can simply come and enjoy the conference instead!

I would really recommend that any new (or old!) researchers attend the 2020 Midterm conference!

 

Jack Lowe

The RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Midterm Conference was a wonderful occasion that gave me the opportunity to gain more experience in presenting my research, field questions on my research from an audience, meet other geographers at the same academic career stage, and also explore a bit of Manchester – a city I’d never visited before.

I presented in a session organised around the theme of ‘Innovative Research Methods’ alongside fellow RHUL PhD student Megan Harvey – and in fact, we were the only presenters in the session as the third planned speaker did not attend! This allowed us to take our time with the presentations, and also respond to more questions at the end, so we both got the maximum possible out of the session. In my presentation I discussed what I’ve learnt so far from the process of making games and other digital narrative artworks as a research method, drawing on my experience of creating story-based treasure hunting game The Timekeeper’s Return at the start of my PhD, and most recently making prototypes for my final project. I was very happy with how I delivered the material in the end, and particularly grateful that I was asked some thought-provoking questions that helped me consider how I might frame my methodology discussion in my eventual thesis. This conference is small enough that there are also lots of opportunities to continue discussions outside the sessions, which is great for getting feedback and making connections with those who share your research interests.

Fortunately, my session was in the first paper presentation timeslot of the conference, so once it had finished I was able to focus on getting the most out of the remainder of the sessions, and meeting fellow Geography postgrads from other institutions. Particular highlights from the rest of the conference for me were Morag Rose’s workshop on walking as a research method, which took us outside into the built environment of the conference location, and the paper sessions on ‘Performing Place Identities’ and ‘Health and Wellbeing’, in which many of the presentations had interesting crossovers with my own research interests, despite coming from quite diverging topics.

My favourite moment, however, has to be Kim Peters’ keynote on the first night. Kim detailed her academic journey that has taken her work across some wildly varied research topics, and evoked this experience to make a claim for being eclectic in the paths that our research takes. She encouraged us to stay curious within our discipline and to research what really interests us, rather than being too quick to categorise ourselves as a certain ‘type’ of geographer and consequently limit our opportunities for both career paths and personal growth. As a result, I felt newly inspired to continue exploring fresh directions that I could take my research, and to stay aware of what new fields of inquiry are opening up across the discipline.

Overall, the Midterm for me was a very welcome opportunity to break free from the ‘bubble’ of doing independent research, and remind myself why I love Geography in all its breadth and diversity. The organising team at MMU deserve huge credit for creating a thoroughly engaging programme and managing the masses of admin and logistics that go into making an event like this happen.

 

Photo by @CaitlinHafferty

Kim Peters during her talk on ‘Eclectic Geographies’ (Source: Twitter, @CaitlinHafferty)

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MAKING DIARIES, MAKING ARCHIVES, MAKING BLOGS: ACCOUNTING FOR EVERYDAY LIFE ONLINE AND EXPLORING THE SPACES AND PRACTICES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

On Friday 31st May, the Centre for the GeoHumanities (Royal Holloway, University of London), in collaboration with the Department of Geography at the University of Portsmouth and the Department of Geography at Stockholm University, welcomed a network of scholars from the UK and overseas with a shared interest in methodologies for exploring social media, specifically blogs, vlogs and blog/vlogospheres. The purpose of this interdisciplinary workshop was to bring together scholars in discussions around understanding social media activities and spaces, and the associated opportunities and challenges involved in both their production and their examination.

Jenny Sjöholm (Centre for the GeoHumanities, RHUL) opened the workshop by highlighting a series of questions and debates: Why do women create such spaces of memory? In what ways do these creative spaces matter? How can we understand and approach these spaces? How do women’s pre-digital-era detailed accounts of everyday life – such as travel diaries, pocket diaries and photo albums – compare and contrast with their online equivalents? Are we in need of new tools and perspectives? How can we balance our understanding of the personal elements of such constructions with their professional and commercial aspects?

Following this activity, we were invited to explore the outdoor space of Bedford Square. Under the shade of the trees, scholars were invited to be involved in a ‘speed networking’ event. Here, we had a chance to network with other members of the workshop to find out what everyone else was working on. This networking continued back in Bedford Square over a working lunch. It was really exciting to find parallels and cross-overs between work on emotional ‘care’ work, the fashion industry, travel bloggers, food cultures and Eurovision, all in the context of social media and blogs, which will hopefully open the way for some potential collaborations and cross-overs in the near future!

LS Picture
Image courtesy of Jamie Halliwell, Manchester Metropolitan University

After some much-deserved refreshments, Dr Sally Bayley (University of Oxford) led an interactive mini-workshop based on her recent study of the diary and journal as a form of literary and social self-construction. Her book The Private Life of the Diary from Pepys to Tweets: A history of the diary as an artform (2016) explores diary-making as a form of private and public identity as it is constructed across history. Sally opened the mini-workshop by introducing the group to the diary of Sylvia Plath. The group were invited to attempt to decipher both the words and the meanings of the images on the page. Sally also discussed the ideas of micro-space and the associated geographies of the page in relation to practices and processes of self-recording.

LSpic 2
Image courtesy of Jamie Halliwell, Manchester Metropolitan University

Keeping with this idea of geographies of the page, participants were then invited to think about their own acts of self-recording in relation to the micro-geographies of the page space. Using individual raffle tickets (which together comprised one page of a raffle ticket book or one distinct spatiality), we were asked to think about and draw out a private space we had inhabited that day. Each raffle ticket, therefore, represented both a micro-space of the geographies of the page and of the personal space. Together, in a roundtable discussion, we then discussed our spatial maps. This exercise prompted discussions around both the intimacies and subtle differences of each participant’s account of self-recording.

LS pic 3
Image courtesy of Nina Willment Royal Holloway University of London

Reflecting on these self-recordings, for the final exercise of the day, we were then asked to write a short ‘diary’ entry about these images. Participants were asked to make a conscious choice about the distinctive materiality they used to make this recording (from the phone notes app to the invoice book to the humble notepad itself). In doing so, participants were invited to think about and discuss the constraints and affordances which their distinctive choice of ‘page’ afforded them. This activity led on to some lively discussion around ideas of aesthetisation of the blog as diary online and the blog/diary as public versus private space.

LS pic 4
Image courtesy of Jamie Halliwell, Manchester Metropolitan University

We hope this workshop provided an opportunity to serve as the foundation for establishing a network of scholars working on such issues around social media data, blogs and blogospheres in the GeoHumanities and beyond. With huge thanks to my co-organisers, Jenny Sjöholm (Centre for the GeoHumanities RHUL), Taylor Brydges (Department of Geography, Stockholm University), Carol Ekinsmyth (Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth) and also to the Centre for the GeoHumanities (RHUL) for all of their help and support in making this event a success.

Written by Nina Willment, edited by Alice Reynolds and Jack Lowe

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