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YEAR 1 PRESENTATIONS: the digital workplace, boredom, ‘first encounters’ and indigenous maps

For our final meeting of the academic year, the Surgeons were treated to a snapshot of what our first year PhDs have been up to. Below are the abstracts for the sessions presented.

Adam Badger, Space, Freedom and Control in the Digital workplace

This interdisciplinary PhD works across the schools of Geography and Management to understand the ways in which the use (and implementation) of digital technologies at work are transforming the identities and lives of those engaging with them. By utilising the relational ontology of ‘digital sociomateriality’ in conjunction with growing discourses of ‘workplace geographies’ this study seeks to explore how labour is continuously emergent through the interrelations of workplace and practice in contemporary employment. Primary analytical focus is (at present) geared toward developing understandings of how new digital work geographies are impacting; workplace surveillance, display, and (de-)territorialisation and will do so utilising research gathered from at least three linked case-studies. In this talk I will look to introduce the relevant debates currently present in the field and frame their relationship to possible case-studies.

 

Katy Lawn, Working through Boredom: Creatively Approaching Questions of Workplace Emotion

This paper will set out a proposed approach to a study of boredom as it relates to questions around the experience of work. As a key register of lived experience in contemporary society (Mann, forthcoming), boredom is often said to have arisen in tandem with modernity and the industrial process (Moran 2003). But, if boredom is so closely intertwined with the production process historically, what of boredom in our ‘post-bureaucratic’ era?
In considering questions around work (which are more usually framed in economic terms) the aim is to take a cultural-geographical approach to look at how work is experienced. I will set out the proposed structure of the research project, which is composed of two halves. The first half will deal with a set of case studies which demonstrate the ways in which artists and cultural practitioners have tackled the theme of workplace boredom through fine art, socially engaged art, poetry and photography. The second half will involve using creative methods such as photo elicitation and epiphany object interviews to produce a set of richly textured case studies which address participants’ working lifeworlds. This two-part structure fits in tandem with a wider concern with firstly: cultural approaches to studies of work and the workplace, and secondly: workplaces and work practices as emotional or “affective soups” (Thrift 2008:244).

 

Huw Rowlands, The Unbearable Rightness of Seeing

My working title is “Historical and contemporary performance of cross-cultural encounters: temporal and spatial dynamics”. My main interest is in ‘first-contact encounters’, what they are, why they are chosen for particular attention, and how performance analysis might help us understand their repetitions. So the key phrase in my first few months’ reading and thinking has been ‘first-contact encounters’. I have problems with each of these words; and I’m not even sure about the hyphen. I was drawn to this during research for my MA dissertation, through learning about how one story has been told over the years. Marine Lieutenant William Dawes sailed with the First Fleet, sent to establish a convict colony in New South Wales. The tellings in which he appears usually focus on his relationship with Indigenous Australian Patyegarang, from whom he learned most about the local language spoken at the time. Subsequently, I have chosen to focus on Cook’s first Pacific voyage in my search for PhD case studies. I will draw on these two contexts to explore some of the problems with ‘first-contact encounters’, as I work towards my first annual review over the next few weeks.

 

Joy Slappnig, The Indigenous Map: Native Information, Ethnographic Object, Artefact of Encounter

Assessing Indigenous contribution to colonial collections, such as the map collection at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), poses challenges of approach and methodology. Western collecting and cataloguing conventions have traditionally obscured Indigenous presence in the archive, and the small number of maps that have been categorised as ‘native’ often show more hybridity than might be assumed (having been co-produced by Europeans and Indigenous people during the process of colonial expansion, for example). Relational approaches to material culture, especially the study of ethnographic museum collections over the last decade, suggests new ways of conceptualising these maps. Rather than approaching them as images (as they have traditionally been analysed), studying these maps as objects can help to disentangle colonial relationships between Indigenous peoples and the British, and it can provide new insights into the role colonial collections such as the RGS play in defining the ‘Indigenous’.

 

Many thanks to our four speakers; and the Landscape Surgery cohort for their invaluable feedback, comments and enthusiasm. Wishing everybody a happy and productive summer 2017!

 

Etched in Bone: Screening of a work in progress by Martin Thomas and Béatrice Bijon, with a response by Luciana Martins

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Photography: Huw Rowlands

This special session of Landscape Surgery on 9th May, supported by the Centre for the GeoHumanities, was an extraordinary opportunity to witness and respond to a ‘work-in-progress’ film by Martin Thomas and Béatrice Bijon, from Australian National University. The session was chaired by Felix Driver, Luciana Martins from Birkbeck, University of London responded, and the assembly generated keen discussion, which in its turn rippled out into the London streets and buildings and beyond.

My response will be less descriptive and summative than I am in the habit of offering, both because of the scope and complexity of our shared experience as well as the dynamics of its generation; its ‘coming into being’. I will instead attempt a reflection focused on three themes that struck me most forcefully, and acknowledge my omissions as well as my debt to all of you who created the experience with your responses. The first will be the historic events that the film bears witness to. I will move on to the recent repatriation events that the film witnessed. My aim will then be to consider the witnessing itself; the relationships between the film, audiences and events.

With that said, I would like to start with the customary warning to readers that I will be referring to deceased Indigenous Australians and others. Continue reading

Speculation and Meaning in the 1980s Swedish Arts World: The Making, Display and Dispersal of the Financier Fredrik Roos’ Art Collection: Jenny Sjöholm

Landscape Surgery’s summer term programme started on 2nd May with a round of news about the varied and fascinating things that Surgeons have been up to over the past few weeks. These involved suitcases, corridors, conferences, placements, submissions, and a fellowship. The one I will give a specific mention to is Ben Murphy’s show at the Architectural Association’s School of Architecture until 27th May, to give you all a chance to see it in the next couple of weeks or so. It sounded like Ben gained some rich experience about dealing with press interviews along the way.

For the main part of afternoon, Jenny Sjöholm, Marie-Sklodowska Curie Fellow with the Department, introduced us to an art collection created by Frederick Roos. This collection was remarkable in many ways as we shall see; but Jenny’s particularly fascinating work has been to trace the collection over its life. This is not an object biography but a collection biography if you will. Continue reading

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LS Programme Term 3

2 May 2017         Speculation and Meaning in the 1980s Swedish Art World: The Making, Display, and Dispersal of the Financier Fredrik Roos’ Art Collection                                    Jenny Sjoholm

9 May 2017           Etched in Bone Screening                                                                        Martin Thomas (Australian National University), discussant: Luciana Martins (The session will start at 2pm and finish around 4.30pm)

16 May 2017         Writing for the Broader Public                                                                     Emily Brown (The Conversation), Sasha Engelmann, Fraser Macdonald (University of Edinburgh), Oli Mould

23 May 2017      Convening Conference Sessions and Editing Special Issues
Sarah Evans, RGS Conference Officer

30 May 2017        Yr1 Presentations

31 May 2017       CGH event: Digital GeoHumanities: Digital Maps, Scale and Digital Film-making                                                                                                                    Co-convened by Harriet Hawkins, Ella Harris and Mike Duggan

MA Students at the RGS-IBG

MA Cultural Geography students in the Foyle Reading Room at the RGS-IBG

MA Cultural Geography students in the Foyle Reading Room at the RGS-IBG

On 9 February, the MA Cultural Geography students visited the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for a series of talks from current PhD researchers (including Peter Martin, Benjamin Newman, and Jane Wess) describing their work with the Society archives. The students also had the chance to work with some primary material: the journals and log books of the Royal Navy commander Foley Charles Prendergast Vereker (1850-1900). In this post, the students offer their thoughts and reflections on Vereker’s material (errors and omissions expected).

Emily Hopkins

After studying two of Vereker’s journals (1870-1872 and 1883-1884), I was struck by the clarity of the watercolour works – so much so, that when photographs appeared in the journal from 1883, I found myself hoping for more hand crafted illustrations. Vereker himself appreciates the beauty of the landscapes he had so carefully represented in his works: he notes in one entry that the Seychelle Islands were compared to the Garden of Eden, whereby ‘naught but humanity is vile’. I began my readings expecting to read purely colonial texts, so was pleasantly surprised to find Vereker and his crew truly appreciating the landscapes and cultures they passed through. Alongside the artworks, the science of geographical expeditions was foregrounded through the common occurrence of coastal surveys, weather readings, and mapping. For me, this highlighted how the geographical discipline has long been a hybrid of the arts and the sciences. It also displayed the continued importance of visual methods in empirical geographical fieldwork, both in the past and present.

Emma Forsyth

Today’s visit to the RGS involved my first experience working with archival materials. The journals of Vereker enabled me to get to grips with the process of an exploring an archive itself, which felt like an investigation requiring me to piece together the tiny pieces of information I could identify. My key observations from the task include how immersive it was flicking through the pages of the journals. The illustrations accompanying the text were the most interesting, as they seemed to tell the story, and gave me a further insight into Vereker’s explorations in the East. I was particularly struck by the use of night and day in many of the painted images, as well as the portrayal of the landscapes he explored. The use of vivid colour and the emphasis on the physical aspects of the environments – the trees, rocks, sand and water – conveyed a sense of being there. Finally, I also found the process of reading to be a slightly intrusive one – as if I was reading somebody’s personal diary. This was not a negative, as I believe this is the nature of archival research, allowing you a deep insight into someone’s personal life and experience. Overall, it has been an experience which has not only introduced me to a new method, but also the environment of the archive.

James Totty

I perused Vereker’s journals and logbooks, and apart from frank admiration at the quality of their preservation at the hands of the Royal Society, I found myself drawn into the narrative world of his crafting. Being 150 years old, the union of scientific survey, artistic impressionism and textual description (frequently and pleasingly juxtaposed on adjacent pages) illustrates the tradition this dual approach to research has within the geographical discipline. Vereker himself strikes me as something of a dilettante, his voyages playing out as he leaps from one ship to the next, circumnavigating the globe under the pretence of surveying, collecting and observing at the behest of her majesty. In truth this romantic imagining is mostly constructed by each journals vivid artwork and erudite, verbose description; perhaps helped along in my own mind by Vereker’s lineage from the exiled Plantagenet dynasty. Surely, the frontiers of the colonial world were a fitting place for such an individual. It is this imperialism that frequently shatter the mythology and re-contextualise his work, whether it be callous and dismissive attitudes towards native peoples, or highly questionable environmental attitudes.

Nina Willment

Never having set foot in an archive before I was unsure of what I would find! I couldn’t believe the vast amount of documents and artefacts that the RGS store, predominantly on site. I was shocked at the beauty of the Vereker journals, the watercolour pictures a work of art onto themselves. I thought that the advent of photography would have rendered these artworks almost redundant but I am so pleased that this was not the case. The images and drawings worked in harmonious conjunction with each other to give a romanticised representation of the vast array of places Vereker and his crew journeyed to and observed. I particularly enjoyed reading the anecdotal narratives that are weaved throughout the journals. Initially I was shocked that exploration based journals could fetch such a hefty sum at auctions.. However, after spending the afternoon in the archives (with many thanks to the RGS, Ben, Jane, Peter and Innes for guiding us through) I began to understand the rationale behind the infatuation that persists and therefore the high price placed on these  these journals in the modern day, as they undoubtedly remain wholly intriguing and exceptionally visually beautiful artefacts.

Sterling MacKinnon

Jogging between between two principle journals (one containing Vereker’s entries from 1873-1877 and the other entries from 1884-1885) I found myself reflecting on the notion of ‘free time’, specifically the time that had afforded Vereker the opportunity to so diligently document his travels in text, watercolour, and eventually photography.  It felt particular significant that the relative scope and size of the journals grow with the increase in his rank.  Beyond what I might speculate about the distribution of ‘downtime’ amongst a crew’s ranks, there seems something generally significant about the time afforded a sailor at any rank while at sea.  As such I found myself viewing and reading through the journals as the product of much prolonged reflection, the opportunity for which, must have been inherently ‘part of the job’.  It left me curious about the tradition of observational journaling within the navy more generally, specifically the manners in which the tradition may have been nurtured and encouraged institutionally.

 

UPCOMING EVENT. Dream Worlds: Dark Ecologies of Anime.

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The first Passengerfilms event for 2017 will take place on Tuesday 31st January at The Book Club in Shoreditch, delving into the world of anime to discuss the theme of dream worlds and ecologies.

Passengerfilms and our panel invite you to join us in the uncovering of mutated ecologies, to further understand the status of reality. This event takes inspiration from the film that is noted as being the beginning of Studio Ghibli: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). In a post-apocolyptic world, Nausicaä takes on the task of helping her world, which is filled with toxic waste, overgrown fauna and war.

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The films selected and our discussion panel will build on this theme, looking at anime shorts to build on and continue the legacy of Nausicaä. The films use a recurrent and geographical theme of landscape to portray alternative worlds to our own – whether they are set in imaginations…

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Workshop: The Artificial Cave

by Flora Parrott
In June 2016 I borrowed the ‘Artificial Cave’ from the British Caving Association as part of an ongoing investigation into exploration of the subterranean. It arrived in a transit van in 5 foot sections made from fibreglass, painted black on the outside and blue within.
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The ‘Artificial Cave’

The Landscape Surgery workshop was an attempt to use this method of ‘thinking through making’, something that I talk with Art Students about a lot; an endeavor, no matter how simplistic to generate a physical environment or object that helps to visualise and negotiate a problem.
The groups were each given a short, vivid description from ‘Ice Caves of France and Switzerland’ by G.F Browne (first published in 1865) and asked to make the space described out of a set of resources, including: cardboard, paper, tin foil, newspaper, and various other Blue Peter-esque materials.
The results were energetic and ambitious and after an hour or so we had three ‘caves’ all very different in nature in the room. The materials had been used to represent varied forms, architectures and textures, as well as some fascinating symbolic gestures to forms impossible to make from cardboard and paper. Once the caves were complete, the groups wrote on our paper floor a set of instructions to guide a visitor through the space.

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There were two things that I found particularly interesting about the afternoon; firstly the way in which we respond to a ‘workspace’ and how quickly and dramatically a space and therefore our behaviour within it can be transformed. This was an idea that was also discussed in Cecilie Sachs-Olsen’s session a few weeks before. Whether a space is a presented as a gallery, performance space, lecture theatre or common room can change the uses and dynamics of a space. Secondly, the discussion about the ‘authenticity’ of an experience or thing: whether a reproduction can have an equal but different value to the ‘original’ from which it is drawn. I also like the idea of a text being read as instruction and being conjured into life – uniquely each time.

Flora is a practicing artist and fine art lecturer, currently a Levehulme artist-in-residence at Royal Holloway, and will be commencing her PhD at Royal Holloway in January 2017.

CFP RGS-IBG 2017 – Teaching Mobilities

Jographies

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017: London, 29th August – 1st September 2017

 Convenors: Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London), Justin Spinney (Cardiff University), and Simon Cook (Royal Holloway, University of London).

 CFP – Teaching mobilities: practice, pedagogies, power

Geographers are well attuned to mobilities – everyday mobilities that constitute our social lives, permitting social reproduction and subverting rules and restrictions to reassert people’s rights to public space; international mobilities that speak to the precarity of our current times, from a global migration crisis, war-torn displacement to eviction; mobilities that comprise expressive cultural practices and movements or perform deep-rooted histories of cultural identity.. Mobilities pervade our research and understandings of the world.

But how do we, or could we teach mobilities? Is mobility, as a concept or concrete example, something we can easily convey or does it offer particular difficulties or opportunities for engaging students?  Are the multiple…

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INTRODUCING THE MA CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY STUDENTS 2016/7

Poppy Lawrence
I returned to the department this term to study MA Cultural Geography having graduated from reading BA Geography at Royal Holloway earlier this year. My undergraduate dissertation involved contemplating the formation of a possible subculture within religious groups, more specifically looking at young creatives who identify as Christians within urban clusters such as London. I hope to focus my research this year upon the evolving nature of sacred space and community, looking at how this could be perceived as redefining the bodily and affectual experience of sacred space.

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Emily Hopkins

I completed my undergraduate degree in BSc Geography at Royal Holloway, and now I am starting the MA in Cultural Geography as part of my ESRC 1+3 studentship. My general interest is in creative geographies, ranging from visual and artistic methods, to the planning and functioning of cultural regeneration strategies.

Through a focus on creative gentrification within cities, my research aims to understand urban creativity from an audience perspective in smaller scale sites. I will undertake this in order to understand public perceptions on the artistic and cultural investments that are increasingly popular in city regeneration strategy.

Nina Willment

 Following my undergraduate degree at Royal Holloway, I am now studying for the MA as part of the ESRC 1+3 studentship. My general interests are in the geographies of creative workspaces and the work practices of creative labourers. My research aims to investigate the workspaces and careers of DJ’s and MC’s, particularly in the emerging musical genre of grime across the UK.

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Sarah-Jane Pilton

During my three years at Royal Holloway studying for my degree in BA Geography, I discovered my enjoyment for the cultural aspects of the course. I did my undergraduate dissertation on the geographies of women and sport, in relation to performance and the media, which links to my primary research interests of the body, gender and the digital. When it came to thinking about what I was going to do after I graduated I decided that I wasn’t ready to leave the department. I stumbled across the MA Cultural Geography course and after reading through the course content and speaking to lecturers on the course I decided this was the right path for me.

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Sterling Mackinnon III

Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway has provided a unique opportunity to synthesise mybackgrounds in both history and GIS. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington (Seattle, WA) I focused on historical notions of European nationhood and in the years following my graduation gravitated towards GIS, spending last year interning with the U.S. National Park Service as a GIS technician. As a cultural geographer I am fascinated by the entree of geospatial technologies, 3D modelling and printing, and virtual and augmented reality into the heritage sector, particularly with regards to ‘at-risk’ built heritage. I am curious as to how an evolving approach to built heritage preservation and restoration will inform and influence the future construction of narratives of place.

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