Tag Archives: research

FOLLOWING MOBILITY TRANSITIONS AROUND THE WORLD

 

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A still from the video “Do the Right Mix” (2014) by the European Commission.

On 26 January, 2015 we presented some preliminary results and insights from the two-year project “Living in the Mobility Transition”, funded by the Mobile Lives Forum. The project investigates how transitions to low-carbon mobility are envisioned by policy-makers in 14 countries as well as at the EU level and by the UN and associated bodies.

The countries covered in the study represent a diversity of geographical, political and socio-cultural contexts as well as ways of dealing with the low-carbon mobility agenda. They are the UK, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Norway, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.

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A bike-share docking station in Astana, Kazakhstan. Photo by Anna Nikolaeva.

In each country members of our research team have produced surveys of national policy regarding low carbon mobilities as well as three “local” case studies, illustrating how national policies are applied locally or how alternative or complementary visions are developed in a bottom-up fashion. These include e.g. Rapid Bus Transit, cycle schemes, the development of electric vehicles, forms of telework and road pricing among other cases. In particular, we are interested in the ways that mobility policies portray and represent particular kinds of mobile life-styles and, ultimately, give mobilities meaning. Some of these policies are also quite speculative and so we are also interested in how certain mobile futures are being imagined and anticipated.

In the end we will have 14 accounts of national government policy and 42 local case studies in addition to accounts of policy constructed at the international and supranational level in the United Nations and European Union.

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A zero-emission truck “Cargohopper” on the streets of Amsterdam. Source: http://www.cargohopper.nl

The project is carried out by research teams at Northeastern University, Boston, and Royal Holloway, University of London. The team includes seven researchers: Tim Cresswell (Northeastern), Peter Adey (Royal Holloway), Cristina Temenos (Northeastern), Jane Yeonjae Lee (Northeastern), Andre Novoa (Northeastern), Anna Nikolaeva (Royal Holloway) and Astrid Wood (now Newcastle University).

The audience responded to the presentation both with comments on the theoretical underpinnings of the project (how to define a “transition”? how do we know that transitions are happening?), questions to the historical situation of mobility transition, as well as with questions on the specifics of findings (are mobility transitions primarily urban, and what historical urban networks have seen certain policies take hold in particular places?). A productive discussion also developed around the issue of the relevance of the nation-station for such a study: on the one hand, visions of low-carbon mobility are themselves mobile as consultants and experts travel the world and ideas are reposted and retweeted; on the other, the nation-states still officially carry the responsibility to report on CO2 emissions and reduce them. Our preliminary findings suggest that cities and NGOs may often be more actively involved in putting transitions forward (and may even sue the state in the court of climate inaction as Urgenda did [add link], yet the states still take decisions on key issues that have impact on mobility and climate change mitigation (e.g. taxation).

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Unreal City: Discovering London through the Archive (by Hannah Awcock and Bethan Bide)

London is a complex, vibrant, and diverse city to study (Source: The Guardian)

London is a complex, vibrant, and diverse city to study (Source: The Guardian)

London is a fascinating city, a buzzing metropolis with an incredibly rich history. It has been the subject of an untold number of academic studies, as well as an almost infinite assortment of films, books, poems, pictures and other cultural products.

 

London is obviously a fantastic city to study. It is the economic, social, political and cultural centre of Britain, and during the heights of the British Empire it served this role for huge swathes of the world. It has a population of over eight million people, who speak over 300 languages. This quantity and diversity of people, organisations and events provides fertile ground for huge numbers of research projects. As well as this, it is almost unrivalled in terms of the archives available for use, and being the focus and inspiration of so much academic and cultural output means that there is a wealth of sources available to study.

 

We are both studying London for our PhD research; Hannah looks at the historical geographies of protest in the city between 1780 and 2010, and Bethan is working on so-called ‘austerity’ fashion in London after the Second World War, in collaboration with the Museum of London. We are also both utilising archival research in our projects. London is a unique area of study for both of us in its own way. In terms of protest,  London’s role as the symbolic and literal centre of British politics makes it a key location of dissent. With regards to fashion, London is known as a world fashion capital, and although the history and origins of this status are contentious, London has long been a centre for fashionable production and consumption.

An archival glimpse of shopping on post-war regent street.

An archival glimpse of shopping on post-war Regent Street.

 

One of the first steps when conducting research to to ensure you have a clear definition of the terms involved in your project. However when it comes to London, that is not an easy thing to do. London means so many things, to so many people, that it is hard to pin down a coherent and concise definition. Is London a city of 8.17 million people, or an area of 611 square miles? Knightsbridge or the East End? London is all of these things, but each research project must decide how it wishes to locate itself amid these different definitions, by means of summary or selection.

 

The richness and diversity of London also pose other challenges to the researcher, particularly when it comes to archival research. Archival sources go through several selection processes; firstly, when the archival institution, curator or individual collector decide which items to keep and preserve, and then secondly when the researcher chooses which materials to use in their research.  As an archivist or collector, how do you choose sources to accurately represent such a varied city as London? As a researcher, which sources best represent that variety within the scope of your research? Is it even possible or indeed desirable to draw meaningful conclusions about ‘London’ as a coherent entity?

 

The possible existence of a London bias should also be considered. Is London researched too much, at the expense of other British cities? If this is the case, do we as researchers have a responsibility to correct this imbalance? Researchers and academics have a great deal of power in terms of representing the people and places that they study, should we therefore try to ensure that each place is represented ‘fairly’?

A poster for the London Calling demonstration about student tuition fees in 2010 (Source: Coalition of Resistance).

A poster for the London Calling demonstration about student tuition fees in 2010 (Source: Coalition of Resistance).

 

As you may have guessed from this post, we have a lot of unanswered questions in relation to this topic. For this reason, we choose not to draw conclusions, but instead leave the topic open for further discussion. Do you consider yourself to be a researcher of London? Was it a deliberate decision or simply a matter of convenience? How do you tackle the challenge of researching something of the sheer immensity of London?

 

Answers on the back of a postcard please (although any thoughts or opinions in the comments would also be very welcome!)

 

Hannah Awcock and Bethan Bide

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PhD top-tips…

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Thank-you everybody who attended and contributed to the Landscape Surgery session last week on top-tips  (21st Jan 2014).

It seemed like everybody had lots to say, and we have a set of topics stored up for the next top-tips session which will be after easter.  In the mean time, here is an attempt to collect together all the great resources and tips that came through in the session and that people posted on twitter and e-mailed me.

Here is a link to the storified tweets ( thanks Simon and Laura for pointing me towards this)

http://storify.com/HarrietGeogArt/phd-top-tips

Thanks all for your contributions…

Please keep adding via the comments function below or reposting

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Dealing with those reviewers….  you know- the ones that never agree…. 

Steph Morrice’s  advice would be:
*Conflicting reviewer comments can be daunting. ie. One reviewer suggests you shrink the theoretical section and expand the empirical, the other suggests the opposite. You need to make a reasoned decision as to which, if either, you agree with and make an argument for why. In the past, I’ve asked the editor for guidance with this.
*Realise that you do not need to make changes to your paper in response to every single reviewer comment. If you don’t agree with a reviewer’s suggestion, explain why. Remember that you are entitled to a good argument.
*Response letters should be clear and well-numbered, first addressing any major issues raised by the reviewers and then followed by a more detailed comments. I normally start by creating a basic two columned table. On the left, I copy all the comments from reviewers (one per box) and on the right I summarise and explain my response.
*In my experience, the entire submission/resubmission process can be quite lengthy, but the general advice I would give is:  not to be discouraged by “major revisions”. If an editor asks you to resubmit, this is still a positive outcome. And to try not to be disheartened by negative comments – it can be frustrating having your hard work critiqued, but I would recommend keeping an open mind – and giving yourself a day or two, even a week, before tackling the comments.

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I’ll do that later…tomorrow… next week… procrastination:

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When it all gets a little bit out of perspective… 

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-illustrated-guide-to-a-phd-2012-3?fb_action_ids=10202034609920291&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

Practical tips for working… 
Search 25: http://www.search25.ac.uk/.  Lets you search all libraries in London for resources at once.
 Book Darts are great: http://www.bookdarts.com/

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Do you ever think one day everybody else is going to realise you don’t belong here? 

 Imposter syndrome…
Maybe this is a function of the neo-liberal academia?
Other great things to read:
Also a huge list… thanks Amy and others
 how and why imposter syndrome can be seen as a good thing (opposite of complacency, etc.):
Kirsty Rolfe “Avoiding the bears”- an amazing cartoon blog, check out these…

http://avoidingthebears.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/when-monographs-attack/

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Academia, PhDs and depression/ anxiety: exploding the tyranny… 

You know how it goes… you are so lucky to be here… it is amazing chance… you should love every second of it… of all the different myths perpetuated within the academy it seems the one where we all pretend we are all ok and things are going great, and that we are superhuman and can do everything is perhaps the most dangerous.
Here are a set of resources collected from a number of surgeons that help explode the tyranny of silence around how tough this process can be.
the key message:  you are not alone, please come and talk to us if any of this strikes a chord
Online ebook, Advice to a Troubled PhD Student http://www.academicjoy.net/TroubledPhDstudent.pdf
An incredible honest and intellectual exploration of Depression as a public feeling, that begins from the personal experiences of the author: Ann Cvetkovich, Depression: A public feeling (2012) Duke University Press  https://www.dukeupress.edu/Depression/
 I can not recommend this book enough.
Academic Mindfulness: http://socialmindfulness.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/mindful-academia/
blogs and articles:
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