September 2008


Not in reference to the classic album by Yes, because, frankly, no right thinking person should ever admit to having heard this, let alone liking it.  No, the title of the post refers slightly to my mental state now that we’re approaching ever closer the deadline for the exhibition.

Because, yes, we have now settled on a date for this.  We had a meeting at MADE a week last Friday with Jane P and Dan.  We sat and thrashed out a bunch of details and then plotted out how we are going to use the wallspace (and exterior space, for projections).  So Friday 24 October we’re having the launch, then it will be at MADE for the Organic Eastside Seminar which is being held in South Birmingham College on 28 October.  It may then partly move to South Birmingham College as part of something Richard Trengrouse is organising, though we haven’t settled the details of this.  (When I say ‘we’, let’s be honest, Jane P is doing all the organising here).

So all that’s left to do is actually get all the materials together.  From our end I went out a week last Saturday and took a bunch of photos in the sunshine of various locations that people talked about in their interviews.  Then I used these to put together a unified Google Earth file which has locations, photos and quotes – kind of like the highlights of the highlights.  I’ve also been printing out some of these quotes and the accompanying location shots to mount up as part of the ‘academic’ bit of the exhibition.  I’ll post this up on the website shortly (have been distracted recently by James asking me to work on a complete redesign of it).

Dan, meanwhile, has been taking a bunch of portraits which look really great.  He’s been in to discuss colour balance and whatnot with Kev from our Drawing Office.  So when I happened to be downstairs this morning photocopying stuff I saw Kev printing out the first copies of the prints on the map plotter.  And, I have to say, they look great as small prints but are amazing as posters.  I sit in intense jealousy of Dan’s talents.  Looking forward to seeing other people’s reactions to these.

So all that’s left to do is get all the location photos and quotes put together and organise the maps and some posters about the methodology.  Oh and sort out whatever multimedia stuff we’re doing.  So nothing very much really.  Fortunately I don’t have much teaching, although my tutees this afternoon seemed less than impressed by the stuff I’d given them to read about Google Maps mashups.  Hey ho.  We will shortly be having an article published on BBC Birmingham Online about the whole RG thing, so celebrity beckons at last – especially after we got a mention in the Times Higher a couple of weeks ago in an article about the Royal Geographical Society conference.

Things have been a bit hectic since the last post, mixing up a couple of weeks intense work with a trip to the Lake District on non-RG business.  Not sure how I could work climbing up Scafel Pike into the Rescue Geog universe, other than the fact that I took my new toy up the mountain with me.  But I’ll come back to that.

James & I went down to the conference of the Royal Geographical Society during the last week of August.  It was a bit of a strange experience for me because for the first time in a while I’d made a decision that I was going to be very diligent about going to see a whole bunch of different papers – if I’m honest I was a bit slack when I was in Boston, spending more time ‘networking’ than actually listening to people present.  So I was definitely in the conference bunker for a few days.

This said, I did sit through some really interesting papers.  Mike Raco from Kings had organised a mammoth session on urban regeneration which stimulated some really interesting debate.  Interestingly a community organiser from Liverpool turned up and in the discussion session talked about the on-the-ground effect of the market renewal pathfinder in the city (which is basically knocking a lot of stuff down).  James and I gave separate ‘joint’ papers on the Thursday.  I talked about some of the technical, methodological issues about how I’ve used the Google API to do the maps and got an awful lot of techie questions from a map-centric audience.  James presented in the public geographies session and talked about how the research programme had developed in ways that we hadn’t originally expected.  He used the metaphor of the rhizome – the way certain plants can spread out their root systems in a variety of different directions to maximise survival if one bit gets damaged.  He actually talked about this in terms of strawberries and we were later emailed a link explaining to us that, technically, strawberries aren’t a rhizomatic, but in fact develop stolons, which are similar but different.  Which just goes to show really that you don’t want to take on people when it comes to horticulture even if you are the son of a farmer (who then had to leave the conference early after he got a call from his dad to come and help get the harvest in).  Nonetheless, the paper ended up getting a mention in the Times Higher Education’s review of the RGS conference, so we reckon fame and fortune must be beckoning.

Getting back from an extremely sweaty London I discovered that our new toys had arrived.  These are HP smart phones which have built in GPS and cameras and run on Windows Mobile which means one can install ArcPad GIS software onto them.  I got these to experiment with for the Kidderminster project.  I’m trying to develop a way where participants can walk around an area and take photos of things they like and don’t like, tagging each one with a zero (hate) to nine (love) value as well as recording the GPS location.  I’ve only just had ArcPad turn up, so I’ve got to figure this one out yet.  So far all I’ve done with it is use TomTom to navigate myself to the foot of a mountain and then the inbuilt camera to take photos of myself from the top (which I’ve put on Facebook).

Last week was spent on transcription.  Yes, I finally got fed up and decided the easiest way was just to type up the backlog of interviews myself.  Actually this wasn’t all that hard which left me wondering why I’d bothered to employ a postdoc at all, but that’s the way of things.  Nonetheless it did mean that other than dealing with email and admin I didn’t get a lot else done last week.  Of the interviews we’ve done I’ve got two left to go through and check the work of our original transcriber, then I’m just waiting for people to get back to me approving the transcripts (several have already, and I’ll have their stuff up on the web early next week).

Dan is back from the Lebanon – you can read about his adventures on his blog.  He’s off taking portraits this month ready for the October ‘event’ down at MADE.  They’ve decided to tie us up with their Organic Eastside event on 28 October about which we’ll say more after we’ve had a meeting with MADE next week.  I’m getting kind of excited (i.e. panicking) about all this now, especially with the start of term rushing headlong towards us.  Two weeks of peace and quiet left – a truly scary prospect.