So in response to a message I sent around on the Birmingham University Bicycle Users Group, I’ve had a bunch of people get in touch as willing volunteers.  Thanks to all.  So my diary is full for the next couple of weeks with people who’ve agreed to talk and ride their way home while wearing bits of kit.

Actually, the University’s ethical review committee has yet to formally approve this, so it’s all very much under the radar.  They did get back to me and ask for clarification on some really minor points, so I guess it’s all okay.  If not, huge apologies to the three people who’ve already taken part – you’re clearly not properly ethical and for this I can only hang my head.

Anyway, yes, so there’s a couple of new maps up on the website and, just checking my email, the third participant has sent back a corrected transcript, so I’ll get that online when I’m back in the office tomorrow. 

I made a bit of a cock up of the first two in truth as the mic wasn’t properly plugged in, so we were recording off the built in mics on the recorder itself.  These are pretty good when you’re sat in a room, or even if you’re just walking, but swinging around as you cycle the recordings weren’t of great quality.  Then again it was a bit odd having got everything wired up properly for the one that was done last night.  This is because during most of the recording all you hear is vigorous breathing.  Partly, I’m sure, it’s because yesterday’s participant was working particularly hard (a 45 min cycle with heart rate peaking at 172bpm, which is properly hardcore), but even on a lesser ride I suspect it’ll still be a bit disturbing.  Usually you get participants hating the transcripts because they don’t realise how many ums and ers they put into their ordinary speech, but in this case I’m going to try to make sure they never hear the actual recordings because the panting makes for… ‘uncomfortable’ listening.

The maps produced are already kinda interesting.  It’s definitely a bit tricky to cycle and talk, so there’s not a huge amount of text in the first three – I don’t know if other participants will be a bit more loquacious.  Still, so far (aside from my not plugging the mic in properly) all the equipment has worked beautifully, even in yesterday’s torrential rain.  If only we’d gone into RG1 (Digbeth) knowing what we know now, we probably would have got better data for all that public money.  Still, the whole point of the project was learning how to do it, I guess, so that makes me feel less guilty.

On the subject of RG1, I’ve started thinking of the cycling thing as RG1.5 because James & I have put in another bid to the ESRC for what we’re calling RG2.  If we get the money (profoundly unlikely in the current economic climate) then we’ll get to develop and apply the RG techniques to a live regen project over in Kidderminster.  It’d be a three year project, which would allow us to key into the regen as it goes along, assuming we finally pull out of the current financial difficulties over the next couple of years.  Still we’ll see.

Currently doing a (badly drawn) comic book history of RG1 as part of an idea I’ve had for ages about telling the stories behind the research – i.e. how academic knowledge is really produced, rather than the half-truths we tell in research papers and grant applications.  The original intention of this had been to mock out a storyboard for what would be a photo essay, but everyone I’ve shown it to so far has really liked the (childish simplicity of) my stick figure drawings, so I guess we’ll try it as a comic book.  I bought myself a cheap drawing tablet to do this and I can honestly say that the terribleness of the drawings is entirely to do with my lack of artistic ability and not the limitations of the technology.  I may get around to posting up an extract of this at some point.

I may also post a picture of me wearing the RG1.5 equipment so that cycling  participants have a proper idea of what they’re getting themselves into.  Not sure about this though, as it might involve a shot of me topless wearing the heart rate monitor.  [shudder]  There are some frontiers that ‘public’ geography probably shouldn’t cross…

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