Prolonged silence.  Yes, I know, I’m a bad person.  Well, part of the reason was that we’d had a “no” back from the Leverhulme Trust about the application to fund Dan to come and work at the Uni for the next year as an artist in residence.  Dan was on holiday in Bogata at the time, which I didn’t want to spoil with bad news and I didn’t want him to hear about it second hand from a blog post.  Not, I’m sure, that Dan obsessively checks the RG blog, but you know how it is.

Good news is that my boss is allowing me to shuffle some cash from something else to commission Dan to do portraits for the cycling project which is excellent.  So we’ll have to have a sit down and chat about an on campus exhibition once the data collection is finished.

… which isn’t too far off now.  Today is a  pretty momentous day in that I’ve finally got past 20 cycling participants listed on the website.  As it happens it was #22 that popped up first (still waiting for some people to approve transcripts – will have to hassle them).  Should be able to get north of 25 before term starts – those being my target and my deadline for completion.  So I’m kinda excited, thinking about all the lovely things I can do with the transcripts both in terms of academic analysis and some pretty maps/visuals for the exhibition with Dan.

There’ve been some really great stories come out of it.  To my relief, the early flurry of people talking about the places where they’d got serious injuries from being knocked off their bikes seems to have diminished.  Recruitment has perhaps swayed a little too far to the academics, rather than the non-academic staff here, but even still, there’s a pretty good spread.  Will compare my sample against what came up in the main transport survey the uni did last year.  After the initial email to the BUBUG circulation list I then snowballed to friends/colleagues and, last week, got one of my PhD students to attach fliers to bikes around campus.   This is a good way to irritate people, unfortunately, but has generated a few extra random contacts.  I’ve been turning down PhD students who wanted to volunteer to do it because I’ve tried to keep it to employees only, though this has generated an annoyed response from at least one person.  Ho hum, can’t please everyone.

Other news.  Cos & I were at the Royal Geographical Society conference in Manchester a couple of weeks ago.  We did two papers, both on the Digbeth project.  The first basically presented a load of the results from the analysis which we presented in Kye Askins’ and Mags Adams’ session on ‘sensewalking’.  Lots of intriguing papers – it was nice to chat with Clare Risbeth from the Walking Voices project and there were a bunch of other randomly great papers, one from Kirsi Makinen from Helsinki looking at walks in forested suburbs and another from a crazy Frenchman, Julien Delas from CRESSON, who blindfolds people and leads them around.  Victoria Henshaw from Uni of Salford has also been doing very cool walks investigating smell in Doncaster.  Fantastic stuff.

Cos & I also gave a paper in Hattie Hawkins’ Art & Geographical Knowledge sessions where we talked about working with Dan and I used a bunch of the cartoons in the PowerPoint.  Good silly fun.

Anyway, will probably update again once I’ve done some of the analysis.  Big thanks to everyone who’s helped out with cycling over the summer.


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.

James, Jane RH & I are all making our separate ways to London this week.  This is Jane’s last week working for Rescue Geography before she disappears off to her new job in Cork, so this is a good opportunity to thank her for working on the project.

The reason we’re all heading south is the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society.  This sounds like a much bigger deal than it is because, in truth, only a few wafer thin slithers of the geography ‘community’ actually go to this thing.  It’s not just that it’s only academics, but also the fact that no physical geographers (chaps interested in skies, rocks, rivers, coasts etc.) ever go to this.  In fact, of the human geographers, it’s mostly the environment/cultural/urban people that go.  You don’t see much in the way of economic geography there.

(Not that I’ve much interest in economic geography, which is why I like the RGS conference so much. )

So James & I are going to give separate presentations on different aspects of Rescue Geog.  My paper’s on the technical aspects of mapping and his is on… well, I’m not sure.  We had lunch yesterday and he’s been getting very excited about Deleuze recently.  Hmm, not sure how many people are going to be thrilled by French philosophy wrapped around this project, but if it makes James happy.

Went out on Sunday and did some filming with the helmet-mounted camera we’ve got:

Okay, it’s not great quality, but you’d be amazed how difficult it is to cycle and keep your head level.  This is about the best 40 seconds from 15 minutes of filming.  Still, it’ll pretty up my PowerPoint presentation a bit and that’s all that matters.  Bearing in mind that at last year’s RGS James & I did a performance piece, I suspect that the more conventional presentations we’re doing this year will disappoint some of our incipient fan club, but so it goes.

Will post more when i get back.

The morning began eventfully enough as I was woken at 7:00am by a torrential rainstorm.  While in the shower, Kerrang FM gleefully informed me that there was a severe weather warning out for Birmingham, revelling in the regional motorway chaos.  Most excitingly, it appeared that the Hagley Road was totally closed (reach for those TomToms, people) because TGI Fridays had caught fire.  The phrase ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ has never been so apt, but it left me wondering why buildings tend to catch fire in heavy rain.

Hitting the streets expecting to see a scene out of ‘Children of Men’, I was disappointed to not to find any burning cars or floods on the way into town and arrived at the MADE offices 15 mins early.   Confused, I stood in the rain until I remembered what I usually do when confused and rang Phil.

The meeting went well, anyway.  Jane is really nice and helpful, and the work placement guy Matt (geography student from UCL) was also really into it.  For the sake of clarity and brevity I’ll bullet point our discussion…

1. The October lab/expo.  With the failure of the Arts Council bid we’re slimming this down and it now looks suspiciously like the event we originally had in mind back along. 

Thursday night= launch night.  Interviewees, friends, collaborators, and maybe some others. 

Friday lunch – afternoon= professionals.  Almost like an extended lunch meeting witht the exhibition there for afters.

Saturday = open doors to public.  Not sure about publicity yet…

The actual content of the expo comes in three parts: art (piccies, quotes etc), techie stuff (maps, interactive computer stuff, helmet cam wondering around digbeth), and analysis (actual results).

2. Legacy of Dan’s artwork / RG.  Jane suggested that it would be nice to produce some materials that would outlast the expo and provide a longer legacy – this could be postcards, foldable posters and so on.  We decided that Dan would probably have some good ideas on this when he gets back from the Lebanon.

3. Spring event.  This is now up in the air without the Arts Council funding, but MADE seemed keen to keep it slated.  It may take the form of an extended meeting / gathering, or a full on end-user event (see next item).

4. Kiddie bid.  Me and Phil will be on it in sept.  We discussed working the Spring event in as the opening end-user event of the Kiddie project to get some funds.

5. Canal pilot project.  Matt is all over this – he is even working in some theory on space and place.  Jane also offered to lend a hand with the surveying.  Obviously this is all contingent on the rain ceasing before the end of August…

6. Place theory.  Matt mentioned some of the De Certeau and Lefebvre that he had been reading and noted the pertinence of theories of space and place to the RG project.  He also mentioned the idea of ‘Map discourse’ and ‘tour discourse’, and the quote that mapping space prompts stories about place… we really should get him blogging here…

That’ll do for now, I’ll blog some more about the canal project some time soon…