Engaging geography

27 August 2008

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Below are the ‘minutes’ of the meeting held in the Tea Room at the RGS-IBG conference concerning the forthcoming ‘Engaging Geography’ ESRC seminar series.

In attendance were Kye Askins (KA), Pete North (PN), Rachel Pain (RP), Jonathan Breckon (JB) and Noel Castree (NC) from the project team. In addition we were also joined by Mordechai (Muki) Haklay from UCL who I first met at a ‘Mapping for Sustainable Communities’ seminar/symposium a month or so ago, who is doing great stuff with mapping (and GIS!!), is working with London 21 and arch-demon-mapper-and-some Christian Nold, and who voiced desire to be somewhat ‘in on the action’ – hello Muki. Others came and stopped and had a look, including Ed Hall. All seemed intrigued, if not embarrassed.

DF had also met with David Lambert the previous evening. Lawrie Berg was harassed on the Friday, and is added here too. Dick Palfrey had the good fortune to experience EVENT and survive – for that, he joins too, and simply rocks. Anyway, to business (pretty much in the disorganised order that DF raised things and relating to the attached bid document at all times…) with action points in red after each item and collected together at the end:

General stuff
– DF noted how, largely through vagaries with the application form, we had applied for 17900 and been awarded 14900. We had applied for the 3K extra monies for international collaboration in the ‘wordy’ bit of the form but had failed to add this 3k into the one specific box on the form that apparently mattered (even though 17900 had been entered into another!). No-one from the ESRC had queried this, and their finance people would merely reiterate that ‘14900 appeared in Box x and therefore that’s what you get’. DF has now tracked down the person within Northumbria Finance who deals with the series finances and who apparently is the only person the ESRC will talk to. They are going to ask for the 3k and of course blame DF’s silliness. No word on this as yet. (AP – DF to chase additional monies)

– PN noted the need to register online with the ESRC before any money flows from them, and that the need to do this is similarly hard to ascertain! (AP – DF to clarify need to register online with ESRC with Northumbria Finance)

– What about physical geography? It was agreed that whilst the bid is mainly human/social science based/focused, physical geog input should be sought and not avoided!

Timing, content and ordering of seminars
DF asked for comments etc about the ordering, content and timing of the series of proposed seminars. No change was proposed to the ordering, and the following scheduling was proposed:

1. How did that happen?’ The creation of time and space for public geographies.
Date: November 2008
Convenors: public geographers (Northumbria University)
Location: Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle upon Tyne
Potential speakers: Open to all ‘publics’: academic, postgraduate, practitioner, policy – open space format

2. Geographers, artists and their publics.
Date: January/February 2009.
Convenors: Ian Cook & Kathryn Yusoff (Exeter University)
Location: Exeter University (Tremough campus)
Potential speakers: Hayden Lorimer/Kate Foster (Glasgow University: The Blue Antelope Project); Kathryn Yusoff/Jennifer Gabrys (Exeter University/Design Ecologies, Goldsmiths College: Weatherpermitting); Nick Bingham/Anne Marie Culhane (Open University; The Cosmopolitics of Existence); Ian Cook/Shelley Sacks (Exeter University/Oxford Brookes University: Exchange Values); Divya Tolia Kelly/Kahutoi TeKanawa (Durham University)

3. Activist geographies: developing collaborating research priorities with social movements.
Date: May-June 2009.
Convenors: Paul Chatterton & Stuart Hodkinson (Leeds University)
Location: Leeds
Potential speakers: Shami Chakrabarti (Liberty); George Monbiot; Tony Juniper (Friends of the Earth); Emma Ginn, (National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns); Esther Stanford (Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe); Eileen Short (Defend Council Housing); plus delegates from Leeds TUC, Transition Towns, CND, UK Social Centres, the Camp for Climate Action, and other direct action networks.

4. Geographies and policy.
Date: October-November 2009.
Convenors: Peter North & David Featherstone (Liverpool University)
Location: Liverpool
Potential speakers: Nick Henry and Bev Bishop, (GHK International); Frank Hont (Unison) ; Alan Harding (Manchester); Richard Meegan (Liverpool); Matthew Taylor (Royal Society for the Arts; formerly IPPR); Kevin Ward (Manchester); Darryn McEvoy (International Centre for Integrated assessment & Sustainable development (ICIS), Maastricht).

5. Border crossings – geographies in schools.
Date: January-February 2010.
Convenors: Noel Castree (Manchester University)
Location: Manchester
Potential speakers: Living geography – Prof David Lambert (IOE/Geographical Association); Daniel Raven Ellison (Langtree School / Give Geography its Place / Guerrilla Geographies); Noel Jenkins – (www.juicygeography.co.uk); Jo Norcup (UCL); John Morgan (Futurelab).

6. Communicating public geographies…
Date: May-June 2010.
Convenors: David Lambert (Geographical Association / Institute of Education)
Location: London
Potential speakers: Bob Digby (Geographical Association); Rita Gardner, Catherine Souch, Jonathan Breckon (Royal Geographical Society); Jane Wills (QM, London) and Neil Jameson (London Citizens); Danny Dorling, (Sheffield); Doreen Massey (Open University).

– NC suggested that the onus should be placed on the individual convenors to arrange all elements of their respective seminar, including blagging as much free stuff (to cover costs, room bookings, food provision, freebies etc) from their own institutions, with advice/help from DF and the other co-applicants as appropriate. The expectation, therefore, is that as much organisation and financing will be devolved to the individual event convenors, and overseen by DF and team (AP: all convenors to confirm with DF their willingness/agreement to host their seminar as detailed (largely!) above, and that they will undertake all aspects of organisation and development accordingly (but keep DF and everyone informed of course!).

– Those present were very keen for the series, and each event within it, to generate something ‘new’, be it an experience, discussion, ‘product’, ‘output’ and so on. It was felt that people need to depart the events feeling that they have been challenged and changed by the experience. Various suggestions were made regarding this:

  • that there should be a variety of formats, both across the series and maybe within each event;
  • that participants might be expected to undertake preparatory work of some form so that they don’t turn up ‘cold’;
  • that each day event might be preceded by something the previous day/afternoon/evening in the same locality, a la sensescapes seminar series;
  • that the various potential disseminations should be ponder points for the various events and organisers/participants.

– Discussion revolved around the aim of the series – what is it for, why are we doing it? So, to remind ourselves from the bid blurb:

In terms of aims:
This seminar series strives to dramatically extend awareness, and understanding of the myriad ways in which geographers can (and do) engage with publics, and extend the potential for further meaningful engagements. It has the following main aims and objectives:

  • To make visible the invisible, to make the private public, [and] to validate the organic connections of these ‘new public geographies’ which can be characterised as being animated by, and representative of, an attitude, a position, an outlook, a stance or perspective of how to do geographies that engage, at least, if not more than what those geographies should actually be concerned with, issue-wise;
  • To encourage debate around, and furtherance of public geographies as strategic, overt, visible, authenticating, recognising, unrestrained, communicative, engaging, and necessarily outreaching.
  • In striving to achieve this aim the series as a whole has the following key objectives:
  • To explore how best to connect and engage with a variety of publics;
  • To explore practical ways of enhancing a multi-faceted, effective and mutually beneficial programme of engagement, dialogue, mutual education and dissemination of geographical knowledge;
  • To reflect on the degree, meaningfulness and quality of public interaction, the extent to which anyone might actually want to a) listen to what academics/geographers have to say or interact with what they do, and b) respond to it, and to identify the best ways, approaches and practical examples of effecting such interactions; and
  • To identify and explore the potential for mutually beneficial links with different publics, the forms of approach, ways of doing, and more and less appropriate forms of engagement in each case, and to capacity build the resultant network and introduce new members, both new and more established, who would take the identified agenda forward through a number of future funded projects, interventions and activities.

This seminar series, therefore, will embody the need for interaction, engagement and conversation that underpins public geography as a whole, and will play a key role in furthering the ability of, potential for, and desire for geographers playing a role ‘out there’ with public(s) in years to come.

In terms of who comes:
We aim to raise awareness of the seminar series through the wide variety of different networks that we collectively belong to, or are aware of through our work. A series steering group will be formed from the co-applicants and members of various user groups/communities (specified below). The steering group will be formed to manage the seminar programme and to firm up the topics for discussion building on the work the co-applicants have been able to do given their limited resources, but strengthening it significantly given the opportunity for engagement in a funded, concrete process that will be attractive to non-academics with limited time, resources, and a preference for the practical. Members of the teaching community will be identified through pre-existing networks (such as the Geographical Association, the membership organisation for teaching practitioners, and other less formal networks and discussion fora such as Staffordshire Learning Network). These agencies/fora will help identify practitioners who will be interested in participating in the discussions, and in helping us to disseminate the findings to their members through articles in their publications and on their websites. Short agenda setting discussion pieces will be produced for relevant geographical teaching journals such as ‘Geography’, ‘Teaching Geography’, and ‘Geographical Magazine’ which will raise awareness of the issues and invite participation from teaching practitioners.

As noted above each event will be targeted at a mixed academic and non-academic/practitioner audience, with a premium on clear language and plenty of time for discussion using a variety of approaches and formats to generate a fun and productive atmosphere. The events will be marketed as such from the outset, beginning with an open format, open space call for participation across all of the various publics to be involved in the series as a whole. Speakers/participants will be drawn from a range of relevant groups and organisations involved in a variety of areas of public life with which geographers draw inspiration, or feel they might contribute meaningful knowledge towards – this will include individuals, local authorities and other agencies, and civil society organisations. Academic and postgraduate audiences will be accessed through the JISCmail-based academic email discussion groups (including the critical geography forum, economic-geography, regional-studies and urban-regional-planning lists). Postgraduates would have space to present posters, or present work and receive feedback in a smaller, more supportive session. Non-academic participation will be facilitated through promotion of the series through the various networks that the co-applicants participate in. The seminars will be held in different places to enable as many participants to attend as possible.

In terms of disseminations:
As might be expected given the focus of the series, the need for a multi-faceted and effective programme of engagement and dissemination is of paramount importance to all the convenors and contributors to the series – indeed the exploration of how best to achieve these elements in practical terms represents a key aim of the series. It is therefore intended that the plans for dissemination will be multifarious, and the expected output forms multiple and varied, with some forms of dissemination left open to emerge during the course of the series. There will be a dedicated website for the seminar series hosted by Northumbria University which will disseminate all materials produced during the series. Both the Royal Geographical Society, and Geographical Association will facilitate the dissemination of seminar series news and materials to their members, networks and beyond, and the various geography email discussion lists (such as the JISCmail-based Critical Geography Forum) and Staffordshire Learning Net geography discussion forum will also be utilised to keep interested parties regularly updated. In the more traditional sense a 3,000 word ‘event report’ will be written for each of the seminars drawing out key themes that emerge, areas for future discussion. Each seminar will aim to grow a network to take one aspect of the wider agenda forward through, for example, writing a working paper or academic article, identifying further funding sources, or applying for funding for a discrete research project where one can be identified.

Clearly, however, the series team will strive to complement these outputs with a range of more organic-focused disseminations, both during and after the series has been completed. These forms will include the following, each initiative being driven forward by different members of the seminar series steering group:

  • A series of engaging and accessibly written ‘findings’ based on those produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in edited sections of journals or special editions, and in shorter pieces aimed at activist and practitioner audiences;
  • A series blog, designed to open access to debate, discussion and materials beyond the academic community, as well as video clips and audio recordings of each seminar, and a special ‘public research exchange’ feature through which academics and citizen groups can match their action-research priorities;
  • An open source ‘public geographies’ short book series akin to the Geographical Association’s ‘Changing Geography’ book series where academics write for school-level audiences and beyond;
  • A series of populist-oriented pamphlets focused on providing non-technical stimulation to generate awareness of, discussion and debate around key geographical issues;
  • A series of ‘thoughtsheets’ on ways to generate discussion and debate around key geographical issues, and how to connect these issues to local geographies and communities;
  • A series of themed articles in Teaching Geography underpinned by collaborations between academics/teachers that aim to build links across school/HE geography and provide stimulation/resources on key areas of school geography curriculum; and
  • Focused and strategic support for local, grassroots action to develop working models of innovative local action.

(AP – ALL convenors to keep these elements at the forefront of their planning and identify which elements they wish their event/publics/disseminations to focus around – if possible it would be great to ‘allocate’ a different form of dissemination style/focus to each seminar…. IC to set up the series blog)

– In discussing these issues a number of those present suggested that the first event, in Newcastle, was critical in setting the scene for what follows, and for engaging with others beyond our merry band. The original plan was for a 24hr event (which would probably indeed lead to people ‘changing’ as a consequence!) similar to ‘EVENT’ with various provocations/interventions, lots of time to talk etc. It was felt that the original blurb needed expanding upon and a firmer plan devising. (AP – IC to clarify what his ideas were, which Duncan bastardised. ALL to discuss. DF, KA, POK, and RK to identify dates for first event – how about the 27th/28th Nov folks??!)

Other events
– DF raised the potential for the (non-funded) organisation of other parallel events alongside the series to maximise impact, diversity etc. Some suggestions along these lines included an end of series mega-do (helped by a British Academy Conference Bursary bid, which we said we’d do anyway), inclusion in Tom Wakefords Beacons of Public Engagement stuff, inclusion in the proposed HoSD event in 2009 on working across the HE/School chasm, the RGS ‘live’ public engagement lecture series (maybe something in 2010), closed door meetings with key media folk etc, conversation cafes, guerilla engagements and so on. (AP – ALL to consider; DF to look at British Academy bid; RP to contact Tom Wakeford; NC to contact Mike Heffernan re HoSD banjo; DF to harrass David Over at RGS; JB to explore options re media stuff (?))

Overseas/over-geography collaborations/visitors
– Given the financial cockup the support for this is a little unclear at present, but that didn’t stop DF reeling off a long list of potential great folk. NC noted that we should not fetishize such input and that there are many good people closer to home (who also cost less!!!!). (AP – DF to clarify finances and then re-view oversees/other academic area participation; all convenors to consider overseas/other academic area participants who might be supported, esp European ones and those already coming to UK over next 2 years, but also further afield)

Phew – I think that’s it – pleaase add anything you think I’ve missed!

The action points are as follows:
DF to chase additional monies)

DF to clarify need to register online with ESRC with Northumbria Finance)

ALL convenors to confirm with DF their willingness/agreement to host their seminar as detailed (largely!) above, and that they will undertake all aspects of organisation and development accordingly (but keep DF and everyone informed of course!).

ALL convenors to keep these elements at the forefront of their planning and identify which elements they wish their event/publics/disseminations to focus around – if possible it would be great to ‘allocate’ a different form of dissemination style/focus to each seminar….

IC to set up the series blog

IC to clarify what his ideas were, which Duncan bastardised. ALL to discuss.

DF, KA, POK, and RK to identify dates for first event – how about the 27th/28th Nov folks??!

ALL to consider other events;

DF to look at British Academy bid;

RP to contact Tom Wakeford;

NC to contact Mike Heffernan re HoSD banjo;

DF to harrass David Over at RGS;

JB to explore options re media stuff (?)

DF to clarify finances and then re-view oversees/other academic area participation; all convenors to consider overseas/other academic area participants who might be supported, esp European ones, but also further afield)

Now, erm, ‘discuss’! Can you all let me know you’ve received this too.

tata

Duncan

2 September 2008

Written by Ian Cook et al

September 2, 2008 at 9:10 pm

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