My week as a lecturer…3 weeks in (autumn term)

This was me at the beginning of the Summer Term. Yes, I made it over to Australia for my first research visit with the fantastic tweeps in Wollongong, Sydney and Melbourne!

Harbour Bridge, Sydney

Harbour Bridge, Sydney

It is now 3 weeks into the Autumn Term and I just don’t know where the time has gone. This was my first full year as a lecturer – mixing the teaching, admin and research with everything that goes on in this wonderful job. I am teaching my course again this term – yes, twice in one year to two different cohorts. My course for those who don’t know is First Year Human Geography Principles and Practice. The first image below is my course handbook, we discuss being a geographer, thinking geographically and doing geography – getting at those geographical origins, ideas of interdisciplinarity, and concepts of space, place and scale.

Human Geography Principles and Practice Handbook

Human Geography Principles and Practice Handbook

The first week was brilliant (and a little bit exhausting – my course has now become compulsory for all students with human geography elements in their degrees so I have 92 students at 9am on a Monday morning). I got the session off to a flying start with some human geography bingo – yes – a bingo sheet with lots of different questions that required students to talk to each other and fill their sheets with names. I followed this up with some small group discussions about a set of images, including the Shard, Great British Bake Off, James Bond, Fairtrade teabags, oil painting, semi-detached house, and how they related to human geography in the 21st century. Expanding those ideas of geography at A-level to degree-level. Week 2 focussed on geographical origins and contemporary influences, followed by a focus on ‘space’ in week 3. I’ve incorporated the podcast by Doreen Massey into this session (below) – I decided to trial flipping the classroom and asked students to answer a set of questions around the podcast for discussion in the session.

The start of this term has also involved various activities around an admin area that interests me: student recruitment. I spent the last open day in the ‘Dome’. A great exhibition space where we meet and greet potential students and visitors…

In the dome on open day with our V-C

In the dome on open day with our V-C

One thing that has really motivated me this term is hearing from my dissertation students. Learning what they’ve been up to over the summer with their projects and helping them plan their final bits of research, analysis and writing this term, particularly as they juggle ‘research’ with the usual Third Year module commitments. This motivated me to get my own research in order. The tree health project is entering an exciting phase, involving the recruitment of citizens for in-depth interviews. I have a couple of departmental seminars to prepare for this term, so the talk of dissertations prompted me to get my own materials in order…

Tree Health files, notebooks...that's only half of it...

Tree Health files, notebooks…that’s only half of it…

So that was the first few weeks of term. The lowlight has been having the dreaded “fresher’s flu” this week. It has dampened enthusiasm somewhat. I’ll be back next week with some more posts about life as a lecturer. I’ll leave you with this video I used this week in class.

Beyond motivation? AAG 2015 Chicago CFP

Our call for papers…

Beyond motivation? Understanding enthusiasm in citizen science and volunteered geographic information.

Hilary Geoghegan (University of Reading) and Muki Haklay (UCL)


In recent years, citizen science has gained recognition as a new frontier for knowledge creation and geographic understanding. Citizen science can be defined as the participation of non-professional scientists in scientific knowledge production (Bonney et al. 2009; Silvertown 2009), and can be seen as part of both a long tradition of amateur, volunteer and enthusiast participation in science and a wider phenomenon of new collaborative forms of knowledge creation facilitated by information and communication technology, as well as societal changes. For geographers and other professional researchers, the inclusion of many more participants in the process of scientific knowledge production is opening up new places and experiences that could not be captured before due to limits in time, financial resources and geographical coverage.

Understanding what motivates participation in citizen science and volunteered geographic information (VGI) activities is regarded by many practitioners and policymakers as the pathway to increased participation. Sometimes, it seems that this is a search for a magic lever to achieve this. However, in this session we move beyond narrow discussion on motivation, to explore what else matters in the context of citizen science and VGI participation.

This session seeks to explore and debate current research and practice moving beyond motivation, to consider the associated enthusiasm, materials and meanings of participating in citizen science and VGI. We welcome papers that explore (but are not limited to) the following themes:

· what motivates and sustains individual and/or collective participation in ‘citizen science’ and/or VGI

· socio-personal meanings of participation

· emotional drivers of participation

· the politics of participation

· ways in which motivation to participate in science increases and/or decreases across time and space, e.g. age-related participation, geographic location, access to resources

· understanding the ways in which citizens have chosen to participate historically

· stakes at play in participation as enjoyable leisure pursuit (e.g. RSPB Big Garden BirdWatch; Old Weather), community-defined projects (e.g. noise mapping in London) and life and death data collection (e.g. disaster mapping in Japan following nuclear accident)

· how technologies, gizmos and mapping devices alter levels of participation

· ways to enhance participation in ‘science’, enabling access, online collaboration and interdisciplinary communication

· what role creativity and learning play within participation

· how issues of digital and social inequalities influence participation, and what approaches are used to overcome them

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words (including name, affiliation, email, title and abstract) to by 31st October 2014.

A Bridge too far? Reflections on 21st Century Diplomacy @CumberlandLodge


Fascinating. Here are some initial thoughts from me on doing engagement, inter-professional working and extending our interest (or do I mean obsession) with policy. Thanks for the post – Klaus.

This post highlights the challenge for academics who are interested in communicating their work to new audiences but aren’t really sure whether engagement is something they “do” or want to do. The anxiety often relates to: what happens if I don’t? My suggestion: if it isn’t something you enjoy, team up with people who do enjoy it. And go from there. Although I also accept the idea of teaming up might also be going against the grain.

I have experienced similar challenges and opportunities regarding inter-professional engagement in the environmental policy context – at government, regional and local levels. We work on different timescales, in different languages and different styles. I think secondments can really help here – but this requires openness on both sides and significantly time!

My final point relates to the focus on “policy” – imagine – academic research influencing, say, foreign policy. Pretty sexy. Holy grail of impact – particularly if you’ve documented it. But, and this relates to most government level work like this, the policy is the product – what about the process and practice? For those of us interested in doing this work: How does our research make a difference there? With those, for example, foreign office workers on the ground in locations around the world? Or in London, taking committee meeting minutes? Being in the back office, dealing with local politics? What difference can academic research have here? What might academic researchers do here? Might “policy” be interested in what academic research might offer? Plus who else might we talk to if we work with middle managers and new starters in policy settings? We are encouraged to look upwards to the highest levels of policy – but I’ve found web editors, press officers, analysts, and the evidence team (to name but a few) to be key agents in bridging the divide. But, of course, it’s easier to measure citations in policy products than conversations over tea at a conference.

Originally posted on rhulgeopolitics:

After two days of presentations and conversations with a distinguished group of academics, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials and think tank professionals, I am in an upbeat mood. I thought it was indeed possible to ‘bridge the academic-foreign policy divide’.

But first what was this divide we were asked to reflect upon? There were a number of divisions at play but I will just briefly reflect on two – an intra-academic one and an inter-professional one. One challenge is actually within the academy itself where they remains a degree of suspicion about how far and in what kind of manner we might engage and liaise with other communities, especially government. Notwithstanding the impact agenda and associated emphases on public engagement and working beyond the academy, delegates did reflect on the fact that academics have mixed views regarding such endeavours.

Inter-professionally, it was repeatedly noted that academics and foreign policy professionals…

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Guest blog post: @DrHG makes it Down Under

Guest blog post: @DrHG makes it Down Under.

Guest blog post: @DrHG makes it Down Under

Today’s blog post comes to you from AUSCCER guest blogger Dr Hilary Geoghegan.

@DrHG in AUSCCER on her first day.

Every time I look out of the window from my desk here at AUSCCER I can’t quite believe that I am finally here in Australia. The light is different, the weather is different, and the trees are very different. I have been looking forward to this visit to AUSCCER for nearly 3 years. Yes, it has taken me that long to make it down here! 

I first read about AUSCCER from author addresses on journal articles. The place kept cropping up. I thought – there is some fascinating work happening here on the environment but also households and home. Two of my interests. I was in touch with a few of the team and before I knew it I was following them on Twitter,Facebook and finally managed to secure some funding to visit them.

I am in Australia for six weeks as part of my ESRC Future Research Leader award as I investigate enthusiasm for trees and the possibility/actuality of citizens as early-warning systems for tree health pests and diseases. This is part of a reconnaissance mission in the hope of inspiring a longer-term collaboration and more sustained trip in 2015.

View from the Novotel Wollongong.

I arrived in Wollongong in the sunshine. My hotel room has a view of the sea. I got the hassle-free shuttle bus to the University of Wollongong from the town. I arrived on campus and bumped into Chris Gibson within about 2 mins. He walked me over to AUSCCER. It was as friendly as I imagined and within the first couple of hours I’ve discussed my common interests with some really switched-on PhD students. The sort of environment that academic dreams are made of!

Day visiting Blue Mountains. A large Turpentine tree with hollow caused by 1948 bushfire.

My first week in Australia I spent in Sydney – flying the flag for my enthusiasm research at the University of Western Sydney – a department seminar offered the perfect opportunity to test out some of my ideas on an Australian audience. I was struck by the response to my rather European construction of nature, landscape, place attachment … in response I’m reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes to get me started. This research challenge prompted me to visit the University of Wollongong book shop after my lunch with Lesley Head. I couldn’t find too many texts of interest – although I did spot the copies of ‘Sacred Ecology’ by Fikret Berkes which “examines bodies of knowledge held by indigenous and other rural peoples around the world, and asks how we can learn from this knowledge and ways of knowing” (from the publisher’s website). Although this seems to me to maintain the binary of ‘other’ and ‘we’ that I imagine my audience earlier in the week were trying to shake me out of. I think this might be worth a look in combination with Tim Ingold’s work though.

I asked the bookshop staff about any books they have on Australian history – interestingly I was taken in the direction of primary school education texts to get me started. Whilst, this didn’t offer too much in the way of critical commentary, I was interested in the range of books written for school children on life in 1790s Australia, for example ‘My Australian Story: Surviving Sydney Cove’ – the life of a young girl convicted of stealing and transported to Australia on the First Fleet.

Around the corner I found a stack of books for trainee teachers developing school-level courses and resources on indigenous Australia. There was a text book ‘Teaching Aboriginal Studies’ – the importance of which according to reviews cannot be overestimated, and a second book ‘My People’s Dreaming: An Aboriginal Elder speaks on life, land, spirit and forgiveness’ by Max Dulumunmun Harrison and Peter McConchie. The photographs persuaded me to buy the latter. Yes, I know, I am travelling around for 6 weeks – like I need another book! But – this one has already got me thinking… “We look to trees to tell us how the world is coping. … All trees live in tribes, just like people. When a tree is born and then it’s moved to another area for whatever reason, that’s like taking a person out of their country and putting them in a different country” (Max Dulumunmum Harrison, 2013). More thoughts on this to follow. Remember, it’s only my first day@AUSCCER.

To find out more about Hilary you can read her staff profile, visit her blog The Culture of Enthusiasm or follow Hilary on Twitter @DrHG.

Would you like to write a guest blog post for AUSCCER?

First blog post from Australia on the MMU Light Research site

Trees at VIVID: @DrHG on #VividSydney: trees and bushland

The Qantas air steward said, ‘You must go to Vivid Sydney – the city is all lit up’. So on the first evening I took the train to Circular Quay and the Harbour. Wow. The Opera House, an off-white colour in the daytime, was transformed by reds, greens, blacks, animal prints… I am in Australia researching enthusiasm for trees and I’ve just finished reading a paper by Jodi Frawley (‘Campaigning for street trees, Sydney Botanic Gardens, 1890s–1920s’, Environment and History, 15(3): 303–22) about campaigning for street trees in Sydney Botanic Gardens in the 1890s–1920s. There is a fascinating history of trees in Sydney as a means of claiming space and encouraging settlement. For Frawley, trees were also important “as urban technologies, which added shade and beauty to [the] streets” (2009: 318). Light and shade in the form of trees continue to be central to Sydney’s heritage, and two installations at Vivid Sydney emphasise this.cadman

First, just opposite the Opera House, is Cadman’s Cottage, built in 1816 and one of the few buildings that remain from the first 30 years of the colony. The display is calledMystery of Creation (Fragments of the Seasons) by Heinz Kasper/Robert Faldner, and is described as a ‘poem of light and sound … projecting nature’s changes onto a concrete facade: Flowers blossom, only to wilt; trees wither, only to grow anew. The wind whispers in the tree; its leaves embody alchemy in the transformation of living colour, from green into yellow and red; leaves dance and drop off in a storm; and once again you see a bare tree’.

urban tree project

The second stop was in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD. A clump of trees growing out of the street scene. This was impressive – watching the trees and animals climb higher and higher. – the Urban Tree Project’, produced by Nicholas Tory, Lucy Keeler, Martin Crouch, Julian Reinhold and Iain Greenhaigh’ covers the MLC building, offering a living tree within the dense urban jungle. The projection hints at Sydney’s bushland heritage.

Text and photographs by Hilary Geoghegan:

June 2nd, 2014 – 06:04am

(Re)enchanting geography, take II


Part two of my collaboration with Dr Tara Woodyer at Portsmouth.

Originally posted on materialsensibilities:

HOT OFF THE PRESS! My latest collaboration with Hilary Geoghegan is now available to view online.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 12.30.40

Abstract    Thrift [2008. Non-representational theory: space, politics, affect, 65. Abingdon: Routledge] has identified disenchantment as “[o]ne of the most damaging ideas” within social scientific and humanities research. As we have argued elsewhere, “[m]etanarratives of disenchantment and their concomitant preoccupation with destructive power go some way toward accounting for the overwhelmingly ‘critical’ character of geographical theory over the last 40 years” [Woodyer, T. and Geoghegan, H., 2013. (Re)enchanting geography? The nature of being critical and the character of critique in human geography. Progress in Human Geography, 37 (2), 195–214]. Through its experimentation with different ways of working and writing, cultural geography plays an important role in challenging extant habits of critical thinking. In this paper, we use the concept of “enchantment” to make sense of the deep and powerful affinities exposed…

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Inaugural Science Slam (University of Reading)

Two weeks ago I helped host the University of Reading’s first Science Slam. It’s a fun, exciting research event with ‘performances’ from 6 PhD students using props and no powerpoint to explain their research. Here is our winner – Charlotte Hill – explaining her work on the potential benefits of cannabis in the treatment of epilepsy. I can’t wait for the next one!