It’s an open day for our Exeter campuses, I’ve finished marking exams and we’re preparing for exam boards etc. next week, capped off by our departmental barbecue… I still wonder at how I got to where I am. I really enjoy my job, I feel extremely lucky to be in a fantastic and supportive department and teaching about and studying the things about which I have a real interest.
I did not do a bachelors degree in geography. I was one of an eclectic mix of students that studied the BSc MediaLab Arts programme at Plymouth, now called Digital Art & Technology. We were taught to programme, to build things, to read theory and to ask lots of questions, in many cases by Geoff Cox, Joasia Krysa, Dan Livingstone, Mike Phillips and Chris Speed. My peers were, in many cases, as interested, passionate and challenging as the tutors. It was utterly brilliant.
In my final year I took an option module convened by Chris Speed called ‘Production of Space’, Ã la Henri Lefebvre. I read lots of human geography and got hooked. So much so that my coursework for that module, my dissertation and my final year project were all, in one way or another, about spatial experience.
I wanted to share three things amongst all of that which inspired me to apply for postgraduate study with the inimitable J-D Dewsbury.
1. Rob Shields’ Places on the Margin, and especially the chapter “Alternative Geographies of Modernity“. This was a massive influence on getting me to think about how to think about space and place and got me excited about geographical thought.
2. Chris Speed’s Spacelapse – a beautiful film that offers a really nice exposition of the inter-relations of space and time and urban experience.
3. The ‘Arch-OS‘ project by i-DAT. “An ‘Operating System’ for contemporary architecture (Arch-OS, ‘software for buildings’) … developed to manifest the life of a building and provide artists, engineers and scientists with a unique environment for developing transdisciplinary work and new public art.” As final year students we got to play around with this as it was built into the newly completed Portland Square buildings. In many ways this pre-saged my interest in ubiquitous computing, pervasive media, smart cites etc. etc.
I went on to discover Anne Galloway’s blog, Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, and received encouragement from quite a few generous people, including Anne and Howard, and Alex Pang – for which I remain grateful. I hope I now have the opportunity to encourage people myself to begin their own careers in research.