Can you imagine living for a month entirely on things that can only be found within a day’s walk of your home? This is what Jess Allen did over the last month and I’ll be asking her why she did this on Twitter tomorrow night.
Jess describes herself as a “stereotypical dreadlocked-vegetarian-eco-feminist-environmentalist-caravan/yurt-dwelling aerial dancer, walking artist and academic hedgesprite with a horse” She’s currently doing a second PhD in performance, developing the practice of tracktivism with a President’s Doctoral Scholarship from the University of Manchester.
I’ll be asking Jess some questions about her work and experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #guerrillageography from 8pm (London time) tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
A couple of days ago I asked a few people on Urban Earth and Twitter if they would be interested in taking part in #Urban100, a project that I’m calling an open expedition because it’s going to last a year and anyone can join in. The idea is simple, to collaboratively explore urban places by taking 100 photographs over a 500 metre walk. Using the same stop-motion approach that I used in the Urban Earth films we’ll be able to create films that zoom through the urban landscapes, creating a unique representation of our urban habitats.
We’ve asked that all photos submitted #Urban100 are under a creative commons license so that anyone can edit their own versons of the films.
So far collaborators have said that they’ll be doing #Urban100 explorations in Bristol, Bangkok, London, Glasgow, Falmouth, Toulouse, Porto and Edinburgh with more being added and suggested all the time.
Being an explorer is inherently risky. Asking questions and venturing into the unknown is fraught with dangers, but by overcoming our fears we create seemingly endless opportunities to learn about ourselves and the world around us. Danger is a relative term though. Our perception, knowledge and understanding of “hazards”, our ability to asses and mitigate their risks as well as our motivations for (not) overcoming them vary massively between each and everyone of us. What feels like a comfortable walk in the (world’s largest national) park to one person can feel highly adventurous for another.
This sense of relativity is what convinces me that we are all explorers who go to extremes and accomplish death defying acts (from the likes of this and this). Your extremes may not be to venture to the Earth’s freezing poles, but in our everyday lives we perform experimental and extreme acts that put at risk our jobs, relationships, time and money. My latest gamble was on Sex and the City 2. Despite my best risk assessment I ended up losing part of my life to that film, something I’ll be mourning for days to come.
We are all explorers and as we venture through our life-journeys the best things we can do to increase our chances of survival are to trust aggregated review sites and to learn some basic first aid. I think this video from St Johns Ambulance is extremely powerful.
Getting on a First Aid course is a great idea. If you’ve got a smart phone then I highly recommend this app by the British Red Cross. It’s one of the best ways to become a death-defying explorer, like me.
A short time ago I set GeoEdChat.com live. It’s a new effort from a group of us in The Geography Collective that we hope will bring about new relationships, thinking, practices and initiatives that will improve geography education. The idea follows #UKedChat and other hashtag based Twitter conversations that bring together educators to talk on a specific theme. #GeoEdChat is especially for anyone interested in geography education and will take place every Wednesday. It does not matter what your specialism is or the age of the people you work with, if you have something to say or want to learn more about geography education then this new site should be useful for you.
All educators clearly have different experiences of geography. We all work in different settings and situations, often with different aims and objectives. That said, the world we occupy and the internet that reaches around it are shared between us and together we can use one to influence the other. #GeoEdChat is an international, new and focussed opportunity to develop and share ideas and practices in geography education. I do hope that you’ll join us.
I’m always fascinated to discover the reasons why explorers and adventurers do what they do. In November Ben Saunders (@PolarBen) gave a TED Talk in which he described his amazing solo trek across the Arctic (from Siberia to Canada) and explained his main reason for the journey.
“One of the magical things about this journey however is that because I’m walking over the sea, over this floating, drifting, shifting crust of ice that’s floating on the surface of the arctic ocean is that it’s an environment in a constant state of flux. The ice is always moving, breaking-up, drifting around, re-freezing.. so the scenery that I saw for nearly 3 months was unique to me. No one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the vistas that I saw for 10 weeks and that, I guess, is the finest argument for leaving the house.”
Ben’s story is inspirational and his reason for leaving the house is certainly captivating, but I’m not convinced that the exclusivity of experience or sole ownership of it are the best reasons to explore. No doubt taking such an extreme trek is geographically (in location, distance, scale, environment and human isolation) beyond what most people would do, but surely no one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the same vistas for any period of time? Growing trees, moving cars, changing window displays, rotating kebabs and dogs running in the park are all always changing and so are our gazes and our opinions. If the finest argument for leaving the house is to have a unique experience, all we have to do is be semi-conscious of the fact our experience is unique. We don’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to have sole ownership of our experiences on it.
That said, I’m curious about the reasons why, as a tourist, traveller, explorer or simply someone bothering to leave the house, I enjoy a place or event because I’m the only one who has experienced it compared to experiences that are, to some degree, shared. When does sharing heighten, intensify or improve and when does it dilute, obstruct and corrupt? Clearly is depends entirely on the situation.
I enjoy the music festival scene in the UK and go to several major events each year. Something that’s often described is a tipping point where the festival organisers have sold too many tickets and the community feel of the event is lost. In the case of Glastonbury, the UK’s biggest festival, the organiser’s themselves have complained of there being an imbalance in the age of their audience… it’s ageing. Those who have been going to Glastonbury for sometime often complain that it’s become too big and too mainstream. That said, the feeling of being part of a massive drifting, shifting and moving crowd is often just as important as the band on stage. Everyone who is present creates the geography of the moment, the atmosphere that creates the place and so the destination that everyone has come for. Are these camping festival survivalists who brave the elements to enjoy this unique location any less an explorer because what they seek is music together rather than snow alone? I don’t think so.
We are all explorers, or as the poet Kate Tempest (@katetempest) would say, we are the Brand New Ancients.
I’m slowly working on an exploration through electronic geographic music Spotify. Check it out here and let me know what you think along with any suggestions for additions.
I recently watched Step Up Revolution and was struck by what an awesome case study this film would make in geography classrooms. Some people may be fooled into thinking this is just a film about dance, but Step Up Revolution is a classic geographical (if fictional) study of people, place, power, planning and protest in cities. When a strip in Miami is threatened with topocide and gentrification “The Mob” fight back to protect their home. Guerrilla Geography is rife in this blockbuster, as the dancers move from ‘performance art’ to ‘ protest art’, intentionally occupying spaces to make their point and exert their power. It’s full of beautifully geography-based quotes too, as the characters debate identify, culture and more.
The love interest plot in the film revolves around Sean and Emily, two dancers who have fallen for each other but who are separated by their differences in wealth. To top that it’s Emily’s dad who is trying to redevelop the area and Sean is one of the leaders of the “Mob” that is uprising. Near the end of the film they dance together to the song “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra, a beautiful song that with its use in this film draw parallels between finding a sense of home in both place and people… in this case, with each other through dance.
The film ends with Emily’s dad (the property developer) saying “Maybe there is a way to build-up this neighbourhood without tearing it down”. What a classic problem for any classroom of students try and tackle.