RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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31 Geographies of Making (1): Place and Community
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Laura Price (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Rob Mackinnon (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Stephen Saville (Flowering Elbow)
Chair(s) Stephen Saville (Flowering Elbow)
Timetable Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Sherfield Building, Room 10
Session abstract The power and significance of creative material practices of ‘making’ has drawn increasing attention within and beyond geography (Sennett, 2008, Crawford, 2009, Charny, 2011, Institute of Making, UCL). Whether this is a critical engagement with craft and vernacular creativities, artistic practices or the extensive range of making practices studied under the banner of the creative economy. Scholarship not only acknowledges the social, economic, political and cultural potentials of these practices, but also increasingly doing so by way of in-depth studies of the material, practiced and embodied dimensions of making. This represents, we argue, a requirement that we revisit and re-negotiate the spaces and practices of production, and that we interrogate the politics therein.
Geographical research on the creative economy alongside cultural-social geographies of arts and creative practices give us the foundation for these studies of the geographies of creative making and crafts whether this be explorations of creative cities, clusters or networks, the intersections of creativity and place or making in the home, the studio, or at the scale of the notebook (Scott 2002; Pratt 2008; Bain, 2009; Edensor et al. 2009; Brace and Putra-Jones, 2010; Rogers, 2011; Sjoholm, 2012; Harvey et al, 2013). Alongside this research we find attention being turned to the multiple lives of things, reworking and extending biographies of objects via practices of, for example, mending, repairing, up-cycling or other ways of creatively re-working objects, including second-hand consumption practices (Gregson and Crewe, 2003; Gregson et al, 2012; De Silvey and Ryan, 2013). Long recognising the place-making possibilities of such forms of creative making, we now find a growing attention to the productive force of these material, embodied and skilled practices (Hawkins, 2010; 2013, Paton, 2013). This might concern thinking through the production of human subjects through their material relations with the world, or it might explore the broader social context of communities of makers and the growing appreciation that “making is connecting” (Gauntlett, 2011).
We seek to expand geographical engagements with making and explore and experience some of the ways that geographers can attend to the power of making. We are interested in both sustained research with, and participation in making and re-making practices and communities, but also wider theoretical reflections on the use of ‘making’ as a geographical tool to understand and conceptualize the world and to comprehend the social, cultural, political and material relationships therein.
Linked Sessions Geographies of Making (2): Materials and practice
Geographies of Making (3): Workshops
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
What does ‘local’ mean in the context of contemporary craft?
Julie Brown (University of Leeds, UK)
The two fold aim of this explorative study was to help identify and define how the notion of ‘place’ is interpreted and expressed across the contemporary craft sector and in the role of making; and to explore how the changing concept of ‘local’ is impacting on the business models and practices of UK craft makers. Rather than becoming less significant, findings indicate that ‘place’ and the ‘local’ in contemporary craft making are becoming ever more important. Macro-level trends including advances in internet and digital technologies, globalisation and economic trends, and broader sustainability and environmental concerns are not only driving new forms of business innovation, but are strengthening relationships with ‘place’ and the ‘local’ in a number of key and distinct ways. Personalisation, authenticity, provenance and a desire for direct contact with makers; a shift towards the experience economy and the appeal of learning traditional craft skills; ethical consumption and support for local trading, are all influencing the market for contemporary craft and signifying a return to the ‘local’. The availability of new and affordable digital technologies, as well as diversification into other sectors and markets and collaboration in a range of contexts are key sectoral trends which are also likely to significantly influence contemporary craft practices and relations with ‘place’.
Craft hobbies in the family home: Family and the negotiation of railway modelling
Rob Mackinnon (Aberystwyth University, UK)
This paper situates itself within emergent work on the geographies of craft and making, the geographies of hobbies and well established work on the geographies of the home in its exploring of the relations between craft hobbies and the family home. The subject of hobbies and the family home, let alone craft hobbies, is currently a lacuna within work on the geographies of the home, and rather sparse beyond geography. The lacuna within geography is surprising considering the prevalence of hobby practices in the home. This paper takes a look at the hobby of railway modelling which is about making, improving, maintaining and simulating a ‘layout’, a miniature representation of the railway system in its landscape, usually on a wooden base-board. This paper is interested in exploring the taking/making place of this hobby in the family home and how hobby participation is negotiated around family in the home. This paper firstly examines how its practice in the home can be negotiated around questions of ‘intimacy’ with other family members. Secondly, how spatial needs (present and future) of the family in the home can affect how modellers may participate in the hobby, how the hobby is placed in the home and also practiced. Finally, this paper is also interested in how modellers’ craft identities may be negotiated in the family home and questions of the messiness of making and the domestic sphere.
Knitted Geographies: surface, material and change
Laura Price (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
This paper discusses knitting – its social and cultural geographies, politics and potential as critical spatial practice and intervention. It introduces the practice of yarnbombing and discusses the matter, materiality and place of knitted interventions in our environments. Engaging with the production and crafting of yarnbombing and community projects, we engage with the making of worlds physically, socially and emotionally. Through research with knitters, yarnbombers and craft groups this paper argues that yarnbombing and knitted interventions contest contemporary geographical arguments surrounding ‘subversion’ through a focus on making and connecting (Gaunlett, 2012). I explore ways that knitting can make and unmake spatialities of home, the city and the body to question the texture surfaces, tone and colour of landscapes and environments. Geographers have emphasised the importance of getting beyond surface, to the power relations, ‘feelings’ and the processes of production beneath (Forsyth et al, 2013; Divya Tolia-Kelly, 2013. In this paper I will argue that through research with knitting we begin to understand the multiplicity of making that goes beneath the surface by engaging in its production, producers and material.
Stages of Change? Grassroots activism for sustainability transition
Rod Bain (University of St Andrews, UK)
Jan Bebbington (University of St Andrews, UK)
Shona Russell (University of St Andrews, UK)
This paper analyses practices of grassroots artistic activism in order to explore the socio- political power of making, and its role in sustainability transition. Grassroots artistic activism in Scottish community woodlands is a distinct, yet understudied, aspect of woodland activity. Community woodlands are one facet of Scotland’s radical land-reform movement. Community ownership of (wood)land challenges norms at the heart of liberal discourse, and creates “places of possibility” (Mackenzie 2012). Such places offer flourishing space for alternative identities, subjectivities, and more sustainable ways of being, having, thinking and doing (Barry 2012).
Practices of grassroots artistic activism are performed by ordinary people engaged with everyday creativity, and include making, narrating, and performing. Using material and spatial woodland resources, artistic activists challenge hegemonic discourses and practices (Mouffe 2007). A practice lens allows nuanced analysis of the meanings, materials and competences constituting artistic activity (Shove et al. 2012). This lens is used to analyse case study data, from a group that mounts dramatic productions in their wood. Findings indicate firstly, that the performances represent the movement’s norm- challenging culture to the wider public, and secondly, that artistic activities recruit members to the woodland movement. In conclusion, these findings suggest that grassroots artistic participation plays an important, although currently little-recognised, role in sustainability transition.
Through the eyes of a ‘maker’: affordance perception in everyday interactions with the material world
Rebecca Collins (University of Chester, UK)
This paper traces an emergent line of conceptual thinking, which seeks to explore the nature of the ‘maker’s-eye’ view of the material world, and the implications of this particular form of perception for human-object interactions. Springing from recent empirical work which found that young people who were hobbyist makers possessed a particular sensitivity to the residual value of under-used or no-longer-used material things, my aim here is to debate why it might be both useful and important to interrogate the relationship between making as an embodied practice and everyday interactions with mundane material possessions. Specifically, my concern is with the potential of the ‘maker’s eye’ view of everyday objects to reduce the production of waste and challenge consumer cultural norms around the acceptance of easy and convenient disposability. Working with the concept of object affordances (Gibson 1986; Ingold 1992) as a mechanism for exploring the intersection of human-object interactions and their socio-spatial context, I offer some preliminary ideas as to both practical and conceptual possibilities for a deeper academic engagement with ‘making’.