RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013

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229 Rethinking Dark Space (2): The spatialities of darkness
Convenor(s) Phillip Vannini (Royal Roads University, Canada)
Chair(s) Phillip Vannini (Royal Roads University, Canada)
Timetable Thursday 29 August 2013, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Electrical Engineering Building, Room 406 - DO NOT USE 2020
Session abstract This session examines the spatial and temporal relationships between light and darkness. Geographers have only recently begun to examine the study of artificial illumination, sunlight, moonlight, darkness, and liminally-lit spaces despite the radical transformation of urban, suburban, exurban, rural, and remote spaces through the modern proliferation of illumination and the consequent erosion of darkness. This session aims to explore the distinctive ways in which places are produced and apprehended by artificial and natural light, under illumination, and in the dark.
Linked Sessions Rethinking Dark Space (1): Yesterdays’ Darkness
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2013@rgs.org
Stories of darkness
Ankit Kumar (Durham University, UK)
Cultural determinants often dictate people’s perceptions. These perceptions give different meanings to light, its presence and absence for different people. While trying to find the importance of light for the people in rural India, the research encountered the various perceptions and meanings of light and darkness. So, to explore the importance of light, the research also explored the cultural determinants. The preliminary findings of the research reveal that most people associate positive connotations with light and negative with darkness. Light is believed to denote good, auspiciousness, prosperity, protection, hope while darkness represents evil, inauspicious, decline, danger, hopelessness. However, one theme that has come up strongly is that light is related to people’s honor. The social norms are such that the presence of light in or outside people’s homes upholds the honor and the absence brings dishonor. The quality and quantity of light also seem to be honor indicators.
Night-time citizenship
Will Straw (McGill University, Canada)
In a 2005 book, the French geographer Luc Gwiazdzinski wrote of the "discontinuous citizenship" which follows the passage from day to night. The sense of night as having its own populations and of these populations as possessed of different rights, obligations and habits is captured in recent European discussions of "temporal communities", that is communities divided less in space than in time (Boulin and Muckenberger, 1999). Drawing on recent polemics over the regulation of night in Western cities, my paper will trace the notions of night-time citizenship implicit and explicit in such polemics and the extent to which they posit night-worlds and night-citizens as distinct entities. This work is part of a larger project on the urban night funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada
The Dark Night Rises: Switching off street-lights and darkened urban futures
Robert Shaw (Durham University, UK)
Night-time street lighting is often presented as one of the archetypal features of urban life, and failure to ‘keep the lights on’ is used an indictment of attempts to govern the city. We have become familiar with the iconic image of the night-time globe, lit up by a network of illuminated cities. Darkness has thus been seen as something non-urban, contrasted with the illuminated, incessant city. However, might we be passing the era of permanently lit night-time cities? This paper reflects on a research project with local authorities in North-East England, looking at how street-lighting policy interacts with other areas of governance and political demands. In particular, in this paper I will explore the possibilities and limits that policy makers currently see in relation to dimming or switching off lights during periods of the night. What are the motivating factors behind this, and what are its limits? Looking forward, I then consider what implication these newly darkened night-time streets might have for our understandings of the urban.

Slow homes, solar energy, cloudy days, and the everyday rhythms of off-grid dwellers
Phillip Vannini (Royal Roads University, Canada)
Modernization, Nigel Thrift (1996) has notably argued, has hinged around the growing strength of socio-technical assemblages of speed, light, and power. Speed, light, and power, however, have clear detrimental costs for the environment. As the resources to generate speed, light, and power continue to dwindle and rise in costs, more and more proponents of sustainable lifestyles turn to alternative futures fueled by renewable energy. A few individuals are already tackling the future today by relying exclusively on solar energy. In fact solar energy harnessed through photovoltaic panels powers all of the domestic electricity needs of off-grid homes. Off-grid homeowners rely on solar energy, for example, to light up their living environments, power up all their domestic appliances, as well as their water pumps. Solar energy can be rather easily stored in batteries, however the cost of battery banks and the need to limit "draining" these batteries to increase their life, means that solar-powered home dwellers need to carefully monitor their energy consumption and reduce electricity use when solar energy becomes scarce. So what happens during fall and winter months when cloudy skies and long dark days make solar energy scarce? Drawing from ethnographic research with Canadian off-grid homeowners this paper examines the everyday ways in which off-gridders adapt to seasonal darkness. Ethnographic data show how people's diurnal and seasonal rhythms change in accordance with available sunlight and therefore more broadly how people's relationships with place are shaped by changing temporalities of light and darkness.
Spatiotemporal Diversity of Light and Night
Dietrich Henckel (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
Josiane Meier (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
Cities and regions can be seen as increasingly complex patchworks of spatiotemporal zones: they are by no means homogenously structured when it comes to space and temporality. Artificial lighting – itself highly differentiated – is key to this development: not only is it a prerequisite for today’s far‐reaching expansion of activities into the night, it can also serve as an indicator for particular types of (economic) activity. Against this background, the increased efforts directed toward the reconfiguration of outdoor lighting show a deeper dimension: along with the lighting, spatiotemporal framework conditions are being reshaped. This contribution will first illustrate a range of relations between various types and dimensions of outdoor lighting, place and temporalities – particularly the mapping of chronotopes can illustrate the differences regarding the colonization of the night in different parts of a city. It will go on to specify the temporal and spatial dimensions of current developments in urban and exemplify points of conflict, in order to conclude with considerations on chances and limitations associated with the use of lighting as an instrument for shaping the night
In the dead of night”: darkness, space and the bodily practices of ‘en plein air’ painting
Oliver Moss (Northumbria University, UK)
This paper centres on the intents and practices of Midlands-based landscape artist, Robert Perry*. A veteran of TV series' such as Coast, Perry’s practice is notable both for its rooting in the principles of ‘en plein air’ painting, and for its unfolding in the dead of night. First, it sets out to explore how, in extremes of darkness, the alternative patterns, contours and boundaries of landscape are sensed, felt and, ultimately, fixed on canvas by the landscape artist. Second, in extending the author’s wider concern for the obfuscatory potential of weather, it investigates the ways in which darkness - like mist and fog - corrupts the bodily relationship with space. Third, and in obvious counterpoint to light's status as an emblem of clarity and intelligibility, it considers how the chimera of darkness can, for artists, be considered denotive of the undecidability endemic to wider cultural and societal landscapes