Yesterday I went to a fantastic workshop at Keele, which was organised by our colleagues Ceri Morgan (English) and Andy Zieleniec (Sociology), that explored recent debates around, and artistic practices within, the field of walking studies.
What I particularly enjoyed was the range of workshops; these included talks by practitioners and academics such as Matt Parker, Sue Porter, Jennie Middleton, Phil Smith and Ben Anderson, which covered topics such as the cultural history of rambling, recent trends in psychogeography, and contemporary policy issues related to transport infrastructures and disability. In addition to the rich theoretical and artistic provocations offered by these talks, there was a practical sound walk workshop run by Keele’s own Rajmil Fischman where we wandered around campus and made our own sound recordings! (As you can see from my earnest expression below, I took this very seriously!!)
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day, in relation to my own work I found Matt Parker’s attempts to document the invisible infrastructures that lie behind the internet – such as the noises of server banks – especially interesting, as it provided a really novel way of politicising the social and cultural relations that enable us to do very everyday activities (such as sending an email or uploading a picture to instagram). There are some interesting connections to be had here with other thinkers who have discussed the mundane aesthetics of digital culture, such as Matther Fuller & Andrew Goffey’s Evil Media, or the work of Paul Edwards (who also draws attention to the relationships between infrastructures and ecologies). I hadn’t really considered the aural dimension of infrastructures before, so found this very thought provoking.
Overall, I thought the day was organised fantastically; it made me think about walking, listening and everyday life in new ways and (following my previous discussion of Sonic Studies) has really made me reflect on my own work differently.
If you want to read further commentary on the day (including the full programme), then it’s been storified here!
Very well done, and thank you, to Ceri and Andy!