- To talk about walking methods in different kinds of research and consider how they might be relevant for us
- To focus within that on sound practices with walking as an in depth example
- To explore public space differently through sound walking
- To use recording to attend to public space in new ways
Research and walking
The interest in walking as part of research methods is, of course, varied among disciplines but among the many concerns are the ways that walking configures our relationship between the body, space and time in ways that make us think some of the suppositions of research methods. People may talk, act and think different when walking and this makes researchers excited and go away and write research papers about it.
Ethnographies of walking and what they tell us
In anthropology and ethnography there has been a recognition that walking practices are a worthy object of study in their own right, that in fact the way we walk is subject to and productive of cultural norms. This has led to an interest in using walking itself as an ethnographic technique for understanding space through people’s motion.
Ingold and Lee present an edited volume combining some fascinating studies of this including with some hunter-gather societies and with so called “confluencers”
Some other examples
Rhythm and the passeggiata.
Vergunst, J. (2010). Rhythms of Walking: History and Presence in a City Street. Space and Culture, 13(4), 376–388. http://doi.org/10.1177/1206331210374145
Jo Vergunst explores the walking of busy city streets as an affair of rhythm and connects this to Lefebvre’s “The Production of Space” in which he (Lefebvre) notes how our sense of time is subject to capitalist and industrial senses of control (Engels makes related points).
“A walker entering the street becomes immersed in the movement and the sounds of the time of the day, week, and year and in the changing patterns of activity as the street and the city develop. The street itself is a place of rhythms and interactions. From this perspective, it is the sensing of rhythms in the street (be they coherent or chaotic) that enables it to be understood as a place and indeed form it as place. This is the essence of Henri Lefebvre’s concept of rhythm as evident in The Production of Space (Lefebvre, 1991) and extended in Rhythmanalysis (Lefebvre, 2004). Rhythm contributes to Lefebvre’s analysis of everyday life particularly in the conceptualization of time. In The Production of Space, time is configured as the result of capitalist control over space: “As for time, dominated by repetition and circularity, overwhelmed by the establishment of an immobile space which is the locus and environment of realized Reason, it loses all mean- ing” (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 21).” p378
His main point is that walking by virtues of its continuity blends time in a way that counters industrial divisions of it.
“In most walking, past, present, and future seem more blended and indistinct—we do not have a “moment,” as such, as we walk. This relates to the English verb form of the continuous present: “I am walking,” English-speakers say or think to themselves as they actually do it, not the merely general “I walk.” Walking as an activity implies a continuity rather than a moment.” p381
Yi’En, C. (2014). Telling Stories of the City:Walking Ethnography, Affective Materialities, and Mobile Encounters. Space and Culture, 17(3), 211–223. http://doi.org/10.1177/1206331213499468
In this paper En suggests walking as a way of differently encountering the materials of everyday urban existence as a kind of continuing collage of experience.
“I mobilize two aspects of urban life that are only beginning to attract scholarly attention in extant literature—urban materialities as affective materials for organizing mundane experience and urban mobilities as heterogeneous and rhythmic to demonstrate how “walking” is a practice that orientates the “walker” through different dimensions of “ordinary” and “everyday” urban life.” p2
Interviewing and walking
Including efforts to locate this on GIS maps (emphasis added)
Evans, J., & Jones, P. (2011). The walking interview: Methodology, mobility and place. Applied Geography, 31(2), 849–858. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2010.09.005
“…a major advantage of walking interviews is their capacity to access people’s attitudes and knowledge about the surrounding environment. Walking has long been considered a more intimate way to engage with landscape that can offer privileged insights into both place and self (Solnit, 2001). Ingold and Lee (2008) suggest that walking with inter- viewees encourages a sense of connection with the environment, which allows researchers to understand how, for example, places are created by the routes people take”
“Representing qualitative data in map form makes them instantly more appealing to decision- makers. They offer an opportunity to make people’s values and local histories count more within a range of development processes. But the power of maps is well documented within geography (Wood & Fels, 1993), and care is required when using them to represent qualitative data. Maps simultaneously increase the potential damage that can be caused by misinterpretation and over-simplification. Further work exploring the potential to apply this technique in real-world decision-making scenarios is needed to understand the most effective ways in which to analyse and represent data.” p857
Soundwalks and acoustic ecologies
…could be a degree programme all to themselves but for the moment I’ll constrain myself to a couple of points. Historically they have a relationship with the notion of acoustic ecologies as described by Murray Shaeffer. There’s a bibliography here for those interested.
Hildegard Westerkamp speaks of the “disruptive nature of listening.” in terms which have a lot in common with some of the temporal points made by Vergunst and others about walking. It’s unsurprising therefore that some creative research methods involve doing both. We’re going to try some of this together.
“When I speak of the disruptive nature of listening, I agree with Michael Stocker who writes: ‘Our experience with sound unfolds as a continuous now.’ If we open our ears to this experience of sound unfolding as a continuous now it inevitably includes an opening to surprises, to the unexpected, to the difficult and uncomfortable, to noise or potential discomforts with silence. It means staying with the sound for a time no matter what reactions it may elicit in us.”
Westerkamp offers a long history of soundwalks available online like this one.
Discussion point: how does her narration affect our understanding of space throughout the recording.
Instructions for sound recording
1. Listen to a sound from up-close, try to position yourself so that this sound the only one you can hear, record it.
2. Record multiple sounds intersecting, see if you can move through the intersection.
3. Find the quietest place you can, stay there and record it for a while.