Cities, learning and 21st century challenges

by Madeleine Hatfield

‘The ‘Tent City University’ looms over the Occupy London tents’ Source: Sam B, Flickr: DSC_2030. License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers in July 2011, Colin McFarlane’s paper on ‘The city as a machine for learning’ demonstrates how we can benefit not just from learning about cities but by making learning more central within cities. This includes recognising – to use Colin’s own words – ‘the resources marginal groups use to cope with, negotiate and resist in the city’, particularly how they do this through learning and how this in turn can be furthered by measures such as urban forums.

Learning and cities have hit the headlines recently for a number of reasons, showing the importance of Colin’s research to cities in a wide variety of contexts. For example, the ‘Tent City University’ of the Occupy the London Stock Exchange movement places learning at the heart of this particular struggle. Cities worldwide are central to the Occupy movement, producing networks of learning between cities, and urban areas have also been the sites of recent protests against cuts in the UK, including to education and public sector pensions.

As more and more people become urban dwellers, such issues become only more significant and this mass urbanisation is also the subject of a 21st Century Challenges event at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) on 6th December 2011.

McFarlane C 2011 The city as a machine for learning Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36 360–376 doi: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00430.x

21st Century Challenges, Adapting to an Urban Future, RGS-IBG 6 December 2011

BBC News, Public sector strike rallies held across UK, 1 December 2011

Tent City University @OccupyLondon 2011

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