Tag Archives: bodies

How do young people experience the outdoors, and why does it matter?

By Jo Hickman Dunne, Loughborough University

Outdoor education is often considered to be a central tenant of a holistic and enriching curriculum. But is it always beneficial? What do young people really experience when they go ‘outward bound’?

Photo credit: Jo Hickman Dunne

We know that the Government is making a concerted effort to give young people a more rounded education. We can see it in the Education secretary Damian Hinds’ vision for character and resilience, laid out earlier this year. Hinds took the view that character and resilience are as crucial to young people’s future success as academic qualifications. This move goes hand-in-hand with changes to the way Ofsted will inspect schools from September 2019. The new inspection model will move Ofsted’s focus away from headline data (exam and grade outcomes) to assessing the substance of education (how schools achieve results and whether pupils are offered a broad curriculum). This is an acknowledgement that an inspection regime focussed on exam performance can result in perverse incentives and constrain what is taught in the classroom. For example, schools might feel pressured to ‘teach to the test’ and find it difficult to offer their pupils a broad and rich curriculum.

Changes to Ofsted include 3 newly formed inspection judgements for schools:

  • Personal development;
  • Behaviour and attitudes;
  • School’s leadership and managemen

Assessing how schools are delivering in these areas goes some way to answering a question laid out by Hinds in his February speech: “How do we instil this [character resilience] in young people, how do we make sure they are ready to make their way in the world as robust and confident individuals?”

Perhaps answering this question is even more pertinent in light of the current concerns around (lack of) social mobility. The recently released State of the Nation 2018 to 2019 report from The Social Mobility Commission makes clear the entrenched nature of inequality in British society. The Guardian highlights the “double disadvantages” of class, disability, ethnicity and gender discussed in the report, whereby those falling into more than one of these groups are more likely to experience serious life-long disadvantage.

Outdoor education is certainly a tool in the box of those looking to help young people overcome some of these disadvantages. It is seen as a means of equipping participants with a whole range of social and emotional skills to overcome setbacks and support them in education, life and work. My most recent paper for The Geographical Journal discusses young people’s experiences of an outdoor education programme. It offers a new perspective on what participants take away from their engagements with outdoor environments. In taking a geographical perspective, I move away from more classic outdoor learning research, which all too often focuses on outcomes to prove the value of this educational approach. My paper draws on detailed qualitative research with 44 young people (aged 11-14). It explores their physical encounters with ‘natural’ and ‘wild’ places during an Outward Bound Trust course. My paper illustrates how the young people mediate their experiences of outdoor learning and reflects on how they describe their feelings of empowerment, fun, disgust, and connection with the environment.

This research both complements and challenges understandings of the types of learning experiences that might take place in outdoor education settings. Firstly, I dispute the idea that using technology acts to undermine the ‘authenticity’ of outdoor learning. I show that in reality, particular technologies and material accessories become enablers in outdoor learning practice and enhance young people’s learning experiences. Secondly, I demonstrate that outdoor learning is not always positive and educational. For instance, one group of young people in the study certainly did not find pleasure in mud and dirt, and physically struggled walking on uneven and slippery surfaces, which detracted from what they took away from their week. Through this case study, I consider some of the challenges inherent to outdoor education associated with those ‘disadvantaged’ groups outlined in the State of the Nation report. For example, the report notes the importance of rich and diverse school experiences for promoting social mobility, whilst highlighting that a broader range of extra-curricular activities are available to more advantaged groups of young people. 

Through this paper I want to open up a more nuanced understanding of what outdoor education can offer young people. I move beyond the abstract learning experience, which is assumed to make young people more resilient, and consider how young people’s bodies and social identities interact with outdoor environments to impact on learning. In so doing we can start to pose some further questions: is outdoor education always positive? when might it be an opportunity (or not) for young people? How might we need to adapt it to ensure it is always an inclusive learning experience?

About the Author: Jo Hickman Dunne is a postgraduate research student at the department of Geography and Environment at Loughborough University. Jo’s article in The Geographical Journal is available from:

Hickman Dunne, J. (2018) Experiencing the outdoors: Embodied encounters in the Outward Bound Trust. The Geographical Journal. Advance online publication. 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1111/geoj.12288

Written On The Body: Women, Migration and Borders

By Morag Rose, University of Sheffield

Morag Rose Geog Directions.jpg

Singapore Airport. Image credit: Flikr user Zsoolt CC-BY-NC 2.0

 

 

Much current popular discourse on immigration is often dominated by tabloid hysteria and dangerous political games. Concern about this has been voiced by many, including my former Sunday Times colleague, Liz Gerard, “The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” This polemic tends to dehumanise individuals and ignore the complex economic, political, social and emotional drivers behind the movement of people.  In her recent article in Area, Lucy Jackson seeks to explore the emotional impact of immigration and how it shapes real lives.

Jackson takes the body as the territory she explores, following the work of Longhurst (1994) who describes the body as the “geography closest in”. Jackson works with two different sets of women in Singapore; western expatriates and foreign domestic workers (even these commonly used words are loaded with assumptions). The two different groups of women have contrasting experiences of stigma and exclusion within Singapore and effectively live “separate but parallel lives”. However, despite their differences, the women share many commonalities and can all be described as economic migrants.

Singapore has actively encouraged temporary migrants but the participants were often discriminated against as outsiders. Their autonomy is limited by a range of social forces which range from comments in the street to being unable to open their own bank account or feeling restricted to certain areas. They create their own distinct personal territories which are both geographical and emotional. Food and clothing become very important as markers of identity, memory and community.  Both groups suffer ill-effects as a result of stigma and stereotyping, although their experiences are very different.  Borders operate and impact at many different scales and Jackson concludes “the border of the body is porous and migrant women actively practice and perform aspects of ‘border maintenance’ as a reaction to being excluded emotionally and physically from the social and cultural territory of the host society” (Jackson, 2016 p297).

Jackson’s work is attentive to individual, embodied experience and humanises the impact of social policies based on exclusion and othering. I fear this is a task that becomes ever more necessary for academics, activists and anyone concerned with civil liberties and freedom of movement.

References

60-world2 Gerard, L“The press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?” Subscribe Online

books_icon Jackson, L 2016  Experiencing Exclusion and Reacting to Stereotypes? Navigating Borders of the Migrant Body Area 2016 48.3 pp292-299 doi:10.1111/area.12146

books_icon Longhurst R 1994 The geography closest in – the body … the politics of pregnability Australian Geographical Studies 32214–223

Converging Body and Technology: The Case of Google Glass

by Jen Turner

By Antonio Zugaldia (http://www.flickr.com/photos/azugaldia/7457645618) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“It’s either the most exciting technology product of recent years, or the 21st Century equivalent of the Sinclair C5” (Cellan-Jones, 2013, n.p.).  Google Glass (styled as “Google GLΛSS”) is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display (HMD) that is being developed by Google with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer.  Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can interact with the Internet via voice commands.  While the frames do not currently have lenses fitted to them, Google is considering partnering with sunglass retailers such as Ray-Ban, and may also open retail stores to allow customers to try on the device.

When BBC News Technology journalist Rory Cellan-Jones took Glass for a stroll on the beach overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, the elderly dog walkers there were more amused about a strange Brit talking to himself than anxious about their privacy, although the majority felt the whole idea was rather more creepy than cool.

According to the report, where Google’s big idea impresses most is as a camera.  The video footage is reportedly also much steadier than what you would gain from a shaky camera phone.  Its strength lies in its ability to capture exactly what you see.  The results are the kind of pictures you often miss with a camera you have to ready for action. And it is this head-mounted technology, combined with the voice commands that raise interesting points for geographers studying the inter-relationship between humans and technology.

It is widely accepted that new technology “increasingly affects/infects the minutiae of everyday life and corporeal existence” (Grosz 1994, 48), and that operating as assemblages, or with co-agents, bodily abilities are altered (Michael 2009).  In his 2012 Area paper, Paul Barrett comments on the use of technology in a very different scenario: climbing.  This paper adds to debates on bodies and materiality concerning how we experience places not only as bodies but as complex assemblages. It engages with the relations between climbers, their kit and the places in which they climb to explore how during the situated practice of climbing, climbers and material artefacts co-evolve resulting in a diverse array of synergies that co-enable the climb. In particular, Barrett focuses upon the use of ‘Cams’.  Cams are spring loaded devices that are placed into parallel cracks in rock faces used to secure the climber’s ascent.  Differing roles and functions emerge and are negotiated between climber, crag and kit. These roles and functions go beyond those detailed by manufacturer-ascribed use-values that define their ‘proposed’ or ‘proper’ role/s and limits within the climber’s safety assemblage. Drawing upon semi-structured interviews with climbers, Barrett uses Actor Network Theory to explore the enabling, situated, contingent and co-emergent relations between climbers and their kit and show how more-than-representational dimensions of their environmental engagements are dependent upon entering into symbolic and synergistic relationships with material others.

In a similar way, Google Glass uses technology to extend both the corporal being of the body and its capabilities of purpose.  It promises to reshape our relationship with the online world – or turn us all into Donna Haraway’s infamous cyborgs.  What is more, the ability to record others discretely in any given space leads us to questions surrounding how these human/technology relationships further invading each other’s privacy with careless abandon.  But that’s another blog post….

books_icon

Paul Barrett (2012) ‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblageArea 44(1) pp. 46-53.

60-world2Rory Cellan-Jones, Google Glass – cool or creepy? BBC News Technology, 15 May 2013.

books_iconElizabeth Grosz (1994) Volatile bodies: toward a corporeal feminism, Allen and Unwin, London.

books_iconMike Michael (2009) The cellphone-in-the-countryside: on some of the ironic spatialities of technonatures. In White, D. and Wilbert, C. eds. Technonatures: environments, technologies, spaces, and places in the twenty-first century, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo, pp. 85–104.

Content Alert: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 37, Issue 4 (October 2012) is Available Online Now

Cover image for Vol. 37 Issue 4

Volume 37, Issue 4 Pages 477– 657, October 2012

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

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Urban Exploration

by Fiona Ferbrache

Urban Exploring in verlassenen Bunkeranlagen

A fortnight ago, Geography Directions reported on exploration and adventure in Geography.  While exploration is often associated with ventures into the wilderness and unchartered territories, it is also very much about less physical scientific discovery and search for deeper understanding.  This week, I introduce an alternative group of inquisitives: urban explorers who scale the heights and depths of abandoned or derelict buildings, landmarks and transport infrastructure as a means of rediscovering build environments.

The London Consolidation Crew is a group of urban explorers that physically explores closed or (usually) inaccessible urban spaces.  The Guardian linked these often illicit and high-risk excursions to a celebration of capitalist space, while geographer David Clarke suggested that they were embodied reactions to increased control and surveillance over urban spaces.  Analysis of these activities (the basis of a recent geographical PhD by urban explorer Brad Garrett), informs existing geographical research on contemporary urban exploration (Garrett, 2010) and advances theories that concern how places are experienced through the body: concepts such as affect, performance and embodiment.

Bodily experiences of climbing are described, analysed and theorised by Barratt (2012) in Area.  While Barratt’s empirical research was undertaken among outdoor climbers more familiar with ascending rocks, his arguments also apply to urban explorers.  Barratt argues for an understanding of climbing as a complex assemblage of body-material-environment relations i.e. that the experience can be understood through interactions between body, clothing and kit, and the place or surface where climbing is practised.  Barratt’s paper offers a more-than-representational approach to this leisure activity, and thus provides a framework to reconsider urban explorers’ engagement with their environment.  From this perspective, not only do urban explorers inspire new ways of discovering spaces, but they also provide a context where emerging theoretical ideas can be refined.

  The Guardian: Shard explorers seek out new targets after scaling London landmark

  Place Hacking: Explore Everything

  Barratt, P. (2012) ‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage. Area. 44.1, pp.46-53

  Garrett, B.L. (2010) Urban Explorers: Quests for Myth, Mystery and Meaning. Geography Compass. 4.10, pp.1448-1461

Area Content Alert: Volume 44, Issue 1 (March 2012)

The latest issue of Area is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

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Content Alert: New Articles (13th January 2012)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Anthropogenic controls on large wood input, removal and mobility: examples from rivers in the Czech Republic
Lukáš Krejčí and Zdeněk Máčka
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01071.x

Special Section: Exploring the Great Outdoors

‘My magic cam’: a more-than-representational account of the climbing assemblage
Paul Barratt
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01069.

Special Section: Emerging Subjects, Registers and Spatialities of Migration Methodologies in Asia

Methodological dilemmas in migration research in Asia: research design, omissions and strategic erasures
Rebecca Elmhirst
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01070.x

Commentary

The aviation sagas: geographies of volcanic risk
Amy R Donovan and Clive Oppenheimer
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00458.x

Original Articles

Diverging pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa
Thilde Langevang and Katherine V Gough
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00457.x

Original Articles

Rethinking urban public space: accounts from a junction in West London
Regan Koch and Alan Latham
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00489.x

The social and economic consequences of housing in multiple occupation (HMO) in UK coastal towns: geographies of segregation
Darren P Smith
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00487.x

The reputational ghetto: territorial stigmatisation in St Paul’s, Bristol
Tom Slater and Ntsiki Anderson
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00490.x

Fear of a foreign railroad: transnationalism, trainspace, and (im)mobility in the Chicago suburbs
Julie Cidell
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00491.x

Participation in evolution and sustainability
Thomas L Clark and Eric Clark
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00492.x

Boundary Crossings

Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives
David Featherstone, Anthony Ince, Danny Mackinnon, Kendra Strauss and Andrew Cumbers
Article first published online: 3 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00493.x

The disciplining effects of impact evaluation practices: negotiating the pressures of impact within an ESRC–DFID project
Glyn Williams
Article first published online: 9 JAN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00494.x