New Year Update

Hello, and happy New Year!

Sunny Perth (although it rained quite a bit when I was there).

For the first time in a decade of having this blog, I didn’t update it at all last year. Not a single post. Why? Well, because I’ve been busy. And because blogging has to come bottom of my never-ending to-do list (after self-care and fitness, because without that, I’d be useless). And also because there is a lot of great content out there on sustainable consumption and ethical fashion from people who, quite frankly, are more up to date with it than me.

So what have I been doing?

Teaching

In April I’ll be two years into my job at Coventry University as Assistant Professor and Course Director in Design Management. Other than quite a heavy teaching load, 2019 was busy because we went through course re-validation (so more paperwork than normal), introduced a second annual start date so students could enrol in September or January (so more students than normal) and launched a sister programme at a college in Singapore (so more early morning Skype calls than normal). Of course, for the latter two points, the exceptions are now the new normal, and my role is going to be increasingly leadership/admin focused. This has been really valuable experience and I’ve been able to make pedagogic changes to the structure of the programme. I have a lovely, diverse group of postgraduate students who I learn from as much as they do from me.

Research

I’ve got two main areas of research on the go, building on previous work. Both themes are inspired by my increasing interest in more-than-human philosophies of thought, such as posthumanism and the new materialisms. In essence, these approaches attempt to shift our understandings of the world beyond humanism and (post)structuralism in order to account for the non-human agency of the other things that make up our worlds, i.e. technology, matter (things) and nature. New materialisms argues that the world is made up of ‘assemblages’ and that these are forever shifting. For example, I am currently engaged in the practice of writing – specifically typing on my laptop, on my sofa, in my house, still wearing my pyjamas. The experience of writing would be different if I were writing freehand in a notebook, or if I took my laptop to a café. The outcome – what I write – would also probably be different. Can we even say that I’m writing, or am I just typing?

Place matters, matter matters, technology matters. Animals matter (I am a vegetarian after all). Post- and other more-than-human approaches therefore move beyond the binaries of human/non-human, nature/culture and acknowledge the messy ‘intra-actions’ of our worlds. Back to my work then:

1) I’m interested in exploring the role of technology, particularly infant surveillance technology, in ‘assemblages’ of parenting and childcare. In doing so I recognise that technology is increasingly being used by parents to help safeguard or monitor their children. Does this alleviate or heighten anxiety? What if the tech goes wrong? What are the ethics of this technology? How are children relating to this technology? I’ve been developing a research proposal for this work with the aim of applying for grants. This builds on themes of my PhD where I looked at how parents negotiate ‘risk’ in regards to second-hand children’s things.

2) I’ve continued my work on doctoral student support (see paper here). I started developing a project on mindfulness and doctoral students, attending a couple of great conferences along the way, but then shifted my focus based on a gap I found in the literature. I am now looking at doctoral experiences of writing as a ‘more-than-human’ practice with the aim of better understanding the lived experience of postgraduate writing, and how institutions might alter their policies and/or training, based on a post-human approach to the writing practice. I’m doing this project with the University of Southampton’s Doctoral College and planning to conduct interviews in the Spring.

Travel and talks

2019 was a great year for work holidays and a terrible year for my carbon footprint.

The Berlin Wall

In February I supervised an undergraduate fieldtrip to Berlin. It was five-days with Product Design students – not my students, but other staff had commitments meaning they couldn’t go. I hadn’t been to Berlin before so enjoyed having a look around and visiting the museums.

In April I went to the U.S., first to Washington DC and then New York. I went to DC for the AAG (Association of American Geographers) Annual Conference. I’d only been to the AAG once before, in 2014 at the end of my PhD, where I had a fabulous #GeogSoton holiday with my peers in Florida. This time I went on my own, but enjoyed meeting up with a couple of friends there and my awesome PhD supervisor, Kate Boyer. I gave a paper in the Feminist Digital Geographies session introducing my ideas on posthuman parenting. It went well and spurred me on to develop my thoughts. From there, and after doing the touristy things in DC, I returned to New York and spent five days staying in an AirBnB in Brooklyn. As it was my second visit to NY I wanted to experience more of the local side of NY/Brooklyn, so I spent quite a bit of time in coffee shops and a yoga studio (I chose the wrong holiday if I was looking for a retreat) as well as a few more galleries.

In November I went to Singapore and Perth. I had to visit Singapore to support the recently launched masters programme so I used the opportunity to pop on a plane for the extra five hours to Perth to see my friends who live there and have some research meetings. I gave an invited seminar at the University of Western Australia based on my previous ‘design for ageing’ supermarket retail project and had some very interesting meetings with scholars at Curtin University with whom I am hoping to collaborate. Back in Singapore, there was little time for anything other than work, although I did manage to squeeze in a couple of post-work drinks in Clarke Quay.

Geography Dept. at UWA – University of Western Australia

Publications: I had a paper out in the Journal of Consumer Culture special issue on thrift last year. The whole issue is here, I can send out PDFs of my article on request.

2020 plans: As well as the new areas of research I am pursuing, I’m co-convening a session at the Royal Geographic Societies Annual Conference in September exploring experiences of academic identity within and beyond Geography.

I also upped-my-yoga-ante in 2019 by starting hot (Bikram) yoga. It’s addictive, and it works.

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