Geophotography Show

Today was the end of module exhibition for final years taking Geophotography. Students are asked to produce a series of photographs which depict a geographical or environmental topic. Alongside their photos they write a critical visual methodology which explains their use of content, composition and semiotics to construct a narrative.

Sixty students exhibited their work and over 100 people came to enjoy the show, wine and Mike Jeffries’s impeccable taste in savoury snacks. Below are a selection of photos of the show.

The emotional geographies of the Zimbabwean diaspora in a post-Mugabe era

John Clayton and Bernard Manyena have just started a new research project inspired by political changes in Zimbabwe. You can read about it below.

The ‘emotional turn’ within human geography has brought renewed attention to the role of affective registers in constituting and transforming socio-spatial relations. How people feel about, react to and relate to past lives, current situations and future prospects matters – and has material consequences. For migrant communities, the (re)production of such emotions are particularly significant in relation to processes of marginalisation, the (re)construction of translocal subjectivities, constructions of home, strategies of adaptation and resilience, activism and protest and future plans. Others have pointed to the emotional dimensions of more seismic geo-political change as experienced, but also actively navigated, including 9/11, the war on terror and Brexit – radically altering the terrain on which emotions play out, but also providing moments through which they might be re-worked.

We use this grounding to focus on an era-defining political shift: the resignation of the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. In a fast moving week in November 2017, Zimbabwe witnessed a military led ‘coup’ with popular support, a resignation that wasn’t and then the stepping down of Mugabe.  In the immediate aftermath of events, the overwhelming impression conveyed by the (social) media was a powerful and overwhelming emotional response across social and political divides: initial excitement tinged with frustration and exhaustion, disbelief, celebration and then hope also measured with uncertainty. Such publically displayed emotions have political effects. Some initial observations indicate how such reactions, fed by decades of repression are actively re-working the contours of citizenship and belonging. Regardless of what comes next for Zimbabwe there is a sense that ‘the genie’ of this outpouring of relief and hope; a very physic(al) claiming of the streets, cannot be easily put back in the bottle. However, what perhaps is less clear is how are these changes are viewed ‘from a distance’ by those who could not pour onto the streets of Harare, but also how such emotions might evolve and continue to inform stances and practices of transnational lives.

Over 37 years under Mugabe Zimbabwe lost millions of citizens. Some were killed in war, others were ‘disappeared’ in clampdowns on political opposition and the seizure of land, many more moved to find work and escape oppression in regional African countries – but there has also been considerable migration to a plethora of other countries beyond the continent. Some scholars have suggested that the Zimbabwean diaspora may be viewed as ‘fractured’: constituted by those with different constraints on freedom of movement, settlement, and varied relationships with ‘host’ and homeland.

Through an exploratory survey with Zimbabweans living outside of the country in a number of locations we will generate themes and issues for further in depth qualitative research. This initial survey will address (a) how events of November 2017 were experienced and mediated (b) emotional reactions to events of those 8 days (c) perceived direct impacts of those events and (d) hopes and fears for the future. We will then conduct a series of in depth interviews with a range of willing participants in a variety of international locations to explore in more detail narratives of experience and change. The research looks to address the following three research questions.

  1. What is the role of emotional registers in the (re)formation of perspectives, prospects and plans for Zimbabweans living outside of Zimbabwe?
  2. How do these experiences play out in and for a diverse and ‘fractured diaspora’?
  3. What role do emotional geographies play in anticipating and planning future lives?


AAG Conference Session – Media and Disasters

Kevin Glynn is organising a session at the upcoming AAG with Julie Cupples. Details of their session are below.

Media and Disasters

Sponsored by Media and Communication Geography Specialty Group, Cultural Geography Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group

12/04/2018 – 5:20 PM

Disasters, like other events, don’t come pre-equipped with meanings, but must be put into discursive and narrative frameworks before they can be made sense of and understood. In the current conjuncture, characterized by increasingly acute and widely felt crises of the global neoliberal economy, climate systems, and political institutions, the discourses and knowledges through which disasters are known and understood are themselves shifting and mutating. Such shifts and mutations are abetted by the fact that, in the contemporary technological environment, the victims and survivors of disasters often have direct access to the means of media production and distribution in ways that were once all but unimaginable. This has created possibilities for the amplification and circulation of alternative and socially marginalized knowledges, voices, and perspectives capable of challenging the most established representational conventions, narrative frameworks, tropes and discourses for the signification of disaster. This session invites papers that explore the shifting meanings, representations and discourses of disaster in a variety of media and contexts. We are particularly interested in media practices through which indigenous, black, working-class, queer and women’s knowledges and experiences of disaster contest familiar discourses of vulnerability and resilience and challenge forms of inequality and dispossession that structure the uneven impacts of disasters.



The Conspirational YouTubing of Disaster and Post-Truth Climates: A Case Study of Conspirational Narratives in Relation to the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Tom Albrecht, Queen’s University Belfast

Van Prooijen & Douglas’ work argues that the sense-making process concerning the loss of control due to societal crises, such as natural disasters, can result in conspirational thinking. In summer 2017, the Atlantic hurricanes caused theories to emerge on social media platforms which claim that these natural disasters are intentionally brought about by secret conspirators. YouTube in particular, as a fast-paced medium for the dissemination of political views with potentially large audiences, provides a platform for attaching new meanings to current events and propagating alternative truths on disasters. In the context of the summer 2017 hurricanes, YouTubers draw from established conspiratorial narratives (e.g. chemtrails and geo-engineering, depopulation, FEMA concentration camps) and furthermore, employ scientific methods to explain hurricanes as technologically manufactured conspiracies. This form of alternative knowledge production concerning disaster needs to be understood as a political discursive practice which utilises suppressed and stigmatized knowledge to attack scientific and political institutions in power. While climate change conspiracism receives increasing attention in academic scholarship, climates of suspicion concerning geo-engineering and its societal and political implications are barely addressed in academia. This paper critically engages with the scholarly engagement with conspiracism, social media and disaster by analysing the discursive interplay of conspirational, scientific, (geo)-political, and apocalyptic narratives in conspirational YouTube videos which address the Atlantic summer 2017 hurricanes.

The Social Mediation of Knowledge and Counterknowledge in Post-Quake Christchurch

Julie Cupples, University of Edinburgh, and Kevin Glynn, Northumbria University

Disasters and the processes of their mediation often starkly reveal social and cultural divisions and fault lines, along with the geological or climatological ones that may be in play, and thus expose entrenched exclusions and racisms that are typically less visible to the relatively privileged and powerful during more ordinary times. The new media environment is facilitating civic engagement around such fault lines and engendering new ways of living through and responding to disasters and their fallout, so that many disaster survivors now become heavy media produsers and prosumers (to borrow two neologisms from new media theory) in the short, medium, and/or long terms. This paper explores such media practices undertaken in the context of the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and ongoing struggles to recover and rebuild in their wake. These quakes exposed discursive, conceptual and cultural as well as physical and geological ruptures, and thus created space for the circulation of subordinated knowledges that Eurocentric rationalities, coloniality and capitalism have struggled historically to repress, marginalize, exclude or destroy. Our focus is on a range of media practices and texts that reveal both the everyday creativities of ordinary people and the dangers posed by neoliberalism and coloniality in a quake-prone settler-colonial state. These texts and practices include the work of the Māori Television Service, the activities of Facebook and YouTube users, documentaries, a TV drama series, and a nightly, muckraking current affairs show with an active and participatory audience.

Communicative Capacities of the Elemental

Nathaniel O’grady, University of West of England
The paper engages with recent debates regarding the roles that material forces described as elemental play in communication practices to examine how UK emergency response authorities share information amongst one another during emergencies officially described as ‘multi-agency incidents’. I focus empirically on both the protocols designed by the government to formalise information sharing between authorities and how these protocols structure the use of information sharing technologies themselves. Whilst the research documents how protocols and technologies seek to harness the elemental forces physically constitutive of emergencies into information sharing, examples are also presented in which elemental forces disrupt the information sharing practices they otherwise get mobilised into. Considering the case, I make three arguments that both extend literature on elemental forces and communication whilst bringing this literature to bear on research into emergency governance. Firstly, I outline the capacities elemental forces take on in facilitating emergency information sharing. Secondly, I develop the notion of excess to explain how situations are produced in which elemental forces in emergencies complicate information sharing practices. Thirdly, I reveal how, by disrupting information sharing, elemental forces have a detrimental effect on authorities’ ability to make decisions on how to govern emergencies.

‘Behind The Scenes Of The Disaster Museum: Titanic Belfast, Strokestown Park and The Mediation Of Memory’

Tracey Potts

Taking the museum as a significant apparatus of mediation, this paper will explore some of the issues at stake in Belfast’s appropriation of the Titanic myth (Howells, 2012) in its urban regeneration strategy. The branding of the city’s former shipbuilding district as the ‘Titanic Quarter’, together with its visitor attraction dedicated to the story of RMS Titanic, have been controversial developments, raising questions around difficult heritage and the commodification of memory. Titanic Belfast, according to its website, ‘the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience’, has, likewise, attracted criticism on the grounds of taste, being marked as an example of ‘maritime kitsch’ (Johnson, 2015: 160) or else as a ‘dark tourist’ site. As William J.V. Neill (2013: 68) points out – bluntly – ‘Titanic sells.’ The task of the paper will, then, be one of trying to disentangle all of the conflicting meanings that stratify Titanic Belfast as a visitor attraction, whilst paying attention to the challenges that ensue when the disaster enters the museum and when memory meets tourism. To sharpen the question of branding and commodification, media and history, a comparison will be made between Titanic Belfast and Strokestown Park, The Irish National Famine Museum, where the great social disaster of the 1840s is retold using the unique records of the Strokestown estate archive.

Social Media Framing of Hurricane Katrina’s 10-year Anniversary

Sahar Zavareh, LMU Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Sascha Jackisch, LMU Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Hurricane Katrina was by the far the most intensively reported natural disaster in 2005 with coverage spanning from event details, impact, damages and losses, to recovery efforts. Portrayals of aid relief and recovery were vividly and prominently displayed in traditional media in 2005 without the use of social media today. At the center of new media and digital media research are key concepts of identity and community. The loss of identity or new identities created from these natural disasters can be seen as a dynamic transformation process supporting recovery and movement towards new environments and ecosystems. Embedded in these themes of identity is the sense of place and space of geographical analysis where social media has furthered this research connecting individuals regardless of having a shared place through the creation of relationships in a digital environment. This research seeks to uncover stories focused on identities and community recovery of the Hurricane Katrina 10-year (K10) anniversary in New Orleans narrated by traditional news media and new social media platforms. Framing theory will be applied to focus how traditional and social media presented these stories and how their meaning is constructed. The digital methods employed will analyze content from Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube using image searches and scrape, tags, and metadata. Additionally, we will compare the online news reporting of the event to the traditional print news stories of the K10 event. The results are presented with our findings and analysis of media disaster framing.



The Intersection of Race, Class and Politics on Tyneside, 1918-1962

Hannah Martin is a first year PhD student in human geography in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Northumbria University. Her key areas of interest are labour and social geographies and the history of working class communities in the North East of England. Her previous research has focussed on identity construction, social formation and cultural development of 19th century coalmining communities in Durham and Northumberland. Hannah’s PhD thesis will focus on the intersection of race, class and politics in Tyneside in the 20th century.

Hostile, and often violent, relationships have punctuated the history of working class race relations in Britain in the early twentieth century. Whilst larger politically and economically disruptive events often caught the attention of contemporary journalists and modern day scholars alike, the significance of these ‘exceptional episodes’ of racialized hostilities on the articulation of everyday race relations in occupational communities has generally been overlooked. This PhD thesis aims to reconsider the expression of race relations in working class Tyneside communities in the period 1918-1962 and uncover the significance of temporal, spatial and social contexts as well as the longer-term impact of ‘exceptional episodes’ of racialized violence and culture on everyday interactions in a local space.


Meeting of seaman outside of Customs House at the Mill Dam, South Shields, 1930 (Credit: South Tyneside Libraries Photo Archive)

This project has three objectives. The first is to understand the multiple ways in which ‘exceptional episodes’ of racialized behaviours and culture, such as riots, strikes, imperial exhibitions etc., intersected with everyday interactions between colonial migrants and the native population. In order to draw conclusions about spatial, temporal and social contexts of race relations GIS will be used to digitally document diverse experiences and racialized interactions in the period 1919-1932, the decade between two ‘race riots’. The second aim is to highlight the ways in which national policies, relating to immigration, employment, housing and residency, were experienced and contested across Tyneside and how this shaped race relations, politics, and social and cultural integration at a local level. The final aim of this thesis will be to consider how identities were shaped and reshaped by the contexts and relational structures of power in which they were situated within Tyneside’s seaport communities.

This thesis will engage with numerous bodies of existing research, situating itself alongside theoretical frameworks and traditional narrative historical accounts whilst perusing an original line of enquiry. Data will be collected from primary sources, such as newsprint, police and judiciary records, and naturalisation case records, as the archival record proves to be an influential, informative resource when locating episodes of civil unrest, social and political agitation, protest and the diverse public perceptions of race and class. The project seeks to illuminate the ways in which race relations are created, maintained, contested and articulated in a local community over a long trajectory, drawing attention to the significance of social contexts, community memory and identity.

Who is Palau’s marine sanctuary really for?

This post is a re-blog of a recent article by Pete Howson for New Internationalist.


Is Palau’s marine reserve as good as it sounds – or a route to luxury tourism?


1 November 2017

Two years ago, the tiny Pacific nation of Palau received international praise for creating one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world.

But enforcing what is, in effect, a vast no-fishing zone the size of California is throwing up considerable challenges.

Since its creation, at least 22 crews of illegal fishing vessels have been apprehended in the conservation area and ‘extradited’ to international waters. The Palauan authorities usually confiscate the boats’ high-value assets, with the crews being dispatched on their most sea-worthy vessel.
In some cases the boats are burned – creating spectacular images that are readily consumed by the international media.

But there is a moral predicament behind these arrests. ‘Many of the crew are trafficked as slaves,’ a local police officer explains. ‘They are picked up in the Philippines or Indonesia and told they’re on a “legal” vessel… We hope they make it home. But [they are often sent back on] old boats. Who knows?’

Local and international experts have also questioned the scientific rationale behind the conservation area. Tuna, for example, which is common to Palau’s waters, are highly migratory so enclosure won’t increase stocks if consumption continues to increase and spawning grounds are not protected.

Some see the sanctuary as part of a plan to benefit the super-rich, not the coral reefs. It’s integral to a wider vision to re-brand Palau’s string of pristine islands as a luxury tourist destination. A law proposed earlier this year would mean only five-star hotels will get planning approval in future.
Despite soundings to reduce tourist numbers (‘quality over quantity’, as the President of Palau put it) the marine conservation goes hand-in-hand with a $30 million expansion of the airport. In order to make the expansion feasible, it has been suggested that international visitors would need to triple from today’s 146,000 per year.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently increased its target for marine protection areas from 10 per cent to 30 per cent of the world’s oceans. But protecting Palau’s waters involves addressing the causes of illegal fishing – poverty and slave trafficking – and encouraging sustainable tourism.

This article is from the November 2017 issue of New Internationalist.
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Memoryscapes Research Project

Jon Swords and colleagues in Architecture & Built Environment, Computer & Information Sciences and Humanities were recently award funding from the AHRC and EPSRC. Below is an outline and you can visit the project website here.

Memoryscapes is funded by the AHRC-EPSRC Immersive Experiences call. As the call document outlines, the focus of the funding round is on:

“…encouraging research proposals exploring immersive experiences in three areas where the UK has world leading creative assets and technology partners [memory, place and performance]. These three areas have arts and humanities research at the core of developing experiences and practices. They also represent areas in which the benefits of research offer significant cultural and economic value for the UK.”

The immersive industry is built around the use of a range of technologies including virtual and augmented reality, 3D audio effects, haptic technologies, machine olfaction, gesture and speech recognition, and bespoke software.

Our project seeks to develop a new framework to support the creation and application of immersive memoryscapes: multi-sensory and participatory experiences within public spaces that re-contextualise heritage assets, and reimagine and reinvigorate public spaces as destinations. These will provide connections with the past along with the capacity for users to contribute feedback and their own memories.

Our framework will combine academic understandings of the construction of these memoryscapes with practical guidelines for their creation and application. It will be scalable and offer not only new pathways for memory based organisations to disseminate their collections, but provide new approaches to enhance urban (re)development projects through the inclusion of immersive and participatory experiences. Through a series of interviews, desk-based research, collaborative workshops and public engagement, we will explore and evaluate ideas, challenges and opportunities for immersive experiences that employ memory assets to reinvigorate place as a destination. By examining the intersection of immersive experiences, memory assets and place, the proposed research aims to establish the potential application of immersive experiences to:

  • re-contextualise and increase access to, and dialogue about memory assets by bringing them out of the museum/gallery/archive and presenting them in new ways and in new locations
  • reimagine and reinvigorate our public spaces contributing to their character and identity, and our relationship to those places by utilising memory assets

Our key outputs will be:

  • New interdisciplinary partnerships which can go forward to the next round of funding to develop immersive experiences
  • A framework for understanding the generation of immersive and participatory memoryscapes, including ‘prototype(s)’ to illustrate potential ways forward

To help us we’re working with two project partners:

Partner 1 – Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums is a major regional museum, art gallery and archives service based in North East England. They operate nine museums, support a further 55 and manage the region’s archives. Their collections are of international importance in archives, art, science and technology, archaeology, military and social history, fashion and natural sciences. TWAM will provide valuable insights and access to their collections, as well as expertise on user experience and curation of pasts.

Partner 2 – FaulknerBrowns Architects

FaulknerBrowns are a multi-award winning architectural practice with over 50 years of experience working nationally and internationally. They are recognized for their design, masterplanning, placemaking and strategic expertise, and have worked on multi-million pound projects for public and private sector clients. FaulknerBrowns bring to the project extensive research from their collaboration with Newcastle City Council on masterplanning the development of Newcastle’s principal retail area.

We’ll also be working with immersive experience providers (including VRTGO members), urban designers, heritage organisations, civic bodies, artists, designers and academics

The project lasts for nine months and will include a series of workshops to develop our outputs. If you’re interested in this project we’ll have a dedicated twitter and website up and running soon. In the meantime feel free to contact us.

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