Archive for September, 2008

Review for Encountering Urban Places in Environment and Planning D : Society and Space.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Yay! Today, my favorite academic journal has published a review of the book Lars Meier and I have edited one year ago. The review was written by Sara Westin. If your university has subscribed to Environment and Planning D, then you can download the review here: DOI 10.1068/d2605rvw. For those who are not in such a lucky position I will to post two snippets from the review – the first about the book as a whole, the second about the chapter written by yours truly:

The different texts can be read as freestanding articles, but what bind them together—except for the focus on the urban encounter and the use of the visual—are the explicit or implicit references to the works of Lefebvre. This is a clever editorial arrangement that results in something more than the sum of all parts. Last but not least, it is uplifting to take part in urban research that to such a high degree is produced outside the Anglo-Saxon context: only three of the ten contributors are working in universities in the United States (not a single one in the UK or in Canada). The non-Anglo-Saxon focus, which is not something that is made explicit by the editors, is to a certain extent reflected in the choice of examples as well as in the bibliographies […] Conclusively, although slightly overpriced, Encountering Urban Places is an interesting book that provides not only a rematerialization but also a diversification of the urban research tradition.

I find Encountering Urban Places incredibly inspiring since it offers a range of interesting ways to explore the multidimensionality of everyday encounters and how these encounters may play a part in the production of places. Here I especially want to mention Frers’s concept of ‘envelopment’—an analytic tool which can be used to understand the constant interaction between things and people that characterizes everyday urban encounters and to evoke a sense of what we experience and help understand why we do certain things (page 44). The concept refers to the process that unfolds when we are moving around in the city. As we enter different social – material – spatial constallations we are constantly enveloped by impressions—all of which configure our behaviour. However, Frers stresses, this is not a passive process—we are not just being enveloped by our surroundings, we are also enveloping ourselves. By drawing on Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Frers challenges the Cartesian mind – body dichotomy as well as the division between agency and perception: our intentions, our mood, our corporal condition all play crucial parts in the envelopment process since they filter our perception, which in turn guides our actions. Frers analysis focuses on the in-between space—the envelope—that extends into both actor and surrounding. The concept does not refer to an object in the real world (page 34), but rather to a constantly changing process which although subtle, is extremely powerful since it restrains and enables action.

We’re of course really, really glad about getting such a positive review! Hopefully it will attract some new readers for our book. :) In any case it provides a lot of motivation to see that people enjoy the fruits of the work that has been invested into this volume by all of its contributors.

Mannen som elsket Yngve – The aches of adolescence.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

A Norwegian movie set in the time right after the Berlin Wall came down, telling a story that is both universal und very much located in a particular setting. The medium sized town of Stavanger and it’s suburban surroundings feature as much into the movie as the particular Lebensgefühl of the time: Music (heavily featured are The Cure, Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, etc.), a strange mix of feeling exhilaration about the future and being deeply disappointed with the world, and a strange, unknown feeling that one is getting closer to the end of one’s adolescence. Being in love and being insecure, posing and crying, doing sports and hanging out in your bed, meeting your buddies and sitting on your parent’s sofa watching TV. I really liked this movie because I could relate to it on so many different levels and because the actors are doing good jobs in difficult roles. However, I was not absorbed by the drama, and I could not really connect to many of the characters. Maybe the script was a bit too explicit about some things and maybe the camera did not find the right angles to provide us with sequences that offered us a glimpse into why the characters do what they do. With the exception of the main character, Jarle Klepp, the others remain mostly real depth. We don’t know why the beautiful and utterly cool Cathrine (played by Ida Elise Broch) feels the same ennui as Jarle and his buddies. We have dialogue telling us that the parents of one of Jarle’s friends are highly educated, but we don’t know much about his motivations beyond that. Maybe the film should have been a little longer, maybe the camera should have rested on the characters a little bit more, but as it is now, many characters remained too flat for my taste. Nonetheless, the film was really nice – it could only have been even better. It could have been as good as Fucking Åmål. I would recommend to watch The Man Who Loved Yngve in a nice theater with friends who like to discuss a movie afterwards – something like the Ryder in Bloomington.
IMDb entry | Trailer

The frustrations and delights of peer-review.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

About a week ago, the editor of the journal Discourse Studies told me that a paper which I submitted has been favorably reviewed and that it will be published after I re-work my paper according to what the anonymous reviewer has suggested. In itself, that already is great news! It was even more wonderful for two reasons:

  1. I had submitted a paper that was practically identical to this one to another journal quite a while ago. The paper was based on a study that I did for a class on conversation analysis offered by Douglas Maynard during my graduate year in Bloomington. I mentioned this in my letter to the editor of the journal, and I also mentioned that because of this and because of privacy issues, I did not have easy access to the videos that are analyzed in the paper. I wanted to tell this, because I think that this kind stuff should be said and that honesty in science would be rewarded. However, the opposite was the case and the first point of criticism was that the paper is closer in form to a term paper instead of a journal article. It was not even forwarded to an anonymous reviewer. When I got this reply, I was so frustrated that I tried to push this paper into the lowest recesses of my existence. Which did not work, unsurprisingly. In the course of time, frustration turned into resolve and I decided to resubmit the paper (adding a few good references that I found in the meantime) without mentioning that it is based on a student paper and that I do not have direct access to the videos anymore. (The latter being the second and a more important reason for rejecting the paper. But if a reviewer would have stated that something is missing and that I should re-examine the video data, then I would done so, of course.) I guess this is a lesson about gate-keeping in peer-review and about how even well-meaning people might not approach something neutrally if they have negative preconceptions about its origins…
  2. Because of the frustration that was generated after this rejection, I had very little trust in the whole peer-reviewed journal business. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise for me to read the review for my paper: it took my propositions seriously and then found parts of the paper that did not live up to the analysis that I develop in the rest of the paper. Thus it encouraged me to strengthen my argument – instead of watering it down by requesting to add another perspective or authors X and Y. This has definitely contributed in re-building my trust in the scientific review process. Thanks a lot for that to the editor and to my anonymous reviewer.

Since the post-peer-review paper overhaul is done and has been accepted, the paper will be available early next year under the title Space, Materiality, and the Contingency of Action in Discourse Studies 11(2). Since SAGE’s copyright agreement allows for an online publication one year after the print version has seen the light of day, I will be able to put the full paper online at this site in 2010.

Finally, I want to thank Charles Antaki, who read the old student paper that I put online several years ago and who encouraged me to re-work and publish it. Without this support, I would probably not have been courageous enough to try to get this paper published at all. In addition, I want to thank Elizabeth Nelson, a class-mate from Bloomington, who corrected and polished my English before I submitted the paper for the first time.

Erste Besprechung zu Einhüllende Materialitäten.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Hocherfreut bin ich heute in meiner Linkstatistik auf einen mir bislang nicht bekannten Verweis gestoßen und habe auf der betreffenden Seite dann eine Besprechung meines Buchs entdeckt. Das lässt natürlich erst einmal den Puls in die Höhe schnellen. Glücklicherweise konnte die Aufregung in Freude umschlagen, denn unkultur schreibt unter anderem: Das Buch “Einhüllende Materialitäten. Eine Phänomenologie des Wahrnehmens und Handelns an Bahnhöfen und Fährterminals” stellt für mich eines der innovativsten Projekte dar, dass mir in der letzten Zeit untergekommen ist. Besonders gefreut habe ich mich aber über diesen Abschnitt:

Nicht nur die Art der Darstellung – die Arbeit ist durchweg flüssig geschrieben – gerade die Methodologie ist gut. Der Autor beschreibt nicht nur sehr ansprechend seine Forschungsergebnisse; nebenbei legt er den Arbeits- und Entstehungsprozess der eigenen Studie offen. Notizen aus dem Feldtagebuch etwa, die die Forschung transparent machen. Außerdem sind die Videos, die im Buch ausgewertet werden, auf der Homepage des Autors dokumentiert. Im Gegensatz zu manch zweifelhaften Methoden der Feldforschung ist diese Methode nicht nur innovativ, sondern aussagekräftig hinsichtlich der Interaktion Mensch-Maschine.

Danke, unkultur! Das motiviert mich sehr und bestärkt mich in der Hoffnung, methodologisch auf dem richtigen Weg zu sein. :)

Landscape, aesthetics and life on the route.

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Two weeks ago, I attended the Fehn Symposium (named after the Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn). Besides talking about Landscape Urbanism Today, the symposium was the inauguration event for the research project in which I will participate for six fully funded months next year. The name of the project is Routes, Roads and Landscapes. Aesthetic Practices en route, 1750 – 2015 and it is funded by the Norwegian Research Council (Norges Forskingsråd). All went well, luckily including my presentation Encountering Places: Aesthetics of the Lived Moment and the Aesthetics of Long Durations which, to my utter delight, tied in nicely with Tim Edensor’s presentation on The pleasures of Everyday Mobility: Ghosts, Familiarities and Surprises in Motorscapes. Now I am really looking forward to start working on my part of the research project (more about that when the project’s website is up).