Archive for the ‘social science’ Category

Video research in the open. Encounters involving the researcher-camera.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

cover of the book 'Video Interaction AnalysisA few months ago, the book Video Interaction Analysis – Methods and Methodology, edited by Ulrike Tikvah Kissmann has been published. Since this is my first purely methodological publication, I am really looking forward to see how it is received. The opening paragraph of my chapter reads like this:

Filming is an encounter. The person wielding the camera, the camera itself, and the people and things around them enter a dynamic relationship. This relationship unfolds itself according to the rules set by the social, spatial, and material features and practices that constitute it. These features and practices constitute it, but they do not determine it in a linear way – too many contingencies enter the interaction process, disrupting, changing, or reorienting it. […] In this essay, I will focus on the surprising, unplanned side of doing video research, pointing out both the risks and the opportunities that are part and parcel of filming non-staged everyday life in public settings.

After discussing how I am located in the social field as a researcher – in connection to Bourdieu’s discussion of the social field – I switch dimensions and start to discuss my position in the material field:

But what about the position in the material field? Is that not the same thing as the geographical location? In the way that materiality is conceptualized for this essay, there is more to this position than physical location. Drawing both on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body (Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Merleau-Ponty and Lefort, 1968) and on works published in the wide field of science and technology studies (Garfinkel et al., 1981; Latour, 1987; Pickering, 1995), I want to propose that the position I take as a bodily actor in the material field at least temporarily becomes that of a hybrid of man and machine: a camera-researcher. The way I position myself is guided by the way I observe with and as the camera, by the way the camera observes with and as me.

These are the two main conceptual vectors which propel the discussion forward: a focus on the open-ended encounters that constitute the field work itself, and an STS focus that helps the analysis to not take the camera itself for granted, making it disappear behind the hand and the eye of the researcher. Equipped with this two vectors, I try to thrust into some problematic aspects of ethnographic research in general and of video-based research in particular.

Living the beach. Eyes, Feet and, of course, Hearts.

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

picture of the first slide of my presentation, showing a stormy beachAfter leaving the conference on creative destruction in Leipzig, I had to take a night train to get to the next academic event, the conference ‘Twixt Land and Sea: The Beach in Literature, Film and Cultural Theory, which was hosted by the University of Berne in Switzerland. I was really saddened that I missed the first two days of the conference, but somehow my e-mail address got off the list for the beaches conferences so that I assumed that it would not take place at all and submitted an abstract for the overlapping conference in Leipzig. The confusion created a Lars that felt a bit ruffled when he arrived in Berne the next morning, having only an hour to get himself straightened up – which succeeded only partially, so that the talk that I gave there was really, really flooded with ehms and, even worse, more than a hundred (no joke!) kind ofs. However, since I otherwise think that the content is worth the while, I got myself reacquainted with my video editing software (Final Cut Express) and edited out most of these annoying fillers. I really hope that the audience did not think I am totally stupid/deviant during the presentation… Whatever. Here is the abstract of the presentation.

The encounter with the beach opens up a new, wide horizon. The eyes can roam over dunes, the shore line, the waves and the many or few bodies of others. Should the temperature allow for it, shoes will be tossed and toes can dig into the grainy sand. The physicality of the beach merges with the corporality of the body. Looking and walking around people perceive themselves in concert with their surroundings. This act of perceiving is not a passive observation, to the contrary, it is a sensual and emotional involvement; it is acting towards yourself, towards material things, social ideals and corporeal others.
In this presentation I will use video and audio recordings to analyze and display how the beach is constituted in human interactions. Usually, “living the beach” is cast as holiday experience. However, in times of climate change another layer of complexity is added to the multi-dimensional experience of the beach. The heart is not only moved by sunsets and flirtations, or the scare of drowning in the ocean, it is also faced with the possible submersion of the landscape in which it thrives. If perceiving the changes created by global warming in everyday life is connected with the experience of your own corporeal self, then it is interesting to examine how climate change enters the sensual relation to the world around you – instead of existing only in the media, on maps and scientific reports. I will try to get a grip on this relationship between the bodily self, climate change and everyday experience to open up a new perspective on the effects of global warming and rising sea levels.

You can also check out the conference program (PDF). As usual, I have recorded the presentation so that you can download and watch it yourself (29 minutes):
Ogg Theora movie (46.3 MB, play with VLC) | QuickTime movie (38.9 MB, play with QuickTime).

Erschöpfung und Erosion. Eine Phänomenologie der Handlungsmacht des Natürlichen.

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Bild der ersten Folie meines VortragsAm 18. und 19. Juni konnte ich erfreulicherweise auf der wirklich spannenden gemeinsamen Tagung der Sektionen Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung und Umweltsoziologie der DGS einen Vortrag halten. Zum Glück habe ich während des Vortrags die Verwendung von Füllwörtern wie sozusagen,halt,eben und so weiter einigermaßen im Griff gehabt, so dass es mir nicht zu unangenehm ist, die Aufnahme des Vortrags hier im Internet zur Verfügung zu stellen. (Üblicherweise nutze ich die Möglichkeit mit meiner Präsentationssoftware, Apples Keynote, einen Vortrag aufzuzeichnen. Nicht immer ist die Qualität gut genug zur Weitergabe, aber in jedem Fall ist es genauso schmerzhaft wie lehrreich, sich den eigenen Vortrag mit etwas Abstand noch einmal anzuschauen.) Hier jedenfalls das Abstract für den Vortrag und im Anschluss der Verweis zum aufgezeichneten Video.

Aufbauend auf einer Studie über besonders eindrucksvoll gestaltete Aussichts- und Rastplätze auf der Norwegischen Tourismus Route ( will ich in dieser Präsentation die Wirk- oder Handlungsmacht des Natürlichen thematisieren. Im Vordergrund steht dabei weniger eine Diskussion des Natürlichen als Kategorie, sondern vielmehr die agency, die sich an diesen Orten entfaltet. Der Norwegische Tourismusverbund und das staatliche Verkehrswesen präsentieren diese Orte als Modellhaft. Hier zeigt sich die norwegische Landschaft in ihrer vollen Pracht – und zwar gerahmt durch spezifisch skandinavisches Design. Diese Orte sind in der Tat beispielhaft für die Kategorie des Sublimen – Natur zeigt sich hier genauso schön wie schrecklich. Was bedeutet dies jedoch im Alltag dieser Orte? Im Zentrum der hier präsentierten Untersuchung steht sowohl die langsam zerstörende Wirkung der Erosion wie auch der plötzliche Eingriff eines Wetterereignisses. Im Sinne einer Phänomenologie des hier untersuchten Ortes begrenzt sich die Untersuchung des Natürlichen aber nicht auf das Natürliche ausserhalb des eigenen Körpers. Die eigene Natur ist mit eingeschlossen und sie ist in sehr konkreter Weise ein entscheidender Anlass für den Halt an einem Ort. Die Erschöpfung einer längeren Reise im Auto, der ordinäre Druck der Blase – auch diese natürlich-leiblichen Prozesse treten hier zu Tage und prägen den kreativen Umgang mit der Materialität und sozialen Normung dieser Orte. Anhand von Fotografien, Videomaterial und ethnografischen Aufzeichnungen wird in dieser Präsentation des große Potential einer offenen Auseinandersetzung mit technisierten Räumen der Mobilität aufgezeigt – einer Auseinandersetzung in der die prozesshafte und oft unerwartete Verquickung von Handlungen, Wahrnehmungen, Ereignissen und Routinen in ihrer ganzen Spannungsgeladenheit thematisiert wird.
Videoaufzeichnung des Vortrags (30 min):
Ogg Theora Video (49.4 MB, abspielen mit VLC)
QuickTime Video (62.2 MB, abspielen mit QuickTime)

Die Tagung lief unter dem vielversprechenden Titel Technik und die Wiederkehr der Natur – Zur Ästhetik der schöpferischen Zerstörung und wurde am Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung in Leipzig ausgerichtet.

Research on space & art.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

photograph of a stairwell platform leading down into the tunnelThree weeks ago, Alexander Schellow and I conducted a workshop called spatial research at the advanced performance training part of the apass school in Antwerp, Belgium. I was a bit anxious about the workshop, even though Alexander and I tried to prepare as well as we could for an open-ended and individualized workshop setting such as the one we offered for the people in Antwerp. I guess the anxiety stemmed from the fact that I did not have any experience in teaching artists and therefore was not sure if our interaction would be productive or not.

To my relief, the cooperation was great – two of my main qualifications (knowledge about social theories of space & spatiality on the one hand, experience with different ethnographic field-work settings on the other hand) were very useful for them and the participants really tapped me for all of the advice that I could give them. Of course, what they do with that advice is different when compared to people from a university setting. But there was more than enough overlap to make the experience highly stimulating for me too. As I posted on Facebook: Artist may not be the better sociologists, but they can be sociologesques with brilliant ideas!
To give you a bit more information to work with: One project posed the greatest difficulties but – exactly because of that – it also was the most productive for all involved. One of the students is interested in violence and bodily injury – so we decided that for the short time that we have for the workshop (about two days in the field) he might want spend some time in the entrance area of a hospital, to get a feeling for how physical pain, injuries and sickness embed themselves and are produced in a specific place. When he spent time in the area, he took photographs, which obviously got him into trouble quite quickly. But after a stressful encounter with the hospital staff, some attempts at repairing trust by Alexander and me, several talks about this, and the ritualized deletion of the pictures, the student/artist developed a really excellent presentation that very forcefully evoked a feeling of the place, of the presence and abscence of the place in his presentation, of the loss of the photographs, and of the ambivalence of privacy, voyeurism, pain and empathy. It was more than thrilling – and it was only one of the many really excellent projects that the participants came up with in only a week. In a way, one could say that this was a first encounter with non-representational theory made practice.

If you want to take a brief look at the some of the things that people came up with, you can check the description of the workshop on the web, where some of the projects are presented (the links to the individual projects are in the box on the left side of the page).

My first peer-reviewed article: now available!

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

It might seem strange that one can have a PhD degree for two years and still not have published a single peer-reviewed article. Strange especially to those who are used to the social science biz in the English-speaking world. Well, things are different in Germany. You will find lots of highly successful and respected people who publish almost exclusively in book form – either by writing complete monographs or by contributing chapters to edited volumes. I do not find anything wrong with this culture (except for the fact that publications will usually be German only and that only little non-German debate will be acknowledged in many of these publications). But, as everybody that is on the academic job market these days knows: those darned international peer-reviewed articles are what job descriptions and scholarship programs request with growing force.

Because of that pressure, I decided to overcome my reservations and prior frustrations regarding peer-review. As always, once you have jumped on a new ship, you like it and think it is the best thing in the world. So now I am happy to be able to say: I am one of them! A real scientist with a peer-reviewed publication in a well ranked international journal. So, this is a cause for celebration for me. In addition, getting this published also showed some of the good sides of peer-review, since I got really useful and encouraging feedback, which definitely improved the article.

The article is called Space, materiality and the contingency of action: a sequential analysis of the patient’s file in doctor—patient interactions and it has been published in the June 2009 issue of Discourse Studies. This is the abstract:

Focusing on the multi-dimensionality of interactional settings, this study analyzes how the material world is a significant factor in the sequential co-production of the video-taped doctor—patient interactions. The analysis shows how a material artifact, the patient’s file, is relevant in two ways: a) as a device which is employed in the sequential organization of the interaction. The patient’s file is being used in the contexts of topic development and topic change. b) The file with its specific physical and symbolic features is being co-produced and contested by both actors as a knowledge reservoir. Further inspection of the interactions in concert with theoretical reflections of the role of space and materiality suggests that interactions should be interpreted as happening in spatially arranged constellations of material objects and actors. In these both rigid and flexible constellations boundaries are established, access is distributed, and meaning is solidified.

It is a real conversation analysis (CA) piece, something that I am quite proud of since I really enjoy CA even though I do not have the opportunity to work in this field as much as I would like to.

Finanzmanager in Singapur und das Einpassen in den Ort – von Lars Meier.

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Der Schweizer Radiosender DRS 2 hat einen sehr schönen Beitrag über das Buch von Lars Meier produziert. Wer mehr über das Leben von Finanzmanagern in Singapur, über koloniale Images und die Wichtigkeit des Ortes für die eigene Identitätsbildung wissen möchte, sollte sich den Beitrag (26:35 min) auf jeden Fall herunterladen oder gleich online anhören.

Feuer aus den Schützengräben.

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

In einem kurzen Essai zur Einleitung von Merleau-Pontys Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung habe ich zu Anfang meiner Beschäftigung mit der Phänomenologie geschrieben, dass ich befürchte, in das Feuer disziplinärer Schützengräben zu geraten. Das ist nun passiert. Im Sinne des Rechenschaft Ablegens auch und gerade über die dunkleren Seiten des wissenschaftlichen Alltags will ich hier nicht nur von positiven Rezensionen berichten.
Der Beschuss kam aus unerwarteter Richtung: von Seiten phänomenologisch orientierter Sozialwissenschaft und also nicht von Vertretern etablierterer Theorierichtungen. Die Besprechung stammt von Jürgen Hasse und ist in der Geographischen Zeitschrift (95: 105-106) abgedruckt worden. Die Werbung, die mein Verlag aus der Rezension von Jürgen Hasse herauskondensiert hat, hat mich vorgewarnt: Die Frage nach der Rolle der Materialitäten in der sozialen Welt kann nicht wichtig genug genommen werden. Sich diesem Thema gewidmet zu haben, ist Verdienst des Autors. Mehr Lob als das ist leider nicht zu finden… Aber ich schätze die Arbeiten von Jürgen Hasse eigentlich, weshalb ich mich hier auch noch ein wenig mit dem Inhalt seiner Kritik auseinandersetzen möchte. Dazu ein beispielhafter Absatz:

Phänomenologie kann nicht ohne saubere Begriffsarbeit gelingen! Das zeigt auch der Gebrauch des am Verständnis der Astronomie (!) orientierten Begriffs der »Konstellation«. Als Konstellationen werden nämlich die untersuchten Fähr- und Bahnhofsräume beschrieben. Der Begriff der Konstellation betont Einzelnes einer messbar-relationalen Ordnung im Gefüge anderer Dinge und menschlicher Körper. Der erkenntnistheoretische Effekt des Konstellations-Begriffs ist die denotative Isolierung. Ein solcher Blick passt nicht zur Methode der Phänomenologie, die Zusammenhängendes verstehen will und darin jedem erkenntnistheoretischen Atomismus entgegentritt. Die Dinge und Menschen ganzheitlich zusammenhaltenden Bedeutungsgefüge wären mit dem Begriff der »Situation« sicher wirkungsvoller zu analysieren gewesen.

Jürgen Hasse hat selbstverständlich völlig Recht, wenn er sagt, dass der Begriff der Konstellation – insbesondere in der Art in der ich ihn verwende – nicht zur Methode der Phänomenologie passt. Situation wäre in der Tat das passendere Konzept. Aber eine der wichtigsten Lehren meines wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens, meiner Auseinandersetzungen mit allerlei Kritischer Theorie, Konstruktivismus, Linguistic Turn und den Post…ismen ist, dass eine theoretische Einseitigkeit nicht nur in vielerlei Hinsicht fragwürdig ist – weil sie immer bestimmte Aspekte ausblendet und weil sie Unstimmigkeiten einfach ignoriert oder als nebensächlich abtut –, sondern weil eine theoretische Einseitigkeit darüber hinaus auch weniger produktiv ist und gerne zu vorhersagbaren Ergebnissen führt.
Selbstverständlich macht es wenig Sinn, Begriffe und Theorien einfach bunt ineinander zu würfeln. Die Einhüllenden Materialitäten waren ein Versuch, die Chancen einer Kombination und Konfrontation unterschiedlicher theoretischer und methodologischer Vorgehensweisen gezielt herauszuarbeiten und unter ständiger Reflexion und Selbstverortung und in Auseinandersetzung mit dem im Feld gesammelten Material zu zeigen, was sich wie kombinieren lässt und wo die Grenzen solcher Kombinationen sind (zu den Grenzen des Konstellationsbegriffs siehe beispielsweise S. 135-136 und die Gegenüberstellung zum Begriff des Gemenges auf S. 259-264).
Ich werde natürlich nicht aufhören, dieses Ziel zu verfolgen und wahrscheinlich werde ich in Zukunft zwei Wege verfolgen: in einigen Publikationen radikal und pointiert Unterschiedliches zusammen zu führen und in anderen Publikationen besonders vorsichtig und abwägend zu argumentieren. Beides hat seine Vorteile und beides wird bei unterschiedlichen Leuten auf Zustimmung und/oder Ablehnung treffen. Es wird natürlich auch weiterhin Leute geben, denen beides nicht passt. (Ich habe den Eindruck gewonnen, dass es hier auch eine Art von generationsbedingt unterschiedlicher Rezeption gibt.) Glücklicherweise bereitet mir sowohl das vorsichtige Argumentieren als auch das Poltern Freude beim Schreiben. Noch glücklicher schätze ich mich allerdings, dass die Rückmeldung, die ich sonst auf mein Buch bekommen habe, so positiv und mich bestärkend war.

Presentation: Landscape, the body, and the route. The socio-materiality of road stops between erosion and fatigue.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Next month Lars Meier and I will go to Cardiff to participate in this year’s conference of the British Sociological Association. I will be presenting as part of the stream Space, Mobility and Place, which sounds like a good context. Following is the abstract:

In this presentation, I want to use digital video recordings and photographs to analyze the corporeal dimension of what is happening in one of mobility’s borderlands. Based on research that has been done at rest stops of the Norwegian Tourist Route, I will discuss the multiple social and material layers that permeate each other at these sites. Symmetrically analysing material aspects on the one hand and social aspects on the other hand (i.e. material: built structures, erosion, and “natural events” like snowfall; i.e. social: social class, fatigue, and “social events” like experiencing a place as a picturesque landscape)–, I want to demonstrate two things: (1) How the corporeal embeddedness of actors in their material surroundings is an inextricable, temporally constituted part of what is labeled as The Social. Thus the challenge to a restricted understanding of the social – as it has been put forward in Science and Technology Studies or in Non-Representational Theory – is taken up in empirical field work. (2) How disruptions in flows are an essential and productive part of everyday practices, even if they arise as irritations. Thus it will be displayed that mobility, speed, and the non-places of flows have another side, a dark side that is, actually, quite multicolored.

I am really looking forward to visit Cardiff for the first time. Maybe even more exciting will be to compare the British sociology crowd with that of the German sociology conferences, and with the British geographers.

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.

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).

Automatische Irritationen – Die Sprache der Dinge.

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Ich bin ziemlich im Hintertreffen mit den Ankündigungen der guten Nachrichten aus der Welt der Wissenschaft… Dem will ich mich heute jedenfalls ein wenig entgegenstemmen, denn ich sitze zwar erschöpft aber trotzdem beschwingt in dem Zug, der mich von der von unserem Kolleg veranstalteten Summer School Nach dem Spatial Turn: Raum im Brennpunkt disziplinärer Perspektiven wieder zurück nach Hause bringt. Die Organisation der Summer School war anstrengend, aber ich glaube, dass alle TeilnehmerInnen Gutes mitgenommen und gemeinsam an einem offenen akademischen Arbeiten mitgewirkt haben. Mir hat es auch reichlich Freude gemacht!
Zurück zur Nachricht: Vor einiger Zeit habe ich mich mit einem Abstract für die Tagung Die Sprache der Dinge – kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf die materielle Kultur der Gesellschaft für Ethnographie beworben. Die Bewerbung für diese spannende Tagung war zu meiner großen Freunde erfolgreich, so dass ich im November in Berlin einige Überlegungen, Videos und Absichten zur Thematisierung der Dinge in der sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschung präsentieren kann.
Wie üblich hier auch noch das Abstract:

Automatische Irritationen – Überlegungen in Video zur Initiativentfaltung der Dinge.
Beim Lösen eines Fahrscheins an einem der Fahrkartenautomaten der Deutschen Bahn wird innerhalb von ein paar Minuten eine Vielzahl von Interaktionsregistern gezogen. Die Begegnung mit dem Automaten ist eine Herausforderung für alle Beteiligten, für die Jungen oder Alten, mit Muße oder in Hast, für die Neulinge oder die Erfahrenen, für die die gerade einen Fahrschein lösen oder für die Wartenden – in der kurzen Handlungssequenz passiert sehr viel mehr als ein reines Bedienen eines passiven, technischen Apparats.
Beim Eintreten in den Bahnhof werden Türen durchquert. Die Tür als sicht- und manipulierbare Grenze zwischen Innen und Außen ist einer der zentralsten Aspekte architektonischer Konfigurationen des Sozialen. Dieses Ding markiert eine wichtige symbolische Grenze, in seiner Materialität ist es aber gleichzeitig Bestandteil von ausgesprochen alltäglichen Handlungsroutinen.
Die zwei Dinge, welche im Mittelpunkt dieser Präsentation stehen, scheinen sehr unterschiedlich zu sein: der Fahrkartenautomat ist für seine Komplexität geradezu berüchtigt, während die Tür gleichsam von selbst in den Routinen des Alltagslebens unterzugehen droht.
In dieser Präsentation sollen diese zwei Dinge jedoch nicht als etwas behandelt werden: nicht als Symbol, nicht als Mensch-Maschine-Interface, nicht als Grenze und auch nicht als Ding-an-sich. Durch den Einsatz von digitalen Videoaufzeichnungen sollen die hier untersuchten Dinge in ihrem Wechselspiel mit dem Wahrnehmen und Handeln der Menschen hervortreten. In der detaillierten Analyse von Videosequenzen wird deutlich, welche Aspekte der Dinge in der Interaktion relevant werden. In Anbetracht des konkreten Materials soll die Frage verhandelt werden, von wo die Initiative ausgeht: handeln die Dinge oder doch nur die Menschen? In der Präsentation soll nicht nur die Performativität des Geschehens betont werden, auch die Performativität der Präsentation soll reflektiert werden: welche Herausforderungen stellen die Dinge an Methode und Methodologie der Analyse? Wie gehen wir sinnvoll mit dem um, was gelegentlich als das nicht-Repräsentationale bezeichnet wird?
In der immer auch kontingenten Interaktion mit dem Ding verflechten sich Wahrnehmen und Handeln zu einem genauso dichten Geflecht wie die Menschen und die Dinge. Auf theoretischer Ebene sollen Merleau-Ponty und die Entwicklungen in den neueren Science and Technology Studies der Analyse Instrumente an die Hand geben, mit denen ein Teil der Ordnung des Geflechts nachvollzogen werden kann.

Ich bin gespannt, wie die Diskussionen zu den Dingen in der Ethnographie/Ethnologie/Museumskunde geführt werden!


Friday, March 21st, 2008

Für meine leider erfolglose Bewerbung als Free Floater an der Göttinger Universität (bei der mir das ganze Exzellenzgerede mal wieder übel aufgestoßen ist) habe ich mir die Freiheit genommen, einen Forschungsplan ohne Literaturangaben einzureichen. Wenn schon frei treiben, denn auch wirklich und mal fort mit akademischen Konventionen!
Diesen Forschungsplan habe ich jetzt von Bewerbungsjargon (Selbstanpreisungen, Verortungen im Göttinger Forschungsumfeld, andere Lobhudeleien) befreit und online gestellt, denn eigentlich hat es mich vorangebracht, mir mögliche Zukunftsperspektiven bzw. eine Fortsetzung des Forschungsprojekts auszudenken. Aus dem Bewerbungsschreiben ist jetzt ein programmatisches Statement geworden, das vielleicht auch für Andere interessant sein könnte – entweder, weil das Projekt inhaltlich relevant ist, oder weil man mal schauen möchte, wie andere solche Projektpläne schreiben. Der Titel ist Materialität und soziale Ordnung – Inselgesellschaften im Klimawandel. Wie immer gilt auch für diesen Text: über Rückmeldung freue ich mich.

Reviewing science.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Maybe I have just found an explanation for the rise of sales: our book Encountering Urban Places got a very favorable review by Philip Lawson (Trinity College, Dublin) for the UGRG Book Review Series. Here is his conclusion – I’ll start the citation after his critique is over, of course… ;)

Overall, however, I find this a thoroughly interesting and thought provoking book. It really was not until I had finished reading it that I started to think about the various examples and how they are connected together. The variety of authors and topics illustrate how differing contexts shape urban social space in different ways. As is often the case with edited volumes, readers will find different essays interest them more than others. This is why it makes such a valuable contribution to the field of urban studies. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the relationship between social and physical urban space and whether this be undergraduate, graduate, academic, for teaching, or even in terms of planning or architectural practice.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Selling science.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Yay! It seems that the book Lars and I edited last year sells well. This morning, Dr. Meier sent me the link to our book’s page at I opened it and marveled: we really seem to be doing well, at least much better than I expected. Then again, the amazon sales rank is always a moving target, so tomorrow we could be out of the charts again… Nonetheless, we want to take this as an opportunity to thank all of the contributors to Encountering Urban Places – and the unknown reviewer who thought that our book proposal sounds promising.

Essays zu Dingen.

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Dank der aufgeschlossenen Mitarbeit von den Studierenden, die im letzten Sommersemester in meinem Seminar Materialität & Dinge, Wahrnehmung & Handeln einen Schein gemacht haben, kann ich jetzt fünf Essays zu verschiedenen Dingen ins Netz stellen:

Es gibt auch eine Übersicht zum Seminar. Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Back from the island.

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

sunset on the beach, North Sea island JuistAfter a long absence, I used the first opportunity that I could find for a visit to the island which is the focus of my new research project (which is still in development and funding-acquisition stage). It does not get any more off-season as it was during the last two weeks… which gave me plenty of time to catch up with work, reading, and the ever-changing geography of the island – and it made it much easier to repeatedly encounter and have some small interactions with those who live on the island the whole year through.

Space, materiality, perception. The process of envelopment.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I am quite happy to tell you that I will be presenting a paper at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Boston this April. Actually, I wanted to go to last year’s meeting in San Francisco too, but the deadlines were right in the middle of my dissertation, defense, and getting new job as a postdoc phase of turmoil, so that I was not able to apply. Things were not as stressful this season, therefore I found the time to craft an abstract. This is what I am going to talk about during the session Thinking Geography:

Entering a building or any other spatial setting, people encounter a new spatial-material and social constellation. This constellation envelops those who enter the setting. All kinds of impressions intrude upon those who enter, thus changing the things they perceive and the way they act. Noises, light and darkness, smells, the texture of surfaces, and many other aspects of the surroundings present themselves to the perception of those who enter. However, those entering a setting bring certain intentions with them. They are involved in certain activities and they follow bodily and mental routines. Thus they also produce an envelope of their own, which regulates the distance to their surroundings, their perceptions, and their actions. In consequence, the envelope is created both by people themselves and by their surroundings. In this presentation, I will use a phenomenologically informed approach to investigate spatialized activities. Thus I will show how the process of envelopment produces social control in ways that are hard to recognize and trace. Presenting video recordings taken in railway terminals in Germany and Scandinavia, I will demonstrate the subtle ways in which people relate to their spatial-material-social environments, thus opening a new perspective on how to understand issues of social control: a perspective that takes perception, bodies and materiality into view.

I am really looking forward to meeting many people who I haven’t met for two or three years – the AAG meeting usually is a very good occasion to get back into touch.


Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

It arrived only a few hours after I posted the last entry – time to celebrate!