Category Archives: Geography 870

Historical and Cultural Issues in FieldworkThis course explores the histories and cultural meanings of fieldwork. Geographical fieldwork is considered historically along with conceptions of the “field” in allied disciplines such as ecology and anthropology. Constructions of the “field” are addressed in terms of empire, nationalism, pedagogy, the lab-field border, and in relations to its role as a gendered and affective space of knowledge and activity. Three term-hours; fall. L. Cameron

Walking, hoarding, ambling on the interwebs

While walking around my neighborhood north of Princess Street, I was contemplating the ways in which I would identify hoarders when it came time to start the fieldwork portion of this PhD program. I was walking and paying close attention to houses, in a voyeuristic kind of way. I was looking for windows blocked by piles of things as well as any spill over into the yard or liminal spaces of the home, such as porches or balconies, overflowing garages… That walk was merely an exercise in understanding how I stereotype the material symptoms of hoarding. I was reminded of Rachel Herron’s visit to our class when we discussed how some of the people she was working with didn’t themselves identify as part of an aging population. Because the hoarding of material things is stigmatized in our culture, it would certainly be a difficult task to identify hoarders with whom to conduct ethnographic research. In thinking about Garcia’s discussion of ethnographic research using the internet/web as a resource, and how mediated communication through the internet provides a sense of anonymity, it occurred to me that online communities could be a potential place to look for participants. There would be ethical concerns of course as brought up by Beddows, but not necessarily more or worse concerns than in real life ethical issues, just different ones. I began extending my walk to a virtual amble around the internet to see what sorts of communities exist dealing with hoarding. I found a hoarder’s anonymous community, and support groups such as this one in the bay area (and many more in various geographic locations).

These groups made me question what it means to be anonymous and how does the idea of anonymity work to maintain stigmatization of many social or cultural practices- how does it essentially serve to police undesirable behavior? Additionally and perhaps ironically, I was unable to find any such websites or online communities of digital or virtual hoarders- this again led back to identifying participants for ethnographic research…does anyone identify as a digital hoarder? Perhaps not if asked in those terms, but might upon hearing a description of what digital hoarding might look like. Conducting online ethnographic research might be a great opportunity to explore (in an ethical, transparent way) who would be willing to share their stories.

This made me regret all the more my missing our class about“Story-telling and technologies of place.” I then came across “The Experience Project” at, which seeks to connect people based on shared experiences, in this case hoarding. This is a virtual space dedicated to anonymous storytelling…



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My translocal, transglobal body

All of my experiences in life up until the workship have produced and are producing a discursive and material body for me to bring on the boat. In fact, material and physical processes, which happened in various places and times, such as reproduction and the creation of neural pathways as well as social processes are always working together to create my body (admitting it isn’t wholly mine).

In thinking about the body, I want to acknowledge that my object is inextricably discursive and material because as Stacy Alaimo (2008) suggests, “predominant paradigms do not deny the material existence of the body, of course, but they do tend to focus exclusively on how various bodies have been discursively produced, which casts the body as passive, plastic matter” (p. 237). As non-plastic, agential matter, during the workship, my body reminded me of its materiality. I noticed while walking around and contorting my body to videotape at different angles, a pain in the top of my foot. I was non-materially transported to Malaysia by the materiality of my mind’s neural networks, where I had been in a motorcycle accident and broken my left foot. I am still able to feel it if I move my foot a certain way or if the weather is just so. I, as a tourist, rented a motorcycle (not a scooter) to ride around the island of Langkawi. The accelerator became stuck on my way back to return the bike. We (the moto and I) hit an earthen embankment, which was the only way I was able to stop and the bike landed partially on my foot. My then partner and I headed to seek medical attention whereupon the doctor at the only clinic on the island diagnosed my foot as broken, but could only offer an ace bandage to wrap it. My body affected by and affecting more-than-human entities in a translocal and transnational environment of Malaysia, was present on the workship. The past was made present through the materiality of my body and its relationships to networks both within it and outside of it.

Alaimo (2008) also notes “by emphasizing the movement across bodies, trans-corporeality reveals the interchanges and interconnections between human corporeality and the more-than-human” (p. 238). Another important point when discussing the human body-as-object requires that we acknowledge its simultaneous stability and instability because as Alaimo (2008) notes, “the human body is never static because its interactions with other bodies always alter it” (p. 255). In other words, the stability of the human body is reflected in the ability to reference it as “it” and its instability is reflected in its intra-actions with “itself” in addition to its interactions with other bodies.

My body is always becoming and unbecoming part of this flow or that node (See Latour, 2005). As Deborah Gambs suggests (2007) “The body is a site of movement, sensation, and thus transformation challenges notions of positionality, stasis, identity” (p. 112). Gambs (2007) also suggests, “An ontology of becoming is evidenced here—if a thing ‘is’ when it isn’t doing, then a body in motion never ‘is’, and a body is always in motion” (p. 112). Thus bodies become and unbecome translocal and transnational through various processes such as the shedding of skin cells, travel[1], DNA, genealogy, markings—scars, tattoos, piercings—listening, microbes (can’t be human without them), consumption, ridding and the imagination.

Figure 1. Transnational, translocal travel map of my body-in-motion.

Alaimo, S., & Hekman, S. J. (2008). Material feminisms. Indiana University Press.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford University Press.

Gambs, D. (2007). Myocellular Transduction: When My Cells Trained My Body-Mind in Clough, P. T., & Halley, J. O. (2007). The affective turn: theorizing the social. (pp. 119-150). Duke University Press.

[1] See Figure 1, the travel map of my body on page 3 .

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Random connections and ramblings…

The readings from the last two weeks have reminded me of a number of other things I have read outside of this class. In particular women’s role and place in technology, robotics and the sciences. Lucy Suchman’s writings surrounding the expectation of machines to obscure labor, much in the way that traditional women’s work (emotional and domestic) are obscured and rendered economically invaluable resonates with the ways in which emotional fieldwork is obscured and often unacknowledged.  Katherine Hale’s post-humanist work also resonates as well as Ursula Franklin’s.

Additionally, what it means to be a credible witness in regard to women and technology. It calls to mind the Haraway’s discussion of the Modest Witness and beckons a comparison to women as immodest witnesses.

Queering “natural” spaces, such as the field…

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Walking Backwards, Backwards Walking

I walked around Mackintosh-Corry Hall today, backwards. I walked in the D and E sections of the second floor.

As I walked, I tried to think about perceptional differences and embodied differences in walking backwards.

I relied much more on my periphery vision, I used different muscles (in my eyes and calves) to become backwardly mobile.

As I walked, my cone of vision was also backward when comparing it to forward motion. Instead of moving through the landscapes with the things in front of me falling away to the sides and margins as I moved toward and through them, they came from the periphery to the center. It is as though subjects and objects switched on me. Narrative became a different kind of linear.

Additionally, when moving in a forward, linear motion, our gaze makes our surroundings objects. When I was walking backwards, suddenly I became more noticeable to others in the hallway, I became MORE objectified in someone else’s landscape than perhaps if  had I been walking in a conventional manner.

I’m sure your thinking, well, just because you are walking backward doesn’t mean that you aren’t looking at what is right in front of you. Well, yes and no. What is right in front of you becomes less important in terms of walking “safely.” I relied on my peripheral vision and hearing in order to not injure myself (bodily or emotionally).

I want to take a moment to relate this experience to methodology. Jarring ourselves out the familiar can bring about new and interesting ways of doing things, just as doing a familiar activity in a non-conventional way can (re)invigorate the activity.

At the risk of making the parallel too blatant, I would like to think about methodologies that move from the center outward and those that move from the margins inward.  Is one better than the other? Are both necessary for providing different, not better, understandings of how we engage with our research?

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Affect, Emotion and Fieldwork

While performing my weekly walk, I brainstormed for my presentation(with becky) on the Affective turn. I want to explore affect and emotion in field work, while asking people to uncomfortably step out of their comfort zones, which in turn expands the boundaries of said zones.

Actors, yes, of the performing kind (but how could this related to the ANT kind–actors and actants?). Let us begin, “the actors perform emotional gymnastics” (Boal, 2003, p. 222).

First, get into pairs. (We will work at various intimacy levels, meaning pairs, but also in the context of a larger group)

Explore the following phrase with your partner in the context of fieldwork:

“’Getting into someone else’s skin’…a piece of linguistic artifice” (Boal 2003, p. 220).

We are going to use memory, imagination, and performance to do some ‘emotional field work’ about field work. Part of these exercises will be based in your personal life experiences explicitly and some more abstractly in order to explore emotional dynamisms. Keep in mind we have to make assumptions through some of these exercises—pay attention here—for the remainder of this presentation, let assumption=imagination.

Breaking the Oppression (is this a metaphor for the ivory tower?…maybe, but it is definitely an exercise  that beckons those safe(er) spaces we visited last week AND a little imagination to rotate along those positional intersections of identity we discussed). ‘

Let us carry on in the spirit of exploration and extreme generosity. We can sit at the table together, each attempting to keep our cynicism at bay…

1[1]. Remember a moment in your life when you were the object of a powerful oppression (any kind such as systemic, empirically experienced etc…).

2. One partner needs to volunteer to tell the other(s) detailed memories of this event (reflect on or try to be aware of your emotions as you tell the story. Listeners, be aware of your emotions as you listen…in what ways are they performed or affect-ed?).

3. All partners should quickly perform this as a scene with each other. The storyteller will play h/self as the object of oppression and the other(s) will play the oppressor.

4. Repeat step three, but this time perform the scene with the object of oppression refusing the oppression. How does this change the protagonist’s and the antagonist’s emotions and performances of their emotions?

5. Perform the scene one last time, but now the actors switch roles. The protagonist will become the antagonist. What does it feel like to become your own oppressor? What does it feel like to represent the protagonist from only understanding their experience through their story? How do emotions play a similar or different role in the last performance?

“In these exercises the actor who breaks the oppression always has the best part, as we are on his side: he is the victim and not the cause, of this violence. That is why in the last phase of the exercise we ask the actor to remember a moment in his life when he acted not as oppressed but as oppressor.” (Boal, 2003, p.222).

Seeing that our positionality is ever-changing, how is the exercise we did problematic?

Do oppressors and oppressed fit so neatly into those linguistic categories?

Can we oppress and be oppressed simultaneously?

How does this idea operate within the practice of fieldwork?

How do affect and emotion operate within your personal fieldwork?

[1] The next steps I adapted for this class from Boal’s (2003) “Breaking the Oppression” game (p.220-223). Boal, A. (2002). Games for actors and non-actors. Routledge.

This class exercise resulted in furthering my interest into affect and emotion in other fields as outlined in the following paper:

Affect, Emotion and Technology

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Geography 870 Archival Project

For our 2nd project in Geography 870, we visited Queen’s University Archives, located in Kathleen Ryan Hall. The Theme of our second assignment is Mackintosh-Corry Hall (images). Here is a Mackintosh-Corry Hall video, which represents renovations to the dining area that are underway, but proclaims to be a video tour. It only addresses food facilities in the building. “It is a central building” seems to be a popular opinion. How has its centrality changed over time?

Locator 5059

Box 2 File 1

Box 2 File 7

D316 (my office ) of Mackintosh-Corry didn’t exist in the 1973 plans (drawings).

D365 and D360 weren’t specified as bathrooms in the 1973 drawings.

In the D wing of Mackintosh-Corry there was a D116 a D216, no D316, a D416, no D516. It appears that with the exception of the first floor, only the oddly numbered floors lacked the _16.

It seems as though, after consulting the plans and meeting minutes (see photos below) that spaced of leisure, consumption (food, knowledge), and storage are labeled and planned specifically, whereas spaces of ridding are less explicitly labeled.

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Corn Maze

While ambling through the corn maze, I couldn’t help but view and experience it as an all too blatant metaphor…and I was one of the last ones out! While fieldwork is a maze of sorts, which requires negotiation, it isn’t a competition although certain things make it so, such as funding, awards etc…

I was observing who took some sort of lead in their groups and who wanted to hold the walkie-talkie. I was happy to amble around, make wrong turns and even had to stop along the way and take a piss (off the beaten path, of course…and I promise I’m not obsessed with bathrooms and peeing, I just couldn’t hold it).

I had no desire to hold the walkie-talkie, although I enjoyed the voices and noises that came out of it. I felt like it enabled the blind to lead the blind in a way, as we were never really sure where we were in relation to other groups and sometimes we gave advice, while other times we received it. While I was in the maze, it became less about getting out and more about being in the maze, listening to the rustling of stalks, and the conversations I was able to have with my classmates (mazemates), particularly Christine and Jonathan. It was a relationship building experience, which is so important in fieldwork.

Keeping my gaze upwards was a challenge and often found myself gazing downward, which helped to maintain the maze as “mazey” and garnered both a sense of focus and of being trapped at the same time. I imagine this to be quite applicable to the various understandings and experiences of fieldwork.

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870 Walking and Talking

This video, Soul of the Business District, reminded me of our field journal assignment. Sook Yin Lee walks around the Business District of Toronto looking for its “soul” and swings between her own narrative and intermittent interviews. She comes upon 3 people hanging out and performing in the “G-spot” of the BD.

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Geography 870.03 Soundwalk

I did my sound walk project today. I began by putting a note on the front of my shirt that said “I am doing a recorded soundwalk for a class project.”

To hear the recording of the soundwalk click—–> Mackintosh-Corry Bathroom/Consumption Soundscapes

The idea of this particular soundwalk was to travel through (un)gendered spaces of consumption and ridding, in particular bathrooms in Mackintosh-Corry and the newly opened food court. I used elevators, stairwells, and hallways as transitional spaces.

I wanted to start the walk in restooms because most people think of consumption as separate from ridding, however, I maintain they are processes that are bound up. One rids predicated on future consumption. I imagine one uses the restroom in order to be able to consume more food or beverage in the future and not the other way around (typically–of course there are exceptions to this idea). One doesn’t typically consume food in drink with the major intent being that “yay, I’m going to rid this later!”

So the walk starts on the 2nd floor of Mackintosh-Corry Hall part D.

1. I began in the men’s washroom. I listened to the sounds coming from inside the restroom (largely mechanistic) and sounds from outside the restroom (largely human voices). ( about 2 1/2 minutes) I used the sink while in the men’s room.

2. Next, I went across the hall the women’s restroom. Listen to the water, from the sink, from the toilet, from the human. I used the washroom. Washed my hands. Dried them with paper towels. I couldn’t hear her fixing her hair. I couldn’t hear her looking in the mirror.

3. I took the elevator up to the 5th floor in Section D of Mac-Corry. Listen to the whirring of the motor, perhaps greet a friend as I did. Listen to the dings of each floor. Listen to doors open and close.

4. I entered the men’s room. I listened to the sound of myself taking pictures in front of the urinal. I listend to the sound of myself writing on my notepad about the soundwalk then and now in progress.

5. I crossed the hall to the women’s restoom. Listen to the sink drip. Listen to the fluorescent lights.

6. I took the stairwell back to the second floor. Listen to your own footsteps and those of others.

7. Walk down the hallway of Mackintosh-Corry until you reach the restrooms across from the food court behind the vending machines. I entered the women’s restoom. I couldn’t hear her looking in the mirror. Play a symphony of hand dryers. Turn on the extreme sinks- Do they sound different? Flush two toilets- do they sound different?

8. I walk through the hallway until I reach the men’s restroom. Listen. Go into a stall and listen. Someone else is here. Does liquid entering a urinal sound different than a toilet? Gendered noises, gendered spaces.

9. Go across the hall into the food court area. Approach the coffee pots. Are they brewing? Are they heating? Are they being poured into paper cups and mugs?

10. Approach the tables. Listen to someone eating or drinking. Can you tell if the person is male or female just by listening?

*Observations (not necessarily visual)

1.My very presence in the restrooms lead to a decrease in the likelihood of certain bodily sounds.

2.We enter gendered spaces of bathrooms to rid things from our bodies, but share a space for consuming theses very things we will later rid.

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Geography 870.01

I would honestly love to get a group of amazingly intelligent people I know to check this out together:

Call for Collaborators

Any takers?

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