Tag Archives: studying: geography

Tugging at geography heartstrings

“Spatial theorists working in the fields of social and cultural theory have demonstrated how we occupy multiple landscapes simultaneously: fragmented and multi-layered, existing in different dimensions including those of the senses and the imagination. These are ‘geographies of the possible’ (de Certeau, op. cit.), not rational nor confined to actual places, but suffused with thoughts and feelings: ‘a geography of memory as much felt in the body as seen’ (Tonkiss 2000, p.2).”

Jocey Quinn, Learning Communities and Imagined Social Capital, p86

I’ve said it a million times – literature reviews usually frustrate me so much that I want to tear out my own eyeballs. But sometimes I read things and my heart melts from the beauty of the idea or the language. Sometimes both the idea and the language. That just happened then, while reading this book for an evaluation of a Community Education program we are running out at Mt Druitt. Just the phrase “geography of memory” makes me want to drop everything and sign up to try my hand at being an official human geographer. I want to sit somewhere in the academy, in a nice ivory tower, where I can read beautiful books and spin beautiful phrases and lose myself thinking about imagined spaces. Sigh.

At times like this I need a reality check.

1. Alison – remember how frustrating you find reading about 98% of the time. That is what it would really be like!
2. Remember how relevent this book actually is for helping people in the community! be thankful that you get to do applied research! (Actually, the book is pretty relevent – but only because other researchers have done some more pragmatic work to make it all applicable!)
3. Now, spend some time reflecting on that look that 3rd year PhD students get in their eyes when they just want it all to be over.

Hmm. It’s almost working. It probably will have completely worked after about 5 more minutes of working on literature review.

The end is near: #3

It is week 12 this week and many of my classes are wrapping up. On Tuesday our lecture for Science, Technology and Social Change surprised us with the announcement that we have no class next week. The end really is near. I’ve really enjoyed the tutorials for this subject, and it has inspired me to create a list.

Alison’s top 5 tutorials and pracs:

5. Social Inequality in Australia
I took this class in 3rd year. I think I attended two of the lectures all semester – but mostly because I had a clash. This prac was so memorable because our lecturer was a bit of a loser. He was really really good at labeling people and then making people conform to these labels for the rest of semester. So, for example, he began with himself – identifying himself as homosexual, and then not pausing to ask the class if anyone else had any contribution on homosexuality and inequality. About halfway through semester, in the week on ethnicity and inequality a couple of second and third generation immigrants including myself, volunteered some stories about the experiences of our parents and grandparents. For the rest of semester I was referred to as “the Greek girl”. Kind of lame. The most hilarious thing was his representation of America as the ultimate evil in social inequality. Every tutorial included at least a short rant about the failings of American society to care for the marginalised. Unbeknownst to the tutor, this particular subject was very popular with American exchange students and we had four in our class. They were very quiet the first month or so, but after week 4 or 5, one of them decided to challenge one of his points. He seemed surprised to hear her accent, and his expression grew more hilarious as the other American students echoed the first girl. His rants lessened in intensity in following weeks.

4. Any GIS practical
What an amazing feeling to create maps! In second year, I met my friend Amelia and we mapped the IT industry in Sydney and produced a report that was 1.5 cm thick full of maps. Even though
I did the printing, the third group member decided she would take the report home for her portfolio. Boo! The other awesome GIS experience was mapping a marine reserve in 3rd year. Can you imagine the incredible feeling of creating a flowchart of commands to create different maps which weighted certain criteria differently? No, you probably can’t, and you probably don’t care.

3. Science, Technology and Social Change
One of my filler subjects for this semester, it was a really weird subject to sit through. There were only 15-20 people enrolled in the class. We sat hrough a 2 hour lecture and then walked across campus for a tutorial. There was only one because the enrollments were so small. Unless I brought my knitting to class I would, without fail, fall asleep during the lectures. Our lecturer was brilliant, but spoke very softly and slowly and repeated herself often. However the tutorials were like nothing else. She had wisely chosen not to make us present every week. Instead she facilitated really stimulating discussions and lots of people were prepared to put their two cents in (it was like no other tutorial I had ever been in). We argued over and waded through complex issues like Obama’s “Green New Deal”, whether a global environmental consciousness exists, the ethics of trading body parts, the ethics of paid clinical trials, the problems of biosecurity and threats of pandemics and the use of biotechnology as art. Wow. I have never thought so hard in a tutorial before.

2. Cities and Citizenship
Pretty much the best subject ever. I found myself in a tutorial full of wonderful friends that I had made on our Condobolin field trip the semester before, and it was the first time that I felt at home in the Geography community. It was such a fun class. Most weeks, our tutor Kurt
would bring a pot of tea for anyone who wanted some. Marita brought wine, cheese and homemade sausage for her presentation on Rome. Bill wore his giant fake moustache during the week on colonial cities. I brought cake on my birthday. We conducted our tutorial on children and citizenship siting on the floor in a circle, because it seemed appropriate for the subject. It was definitely the most friendly and comfortable tutorial I have ever been in.

1. Any subject with Vras
You name it: Modern Greek (both language and culture), new testament Greek or Medieval studies – all of it was like nothing I have ever studied. I don’t even know how to begin explaining the Vras experience. I think I will save this for it’s own special entry.

Big catch up

So, I am supposed to be writing a short paper about the theories of this guy called Richard Florida. I picked him because we studied him in Regional Geography last year so I don’t have to do so much work. I pulled out my notes from last year and found some very handy comments I had scribbled down, as well as some very mean comments about Florida himself. Poor man. This will probably be a pretty biased assignment.

But instead, I am going to catch up some things that have happened since last post. In pictures.

We made our first cake.
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We had the car for a day. So we went to
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Bundanoon. And other places in the Southern Highlands too.

Here is Matt
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We went to Bundanoon Anglican where I went for NTE.
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And we went to Morton National Park.
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And we did other things, but the camera ran out of batteries.

We also participated in Earth Hour with Sarah and Dan!
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Time for work.

So close to the end

The semester is nearly up, and I can’t wait.
I spent today doing my only study so far, chilling in the computer lab with Bill and Adrian from geography. We laughed and then freaked out over the apparent inability of our lecturer to put together a coherent assessment, and then we played scrabble.

Here follows a list of things I am looking forward to doing this summer starting Thursday evening, in a vaguely chronological order:

Making a video for a conference I am going on. Taking the pictures down from my walls. Cleaning out my wardrobe. Wasting time on Facebook. Getting Matt’s computer fixed. Watching good children’s TV like Hey Arnold. Watching bad children’s TV like Lizzie Maguire. Watching Oklahoma. Going to Club Veg. Buying furniture. Celebrating Matt’s birthday. Buying sweets to give away at the wedding. Voting. Visiting five grandparents. Going bike riding. Going to the beach. Inviting people to church. Sending Christmas cards. Finishing scripture well. Helping a random church for a week. Doing Christmas. Seeing Sufjan Stevens. Getting my wedding dress. Getting our wedding rings. Exchanging our wedding rings. Getting a new name. Going on holidays. Reading Weber. Reading Wright. Reading Austen. Watching endless DVDs of TV shows. Catching up with about 5 million people. Planning for public meetings. Catching up on the sleep I lost this year.

Argh!! Roll on Friday morning!!

Majors Battle

Here are some comparisons between Sociology and Geography tutes:

Sociology people use unecessarily big words to sound smart.
Geography people use normal words, and pictures, and maps.
Sociology people act like they are smarter than everyone else in the room, including the tutor.
Geography people aren’t afraid to make stupid generalisations in front of their peers.
Sociology people are too busy feeling elite towards people that they don’t really make friends with many other people in the class.
Geography people are friends even with the people that they don’t talk to much.
Sociology people try to use illustrate their points, but often their points are so abstract, and they themselves are so confused by what they are saying, that nothing they say actually makes sense.
Geography people can successfully illustrate their points with anything they want to, including movies, experiences in part time jobs or other courses, current events, field trips or The Chaser’s War on Everything.
Sociology tutors are too vague to direct the discussion properly.
Geography tutors make you tea and take you on field trips.
Sociology tutorials finish and you haven’t actually learnt anything new.
Geography tutorials finish and think that maybe you should consider doing honours.

Geography wins the majors battle.

Home from the magical land of Condobolin

My mid semester break was a field trip, yo.

Myself and twenty other geography students, accompanied by Bill (lecturer) and Jess (female supervising assistant) were bundled off to Condobolin, the closest town to the geographic centre of New South Wales.
Our purpose was to check out the local economy there. We worked with the council to conduct a retail leakage survey (sort of) by surveying all the shops and houses to find out whether people spent their money in the town or went to bigger towns.

All up, it was a pretty bleak week. Condobolin is so isolated and drought stricken and off everyone’s radar. The council and the businesses work so hard to get their town up and running, but I don’t know how well they’ll go in the long run.

One thing that Condobolin does have going for it is that it is the hometown of Shannon Noll. For anyone who doesn’t know, he was the runner up in the first Australian Idol and went on to release some pretty mundane country pop music singles. Good work, Shannon.
He was back in town the same week we were there, and because we were so obviously not locals, people would stop us on the street, in the shops, in the pub, during surveys, to tell us that he was in town!! And in due course, we saw him. He came into the cafe where a few of us were getting our lunch and bought some chicken nuggets.

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A journey into (and out of) Condobolin

Home from my field trip!

Last week’s field trip turned out ok after all. It was nice hanging with Bel and Karen, and building other friendships, and meeting new people. The actual fieldwork left a bit to be desired. We went down to look at the logging industry on the South Coast, but the only people we really spoke to were pro-forestry, cause the environmental activists were in Victoria blockading trees down there. Hehe.
It was still pretty cool to see the industry first hand, though.

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Eden Field Trip