Practices of Ambient Research

I wanted to post a follow-up to my previous discussions of ambient research with some comments on how the collection and sharing of information played out in practice yesterday, for a very specific purpose.

First, a little context. In studying postmodern rhetorics during my doctoral coursework, I was introduced to postmodern and experimental geography by my eventual dissertation director, Helen Foster. We looked at theorists like Soja and Harvey from a decidedly rhetorical perspective, and I became very interested in the relationship between an ontological view of rhetoric and the production of space--so much so that I felt my dissertation work was trending in this direction. In addition to reading seminal work in both fields, I began using Delicious to bookmark links, articles, and especially blogs like City of Sound, BLDBLOG, and Critical Spatial Practice. In fact, the latter blog was tremendously useful, as Nicholas Senn's Delicious page fostered further research in this area.

But for a variety of reasons, my studies took me in different directions, despite some productive work on rhetorics of space (see, for example, the forthcoming Responsibilities of Rhetoric). Nonetheless, I have remained interested in geography and mapping on a more personal level, and in the move away from Delicious to Twitter and RSS (another post, perhaps), I have continued to collect work in this area, especially via feeds from some 15 space/place related blogs or sites. My admittedly inexpert knowledge on the topic has accumulated to the point that I have been able to at least suggest resources for others, or offer feedback on scholars like Sibley, Low, Auge, and Lefebvre.

What I'm getting at is this: through blog visits, then Delicious, and now feeds and Twitter, I have enabled ambient contact with some of the seminal and emerging topics in postmodern geography, and I've been able to contextualize that work within my own discipline by way of consistent wading in the flow of information. Even though I'm not explicitly researching in this area, the work that I come into contact with is still useful and interesting, often for others.

In recent weeks, several people have contacted me about sources on space/place for work in rhetoric and writing studies, and I've been able to pass along research both print-based and digital. Just yesterday, my own ambient infrastructure brought me a blog post on Mapping Play from Alex Reid (via RSS and Twitter), a post and conference presentation on urbanization and everyware (RSS), and an excellent post on experimental geography (RSS). In turn, I shared links to these articles via Twitter, for anyone interested, but especially for those who'd recently asked for sources. The sharing of these links on Twitter also prompted Collin Brooke to post an excellent list of sources in experimental geography.

Anyone following along with even a passive interest in space and place had several intriguing threads to follow, promoting a kind of shared or collective ambience. This is ambient research in practice, enabled by social platforms of distributed connectivity. This is good good stuff. This must be the kind of thing that Peter West experiences almost daily.

One last thought: if you use Google Reader to manage feeds (or if you're going to start), please feel free to contact me about sharing feeds!


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