Today is the 8th birthday of this blog. My blogging style and content has changed substantially in those 8 years (as you can tell from my first ever post) although, I’d like to think you can see the critical human geographer scratching at the surface in those words. Below is a word cloud of all my posts, which for me at least, shows that urban life, creativity and of course film have always been at the forefront of my work. Anyway, thought that a quick bit of nostalgia would be a nice deviation from today’s more pressing political issue. As you were…
Thomas – the perfect neoliberal subject
Thomas the Tank Engine, the popular children’s book and TV series, has been with us for 70 years, and still captures the imagination of children around the world. As a father of two rapidly growing-up children, trains seem to have some sort of mystic fascination with the preschool demographic. So it is no surprise that Thomas the Tank Engine is one of the world’s most recognised toy brands.
Thomas lives on the Island of Sodor, a mythical, small countryside island in the Irish Sea, just off the coast from Barrow-in-Furness. The trains are colourful, largely happy and busy, while the people go about normal lives in school, on the farm or on the railways. The trouble is, though, this surface-level utopian English-countryside-mid-twentieth-century idyll belies a far more sinister neoliberal allegory that pervades the daily minutiae of Thomas and his friends. The more of Thomas…
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Join us for an event which seeks to explore what it means to be human, or simply alive, in a world in which the digitally processed virtual is increasingly experienced in the actualities of everyday life.
Curated and hosted by digital geographies PhD students Mike Duggan and Pip Thornton, and featuring Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller EX MACHINA (2015), the event aims to question binary definitions of virtual/real, nature/culture and human/non-human, engaging with critical debates around artificial intelligence (AI), law & ethics, gender, techno-capitalism and virtual geographies, while challenging the representations of these subjects in the film and other media.
The event will include short talks and a panel discussion involving Dr. John Danaher, lecturer in Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and author of the blog Philosophical Disquisitions, Lee MacKinnon, lecturer in the Theory and History of Photography at Arts University Bournemouth, whose book chapter…
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Join us on Tuesday 19th of January for a screening and exploration of Dan Gilroy’s fascinating film ‘Nightcrawler’ presented by Passengerfilms in collaboration with ‘Precarious Geographies’ and Genesis Cinema.
Set in the hyper-precarious world of contemporary LA, Nightcrawler is a disturbing critique of the neoliberal urban condition. Its protagonist, Lou Bloom, is a young man frustrated by an impenetrable labour market in which even unpaid internships are inaccessible. Bloom embarks on a mission to make his own fortunes by forging a career in crime journalism. Lou’s willingness to cross boundaries others won’t in order to get the goriest footage means his career rapidly gains momentum. His merciless pursuit of uncomprehendingly brutal footage is met by both horror and admiration by TV stations. But this is not just a film about a sinister individual; Lou’s prioritisation of ambition and commercial success at the expense of compassion and humanity…
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The aesthetics of decay have been well versed of late, not only within academic literature, but also mainstream media and online via blogs and other social media. We have seen an aquarium in an abandoned shopping mall in Bangkok, entire disused airports in Cyprus and an whole abandoned island used in Hollywood blockbusters. Industrial, residential, infrastructural, rural; there have been a plethora of forms of dereliction that have been recorded. The huge swath of media (sometimes labelled ‘ruin porn’) has led to the fetishization of dereliction with some suggesting that such overt ruination imagery has had damaging effects on particular places that are oft the focus of such narratives, notably Detroit.
Click on the photos to view the larger image
Recently, I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Shropshire and Cheshire countryside, and came across what on first viewing looked like an abandoned…
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There has been a great deal of scorn poured on Las Vegas from the academy. From its low creative city ranking, its over-reliance on too narrow an industry base and its crippling ecological effects, Sin City has been attacked by urban, economic and environment geographers respectively. Baudrillard (1994: 91) has been equally as disparaging stating that the ‘liquidation’ of the mediated advertising architecture, and the “reabsorption of everything into the surface (whatever signs circulate there)… plunges us into this stupefied, hyperreal euphoria that we would not exchange for anything else, and that is the empty and inescapable form of seduction”. The city that seems to represent nothing but a simulacrum of itself and is awash with rampant hawkish capitalism, is designed in toto to rid you of as much financial, social and personal capital as is possible.
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Many years ago I coined the phrase Urban Subversion that began as an interest in parkour as a creative act of urban re-appropriation. It soon became apparent as I looked for additional ways in which people were interacting with the city in novel and innovate ways, there was a small, but increasing swath of people who were actively reconfiguring their urban environment for sometimes playful, sometimes anti-hegemonic, and sometimes subversive, but always in creative and innovate ways. Nearly 5 years hence, Maria Daskalaki and I have (finally) managed to get the ideas and musings we had about Urban Subversions all those years ago published. In the intervening period, I have witnessed (first hand through my travels and via the relentless march toward information-domination of Twitter and social media) the boom of these kinds of creative engagements become popularised and in some cases, accepted as legitimate and formal urban development policies. The latest piece to confirm this was the ever-excellent PopUpCity claiming that local cultural and creative urban practices have ‘gone global’ (something which I championed last year).