The transdisciplinarity of urban experience

Workshop 1 – 31 October 2018

Iain Borden from University College London led Workshop 1, which used experience as a key concept to focalize and explore the need for inter- and transdisciplinary approaches in the study of cities.

The day opened with a talk, where Iain covered different research methods, tactics and aims when undertaking research that involves consideration of experience. While introducing the main theoretical conceptions of what might constitute experience, he made particular reference to his own work on skateboarding, automobile driving, architecture and recent work on large urban structures. His focus then moved to more practical matters of research, including the role of different kinds of sources, data gathering, categorisations of subject (visual, filmic, sonic, textual, performative etc.), articulation and dissemination. Finally, he addressed questions of research impact and public engagement.

After lunch, participants were asked to divide into groups of 3, and asked to consider ways in which research on experience could be undertaken for the following subjects (one subject per group):

  • Domestic workers in Manila
  • Call centres in Mumbai
  • Ageing in Florida
  • Graffiti and street art in 1990s Berlin
  • Streets in nineteenth century London

Groups had 45 minutes for reflection, followed by the coming together of all participants for presentation and discussion of each group’s work.

For the second task of the day, participants divided again into groups of 3, and this time were tasked with considering ways in which experience could be explored in each other’s PhD project. Once again, groups met for reflection and exchange of ideas which then fed the big group discussion including all participants.

The variety of topics proposed by Borden matched the interdisciplinarity of the groups and PhD topics of participants, which included Music, Literature, Geography, Art, Visual Art, Museum Studies, Architecture, Community Studies, Ethnography and Sociolinguistics. Such variety greatly enriched discussions, with contributions coming from different perspectives and forms of exploring and accounting for the complexity of experience. This was illuminating when discussing the topics proposed by Borden, and it helped to inform, in the last part of the workshop, the ways in which students articulated ideas about their own projects, showing how they were incorporating the possibility of new perspectives.

All in all, this was a very productive and enriching experience for all involved!


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