Edinburgh Field Class 2015

Post by Dr Paul Williamson

Congratulations to this year’s Edinburgh field class photograph competition winners. Here are the winning entries for the category ‘Views of Edinburgh’:

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And here are the winning entries in the category ‘Students in action’:

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The field class took place in late-April and saw 43 Year 2 BA Geographers and 3 staff heading north, enjoying the warmest and sunniest Edinburgh-based week on record as they to put into practice a variety of research skills acquired over the last year and a half of study.

These included interviewing Members of the Scottish Parliament; surveying any member of the public unable to run away fast enough; interviews with local activists; and participant observation of the local nightlife.

Comparing the 'sense of place' of locals and students

Comparing the ‘sense of place’ of locals and students

This year students researched topics as diverse as perceptions of the newly launched tram network, factors explaining Scottish political allegiance, tourist perceptions of Edinburgh and a comparison of the Liverpool and Edinburgh students’ sense of place.

Tourist perceptions of Edinburgh

Tourist perceptions of Edinburgh

The final part of the field class focussed on data analysis, ranging from traditional graphs and tables of survey results through to the deconstruction of interview responses.

Survey results

Survey results

The Edinburgh Field Class is just part of our wider three-year field class programme, which includes trips to Mid Wales, the Lake District, Spain, California and Singapore. All of these trips are designed an ethos of ‘learning by doing’. Or, in Edinburgh’s Case, ‘learning by doing whilst getting a suntan’. Happy Days!

Edinburgh Field Class 2013

Congratulations to Lydia Michie, double-winner of our 2013 Edinburgh Field Class photo competition.

Here are her winning entries:

'Ethnography in Action' Category: Students in Action

‘Ethnography in Action’ Category: Students in Action

'Immobile Phones' Category: Edinburgh

‘Immobile Phones’ Category: Edinburgh

The runners-up can be viewed in our Edinburgh and Students in Action galleries.

The field class took place in mid-April and saw 46 Year 2 BA Geographers and 3 staff heading north, braving a week of intermittent rain and gales in order to put into practise a variety of research skills acquired over the last year and a half of study.

These included interviewing a Member of the Scottish Parliament; surveying any member of the public unable to run away fast enough; participant observation of the ‘local’ (tourist?) cuisine; and experiencing an Edinburgh bus tour in the name of ethnography.

'A Mars a Day' Sampling the 'local' cuisine

‘A Mars a Day’? Sampling the ‘local’ cuisine

The final part of the field class focussed on data analysis, ranging from traditional graphs and tables of survey results through to the construction of ‘word clouds’ based on free-text and interview responses:

Word Cloud (Non-Scottish respondents)

Word Cloud (Non-Scottish respondents)

Word Cloud (Scottish respondents)

Word Cloud (Scottish respondents)

The Edinburgh Field Class is just part of our wider three-year field class programme, which includes trips to North Wales, the Lake District, Spain, California and Singapore. All of these trips are designed an ethos of ‘learning by doing’. Or, in Edinburgh’s Case, ‘learning by doing whilst dodging showers and battling strong equinoctial gale’. Happy Days!

What do Geographers do in their summer holidays?

Post by Dr Andy Davies

When term time is over, a lot of students think that the University shuts down and that we academics get really long summer holidays. Of course, we do have some time off, but work carries on around the University, even if it is significantly quieter with most students away for the summer.

The summer is a great time to do fieldwork, but one of the things that most academics do in the summer is spend time at conferences and workshops to discuss the latest ideas and talk about their research. For Human Geographers, one of the biggest conferences is the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) (RGS), which was at the University of Edinburgh in July this year. I, together with other members of the Department, was involved in presenting papers at this conference. However, this wasn’t all that went on during my time in Scotland.

When in Scotland, you have to have an Irn Bru on the train!

Geography obviously has lots of topics to study within it, from more ‘physical’ topics like glaciation and climate change to more ‘human’ ones like health and development. One of my roles as an academic is as a Committee Member of the Geographies of Justice Research Group (GJRG) of the RGS-IBG. The RGS-IBG has many research groups, where researchers on specific topics within Geography meet and discuss the latest developments within their own sub-field, but also to ensure that the work we do continues to be relevant and important to the wider world. The GJRG is, as it’s name suggests, interested in issues of justice and equality, and at its heart is a commitment to doing research that is socially ‘just’.

So, before the RGS-IBG conference, I spent a day in the University of Dundee, attending a pre-Conference event on ‘Shaping Agendas in Justice Research’. Having never been to ‘the sunniest place in Scotland’ before, it was unsurprisingly raining on the day I arrived. However, there were seals basking in shoals of the River Tay, and the train journey from Edinburgh to Dundee was beautiful and a real surprise. The day itself was spent with a variety of papers which took the quite broad theme of ‘justice’ and thought about issues such as social in/exclusion in the regeneration of Dundee’s waterfront, participatory research with street Children in Accra, Ghana and student activism in Chile. The variety of presentations and topics within them showed how vibrant Human Geography research is, but also how Human Geographers are committed to doing work that is explicitly socially just – i.e. that it produces outcomes that are beneficial to humanity, and do not act in ways that serve to increase inequality within the world.

The River Tay in Dundee – sadly, no seals visible!

These are very real challenges which many of us in Geography at Liverpool are committed to working on – using Geography to do work that struggles against injustice. That’s why I’m a member of the GJRG, and also one of the main reasons why I work as a geographer – because as a subject, its commitment to understanding how the world around us functions allows us to (hopefully) create a better world for future generations. It also proves that, despite what students may think, we also do work in the summer holidays!