Put your PC to sleep, collect your coat and step into a pair of good walking shoes. Grab your smartphone and some spending money. Leave the campus behind and take an unscripted wander through the city. Who knows what you might find?
This seminar will take place within the narrow closes and cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Old town. Walking and working together we will follow a path through the city that is guided by our research interests, as well as the sights, sounds and other phenomena that attract our interest. In the role of participant-researchers we will gather visual, aural and other digital data with a view to investigating how we experience and understand our urban surroundings.
Our exercise will build upon earlier explorative walks though London and Amsterdam by James Lamb, Jeremy Knox and their colleague Michael Sean Gallagher. On each occasion they arrived ahead of an academic conference in order to undertake an excursion of the host city. Using their smart phones they gathered images, sounds and other data which then formed the basis of their conference presentation the next day (1).
Walk and talk. Record your surroundings and reflect upon their significance. Every crossroad becomes an act of negotiation and an opportunity for impromptu learning as you discuss which route to follow and why. Through the interests of colleagues you become newly aware of the meaning-carrying milieu that would otherwise have been invisible or silent.
This exercise can be situated within the growing critical interest in urban walking (Richardson 2015) as well as the tradition of walking ethnography (Vergunst and Ingold, 2008). It will be of interest to those undertaking research within digital culture and mobile learning (see for instance Sharples et al. 2007) and anyone who has an interest in how we construct meaning from our surroundings, for instance through sensory ethnography (Pink 2011) or multimodal analysis (Kress and Van Leeuwen 2001).