Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Time-Space Seminar in Newcastle

This will be a short summary of yesterdays ESRC seminar with the title Time-Space and Life-Course. It is the fifth and last seminar in a series over two years. It is chaired by Helen Jarvis from the University of Newcastle. Unfortunately it is the first seminar I have been to so I won’t be able to comment on the progress and the rest of the work that has been resented and discussed over this time period. As it was the last seminar the topic of the series as a whole and retrospective views have come up quite frequent. It has provided some insight on what has happened and how things could be related in a wider context. For a full brief of the seminar series have a look at the synopsis page.
This is a type up during the presentations and discussions so bare with me regarding formulation and construction of sentences. It might often be more sort of fragments and notes than actual sentences but hopefully it brings the content across anyway.

We are starting the day with live connection to Australia. The researcher Lyndall Strazdins introduce her presentation “Time Scarcity - Another health inequity” After the introduction though the presentation is run on a DVD locally.
This already is a really interesting setting under the time aspect. What time is it right now in Australia? I don’t know just from the top of my head. It is roughly on the other side of the world. After looking it up on the internet, they are actually nine hours ahead down under, this means at the time of presentation eleven UK time it is around eight o’clock at Australian National University in Canberra.
In her research she is looking at the length of time in particular the perception of the length of time. This is investigated by symptoms such as stress, busyness, and boredom? As her focus is on health the side of medical symptoms and impact on the body are important.
When moving on to the policy side of her talk she shows the example of the march for the 8 hour day (Australia- 8 hour rest, 8 hour, sleep, 8 hour education) in Australia that took place in Melbourne in 1866.

Image from wikipedia - Eight Hour Day Banner, Melbourne, 1856

She is pointing out that nowadays in connection with the shifting time budget-spending pattern, there are 8 hours missing for childcare. She points out that there is a great desire to look after children increasingly also from men. In a series of graphs tough, she also points out that the amount of work time in relation to time spent on child care is still only reduced by women, while men keep on working long hours. This implies that they want to add this part of the time budget on to the leisure or educational time but not cutting back on work presumably. She then goes on to ask whether this time inequality impact on women’s health? In an example from the States, the quality of food was used to improve women’s. This health food involved some extended preparation time, as it was prepared from raw ingredients. The impact on the change of food preparation was an additional 2 hours that somehow had the reverse effect, as the stress level rose.
Regarding to public health and efforts to improve it, she has found that respondents often quote not enough time as the main argument for not exercising, resting or using public transport. Lyndall concludes from this, to improve the public health, policies are needed to integrate time aspects as a health resource.
For the discussion and question session skype is switched back on to allow real time responses.
Time poverty as a term is quite interesting. It seems to be related to developed and undeveloped economies. A large study in Germany has looked at time poverty ad developed a new multidimensional description of poverty.
There was also the question in how far already existing underlying health condition affect peoples use of time, such as inability to manage time and end up being even more stressed. Lyndall argues that, beyond underlying conditions, she found hat income is directly related to personal time management resulting in a health impact.
A further questions comes back to the policy aspect of activities in time can be stacked and multiplied resulting in multitasking. If addressed in policy does it really capture the problem if time is integrated in policy? There might be some other aspects related to this? Here, Lyndall replies that it might be related to the redefinition of activities into a combined time, such a walk your kids, or jog while on the mobile phone. Research has shown that women actually already do multitask in their leisure time. Doing childcare, socializing, ....
From my perspective, I am missing here the space dimension. How do the distance, location and travel time affect the time budget? Location of cheaper homes for poorer families and distance to work or health care access.

Nancy Worth - Conceptualizing time space and space over the life course - PhD at Newcastle School of Geography, Faculty of Environment.
She Give a very compact overview of the past four seminars in the first part of her presentation. This give a very good impression of what the series was and draws out the context of the work presented on the day. IT was to compact and brief to actually follow and summarize on the spot, so I apologize for the lack of information her. But you can probably find some information on past seminars on the web by starting here.
Some interesting terms she dropped while talking about previously presented papers though I managed to write down:
The concept of different times, illustrated by the difference between child and adult time-space. Adults are oriented to result and intersection of traces (meetings, goals), were as children’s “young” time-space are more self oriented and less production orientated.
Time is produced by everyday practice.
The term GeoNarrative introduced by Kahn understanding the daily routines of everyday life. You can see here the direct link to the UD project and other topics related to urbanNarrative.
Nancy also mentioned a very interesting project of long term life course research, Capturing the life course in a documentary “the up series” reconnecting with people every seven years and documenting the progress.
Nancy also asks the question towards the end whether theory on space and time can be more than just clock time or distance space. Throwing up terms such as embodied time, lived time,..
From the audience some more reflexions on the past seminar series are provided. For example religion as a fractal of everyday life time-space, how did the seminar series relate to this question?

Eric Laurier - Mobile Technologies and the Coordination of Daily Life - University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences (he’s got this fancy slide swap braking down the slides into the RGB colours)
He starts with Hagerstand’s space-time diagram, focusing on bends and twits in the daily course, while criticizing the sort of logistics or particle feel of it. Moving on to examples of time-space research tools, he starts with the family calendar pointing out time restrictions similar to those as discussed by Carlstein and Hagerstrand. Also pointing at the moral order of the timetable. He also mentions that his own child started school this month throwing over the family calendar.
Showing work using mobile phones and pointing out the summons morality of the phone as a device similar to a baby crying. Someone will have to get up and answer it. The interesting aspect here would be the new mobility and location aspect of phone and calls while on the move, either one party or all. I suppose the more recent opening question is not any longer how are you, but were are you? He comes back to this point at a later stage. Eric then shows parts of his own work, starting with Habitable Cars an ESRC project. He plays a brilliant clip staring a family going to work/school in the morning - the routines of five family members have to be coordinated during this time in the car and all are issued their tasks. Te mother is leading the timetable while driving the car, briefing all members including the husband in the front seat. What a beautiful scene!
An other project called Location Family Values: A Field of Trial of the Whereabouts Clock is logging family members by mobile phones transmitted into the kitchen and ssigning all family members to activities. He provides insight by playing an audio file of an anxious mother talking about how this has helped her to visualize where the children are and that they have arrived at the destination. The device would also allow sending messages directly into the kitchen to exchanging information - but what for? The interesting aspect is probably the location of the device it self in the kitchen to mark the home location and the space to relate to.
He also points out that the tracking rise the question about observation. Just like questions around the UD project.
The device originally features only three locations where a status is displayed. The titles did also change meaning though, for individual families, meaning school at certain days as a location on other days it means playing football. There is a lot of flexibility while pointing in the direction of routine.
Going back to the old days with family phones as a very defined location in the family home. Related to the installation with notepaper, blackboard and telephone directory. Pointing out that the place here is very well defined and it is more of a place to place call, where as the mobile phone it turns more into a person to person phone call. (Is this true? Why should this be more personal?)
He is then finally jumping to the iPhone and the facebook application as something between the terms of timetable, diary, notes, messages and so ford. Modeling social network using these kin of applications makes Hagerstrandian geographers quite exciting to map information. His interest seems to be more in the area of how people use it and how respond and activity is generated from.
Questions and comments session comes back to restrictions and proposes to look at travel patterns in terms of dependencies of movement and restrictions probably. A second comment pick up the more nostalgic view through what might be the Differences between the patterns of pre mobile phones to now mobile phones area. As fifty years ago children could leave the house in the morning returning six or eight hours later. Where as now leaving the house needs checking back. Related to has the technology produced more anxiousness? This is probably directly a response to the whereabouts clock project.

At this point I might run out of battery power soon... POWER!
Later, back up with some juice...

The afternoon session starts with a panel discussion being introduced also to collect a pool of ideas to take the series into a next step and also looking at a publication. So there can be something expected in terms of a product, probably next year.
It is then again a review of previous paper with the panel member all reflecting on three previous papers in relation to their own work on the topic. Again this is going to be brief summary of the panel session.
Eric Lurier throws up the thought that the research on everyday is very much about not to overlook the simple hidden information that we are so much used to see that is easily overlooked. Steve Cummins picks up on this and relates it to routine activities that had more impact in the older days, 70ies. The meaning of marked days and church going and so on. The setting nowadays is very different and the routines have changed and opened up? He quotes Elisabeth (earlier paper) with the idea of sequencing and going on to analyze the individual and the collective in term of sequencing related to being selfish.
Recent time data analysis seems to show that the time spent together of men and women seem to come closer.
Rhythms over the different scales might not be comparable. Steve also throws up the thought about a nested concept of time in terms of scale. Especially in connection to life course as a concept of time how far can we go in terms of time perception from childhood to late age? - What does that mean in terms of tracking and travel distance?
Miles Tightis then talking about his research on walking and cycling and reasons why people choose to do so. He is doing walkalongs while they speak to participants on what they actually experience and how they take decision. (Could be an interesting part of the UD project)
He also has done some GPS tracking looking at tracks relating them to socio spatial aspects of the environment participants travel through. He raises the question of the sampling, how can it cover representative group, a problem I am currently facing in my research work.
He also has got a great example/story on routines and repetition and how he times his walking speed to meet the sequence created by the series of traffic light on the way from the train station to his office every morning.
Rachel Pain picks up on the issue of sample and represented groups. The panel agrees that previous papers presented have mainly looked at middle class settings and they conclude on academics being part of this and them liking to reflect upon themselves. She then also raises critique on the recent WOW techniques and visual methods, such as GIS and GPS, technology and so on. There is a WOW effect in the first place but afterwards reminds the question on but what now? There seems to be a lack of theory, contextual work and methods to approach or take the questions further.
During the discussion/question session some additional points are raised from interdisciplinary, founding to the definition of terms used in the discussion such as space-time, time-space. Also the uncertainty of the result or application of this field of research, if there is something such as time research and the question whether we are on the way to nothing with this discussion, even though or because everyone is currently talking about this from artists to scientists.

During the afternoon tea brake the host of the event, the Culture Lab University of Newcastle gives tours on their recent research projects in technology. We are moving on to get a motion capturing demonstration. The culture lab here at Newcastle University has some very expensive equipment to track and trace markers in 3d space. It is similar to the technology used in large-scale Hollywood animation films for the imitation of body movement, facial expression and gestures.
Downstairs in the interactive technology room of the culture lab, some newly developed touch screen tables are demonstrated and the ambient kitchen project. In the lab they have installed a kitchen that is equipped with sensors to respond to chefs actions. For example by using RFID technology the information projected onto the kitchen wall can suggest recipes corresponding to the ingredients placed on the work top. The project team aims at using the kitchen in an environment with elderly people and mental health patients to help them keeping up their routines and activities.

Image by urbanTick - Motion capturing installation at Culture Lab University of Newcastle

Image by urbanTick - Interactive worktops for collaborative work at Culture Lab University of Newcastle

Some thoughts on the day from my experince. There has been a lot of retrospective talking across the series. It is creating a sort of framework and context for the work presented as I pointed out in the introduction. However it is demanding for first time attendees. On the other hand it probably also highlight the fact that n overarching concept of time related research is actually missing and the community of researchers in this field lacks this overarching understanding of each others approach. In this sense, papers presented where all bits and pieces of the greater picture.
To aim for a publication of the series to this reflection and contextualization of he aspects make sense.
There has been surprisingly a lot of in depth critique and unwillingness to understand technology as pat of this investigation. I do agree that a lot if not most of the currently “exciting” project and works in the area of technology are born out of the technology itself aiming back at the technology without creating some sort of context. Nevertheless the technologies are so fast entering into everyday life (at least for the middle class) that neglecting this area of research by the technology by social researcher, geographers and health experts will definitely put them in a bad position to continue. Even in this, the time aspect is a topic and related to technology time has definitely speed up.
Picking up on the idea of slow and fast time I was surprised to hear so much about the old days. The old days and the current days as a concept of time organizations shines through in a number of contributions. This definitely raises the question if there is a real concept missing? Maybe even beyond this there is a lack of language and terms to talk bout time and to exchange ideas and concepts. In this respect the seminar and especially the series, as far as I can judge from the reviews, has and can in the future contribute quite a bit to the discussion around time.

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