It’s my final post today and I’m back in Ironbridge prepping time-space budget surveys for this afternoon. I will be asking people on their way back to their cars if they would tell me where they’ve been during their visit, and how long it took them. I’ve been looking back over my posts from the last year – 18 snapshots illustrating how what I do in a space transforms my experience of it. For the people I’m surveying this week I imagine a car park probably just means a place to leave the car. For me it is a challenging environment where I have to find a location which is not in the way (of pedestrians and cars) but from which I can spot people who look like they may be leaving and get to them without scaring them off by running headlong across the car park waving a clipboard and yelling ‘wait’!
Looking back over my previous posts I can see it is my sixth post from Ironbridge, my field site, matching six posts from Birmingham where I live and have my office. There were also nine posts from other places where I’ve visited for work or holidays. Two posts came from conferences (in Orkney and Nottingham) while others came from trips to Sweden, Northumbria and Canterbury as well as trips home to my parents in Lincolnshire. This seems like a fairly accurate reflection of my year, although probably under-represents the amount of time I’ve spent sat at a desk! I guess on those days I managed to find things I perceived as being more interesting from my environment. While not a mis-representation it is intriguing that I didn’t want to keep showing pictures of a desktop computer. I wonder if this is something we all do when talking about our work – not necessarily trying to make it sound more ‘out there’ than it is exactly, but certainly downplaying the more mundane aspects. Perhaps boring is more truthful!
Arriving at my fieldsite this morning I was struck by the appealing view that can be seen from this bench in the corner of the carpark. Without the overgrown shrubbery this bench affords a clear view down the river towards the Iron Bridge but we’re out of the peak tourist season so the plants have been allowed to have their way for a while. It got me thinking about the structuring of tourist sightseeing – with benches placed in particular spots, or trees and plants cleared to make space for a key sightline.
What is also noticeable, in contrast, is the impossibility of recreating many of the images tourists will have seen prior to their visit. Before I first visited I thought the Museum of the Gorge was on a lake based on the images here: http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/our-attractions/museum-of-the-gorge/ Despite my best tries this is the closest I could get to recreating that image (without a boat!)
As a final thought I was struck by how ever changing places are, with momentary differences in temperature and light transforming the spaces we are in. As this morning’s grey clouds began to part and it began to get warmer a sudden mist appeared on the river. A view I’ve seen many times before was transformed momentarily into something entirely different.
Out of season space
The autumn is gradually passing into winter and the Iron Bridge, so thronged with tourists only a few weeks ago, is now the haunt of sole dog walkers and the odd PhD researcher. It is a time to consolidate and concentrate on other things – interviewing the people who work in tourism, analysing the content of the signage, and dreaming of next year when the tourists will return.
Light changes perception of space. We are now a few weeks past the Autumnal Equinox when we hang balanced between day and night. One would think that this would mean that darkness would be the more prevalent experience of the spaces we pass through, but as I have walked around both Ironbridge, where my research is focused, and Orkney where I’ve been attending a conference over the last few days, it has been the lightness of the low winter sun which has characterised everything. So below are some spaces lit by winter sunlight, especially at sunrise and sunset where the shadows seem to emphasise the light.
This week I’ve been doing some research on the app for my study site. This wasn’t a hope-filled start!
‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…’
(As You Like It, Act II, Scene II)
Our experience of the places we inhabit is bound up with the performances we are acting out within them. The place too may be actor, director, scriptwriter, or backdrop. I am researching the co-construction of tourist space in heritage sites; the physical and conceptual worlds tourists move within, and at the same time continually create. Through this year I will explore this relationship between places themselves and the performances enacted within them by presenting an image of where I am on a given day, captioned by what the place has become as a result of what I, and those around me, are doing.