Adviser on the Edge

careers in island communities: research, theory and practice

Thinking on Buses…

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Today I am travelling*. This isn’t unusual, I normally travel to the mainland about once a month. This time, as always, I have taken an academic text-book to read and some academic papers. And I was thinking on the bus (after the plane) how much I enjoy this reading-on-the-go, and strangely find it actually so much more productive, as days reading go, than being sat in my office. That’s when I remembered a paper by Finn and Holton that I’ve recently read about the experience of commuting students and their experiences of mobility to/ from university. Holton and Finn’s paper makes really interesting reading in terms of challenging the binaries in Higher Education discourse about ‘mobile’ (i.e. those who’ve moved for university) and ‘immobile’ (local) students. Instead they show that “local” students also experience mobility (through their experience of commuting) and also how this transitional commuting space is not simply ‘dead time’ but a productive space “work[ing] towards, rather than, against the process of knowledge production, identity formation and feelings of belonging” (2017:13).

Now, thinking about Holton and Finn, I was thinking about my everyday mobilities – I don’t strictly ‘commute’ to mainland Scotland (my office base is in Orkney), but I am mobile, very mobile, across the wider region as a result of my work. And rather than ‘lost’ time, my travel time is valuable. It is particularly valuable for ‘thinking’ work, so it struck me as totally logical that students who are commuting to university might also find travel time useful for some of their higher education studies – their ‘thinking work’. However, unlike the students in Holton and Finn’s study, I’m not commuting to a place of study, so this suggests for me that rather than being a function of where I am moving to when I’m travelling, there is an intrinsic value of travelling in terms of thinking space.

pixabay bus

How does the experience of travelling impact on us? (picture courtesy of pixabay.com)

Continuing on my bus journey about one minute later I then remembered a tweet I’d seen from Robert MacFarlane on his phrase of the day ‘“solvitur ambulando” – ‘it is solved by walking’ (Latin). Diogenes, then St Augustine, Thoreau & Chatwin, inter alia.’ I liked the concept of a ‘problem solved by walking’ and wrote the quote down at the time. I have always found walking helpful for sorting out problems, but probably had thought about this more from the perspective of the fresh air and the exercise rather than anything else. But what occurred to me today is that it is clearly also about the experience of movement. Simply moving through space does something interesting to the way that I think….

At this point I started to wonder Lefebvre’s concept of ‘rhythmanalysis’, and the way that the rhythms of urban space can impact on people’s experiences… but I really don’t know enough about his ideas to know if there’s a link there or not!

Now I’m off the bus and writing this all down I realise this blog itself mirrors something of my ‘travelling’ thought processes – it’s a bit of a flow through a whole series of semi-connected thoughts, with lots of scope for further ‘wonderings’ (wanderings). I guess if I was to try to summarise I would say that my concept of mobility and what it means has maybe been challenged and broadened – it is not just about functionalist movement through space to get somewhere, but the very act of movement impacts on us. I know that Finn and Holton will have a great deal more to say to me on this topic, here’s another quote from their paper which I think sums up some of where I have got to on the topic:

“Indeed, mobilities theory allows us to appreciate mobility as much more than the physical act of moving between places and spaces; it is multi-sensory and embodied so that it becomes ‘something we feel in an emotional and affective sense’ (Adey 2010, 162).” (Finn and Holton, 2017 p.3)

So, I’ve now added a number of new pieces of literature to my ‘to read’ pile from mobilities theory, Finn and Holton, and Lefebvre’s ‘Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life’ too. If anyone else has ideas of other things I should read let me know! That should keep me busy for at least the next couple of journeys!

 

*This is a touch of poetic licence, I’m not actually travelling today, but when I wrote the blog I was…!

Reference

Mark Holton & Kirsty Finn (2017): Being-in-motion: the everyday (gendered  and classed) embodied mobilities for UK university students who commute, Mobilities, DOI:10.1080/17450101.2017.1331018

 

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3 thoughts on “Thinking on Buses…

  1. I immediately identified with you here. I travel from home to Canterbury fairly regularly. It’s a 2 hour train journey or a 75 minute drive. I much prefer to take the train, precisely because it gives me precious thinking and reading space, but I usually feel compelled to drive because I have it in my head that it saves time.

    I’m also interested in your thoughts on movement. I took part in a series of workshops at my university called ‘Embodied Narratives’. They were designed as collaborative research spaces and the materials then fed into my friend and colleague’s PhD. One of the activities was movement. As you say, it’s something that we take for granted – we just do it, and it has to be thus – but there is also something very powerful about taking time to think about space, both physically and psychologically. We also did lots of creative activities like writing, painting, drawing, making etc – but that’s another story!

  2. Thought-provoking! I always consciously use walking for thinking things through and I had noticed that one reason I like driving alone is because I find the car a good thinking space too – but I hadn’t thought of either of them in terms of covering distance. Yet I’m well aware that being far away from home on my travels always brings new thinking and insights too. This is all coming together in a different shape!

  3. I get the bus to work, and I definitely also feel it’s not ‘lost time,’ and certainly many things I try and do e.g. reading a book, checking my social media, but I do value just being able to sit and relax my mind before the day begins and on my way home too.

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