‘Pour votre tranquillité’ article now early online

I’ve just spotted that the article I co-wrote with Peter Adey, Laure Brayer, Damien Masson, Patrick Murphy and Nicolas Tixier for Geoforum is now early online.

The article can be accessed here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718513001140

I’m not sure when it will be fully ‘out’ yet…

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Ambiances and Atmospheres in Translation conference audio online

The audio recordings of our ‘Ambiances and Atmospheres in Translation’ event from February are now available online. This includes audio of each presentation and the discussion that took place between our three ‘observers’ and those who came along. To access the recordings, use the following link:


[link updated 24/06/2013]

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New Paper accepted to Geoforum: ‘Pour votre tranquillité’: ambiance, atmosphere, and surveillance

I was very pleased to learn earlier this week that our paper, ‘Pour votre tranquillité’: ambiance, atmosphere, and surveillance, has been accepted to Geoforum as part of a themed issue on ‘New Geographies of Surveillance’. The paper was co-written by myself, Peter Adey, Laure Brayer, Damien Masson, Patrick Murphy, and Nicholas Tixier and is the first publication from our ‘Sensory Enigmas’ collaboration. I’m not sure when it will actually come out, but the abstract is below. Please get in touch if you’d like to see a ‘pre-proof’ copy.


This is a paper concerned with security, surveillance and notions of atmosphere and ambience. Whilst surveillance and security research has been excellent at examining socio-spatial relations drawn into the production and consumption of surveillance technologies, systems and practices, it has been far less well attuned to the material-affective relations, presences and absences it comes to constitute as the fabric of public space. Research within human geography and a broader ‘new materialism’ within the humanities and social sciences has become increasingly interested in exploring affective atmospheres, yet largely ignorant of a well established school of thought within French urban and social theory of ‘ambiance’. This paper explores the providence of considering atmospheres and ambiances for the examination of surveillance through the case study of two major railway stations in Britain and France. The paper proffers some methods and techniques for the further exploration of atmospheres/ambiances of security.

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RGS-IBG 2013: Ambiance and Atmospheres: Encountering New Material Frontiers

I’m very happy to be able to announce the details of the RGS-IBG sessions I am co-organizing with Peter Adey (RHUL) and Damien Masson (Cergy-Pontoise) this year. We have 3 sessions in the programme, 2 sponsored by the HPGRG and the 3rd independent. We had a great response to the call we sent out and it looks like it will be a great set of papers, mixing geographers and non-geographers, UK-based academics but also international contributions also…

I’m also presenting in one of Gail Davies, Jamie Lorimer, and Steve Hinchliffe’s sessions on ‘Immunitary Geographies’ (speaking about intersubjectivity and the work of Roberto Esposito) so it’s going to be a busy conference for me this year!

Full details of each of our Ambiance/atmospheres sessions are below.

Ambiance and Atmospheres: Encountering New Material Frontiers (1)

Convenor(s): Paul Simpson (Keele University), Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London), Damien Masson (Cergy Pontoise University):

Chair(s): Paul Simpson (Keele University)

Sponsored by: History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group

  • Ambiance and Atmospheres
    Paul Simpson (Keele University), Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Creating ambiance and atmosphere as an artist-geographer
    Candice Boyd (University of Melbourne, Australia)
  • Cutting-through of the urban milieu
    Nicolas Tixier (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Grenoble)
  • The Affective Atmospheres of Nationalism: the case of the London 2012 Olympic Games
    Angharad Closs Stephens (Durham University)
  • The sounds of our listening: ambiances of voices and commons
    Anja Kanngieser (Royal Holloway University of London)


Ambiance and Atmospheres: Encountering New Material Frontiers (2)

Convenor(s): Paul Simpson (Keele University), Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London), Damien Masson (Cergy Pontoise University):

Chair(s): Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Sponsored by: History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group

  • Material events: art, activism and spatialities of affect
    Michael Buser (University of the West of England)
  • Atmospheric Things
    Derek McCormack (University of Oxford)
  • Motion capture, movement and apprehending atmospheres
    James Ingham (University of Central Lancashire), Nigel Simpkins (University of Central Lancashire)
  • Atmospheres of progress in a data-based school
    Matt Finn (Durham University)
  • Towards an ‘ambiance-grounded’ critique?
    Damien Masson (Cergy Pontoise University), Rachel Thomas (CNRS, France)


Ambiance and Atmospheres: Encountering New Material Frontiers (3)

Convenor(s): Paul Simpson (Keele University), Peter Adey (Royal Holloway, University of London), Damien Masson (Cergy Pontoise University):

Chair(s): Damien Masson (Cergy Pontoise University)

  • Reimagining the Margins – Creative Practice and the Infrastructural Landscapes of the Lower Lea Valley
    Rupert Griffiths (Royal Holloway University of London)
  • “The double-faced challenge of translating affective atmospheres”
    Michele Lancione (UTS-CMOS, Australia)
  • Methodological considerations for evaluating affective atmospheres of mobile environments
    Ilze Dziedataja (Manchester Metropolitan University), Steven Rhoden (Manchester Metropolitan University), Amanda Miller (Manchester Metropolitan University), Shobana Nair Partington (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • ‘Shaped by familiarity’:  Memory, Space, Materiality and Atmosphere at Imperial War Museum North.
    Angela Loxham (Lancaster University)
  • Architectural atmospheres: the role of the senses in digital visualization practices
    Monica Degen (Brunel University), Clare Melhuish (Open University), Gillian Rose (The Open University)
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Conference event: Ambiances and Atmospheres in Translation, London (Feb 25th-27th)

Next week I’ll be at our conference/event ‘Ambiances and Atmospheres in Translation’.

This has been put together by Peter Adey, Damien Masson, Rachel Thomas and myself and emerges from our ongoing collaborative project on the ‘Spatial Enigmas of Contemporary Urban Mobilities’ project.

There’s some really interesting presentations from speakers external to our project and we have a number of discussants (Derek McCormack (Oxford), Jean-Paul Thibaud (CRESSON), and Kyran Joughin (Arts, London) so should be a really stimulating event.

We’ve also put together some walking tour/soundscape materials from our research in St Pancras that we’ll be trying out with the participants, so that should be fun (I’ve not been involved in producing anything like this before…).

I think we are now full so I’m afraid it is unlikely we can accept any more requests to attend, but I’m hoping to post some kind of notes/summary on here and get beyond using this blog as an occasional advertising space…

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New Paper out in Environment and Planning A: Ecologies of Experience

My paper ‘Ecologies of experience’ is now out in Environment and Planning A. 

Full reference details are:

Simpson, P. (2013) ‘Ecologies of experience: Materiality, sociality, and the embodied experience of (street) performing’. Environment and Planning A 45(1) pp. 180-196. DOI:10.1068/a4566

This paper was quite a long time in coming together and has been through various iterations, has been presented to various audiences, and has been read by a number of people so is nice to finally have it out there…

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I’ve been invited to speak at this event (details below). I’ll be speaking in the ‘Spatiality and Affect’ roundtable and looks like there’s going to be some really interesting people in attendance…
Creating worlds: The affective spaces of experimental politics
Monday 14 January, 2013
Royal Holloway, Bedford Square, 2 Gower Street, WC1E 6DP.
***Attendance is limited to 30 people. Please submit a short (200 word) statement by 1 December 2012 on why you would like to attend when registering your interest to anja.kanngieser@rhul.ac.uk
Geography has always been concerned with spatial and temporal ecologies productive of, and created through, political processes. Considerations of ‘political’ spaces and places – macro-political, global, micro-political and localised – are crucial to geographical research praxes, perhaps most especially to those hoping to conceive of alternative and imaginative pathways through the contemporary conditions of capital.
Over the past decade, vocabularies of relationality and affect have been seeping into the more usual ethnographic and ‘grounded’ tropes that geography is known for. These vocabularies have placed an emphasis on the felt, shifting, sensed, complex, resonant aspects of how we live and work, inviting us to pose more questions than find answers, to remain flexible and mindful of the topological spaces and environments we inhabit and investigate. This has given rise to sometimes conflictive, sometimes enthusiastic dialogues that are becoming more popular with the opening of geography to less conventional methods and perspectives. Perhaps now more than ever, intersections are being forged through which we can experiment and speak about the political worlds we are implicated in.
This event seeks to bring together those exploring questions of how we live within, formulate, create and antagonise, spaces and places of politics: public and private, macro-political and micro-political. It is specifically interested in inviting conversation about spaces in which self-organisation occur, whereby people come together in some sort of common articulation. Moreover, what is of key interest is the ‘how’: how people come together in what kinds of spaces and places; what forces and desires inform these collective spaces, and how they are sustained; how spaces and subjects are processually entangled; how social reproduction occurs – the lines of class, gender, race, ability; and the ways spaces are differentiated, that is to say, how boundaries are performed. Rather than marking topographies of conventional ‘radical’ political sites, such as social centres, camps, protests, assemblies, allotments, workplaces, bookstores, what might be uncovered are the more messy affective and relational threads that run though them, and also far beyond them, and how we might even begin to apprehend and engage with them
The day event will comprise of three round tables, each taking a particular conjunction as a starting point for interpretation and dialogue:
– spatiality and affect (Chair: Dr Anna Feigenbaum);
– spatiality and organisation (social reproduction) (Chair: Dr Fabian Frenzel);
– spatiality and politics (Chair: Dr Gavin Brown).
These conjunctions are in no way discrete, and many overlaps are anticipated. Each round table will be made up of three speakers, who have been asked to formulate a response to the conjunction, whether that be in the form of a question, idea, or trajectory.
Each attending participant will be encouraged to bring one idea, or point of inquiry that they might like to discuss responding to the thematic conjunctions. A small amount of funding can also be provided for travel for unwaged/ under-waged participants, please indicate if you will need this in your expression of interest.
Attendance is limited to 30 people. Please submit a short (200 word) statement by 1 December 2012 on why you would like to attend when registering your interest to anja.kanngieser@rhul.ac.uk
This event is part of a series associated with the Protest Camps: Experiments in Alternative Worlds project http://protestcamps.org/ and is funded by an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship with Royal Holloway, University of London.
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Dylan Trigg – The Memory of Place

I’ve recently reviewed Dylan Trigg’s ‘The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny’ for the journal ‘Emotion, Space and Society’. The review is now early online here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1755458612000710

As the review hopefully makes clear, I think this is an excellent book. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the growing philosophy of place literature (Malpas, Casey et al), corporeally inclined phenomenology, and the emerging literature that takes a slightly weird slant on realism.

If you don’t have a subscription to the journal and would like a pre-proof version of the review, please either comment below or email me. 

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‘Apprehending Everyday Rhythms’ now early online

This caught me a little by surprise by the speed they got this up following the submission of the corrected proofs, but my paper ‘Apprehending everyday rhythms: Rhythmanalysis, time-lapse photography, and the space-times of street performance’ is now up on the ‘early online’ section of the ‘Cultural Geographies’ website here

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On academic job applications and interviews

Recently i was involved in some discussion emerging from the CRIT-GEOG forum related to early career life and the increasing challenges faced by those coming out of PhDs. This has got me thinking about the job situation etc (also see this from the Times Higher that I know started a twitter discussion). Given I’ve have heard from colleagues that some people have found the ‘early career‘ post I put up here useful and that I should do more, particularly orientated towards early career related themes, I thought i’d write something about academic job applications and interviews

While quite a bit of useful advice has been given in various places about things like getting the PhD itself (see Place Hacking), and writing practices here and here), I’ve not seen much advice about the job interview process (though, to be fair my blog reading tends to be quite narrow/I’d be interested to see anything that has).

So, below are a range of reflections on my experiences of applying to jobs and going to job interviews over the past few years and some suggestions on what I think worked and that i think didn’t. I should say though that these are by no means to be taken as authoritative statements – I’ve not been on any interview panels and so have less insight from that side of things (but comments from those who have would be very welcome!). Rather, thus far I’ve been to 6 interviews for academic jobs (5 lectureships of various term and one teaching fellowship) and have been offered 4 of those posts…

Also given I’m busy with various deadlines at the moment/there’s a lot to say on this, I will break this up into at least two posts (and may supplement them as I think of things). The second post will come when I get the chance, but with the addition of upcoming big ‘life events’, that may be a little while…

[please excuse the likely high number of typos also – this was written rather rushed on my iPad and I’ve not had time to check it through…]

So, starting with the prep. side of things:

1) getting into the interview room in the first place (a restatement of some relatively obvious points)

As I’ve written elsewhere, increasingly, to get an interview during/after your PhD you have to have a record of publishing, especially if it is a lecturing post. When I was being interviewed at the end of my PhD, I had one paper out and another forthcoming that year. I also had a 3rd in review. Most if not all of the people in those interviews had the same. While short listing panels will take career stage into consideration, they will still want evidence that you can actually publish as this is a key aspect of being an academic.

In addition to publishing, it is also important to show you’ve been ambitious in other ways. So go to, and more importantly, present at, conference. And don’t just limit yourself to postgrad sessions – full sessions will get you greater exposure and will likely help you meet the people who may well be in the department you end up being interviewed in, or even on the panel. This all rounds off your CV and shows you as actively engaging in activities the interviewing department would expect to see you doing once you are in post.

Importantly though, many departments will also want you to have experience of teaching of some kind. This might be tutorials , it might be a guest lecture or two, it might be demonstrating. Whatever it is, they will want to be sure that you can actually stand up in front of a room full of students and deliver. As such, it is really important to take up any opportunities you can during your phd to get some experience. And if this doesn’t come your way during the first year or so of the phd, chase it!! It is very likely that your supervisor will be happy to give you a lecture of too from their load!

Finally, apply to anything and everything. While you may have social ties etc to specific places, while you may not want to move, if you want an academic career, you can’t be picky at the start of your career. There are simply not enough jobs around to allow this. Also, don’t turn your nose up at a short job/expect a permanent post straight off. Some manage this, but they tend to be the exception. Going to Keele on a 9 month lectureship for me was turn out to be a really productive experience – I got lots of teaching and admin experience in a short time and it was instrumental in me getting a longer contract at Plymouth, and then ultimately that played a big part in getting the permanent post back at Keele. It will have meant 3 moves in 4 years, but that’s the way it goes/I know many people who have not been as lucky and are still have to take on year-to-year contracts several years down the line…

2) the application
Different places will have slightly different set ups here, but in all likelihood, you will have to submit: a) a form; b) a statement about your research and teaching (possibly as a covert letter, stand alone document, or as part of the form); and c) a CV.

This might sound so blindingly obvious that you think it wouldn’t need said, but DO WHAT YOU ARE ASKED here!! I was shocked once when reviewing applications to contribute to a short-listing that someone hadn’t submitted the generic application form they were asked to. In some cases departments/unis will state applications will not be considered without this. But even if not, it does suggest either an arrogance or lack of care on behalf of the applicant – not something I’d think many would want to portray in their application! Fair enough, your CV may cover the same info, but take the time to re-type it. You don’t want to put yourself out of the pool of candidates before the applications are even looked at…

As for the statement, it is important to look at the job spec and make sure you show you meet all the essential criteria and as much of the desired criteria as you can. You could do this as a list of statements related to it to make it bluntly clear, but I tend towards a more synthesised statement that covers them all together in a more narrated way. For me this is structured along: a) General research interests; b) Current research activities; c) Future research plans; d) teaching and admin experiences; e) How I would fit teaching/admin in the department. It’s up to you, but make sure you are writing a out what they want you to write about, not just what you want to tell them or think is important or think suites you better. And be concise –  job might get 50 applications with means a lot of reading for the short listing panel!!

You should also be careful with getting this to be balanced. If the role is teaching and research, talk about BOTH in relative depth, not one or the other. One way to check this is as simple as counting paragraphs – 5 on research and 1 on teaching may not be suitable for a teaching fellow post (unless you make it clear how your research will connect to the teaching/why you’ve written so much about it) – above mine normally comes out at 3/2 or 4/2). Again, at an early career stage/just post-phd you may have limited teaching experience, so you need to think about how you can best present what you have (without labouring it by listing the topic of every tutorial you’ve ever run).

Also, throughout, try to connect your application to the post/department – suggest connections to people there that you might work with, the research groups you would fit into, the people in other departments you could build links with, how you could fit into and contribute to existing teaching etc. While you can have a fair amount of generic copy-and -paste text you reuse in your application, you should have points you can tailor to a specific post. I often have a standard document with these bits highlighted in a bright colour so I see them/make sure I edit them for each application I put in (you don’t want to talk about the ‘University of X’ when applying to the ‘University of Y’, but. I’ve seen and heard of people doing it!!).

As for the CV, again there are different ways of doing this. I tend to go for the statements of facts/lists of what I’ve done (teaching history, qualifications, training courses, list of research areas, grants, publications, conference papers etc) rather than the more general listing of ‘skill sets’ and how I am ‘a highly motivated individual who works well with others’ etc. etc.. To me this tends to seem a bit like groundless fluff unless you do it really well and back it up with substantive examples of how you have done that (and this is what your personal statement/cover letter etc can do).

Another thing I’d warn against from discussions with various senior colleague is listing dozens of ‘planned’ papers from your PhD. It is more important to show you have published from it or have things you are working on/in the mix than listing a page of things you plan to write. If you list a dozen papers, this will likely mean years and years of further work (even with the kindest of teaching loads) and a department will likely be more interested in your plans for grant applications etc over that sort of time frame than how you will salami-slice your thesis into the finest of cuts. Remember, for a REF submission, you need at most 4 papers (with some back-ups to give decent set to chose from) and if you are early career, you may not even need a full load…

So, for example, I list my work that is either published or forthcoming/accepted, things I’ve been invited to do/have agreed to, anything under review, and maybe one or two things i am working on or I know are in the works (especially grant-related/co-written).

3) preparing for the day
A final point for now, it is really important that you do your homework! You will be able to find out a lot on most department websites about teaching, research, staff etc.. You can use this on the day (more later) and in your application (as suggested above).

I’ve been surprised by people who I’ve been at interviews with and don’t seem go have done this. Obviously, it is good to ask questions on the day where appropriate (and to have question for the end of the interview itself – more later), but you don’t want to ask about things you could have found out easily in advance…

Related for this, some people advise to always contact the department in advance of applying, either by phone or email, to ask questions or to generally discuss the post/check they’d be interested in having you apply. I’m not so sure of this and I (think I) have only got the jobs that I didn’t enquire about in any way prior to applying!! While I’m sure some will disagree, for me, unless you have a really good reason to (or there is someone that works there you already know) I think this is little more than a waste of both your and the other person’s time. It should be obvious if the post is worth you applying to or not (ie on the questions of if you might fit – it’s worth applying if you sense even the slightest chance of this!!) and given there may be 50 people applying, you will likely do little more than frustrate the person with yet another phone call. I’d try to make your application stand out with the quality of its content/your achievements rather than trying to find other means to get yourself into their consciousness!

That’s enough for now. Again, this is only my perspective and happy to hear the thoughts of others on this. When I get time I will say more about…

– the presentation

– the interview

– the other bits and pieces that might happen on the day

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