Archive for March, 2014


I was spoilt for choice with this blog! Finding an everyday urban space in Bristol is like finding chocolate in Cadbury World – no problem. The difference though was I didn’t want the crowded space where digital and space crash together in a never ending stream. Instead I chose a less obvious space, somewhere where there was the hint of aloneness – a glimpse of the individual without the digital world. There was an Orwellian sense of urgency about this – where could I go and not be digitally disturbed?




Outside @Bristol is a calm outdoor urban area and as far as I could tell, a relatively digital free zone. But almost immediately, I was disturbed by someone walking past, talking loudly on their mobile. Which reminded me – I must resist the urge to look at my phone for messages. But as Turkle (2011) states: “The pull of these devices is so strong, that we’ve become used to them faster than anyone would have suspected.” Immediately I began to think of messages I might miss or worse, that in that hour, no-one would text me! Turkle continues, “What is so seductive about texting, about keeping that phone on, about that little red light, is you want to know who wants you.”


 I lifted my phone to take the first photo, it buzzed! Immediately on the screen came the announcement that I had 4 new notifications from 3 different programmes! I laughed at the irony of the digital media crashing into my quietness. Poised to take the first photo, an area of the building came to life and I was faced with a giant TV screen promoting a Bristol Festival. I think the question to ask here is did I mind? I was aware of a growing tension between ‘wanted’ and ‘unwanted’ digital media. But in order to look at this point objectively, I need to be able to unplug myself from the digital age and view the networking of public space as an almost before and after phenomenon. My generation is drenched in digital media and we are not really sure of the impact yet. There is a wealth of evidence out there linked to the advantages of the digital age. We can keep in touch with people all over the world, we have immediate (at least in the developed world) access to unlimited information. I can buy anything I want, pay for it and have it delivered without leaving my chair and yet alarm bells are beginning to ring! Varnelis and Friedberg in ‘Place: The Networking of Public Space’(2012) conclude that “Global connections versus local disconnections, the growing overlap of local and virtual presences….will utterly reconfigure our relationship with place and all offer opportunities as well as challenges.” It would appear that although I can choose my place (as I did for this blog) I am not always in charge of what is in it.




Turkle, S (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other Basic Books


Varnelis,K and Friedberg,A (2012) ‘Place: The Networking of Public Space’, MIT Press


Humphery, Kim (2007) Australian Humanities Review. Issue 42




I am thoughtful after this week’s discussions about Biosphere Culture and the ‘Matter’ of waste. I was bought up in a very eco-friendly house. I have grown up with the feeling that I was doing my bit for the environment and I felt good about it. Gay Hawkins in her book, The Ethics of Waste: How We Relate to Rubbish (2006) explores ‘how waste mediates relations to our bodies, prompts various habits and disciplines, and orders relations between the self and the world.’ (p.4). This is true – waste does impact on me, my decisions and my actions. Image

I have never thought of myself as an ostrich, sticking my head in the sand when thinking about environmental issues, yet Pete Posthleswaite’s words suddenly ring out – ‘We could have saved ourselves,’ in the film Age of Stupid, when climate change has had a catastrophic effect on the planet. Linked to this in the film is the irony of Alvin Duvernay being hailed an ‘American hero’ saving over a hundred people after hurricane Katrina – we are then told he works for an oil company, one of the biggest pollutants in the world and a contributor to climate change and consequently, changing weather patterns! There is a thread of denial and guilt that runs through the whole film and there is a similarity here with Hawkins argument – we need to stop feeling guilty if we are to think differently and more positively about our relationship with our waste. We need to stop denying there is a problem and stop feeling guilty about it if we are to solve the problem.

So the simplicity of ‘you’re a recycler or spawn of the devil’ is dismissed by Hawkins, which I think is really positive. If we are to work together as humans to save the planet we have to, as Kim Humphrey (2006) suggests “begin forging a politics of waste that does not rely on ideas of transcendence, on moralism and guilt-tripping, or on a bland version of consciousness raising.” He believes that we must stop fearing waste but understand how we interact with it. The problem with this though is that it will be others (Governments/large companies) here who could dictate how we interact with our rubbish in the future and they have many agendas.


I found clues to a more positive future in Jeremy Rifkin’s book ‘Empathic Civilisation’ (2010). He claims that we are almost ‘hotwired’ to care about not only what happens to us but others too. Is this where the solutions lie? By understanding the cause and effect of waste not only for us but for others, we can begin to build a more sustainable approach to waste and waste management. But are we all starting from the same ‘empathic point’? Waste management is not going to top any agenda when you are starving or homeless. Perhaps the answer is to ensure we are all equal first and then we can all start working together to save the planet.


Hawkins, Gay (2005)The Ethics of Waste: How We Relate to Rubbish, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Humphery, Kim (2007) Australian Humanities Review. Issue 42

Age Of Stupid – Spanner Films (2009)

Rifkin, Jeremy (2010) Empathic Civilisation, Jeremy Rifkin Enterprises

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