Reading guide to: Pink, S.  (2008) ‘An Urban Tour: the sensory sociability of ethnographic place – making’, Ethnography 9 (2). (NB I got this through an interlibrary loan from the British Library - the electronic version had neither page numbers nor a bibliography)

[Another claim to be doing ethnographic place making by walking, rather similar to Pink 2007, and Pink 2008b – blame the RAE?  This one is a bit more explicit about some philosophical threads that might underpin the approach].

An urban walk was undertaken in Mold [why? Why not Orlando, Paris, London, or somewhere that tourists go?].  The tour was organized by local residents keen on the Slow City movement, an offshoot of the movement for Slow Food, a conservational movement, aimed at the protection of the local environment.

Ethnography can be seen as a form of place making.  Casey is cited again on the importance of place as fundamental and structuring when it comes to meaning.  There is also a link to Merleau-Ponty’s notion of ‘being in the world’, which invokes gathering meanings together.  The sense of place is transitory, but there are paths, which constitute individual meanings and embody them.  There may be differences in terms of gender, generation, class or race however.  Researchers are also embodied.  The researcher and subject are co-present, place is similarly experienced, we are part of a universal place making process [quite a lot turns on this, but it follows from what was just said that social similarities or differences are going to be important here.  There may be a common commitment to slow city politics here which also helps people to understand each other?]

Walking and eating becomes an important way to experience the place.  This was recognized in work on the flaneur, but this work over emphasized by visual and the gaze, when what is required is a multi sensory form of experience.  Walking is a matter of route creation.  Eating is also important and leads to a new level of awareness [Pink compares the experience of drinking coffee in a local cafe with drinking coffee in a multinational chain]. Stoller is also mentioned.  The combination of walking and eating is important for the slow city movement as well [so is the argument here about developing a political awareness, or is it based on theoretical or methodological commitments?]

De Certeau is mentioned, and criticised again for being too binary, and ignoring diverse forms of power [there might even be an implicit reference to Foucault here, which would be rather ironic, given de Certeau’s superb critique of Foucault’s method].  The Mold activists imagined a new town, showing the power of imagination.  However, the only way to know about collective imagination and its effects is to experience it yourself, rather than relying on written materials.  The researcher needs embodied practices as well as verbal projections [Can these ever be separated in practice, though?  Do embody practices go on in silence?]. 

The fieldwork was undertaken by walking round the town with a slow city activist, who arranged the schedule and provided a map.  The importance of journeys is reasserted, and some strange inclusion of snippets of gossip appear [again a realist technique?  Designed to give an illusory co-presence?] She audio recorded conversation [not video on this occasion?] and offers us quotes.  However, all the senses were engaged – for example she noticed lots of things going on in the cafe ‘The [traditional] coffee helped me to feel situated in this [traditional] cafe context’ and this is illustrated by a photograph.  The new market was visited –‘a planned context for the unfolding of new socialities and new sensory experiences’, especially when compared with the old farmers’ markets.  The mayor was interviewed, and ‘I felt compelled to continue our search for a suitable view to photograph through the trees’ [gripping and insightful stuff!].

The trip was running late so ‘Our commensality took on a new rythmn as we hurried…  And dashed off’.  They kept their jackets on.  She did video the big hall, and she can now ‘imagine [the rooms] in action’.  She drank a ‘cappuccino served with a Belgian – style biscuit…  [and consumed]…  a cold panini’ [real immersion in experiences then!] .  She tried to get attuned.  She combined rational with multi sensorial memories.  She does structure of the memories using ‘themes and questions’ but the emplaced memories are more vivid.  [that is, more realistic?].

She wants to understand the members of the slow city, so she tried to go slow herself.  Of course the guides mediated rather than represented the town, but she actually made the place as a slow place.

This was not a visit specifically for research [so the article arose from some need to cram one in the RAE?  Why did Ethnography publish it?].  She went as a participant.  She’s not suggesting that she is often the transferable method.  She simply shared experiences [including sharing gazes].  Ethnography can be seen as a pathway which gathers, and we must remember how we are emplaced.

[Very confused and rather moralistic and incantatory my view.  A marvellous example of the jargon of authenticity.  It’s also a classic piece by a famous professor who gets published whenever she writes?  It’s all delightfully nostalgic and old fashioned as well – no mention of virtual places, for example, and a deliciously naive use of camcorders and photographs.  A kind of reproduction of a pleasant visit to a country town in Wales, but talked up horribly with fashionable stuff about journeys, and infected with the discovery by the ageing middle classes of their bodies.  I didn’t like it!]

Pink (2008b),which I have not processed but which you can easily read online, repeats the same sort of points again, this time following a visit to Diss in Norfolk, with slight inflections --e.g. she says de Certeau is too binary because of his commitment to the tactics of the powerless, whereas she is more interested in the walking undertaken by specific groups of activitists, like slow city people and the disabled. She also begins to get aware a little bit of the ways in which videos and films structure places and meanings as well, a move away from some of the naivety of her own visual recording activities: she can see how the two documentaries on Diss do this, but is still unable to develop the criticisms very far or apply it to her own work in any detailed or reflexive way.

key concepts