Monday, August 27, 2007

Guerrilla Geography: Day 2, London CCTV


The next Guerrilla Geography event is going to be based on our fun in Birmingham. While the focus is on London this time, we want as many mirror events to take place across the world as possible. If you can't make it to London but want to be a part of this event, just set up your own Guerrilla Geography CCTV event. Mirror events in Sydney (Australia), Tallinn (Estonia) and Manchester (UK's north) are already on the cards.

If you are outside of the UK and want to join in contact us so that we can post your event on our Facebook page and this blog.

Here are the details of the London event so far:

After the success of the first Guerrilla Geography Day (focusing on CCTV in Birmingham and recieved attention from local TV and radio) we're now looking for geographers (University Students, Teachers, Academics, Professionals, Geography Lovers...) to getting people 'thinking geographically' across Central London with a focus on Oxford Street. This time we want the London and national media to sit up , think geographically and recognise the field as it should do.

Direct (public geographical education) Action

Time & Place: Saturday 20th October between 13:00 and 17:00 in Central London.

Aim: To challenge the public’s spatial awareness of “hidden” geographies.

Objective: For the public(s) to see the world differently.

Method: Invading (personal, social, commercial, security etc.) space dressed as on-foot ‘CCTV’. The cameras will be held by guerrilla geographers who will be wearing boiler suits with the words ‘Official Geographic CCTV Unit. Give Geography its Place.’ on them.

Kit you need: Empty CCTV housing (bigger the better with cable to go into backpack), White disposable boiler suit (as found at B&Q and Homebase), bright backpack (ideally red), dark shoes/trainers, adhesive letters to fix onto CCTV housing as on the website.

Kit supplied: GGTV ID Badge, Guerrilla Geography Stickers (London Event Only)


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Geography is all about..........

"Geography is all about countries, capital cities and flags." That quote is a comment that I hear on a regular basis from colleagues, family and parents. It saddens me to know that the majority of the population of our country still hold the belief that geography has not changed since the 1960's and 70's. It saddens me even more that people do not realise how much influence geography has on their day to day lives. That's why being a Guerrilla Geographer excites me, it gives us an opportunity to show people what modern geography is all about and how it does influence us all daily.

To me Guerrilla Geography Day 1 was not about campaigning against CCTV. In fact I'm in favour of CCTV, I'm pleased that there are three cameras that cover my car parking space at home! I believe that if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear from CCTV. However, CCTV is an important Geographic issue.

Whilst out in Birmingham on Guerrilla Geography Day 1 alot of people posed the question "Why is CCTV anything to do with Geography?" To me, as a geographer, that answer is a simple one. Geography is a about space and place and CCTV controls space, affects how people feel in space and affects how people behave in space. For example I feel that my car is safer if parked in a space with CCTV and therefore, if given a choice, I will park in a place with CCTV coverage. Thats just one example of how CCTV affects how I feel and behave in different spaces!

Im now very much looking forward to Guerrilla Geography Day 2 and using the event to educate more people about what modern Geography is and how it is relevent to our day to day lives.

So....... calling all Geograpy Teachers, Students, Graduates and other Geographers join in with day 2 and maybe we can do something even more radical for day 3!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why I became a guerrilla for the day!

I think it is worth sharing exactly how I ended up in a boiler suit waving an empty CCTV camera around in the middle of Birmingham on Wednesday. While on the train to Birmingham I tried to distil exactly why I was quite happy to subject myself to a fair bit of public ridicule!

On a personal level I feel that the use of CCTV cameras in public space is unacceptably invasive. There is little substantiated evidence to say that they are effective at reducing crime in public spaces. The capacity of CCTV cameras to control space and subsequently how we use and interact with space should not be underestimated. From one spot, outside WH Smiths in New Street station we counted over thirty cameras and were constantly reminded via loud audio announcements that we were being filmed. Personally, that doesn’t make me feel any safer. I feel as though I, and everyone else, is being scrutinised, judged monitored and evaluated. People don’t usually like that.

As an educator I am becoming increasingly aware of the many and varied opportunities that currently exist for educators to ply their trade outside the classroom. I’m not bored with teaching, but the idea of getting out of school to engage the public with geographical concepts has big appeal. Guerrilla geography isn’t about providing people with answers, but is more about getting public to begin to think like critical geographers and ask questions about the place and space they occupy. I believe this can only be a good thing.

As a geographer, I am concerned that the public or popular perception of our subject could do with a bit of a shake up. I don’t have bad breath, a beard, or leather patches on a tweed jacket and am probably as bad as the next person in the “geography” round of a pub quiz. However after five years as a teacher I think I have listened to every conceivable stereotype of a geographer and always despair. As a result, I feel I have a professional responsibility to challenge people’s opinion of what I do each day.

The reaction of the public to our actions was unsurprisingly varied, although for me, the most interesting revelation was the difference in reaction between adults and youths. For instance, when you pose the question,

Is there a big difference between us following you down the street with our camera, compared to you being followed on a regular CCTV camera?

Understandably, both groups usually felt uneasy about being filmed by either method, but after brief reflection, almost all young people were prepared to accept that perhaps there is not a huge difference. They were then able to begin to make connections between CCTV cameras and their use of space. They could cite examples of where CCTV can dictate the use of space and would usually be keen to articulate how it makes them feel. By contrast, while many adults were quick to agree CCTV is invasive, many were reluctant to accept was no real difference between our action and the current use of CCTV in public space. Why? I’m not sure I can answer this question fully. Perhaps we become desensitised to the presence of CCTV in the landscape. I’m of the opinion that this is at best undesirable, at worst dangerous. Being filmed, monitored and surveyed over long periods of time is not healthy for communities or groups of people, an episode of big brother makes that point quite well!

Space is the ultimate geographical idea. It is where everything we are interested in is played out. An appreciation of the uses of, changes to and control of space lie at the heart of what geographers do. Taken from this perspective, it is not difficult to see that geography was at the heart of what we did in Birmingham. Even if the public would not initially label it as such, they certainly had to think like geographers, and wrestle with these ideas. In that sense I felt that we achieved what we set out to do. As always, I’m really looking forward to meeting up with even more geographers (or what ever else you call yourself) for round two!

Simon Renshaw

Thursday, August 16, 2007

GGTV Birmingham

Day 1 of direct (public education) action could not have gone much better...

Guerrilla Geography TV Day 1 Video (Preview)

Guerrilla Geographers on BBC West Midlands 6pm News 16.08.07

Guerrilla Geographers on BBC WM Radio at 7.40am 16.08.07

...but it could have been and so we are organising a massive Guerrilla Geography Day 2: LONDON - and we need you to join us in this massive public (direct action) event. Geography university students, academics, teachers, professionals...

Full report to follow....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Day One: Birmingham

Direct (public education) Action

Aim: To challenge the public’s spatial awareness of “hidden” geographies.
Objective: For the public(s) to see the world differently.
Method: Invading (personal, social, commercial, security etc.) space dressed as on-foot ‘CCTV’. The cameras will be fitted to the guerrilla geographers who will be wearing boiler suits with the words ‘GGTV Geographer’ on them.

a) the landscape

“Emotional landscapes, They puzzle me, Then the riddle gets solved, And you push me up to this.. State of emergency, How beautiful to be, State of emergency, Is where I want to be...” Joga, Bjork

We all have a different view of the world. Each of us have our own and diverse ways of using our unique senses to interpret the risks, emotions, possibilities, futures and experiences that places have to offer. How we see where we are is dependent on the experiences that we have had, how we have experimented and explored our environment - and so if the guerilla geographer (psycho-geographer) shapes an experience for a person, that person might forever change their view of themselves, their influences and their world.

“Place is security, space is freedom: we are attached to one and long for the other.” Yi-Fu Tuan, Geographer

The geographer Doreen Massey says that if time is the dimension of change, then space is the dimension of interconnection – of things happening all at once. It is the dimension that presents us with the existence of others – and poses the question of how we are to live together. CCTV is an interconnected network that collects ‘present’ spatial data in order to control how we live. As with a feature of any landscape, all people have different experiences of
CCTV. Like the hidden geology of the Earth, some people do not see it and even more do not think about the individuals, organisations and processes that work behind it. Others want CCTV, believing that it will make them safer, despite the patchy research on its effectiveness.

“Despite uncertainty about the true value of CCTV, the working group is convinced it is here to stay not least because of the virtually universal perception that it makes places safer.” Review of CCTV in Birmingham for the Birmingham City Council 2005

Skeptics fear Big Brother control of the streets.

“... evidence is building up that, through CCTV, people and behaviours seen not to ‘belong’ in the increasingly commercialised and privately managed consumption spaces of British cities tend to experience especially close scrutiny.” Steve Graham, Durham University

“Location is a powerful key for relating disparate databanks and unearthing information about possession, spending habits, and an assortment of behaviors and preferences, real or imagined.” Mark Monmonier, Spying with Maps

“Our physical bodies are being shadowed by an increasingly comprehensive ‘data body’. However, this shadow body does more than follow us. It also precedes us. Before we arrive somewhere, we have already been measured and classified. Thus, upon arrival, we're treated according to whatever criteria has been connected to the profile that represents us.” Felix Stalder, Privacy is not the antidote to surveillance, 2002

So CCTV and the institutions behind it have the power to change how we behave on our own and with each other. It interacts with government control, commercial power, crime, house prices, migration, insurance, poverty, terror, racism, litter, transport and ultimately the geography of our lives... where will I live? how should I get there? As guerrilla geographers we will be using the controversy and personal relationships that people have with these issues and the landscape to question of this technology.

b) the individual
As geographers we love scale. We love zooming in and out (Google Earth porn), just like CCTV does. We are visual people and looking at things turns us on, as it does many people. The thing is, there is cultural etiquette that is followed to make sure that we do not ‘take up’, ‘infiltrate’, ‘invade’, ‘push’ or ‘encroach’ on ‘personal’ or ‘private’ space. Most people would especially not do this to important or official people, people having an argument or kissing passionately... and certainly not in large numbers?

Well... this is what CCTV can and does do. Mass arrays of zooming CCTV remotely invade
our personal space...

c) And so....
What better way to stimulate discussions about hidden geographies (even if people do not call them ‘geography’), space, place, control, power, proximity... then to dress as walking CCTV cameras and invade some space(s)?