Geographer Doreen Massey’s powerful 2005 book For Space reflects on the way we experience space in the everyday sense. Like many geographers, Massey says that it’s useful for us to think of space not as a container, but as something that happens because of the way time and people flow around networks.
Space, she says, is the “simultaneity of stories-so-far.” Many other writers cite this idea of space, as it’s a very straightforward formula that’s easy to remember. If you want to read more about Doreen Massey’s work, check out this interview or this 2013 podcast which has both audio and transcript. In the first, she talks about how projects are formed out of ideas that are disposed of, rethought, used differently. This is very useful for us.
As to ‘disposing of ideas’… this is RESEARCH! It is a process through which one learns. If you never ‘dispose of’ an idea you might as well pack it in. Where do they end up? They are reformulated. A lot of enquiry consists in reformulating the initiating question.
In the second, she talks about the importance of understanding that as we move around, we’re not travelling across some dead flat surface, but “cutting across a myriad of stories going on”:
A lot of what I’ve been trying to do over the all too many years when I’ve been writing about space is to bring space alive, to dynamize it and to make it relevant, to emphasize how important space is in the lives in which we live, and in the organization of the societies in which we live. Most obviously I would say that space is not a flat surface across which we walk; Raymond Williams talked about this: you’re taking a train across the landscape – you’re not traveling across a dead flat surface that is space: you’re cutting across a myriad of stories going on. So instead of space being this flat surface it’s like a pincushion of a million stories: if you stop at any point in that walk there will be a house with a story. Raymond Williams spoke about looking out of a train window and there was this woman clearing the grate, and he speeds on and forever in his mind she’s stuck in that moment. But actually, of course, that woman is in the middle of doing something, it’s a story. Maybe she’s going away tomorrow to see her sister, but really before she goes she really must clean that grate out because she’s been meaning to do it for ages. So I want to see space as a cut through the myriad stories in which we are all living at any one moment. Space and time become intimately connected.
We also think of research as a process of learning by trying, sorting, deleting, rethinking. It’s always creative, and always driven by curiosity. Your research belongs to you because it is part of the whole story-so-far of how you came to the point at which you began to do it. Welcome everyone to week 1 of #BCM240 at UOW: a simultaneity of stories so far.