“Womanifesta” for the Future of Environmental Psychology and Geography


My thanks to Adeola Enigbokan for the color highlighting idea, which I have imitated in this post. As they say, “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”. Therein lay the entirety of what is not my own original inspiration within this post.  This was written originally for a workshop in which we are re-envisioning the fields of Environmental Psychology and Geography, or Psychogeography..hold the jokes, please.  I’ve edited this to be a standalone post for this blog, as it is removed from its original context, a larger, ongoing conversation with my colleagues. Onward!      

My overarching research interests involve interrogating “American” popular culture for perpetuation and sometimes creation of otherwise hidden social and systemic norms. From gender roles and associated /expected life-choice trajectories to cultural ideas, ideals, images and understandings and methods of producing nature and our relation to / with  it.  My current research uses visual analysis techniques to discern the underlying myths of nature portrayed in post–WWII car ads in National Geographic Magazine. Here is a link to a more detailed project description.     

 The Visual and The Creative 

My research , and conversations and collaborations with fellow researchers aims to expand our current bevy of methods by which we engage with the visual (analysis and methodology), and to encourage acceptance of the creative. To add the visual, is to create, assemble or find  an information base for the fields of Environmental Psychology and [Cultural] Geography (Imagined Geographies or Visual Geography) to accomplish two things:           

  1. Supports and encourages the exploration and use of visual analysis techniques to interrogate images and other material cultural artifacts for their contextual and storied content, rather than solely categorizing and counting their elements a la content analysis or adapted quantitative survey measures
  2. Allows for the dynamic presentation and sharing of said information so as to be maximally interesting, sensorially engaging and technologically relevant beyond the academy, or at least beyond one specific discipline.

3…2…1…CARE!!! OR Emoting can increase readability and interest

My second goal for the field is to advocate for storytelling techniques and/or interpretive methods that allow exploration of the sensorial aspects of our physical, cultural and social environments. This is to say that students and PhD’s alike need some exposure to publications of interest wherein language is used expressively, with all attendant emotion and individual personality. This can only serve to enrich the texture of the analysis, discussion and presentation. It is time for us to release the imposed rational objectivity of the physical sciences which often stifles the potential for brilliant insights and inspired research inquiries in our interdisciplinary and subjective fields of Environmental Psychology and Geography.            

Technology is our friend

Lastly, I sense an opportunity for Environmental Psychology and Geography to seize the opportunity to step ahead of the curve and make our fields relevant and popularly appealing again by encouraging the use of current technology in data collection, analysis, presentation and distribution. There is but a small window of time in which we can be “the first” and still have the luxury of our lead time to become “the best” at producing researchers whose methods and mediums reflect the current array of possible information flows, storage, presentation and technological advancements. The [written] word is no longer enough in a world where people read few books and “learn” from TV and the Internet.           

Signed, Shawndel N. Fraser
Static [written] Dissertations behind Dynamic PhD Student

Signed, Shawndel

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5 thoughts on ““Womanifesta” for the Future of Environmental Psychology and Geography

  1. I have been thinking about this in my work as a community food educator. I am currently revamping my workshops to more accurately reflect the ways in which people come together around food. This includes more audience participation and self-directed capacity building.

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    • Hi Melissa!

      Your use of the phrase “audience participation and self-directed capacity building” sounds like our methodology of Participatory Action (Planning, Research, Activism etc). Creativity is key, so of course I do not advocate copying someone else’s techniques to the letter. I do however believe that much can be gleaned from past efforts, whether what to do or what not to do. Your target audiences (and topic) may vary from those noted in the suggestions below, but the techniques they used to interest, motivate everyday people to participate and commit / invest in the completion of the projects may be of some help to you.

      There is an interesting articles by Michelle Fine who is a leader (in the academy) in participatory action projects. I have included a link to one of her best known projects with incarcerated women. There is also a book called Root Shock, which uses similar methods around “urban renewal”issues.

      I offer these in the off chance that they may help you avoid many of the obstacles of this type of work and allow you to cruise toward the juicy parts wherein participants are on board and really taking ownership of the project. There is also a great 6-minute short documentary film named Water Warriors which was a part of the Media That Matters film festival. It was exciting to see regular folks really motivated and empowered around advocating for local social / environmental justice issues.

      If you watch or read any of these, do let me know what you think!

      My best,
      Shawndel

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  2. I am already engaged in performance-based and consensus based facilitation, so I have a number of techniques to build upon. Talking about food is complex, and I am always looking for ways to be more dynamic and less “-ist”.

    I’ll take a look at the materials you suggested.

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