On cycling sensescapes @ Cycling and Society Symposium
One of the chapters of my PhD thesis on cycling sociabilities will deal with how senses inform and shape the perception of environment amongst cyclists.
It is still a work in progress but at this point is definitely the most coherent piece of writing and the one I am most proud of. I will be sharing my work on cycling and senses at the Cycling and Society Annual Symposium in Manchester, in September, where I was accepted to do a presentation, yey! Here’s the abstract:
The sensescapes of cycling
Visual perception is of uttermost importance for cyclists orienting themselves in urban environments, wherein the imperatives of ‘See!’ (and ‘Be seen!’) can make a dramatic difference between a safe ride and an unfortunate traffic event. Drawing from the work of J.J. Gibson (1938) in the domain of ecological psychology, in this paper I delineate the characteristics of the ‘visual field of safe travel’ in relation to cycling. In doing so, I also expand Gibson’s overtly visual (and car-focused) account by bringing to the fore a plethora of other senses that make cycling a distinctive mobility practice. Arguing that senses not only function as mere sensations and feelings, but as effective ways of ‘making sense’ of the world (Rodaway 1994), I show how cycling sensory scapes are substantially different from those afforded by the car, where indeed one is often completely ‘car-cooned’ not only from risks and dangers, as Urry and Kingsley (2009) argue, but from a more rich and meaningful perception of the environment. The sensory scape surrounding the bicycle rider opens up her body not only to a more unmediated perception of the environment itself, but it makes possible the very articulation of political and cultural discourses about liberation, counter-culture,alternative and green(er) lifestyles or post-capitalist societies. This presentation draws from an auto-ethnography of my cycling experience in London, which is documented with a mixture of mobile methods (Büscher and Urry 2009), featuring video and audio recordings.
Büscher, M. and Urry, J. (2009) ‘Mobile Methods and the Empirical’, European Journal of Social Theory, 12:1, pp. 99-116;
Gibson, J. J. and Crooks, L. (1938) ‘A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving’, The American Journal of Psychology, 51:3, pp. 453-471;
Rodaway, P. (1994) Sensuous Geographies. Body, sense and place, London and New York: Routledge;
Urry, J. and Kingsley, D. (2009) After the Car, Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.