Learning city walks

On 23 August 2016, Keri and Magda walked from Berkeley Square to Canon’s Road in Bristol.  This was part of a longer series of learning city walks, a sensorial and visual method combining photography, dialogue, and ethnographic note-taking of the learning instances. Throughout the project, we will undertake many such walks with different people in multiple parts of the city to grasp its different learning geographies.

One of the key preliminary findings of the initial walk was recognising that learning is happening all the time, in all sorts of places. Learning in the city, we thought, takes divergent forms, such as encounters with things of people, instructions and invitations. Over thirty years ago, Colin Ward called the city a form of ‘an environmental education, and can be used to provide one, whether we are thinking of learning through the city, learning about the city, learning to use the city, to control the city or to change the city. (Ward 1978: 176). In a similar way, our documentation of the learning instances encountered in Bristol shows that learning is a multi-faceted phenomenon encompassing:

  • Improvisation – instances when people adapt and work out how to hack the city
  • Empowerment – instances of collaborative learning to change the city
  • Adaptation – instances of developing new skills to adapt to a changing world and
  • Emergence – ‘the city’ as an entity itself is becoming a learner – sucking in and feeding out data

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