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Call for Paper for the AAG Annual Conference
par International Ambiances Network on 

Researching and Representing Ambient and Atmospheric Geographies

Call for Paper for the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference, 21-25 April 2015, Chicago

Organized by:
  • Rainer Kazig (CNRS/CRESSON, Grenoble)
  • Damien Masson (Université de Cergy-Pontoise, MRTE, CRESSON)
  • Paul Simpson (Plymouth University)
And under the aegis of the International Ambiances Network

Recent research in human geography has shown sensitivity towards the sensory experience of space. In particular, and in concert with developments around affect, new materialisms, and non-representational theories, attention has been drawn towards the ephemeral and transient atmospheres and ambiances that press upon, and give consistency to, the unfolding of social life. Such ambiances and atmospheres find expression in the talking place of social life itself - from the actions and interactions of bodies, technologies, images, objects, architectures, discourses, and so on - and in turn play a part in the ordering of this taking place. This has been theorized in terms of attunement, captivation, elevation, manipulation, the circumstantial, mood, air, weather, amongst others. Individual and collective moods have been shown to be the target of political intervention (Anderson 2014); technological interfaces have been shown to envelop, captivate, and so retain the attentions of their users (Ash 2012); the functioning of the economy has been shown to be inherently tied to perturbations in collective feelings (McCormack 2013); and felt atmospheres and ambiances have been shown to provide conditions, or a lack there of, for the unfolding of vibrant (or stultified) forms of sociality and public life (Edensor 2014; Adey et al 2013).

While such work is often associated with a particular form of UK-based cultural geography, such geographic delimitations belie a more complex international and interdisciplinary picture of research interested in our emersion in such sensory environments. Anglophone cultural geography has not been along in exploring such collective affectivities and sensibilities. Rather, the sensory in this sense has been explored in Francophone urban and architectural studies and, notably, sensory phenomena, studied in close relationship to social interaction and spatial context, have been researched in pursuit of various theories of ‘ambiance(s)’ (Augoyard 1995, Thibaud, 2002). Such theories have helped in the construction of transdisciplinary methodologies for the sensory understanding of lived spaces, thinking the lived experience of space beyond its visuality and beyond synchrony. Thinking in terms of ambiance, this work has offered insights into to how we perceive and act in lived space and, based on this, how we could improve these space’s qualities by focusing on their sensory, atmospheric dimensions.

Despite the aforementioned developments, a range of issues relating to the sensory geographies of ambiances and atmospheres require further exploration. In particular, issues of how to research and represent ambiances and atmospheres stand out here. Therefore, for this session we welcome papers that pose questions such as:

- If a geography is literally a writing of the world (a geo-graphen), what sort of writing, or modes of expression, or vocabulary, does an attention to the ambient require? What might constitute a sensography of the ‘world’? How might we approach an atmospherography?

- If ambiances and atmospheres present us with a form of ‘collective affect’ (Anderson 2014) how might such an ambiance or atmosphere be shared with audiences of our research outputs?

- What might need to be put into relation to achieve a sharing of atmospheres or ambiances? Is it the knowledge that such experiments allow us to share, or is it the experience itself, or do they contribute to the constitution of a different form of public space or sphere?

- Are the classical tools of the geographer (map, GIS, landscape representation), or the ones of the architect/urbanist (technical drawings, plans etc.) adequate to such a task?  And if not, how might they be re-imagined towards different outcomes or ends?

- What original forms of representations could be found today to (re)present the sensory, the atmospheric, the experiential? And what of forms of representation that propose to go beyond the visual? And how might we weave different senses, or even think through the representation of the atmospheric?

- What role does the context and mediums of exhibition play in such representations and their in the ability to (re)present atmospheres and ambiances. Is it the same thing to read qualitative GIS on a computer screen, to feel models and touchy maps, or to be immersed in art installations?

- What are the goals of these modes of (re)presenting? Do they belong to the classical fields of describing and/or projecting, or do they have another place, as intermediary objects that are in between analysis and project, in between the understanding and the sharing, in between the actors/people?

- If research on ambiances and atmospheres has to be inclusive of different topics, different actors/actants, and operate across different scales in order to make sense in terms of understanding the sensory realm, and its links with space/society, what research methodologies and practices might we employ in engaging with ambiances and atmospheres?

We would like to open this session very widely in order to welcome researchers, practitioners, artists, and students who have interests in the topic of the sensory and such questions about the writing and researching of atmospheres and ambiances. Presentations will be limited to the usual 15 minutes for presentation plus 5 minutes for questions format. However, the ultimate form the presentations themselves take is very much open to experimentation.

Please send paper titles and abstracts of no more than 250 words to Rainer Kazig (kazig.r@grenoble.archi.fr), Damien Masson (damien.masson@u-cergy.fr), and Paul Simpson (paul.simpson@plymouth.ac.uk) by 15th October 2014.

Please note, if your abstract is accepted you will need to register for the conference and upload your abstract before 5th November 2014.

Subsequent to the conference the organizers intend to pursue a special issue of the journal ‘Ambiances’ (ambiances.revues.org) based on papers included in the session.

For general information on the conference and the procedures for registering accepted abstracts please see: http://www.aag.org/annualmeeting and http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting/call_for_papers.

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