Category Archives: fieldwork

Way of the Ecologist

Active in the city this week. Some rough field notes here. Thoughts and sketches as I work my way through fieldwork into something coherent and tangible for the urban planning proposal due next month for the City of Melbourne. And I was going to retire to the country for the summer. Or work on my other blog…

So, fieldwork journal entry 001.

1. What is the environment like?

The City of Melbourne is a dynamic urban environment characterised by the contrast between its iconic grid design (a planned city) and emergence of many human-sized networks (the laneways). This allows for the co-existence of large buildings supporting business and corporate entities alongside smaller communities of restarants, cafes, small businesses, bars and so on. It is a thriving community with an active (and well established) street art scene. Much of this is emergent (such as the ‘new’ Guildford Lane Art precinct) as much as it is planned – the partial closure of Swanston St for example.

2. Fieldwork

My brief is to: Identify sites that provide suitable habitats for play by urban entities. In my view of the city I see play as the ‘immune system for the city’.

My approach to sampling was to consider the crossover between two sets of factors: firstly, organic ecologies versus social ecologies (two different types of habitat); and secondly, those with emergent properties versus those that are cultivated. On this second point, there seems to be an equal share of both and perhaps the unique layout of Melbourne provides a fertile environment for this to occur (shift that to data analysis).

So, this week I will find habitats for ecologies of play and tag them for people to find. The results so far have been published by the Urban Codemakers.

3. Finding more data

Are there other cities that have a similiar host environment? There may be something to be found in the archives of the Urban Ecology Institute. Useful data may be found in ‘Ecology of Cities and Towns’ published by the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology. However, all these are exploring organic ecologies – what of emergent ecologies of media that grow amongst the multitude of connections in the city? Across mobile phones, social networks, urban games – the ways people play in urban space – the potential of pervasive games and urban role-play. Or just old school games of hopskotch and tag?

4. Data analysis

My process is similiar to the other codemakers. Not as pretentious as the Codemaker or as dependent on technology as the Urbanist (who is threatening a virus?). Perhaps a little more random or chaotic? Anyways, here is the five step program:

[i] Identify sites that provide suitable habitats for play;

[ii] Tag those sites with IDEOTAGs denoting portals, ecologies or entities (signs of life);

[iii] Invite guild members to find these sites and observe them. Post their own findings

[iv] Collate the resulting relationships to identify fertile zones in the city.

[v] Publish these findings to the authorities and propose rezoning (new zones?)

5. Review

Ok, so this data is pending review. We will see what the players come up with. Two operatives are also in action on this one. The first operative was the first to start tagging.

And there are more sites to find later this week…