Space is a verb.
It is actively created, not just the static background repository we commonly imagine.
It’s also a cliché, as in “I need space.” That might mean anything from “I really don’t like you,” to “I’m feeling really fragile right now.”
Which is to say, space is emotional. It’s about relationships. Which of course means that space is also political.
John Morgan has noted the “spatial turn” in the social sciences and reflected on the implications of this movement for the development of a critical pedagogy. He notes that terms such as ‘borders’, ‘maps’, ‘location’, ‘space’ and ‘place’ are increasingly part of academic language across a range of disciplines.
We can see this kind of language at work in educational scholarship, which is replete with references to “educational environments.” This phrase can refer to anything from complex political-structural environments to classroom environments.
Morgan quotes McLaren who calls for a performative critical pedagogy of space:
The critical pedagogy to which I am referring needs to be made less informative and more per-formative, less a pedagogy directed toward the interrogation of written texts than a corporeal pedagogy grounded in the lived experiences of students … (McLaren, 1999, p. 452)
To talk about a critical pedagogy of space is to recall many different things: from macro questions of power and difference through to micro issues concerning the effectiveness of different class seating arrangements.
It is another way of talking about embodied or situated learning.
At UTS Journalism one of the ways that we do this is through a number of local projects such asPrecinct a newspaper for the Redfern Surry Hills Glebe area which locates learning in a local and practical project.
The concept of the “Global City” is also one that we have introduced into a number of courses about the evolution of journalism and the professions in the 21st century.
A critical pedagogy of space needs to begin by encouraging students to interpret spaces as social texts. This suggests a pedagogy that allows students to read the world in such a way as not only to understand it, but also to change it. Much of this could be achieved through an examination of the lived spaces experienced by students and supported through the study of both primary and secondary texts. Developing such a pedagogy requires attention to the politics of scale. Smith (1993) argues that scale must be seen as a social construction and that geographers need to examine which scales are selected for study and which are ignored. He proposes the study of a range of geographical scales ranging through the body-home-community-city-region-nation-global and recent work in geography has demonstrated the usefulness of thinking in these terms.
For more on space and the city check out my outline for a proposed course on cinema & the city