Public engagement as purpose: methods, practices and implications for geographical research 1

Type: Paper
Theme: Public Engagement in Geography
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (MDT)
Room: Napoleon C1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Organizers: Nadia Bartolini, Johanna Wadsley
Chairs: Johanna Wadsley


There has been a long-standing tradition of public engagement within geography (Pain 2004; Ward 2006; Saunders and Moles 2013). In recent years, however, geographers have been more and more involved in embedding principles and practices of engagement beyond the academy as cornerstones of research design (see, for instance, Dickens and Butcher 2016; Waterton and Tsouvalis 2015; Hawkins 2015; Kraftl 2013; Last 2012; Lopez-Galviz et al. forthcoming, and the special issues convened by Jacobs and Milne in 2016). This may be due to an increased interest in research councils (in the UK, in particular) to include public engagement as an essential component in funding proposals (see RCUK’s Public Engagement webpage). As such, there has been a desire within academia to explore an expanding repertoire of means and methods to engage a variety of different publics outside Higher Education Institutions: from professionals involved in policy development to communities experiencing social and/or environmental change.

This session seeks to capture emerging trends and themes, as well as critical considerations of techniques and methods that engage publics, however defined. We are also interested in reflecting upon the impact of the engagement and/or impact agenda within the academy. The session is not bound by specific areas of expertise within geography, but rather, it is aimed at gathering PhD students, early career researchers, artists, practitioners and established academics for an evaluative exchange on the ways through which they have embraced engagement as a principle and practice in the context of their work. In particular, through this session, we are encouraging an open and supportive environment where lessons can be shared about what has – and has not – worked when engaging publics.

Possible contributions can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Approaches/implications of engaging non-HEI professionals and practitioners
- Approaches/implications of engaging the general public, including children and youths
- Interdisciplinary knowledge-exchange workshops as public engagement and/or information-gathering practices
- Practical implications of engagement or impact-driven projects
- Does engagement equate to impact?
- Does engagement modify or enhance spatial boundaries?
- Does a spatial perspective transform understandings of public engagement?
- ECR experiences of developing engagement and impact through publicly funded projects
- PhD theses incorporating public engagement
- Audio-visual techniques to encourage public participation
- Art installations and exhibitions as public engagement
- Participatory research methods that engage with different demographics (e.g. children, youths, elderly, minorities, ‘elite’ or expert groups)
- Innovative mixed and blended methods
- Ethical considerations when engaging publics
- Artist and/versus academic perspectives when engaging publics and ‘going public’

Dickens, L. and Butcher, M. 2016. Going public? Re-thinking visibility, ethics and recognition through participatory research praxis. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 41(4): 528–540.
Hawkins, H. 2015. Creative Geographic Methods: Knowing, representing, intervening. On composing place and page. Cultural Geographies 22(2): 247-268.
Jacobs, J.; Milne, E-J. 2016 in the fourth issue of Area volume 48.
Kraftl, P. 2013. Beyond ‘voice’, beyond ‘agency’, beyond ‘politics’? Hybrid childhoods and some critical reflections on children’s emotional geographies. Emotion, Space and Society 9: 13–23.
Last, A. 2012. Experimental Geographies. Geography Compass 6 (12): 706-724.
Lopez-Galviz, C., Bartolini, N., Pendleton, M., Stock, A. (forthcoming) Reconfiguring Ruins: Beyond Ruinenlust. GeoHumanities.
Pain, R. 2004. Social geography: participatory research. Progress in Human Geography 28: 652–663.
RCUK Public Engagement URL: [accessed 20/09/2017].
Saunders, A. and Moles, K. 2013. The spatial practice of public engagement: ‘doing’ geography in the South Wales valleys. Social & Cultural Geography 14(1): 23-40.
Ward, K. 2006. Geography and public policy: towards public geographies. Progress in Human Geography 30(4): 495–503.
Waterton, C. and Tsouvalis, J. 2015. On the political nature of cyanobacteria: intra-active collective politics in Loweswater, the English Lake District. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (33): 477– 493.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Michael Glass*, University of Pittsburgh, What is the Role of “Place” in Institutional Public Engagement Strategies? 20 8:00 AM
Presenter John Harner*, University of Colorado, Leah Davis-Witherow, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Kevin Knapp, TierraPlan, LLC, A Digital Public Pedagogy to Create Place Connection 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Jennie Middleton*, University of Oxford, The Public Geographies of Urban Austerity, Care, and New Parenting 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Ronald Hagelman III*, Texas State University, Bringing the City into the Citadel: A Service-Learning and City-Collaborative Research Partnership in Austin, Texas 20 9:00 AM
Presenter Marco Picone*, University of Palermo, Engaging Young People in Weak Political Contexts: Neighborhoods, Schoolchildren and Participation in Palermo, Italy 20 9:20 AM

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