Last year I was fortunate enough to secure funding from U21 to spend a couple of months as a visiting fellow at the University of Melbourne. Leaving behind a cold and snowy UK I'm in Australia working on a series of projects, meeting colleagues and learning about best practice in a number of different areas.
My fellowship has four broad topics: urban studies; map archives; research-led undergraduate fieldwork; and creative methods. I’m excited to be meeting with colleagues from the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute to explore how they manage a large, cross-campus and interdisciplinary team. This has particular relevance for practice at Birmingham, as we have just launched a new Urban Initiative seeking to capitalise on interdisciplinary research and teaching opportunities examining the future of cities globally. I’ve also been fortunate enough to arrange a series of meetings with colleagues from different Map Libraries in the city of Melbourne and hope to use these contacts to get in touch with other map curators both here and in Sydney. The University of Birmingham’s map collection is in a period of transition and talking to experts here in Melbourne is a chance to help feed into discussions about the future of our collection.
My School has just secured funding from the University of Birmingham to implement a series of year 3 undergraduate fieldcourses, intending to reinforce our ongoing strategy to focus on students designing and implementing their own research projects. Research-led teaching is now at the heart of our curriculum at Birmingham and my trip to Melbourne allows me to do some planning for a potential fieldcourse based in the city. I’ll be exchanging ideas with colleagues here, particularly with a view to identifying topics that students can develop into field-based projects.
Finally, I’m arranging to meet with a number of different scholars working on novel and innovative arts and technology-based research techniques. There are some fascinating projects happening here in Melbourne and I’m excited to learn more about how researchers working in a range of different disciplines are integrating new techniques into their approaches to data collection. I’ll also be talking about some of my own ‘playful methods’ experiments at seminars that I’m giving during my time here.
In addition to thanking U21 for providing the funding to undertake the fellowship, I am exceedingly grateful to my School and College for giving me research leave to spend an extended amount of time in Australia. I also owe a deep debt to the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne who are hosting me, providing a desk and Visiting Fellow status during my time in Australia. I’m excited to start getting to know and working with my new colleagues over the next couple of months.
Phil Jones, Geographer