Meet Md. Abdul Malak

The Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER) is a teaching and research group focusing on cultural and social aspects of environmental issues. AUSCCER’s expertise and research is wide-ranging. Over the next few months we’ll be introducing some of our academics and PhD candidates to give greater insight into AUSCCER’s work.

Meet Abdul, one of our newest PhD Candidates.

Abdul moved from Bangladesh to Wollongong to begin his PhD at the end of July 2017.

Whilst only just starting out Abdul describes his research project as focusing on “vulnerability, resilience and livelihood of wetland communities of north western Bangladesh.” He is supervised by Professor Noel Castree and Dr Jenny Atchison.

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Uncovering new urban insights at the precarious interface of creative industries and manufacturing

Late last year the good news came through that the Australian Research Council had funded an application that included two AUSCCER geographers – Andrew Warren, and myself – along with our colleagues Carl Grodach (QUT), Justin O’Connor, and Xin Gu (Monash). Entitled Urban Cultural Policy and the Changing Dynamics of Cultural Production, the goal of the project is to undertake comparative international case study research around the changing dynamics of the creative economy, particularly the emergent relationships with a complex urban manufacturing sector.

Carrington Road, Marrickville, Sydney

Towards the creative economy v2.0?

Policy makers have in recent years turned to the creative industries for potential future urban growth and investment, city marketing and employment generation. The creative economy has been positioned as a central part of a knowledge economy defined by advanced services, information technologies, innovation, and a workforce high in human capital. The creative economy, it is argued, drives consumption, attracts mobile knowledge workers, and improves the city image. Cities around the world have spent considerable sums of money to develop arts precincts, flagship cultural destinations, and other cultural amenities. While the consumption-based approach has generated a few success stories, the reality is that this has had limited impact on cultural production. Further, many argue that this approach has contributed to the displacement of preexisting residents and businesses, including many cultural producers themselves.

At the same time, as part of a broader innovation agenda, cities on the leading edge of urban cultural policy are seeking ways to reconnect cultural industries with material manufacture and craft-based production. Mature urban cultural policy is just beginning to consider how to link the cultural industries with other sectors in novel ways that revitalise manufacturing and tap into new opportunities for the development and expansion of a wide range of cultural and craft industries – generating jobs while avoiding the pitfalls of gentrification.

There is a renewed public and policy interest in ‘making things’, encompassing additive manufacturing, bespoke making, and craft-based production. Opportunities abound to pursue urban economic development strategies that build upon, rather than eschew, industrial, migrant and working-class skills and legacies. Cities that foster and deepen relationships between creative industries and urban manufacturing industries, especially in distinctive precincts where the two sectors often organically co-locate, stimulate local jobs and enterprise formation.

Our project’s goals

To that end, our research project considers the performance of Australian cities against counterparts in the United States, UK, China and Germany, on their efforts to foster and deepen the creative industries/manufacturing interface through spatial planning and policy.

The researchers on this project are: examining the production relationships between cultural industries and urban manufacturing; determining how changing industry, urban development, land use change, technological, and policy dynamics affect cultural production; and identifying lessons for Australian cities to develop new policies around cultural production and manufacturing.

Our first activity for the project was conducting a critical review of existing literature on the creative industries-manufacturing interface, summarising key issues identified and establishing an agenda or future policy development. That review was recently published in the international journal, City, Culture and Society. (If you are interested in reading this, but cannot access the paper due to a paywall, please make contact via email). Related to this, we are currently identifying and analysing specific city-scale policy initiatives from around the world, from which Australian cities could learn. A prominent example is the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center in New York City.

Field work commences

Our second activity is an extensive phase of empirical field work, both in Australia and in cities in North America, Europe and Asia. This field work involves identifying which creative industries and manufacturing enterprises co-locate spatially, and why. As well we are examining what kinds of policy mechanisms are being developed around the world to foster this evolving interface, and their on-the-ground effects.

Sydney is one of the Australian cities included in the study. The Sydney case study we selected in our original grant application was the inner-west suburb of Marrickville and, in particular, two precincts that have both strong industrial histories, with clusters of niche manufacturing activity, and distinctive, growing creative industry concentrations.

Field work began recently at one of these precincts: Carrington Road, Marrickville. In the past few years, Carrington Road has evolved a distinctive mix of creative enterprises and manufacturing firms. In part this is because of its industrial land use zoning, suitable mix of flexible industrial facilities with things like high ceilings, truck access and rigging beams, and generally affordable rent. 

Carrington Road, Marrickville

Craig Lyons, fresh from completing his Masters by Research on the informal urban creative economy at the University of Sydney, has joined the team and hit the pavements with me last week to conduct an initial audit, and preliminary interviews.

We started by documenting all the enterprises present in the precinct. Then, we chose a representative sample across creative industries and manufacturing sectors, and subsequently began interviewing them for information on specific themes, including: employment; locational choices; duration of operation; functional linkages across the city and to other sectors of the economy; and sensitivity to property market fluctuations.

Uncovering hidden gems

Although field work has only recently commenced, it is already clear that this part of Sydney houses an otherwise unheralded cluster of creative industries and manufacturing firms, with impressive diversity, and history.

The largest holding in the Carrington Road precinct is the former General Motors-Holden car plant, which originally opened in 1926. The last remaining Holden plant from this period, this complex has retained its industrial character, now housing scores of manufacturing businesses and creative enterprises, from jewellery makers and clothing designers, to photographers, ceramicists, t-shirt screen-printers, embroiderers, cabinet-makers and architectural leather installation experts (a specialism we didn’t previously know existed). An avenue we aim to explore in more depth in the months ahead is how the changing morphology of the precinct itself mirrors changes in the nature of industrial work over the past 90 years.

Inside Sydney’s leading theatre, film and event prop making supplier, Carrington Road, Marrickville

In addition, we have discovered unique clusters of inter-related enterprises in the theatre, props, stage design and support sectors; niche publishing; food processing and artisanal food production; photography; studio hire (incl. photography, music, theatre rehearsal spaces); fine woodwork/carpentry and architectural installations; events management and related production (incl. bespoke installations, t-shirt screen-printing for the festivals and concert markets); clothing and jewellery design and small-scale making.

Urban redevelopment pressures and uncertainties

Adding to the intrigue is that the very same Carrington Road precinct we have identified for its potential as Sydney’s premiere creative industries-manufacturing interface, is slated for re-zoning, and re-development, as part of the NSW Government’s planned Sydenham-Bankstown metro rail line renewal scheme. The scheme purports to ‘promote urban renewal and development’ through Sydney’s middle-ring industrial suburbs, while ‘also protecting neighbourhood character and heritage’. Whether current plans for the Carrington Road precinct to be rezoned to enable high-rise residential apartment developments fit with this description, is debatable. In years to come much of the precinct may be subject the same real estate pressures that have seen Sydney lose creative industries and enterprises sensitive to rent rises, and that need access to good, functional industrial spaces.

We will be consolidating our findings into an interim report, that we will share with the NSW Government and relevant local council planners and community groups, as well as analysing the data for academic papers, and for future policy recommendations. A new dedicated website for the project is also up and running, where you can stay tuned and learn more as the local and international field work progresses.

Chris Gibson is Professor of Human Geography with AUSCCER and the Director of Global Challenges Program – a strategic interdisciplinary research initiative at UOW. You can follow him on twitter @profcgibson. 

Housing and Home Unbound: from conference session to edited collection

Interstitial #1, Thrown-togetherness, 2015 Andrew Gorman-Murray

By Nicole Cook

In 2014, Louise Crabtree, Aidan Davison and I put out a call for papers for a session on housing and home at the Institution of Australian Geographers conference in Melbourne. We were interested in thinking about how socio-material and more-than-human geographies were changing the way that housing and home were being conceptualised, and what this meant for the politics of dwelling. These lenses had drawn our attention to many of the hidden and diverse elements gathered together in the achievement of home and the sometimes uncomfortable politics that these hidden geographies reveal: for instance in connecting owner-occupation in Australia to settler-colonialism. Among the many excellent abstracts that were submitted in response to the call, we had an email from editors at Routledge asking us if we would like to work with them to turn the session into an edited collection. We didn’t realise that editors often approach session organisers, or that we weren’t the only session to be targeted. So feeling slightly flattered, we decided we’d say yes and see how the journey unfolded.

Fast forward to 2017, and the text from that session was launched at the Brisbane IAG: Housing and Home Unbound: Intersections in Economics, Environment and Politics in Australia. Continue reading

Revisiting the ‘Art of Learning’ bushfire preparedness model

By Christine Eriksen (UOW), Carrie Wilkinson (UOW) and Tim Prior (ETH Zürich)

This blog post presents an assessment and revision of our ‘Art of Learning’ bushfire preparedness model published in 2011. It is based on feedback from a workshop with emergency service personnel who applied the model as a tool to understand successful and unsuccessful attempts at communicating about bushfire to at-risk communities. It was evident from the diversity of scenarios unpacked by the workshop participants that the model provides a flexible framework that practitioners can apply in specific situational contexts. However, changes to the model were deemed necessary to better accommodate the needs of both risk communicators and information receivers. Continue reading

Materials that linger: writing about geographies of polyester clothes

By Chris Gibson

Writing journal articles can be a real struggle. Ideas take a while to form. The writing doesn’t flow. Draft papers that muddle along in need of restructures and a bloody good edit.

But sometimes, they’re just meant to be. These are my favourite papers to write. And they often come from nowhere, like bolts of lightning. They aren’t typically pre-planned; they disrupt orderly writing plans and publications schedules. But in my experience, it is the serendipitous ones that most often make the best papers. They take little time to actually pull together, and often sail through peer review.

Elyse Stanes and I had just this experience recently. Continue reading

Why money can’t buy disaster resilience

Every year disasters take lives, cause significant damage, inhibit development and contribute to conflict and forced migration. Unfortunately, the trend is an upward one. At the end of May 2017, policy-makers and disaster management experts from over 180 countries gathered in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss ways to counter this trend.

Florian Roth and I took the opportunity to reflect on the root causes of natural disasters Continue reading

AUSCCER at the IAG Brisbane 2017

Next week fourteen AUSCCER and fellow UOW researchers will be presenting at the Institute of Australian Geographers Annual Conference hosted by the University of Queensland in (hopefully) sunny Brisbane. With concurrent sessions it’s easy to miss something, so we’ve put together a rundown of the AUSCCER schedule (follow the links for abstracts).

You can follow our AUSCCERites conference trip on Twitter via their personal handles, @AUSCCER or with the hashtag #IAG2017

 

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Salt Blood

I have written about freedive research on this blog here, here and here, but only just now managed to publish about it. Freediving is at its most basic just holding your breath and diving underwater. It is likely as old as humans. But in its modern recreational and competitive formation, it has been described as the second most dangerous extreme sport. It is undergoing a dramatic rise in popularity, with PADI, the largest global dive organisation describing it as the fastest growing segment of the dive market. I have been using ‘full-immersion’ methodologies (becoming as close as possible that which I am researching) to try to understand why.

My essay on freediving, ‘Salt Blood’ has just won the 2017 ABR Calibre Prize.

I wrote:

Mirroring our time in the tiny sea of the amniotic sac, freediving is the most profound engagement between humans and oceans: the unmediated body immersed and uncontrolled in saltwater. It is simultaneously planetary and intensely intimate – the ocean is both all around us and within us. That breadth of scale can be terrifying or reassuring. It is not about discovery, it is about recovery: we can freedive expertly from the minute we are born, but slowly forget. Continue reading

The Truth About Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Noel Castree and Karen Renkema-Lang

In recent months there’s been much talk about our so-called ‘post-truth era’. Wilful ignorance of the truth and the promotion of patently false claims have, rightly, become a cause of concern among many political analysts, media watchers and others. However, let’s not forget that another, much older problem confronts anyone seeking to understand the world in which we live: namely, the selective reporting and use of evidence. This is the ‘salad bar’ approach to truth. The evidence reported may be valid, but it only paints a partial – and sometimes, absent other evidence – a misleading picture of the realities it supposedly sheds light on.

A case in point is Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and related sequestration levels. Australia’s contribution to the problem of anthropogenic climate change continues to command considerable media attention, and – if the problem were to be taken seriously – has very large and immediate implications for government policy, business behaviour and people’s consumption practices. Yet the precise nature of this contribution remains unclear to many people because of two things. First, there is a plethora of official statistics about emissions and sequestration levels. They are reported by various national, sub-national and international bodies. Second, this richness of credible data provides anyone wanting to talk about the climate change issue in Australia – indeed, in most countries – a chance to confuse (knowingly or innocently) those with whom they wish to communicate. Continue reading

A wave of change – ‘A Plastic Ocean’ Film Screening event wrap up

Sophie-May Kerr and Carrie Wilkinson reflect on the UOW Human Geography Society’s  A Plastic Ocean’ Film Screening event and the possibilities for real change through individual and collective action.   

Last week we hosted over 150 people at our sold out A Plastic Ocean film screening event. In addition to the film, we also had stalls hosted by representatives of local organisations committed to educating on the impacts of and reducing marine plastic pollution. It was so encouraging and inspiring to see so many people come together to be part of the wave of change that we so desperately need to combat the devastating global effects of plastic pollution.

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