IAG 2013 – an invaluable experience

Post by Justin Westgate

I had the opportunity to attend the Institute of Australian Geographers’ conference in July which was held in Perth. Having only recently begun doctoral studies here in Australia, and moving across from the more ‘creative’ space of design, the conference not only allowed me to get a gauge on the current landscape of research situated in Australia, but both posed and helped to answer questions about how my own research – which still draws on my creative practice background might intersect with other research strands currently being investigated.

What going to conferences reminds me is the scope of research being undertaken, and while not my first geography conference; it was a reminder that within the discipline there is a very broad range of research interest. It seems particularly easy to become self-absorbed in your own particular boundaries of interest. Conferences are an easy way to be be exposed to a range of research topics, ideas and approaches that you wouldn’t have considered – or necessarily have interests in – and I found the IAG delivered on this count. I found myself bumping into research that I wouldn’t, in my everyday workings, have had the time, inclination or interest to look at. But, being exposed to these other projects gave me insight to into how projects and research can be put together, how questions can be asked, and different methods used to explore similar topics – and ultimately helped me to think about the shaping of my own project.

Of course, I was there specifically to look at research connecting with my own particular interests – these are culturally situated and revolve around human-environment relations, how we deal with extremes and, of course, what we frame as ‘climate change’ and its entanglements. The special sessions were useful in helping me concentrate on this. Again, however, it was a mixed bag – I found less that I connected with than I had expected. Perhaps a lesson in having expectations? But I think more so an indication that my own particular perspective has not been so much explored yet. Either that or I’m way off track! I go with the former.

The venue itself – The University of Western Australia – was very pleasant. Lovely architecture – turn-of-the-century sandstone, with additional modernist styles, seeming slightly antiquated coming from a ‘modern’ university, though often embellished with interestingly quirky fittings. Oh, and with resident Peacocks to boot! Very regal.

A relaxed and cordial atmosphere pervaded. It was easy to chat with academics and post-grads alike, allowing for interesting intermission discussion – and good networking. I’ll leave out details on after-hours socialising – incriminating photos can probably be found on various social networking sites – though that’s not my cup of tea.

Returning to normality there are a pile of ideas to sift through, names, papers and websites to follow up on, twitter handles to be followed. I’m starting to see where I might fit into the broad assemblage that is geography. The opportunity to have these kinds of meetings, conversations and interactions is invaluable in making sense of one’s pathway forward.

Thanks both to the IAG and AUSCCER for funding support.

Justin is undertaking a PhD with AUSCCER. You can follow Justin on Twitter @justin_westgate

You can read other blog posts about the 2013 IAG conference by AUSCCER’s Nick Skilton, Charles Gillon and Alex Tindale.

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