(SLU 2021) Sense of Place/Place Sensing

 PhD Workshop – Sense of Place/Place Sensing 

Time – Aug 23, 24, 25, 2021. (full day). 

Coordination Dr. Max Ritts (University of Cambridge); VIVA PLAN Post Doc (TBD) 

Confirmed: Christopher Raymond (Univ. Helsinki); Alan Diduck (U. Winnipeg), Ted McLachlan (U. Winnipeg), Rebecca Rutt (University of Copenhagen), Christine Haaland (SLU – Alnarp). 

Hopeful: Dr. Gunnar Cerwen (SLU-Alnarp); Dr. Ashante Reece (Univ. Maryland-Baltimore). 

Course organized by VIVA-PLAN, with support from SLU-Alnarp. 


Since the 1970s, “sense of place” – the claim of site-specific identities both socially mediated and deeply felt by inhabitants and certain visitors – has enjoyed a widely accepted, if unremarkable, status within human geography, environmental psychology, and environmental studies. Today, however, the concept appears to be enjoying a dynamic re-evaluation. Buoyed by findings from the Covid pandemic, environmental psychologists and planners are asserting “sense of place” as a vital, and routinely overlooked, component of general social wellbeing. Recognizing that pluralistic, sometimes incommensurate modes of perception/sensation, environmental studies scholars are insisting on “senses of place”, to which questions of individual agency must be made paramount. Continuing in this vein, some scholars now propose dispensing with its humanistic trappings altogether, conceiving machinic, multi-form, and non-human “sensing” as the basis of environmental knowing. In so doing, they point to the global ascendance of automated tracking, recording and monitoring technologies in the ways spaces are known and talked about. Whose sense of place? If “sense” was historically deployed by individuals within purposed activities, it is apparent that more and more diverse activities operate sensory tools, with uneven implication for how local spaces are to be understood and utilized. 

This five-day online PhD workshop, “Sense of Place/Place Sensing”, held online from 23 August – 27 August, 2021, gives motivated PhD students a chance to consider how the moments invoked here – “sense of place” and “place sensing” – can stimulate new insights at the contemporary interface of environmental change and social belonging. More specifically, the course pursues “sense of place/place sensing” as a site of analytic tension, and from within which important debates across several fields can be surveyed, and assessed. These fields include: (1) green space planning, and specifically work engaged with tools of ecological field work; (2) environmental psychology, and specifically, work around perception and wellbeing; and (3) human geography, and specifically, theoretical and critical work that pertains to perceptual technologies and environmental knowledge formation. Uniting these threads is the 

question of social and ecological values; namely, the question of what values do we want to consider, represent, and ultimately support via our investigations. 

For graduate students of all levels, the course is an opportunity to develop interdisciplinary reading and discussion skills. By pairing emerging ideas from human geography with those of environmental psychology, the course aims to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the diverse modes of research, argumentation and presentation that attend the “sense of place” concept. A second aim of this course is to push beyond conventional online formats through a critical and reflexive approach to “place”. As well as traditional lectures and writing exercises, we will also be doing soundwalks, using our phones to develop coarse-grain recordings, and partaking in an expert-led consciousness-raising exercise as a prompt for developing greater emplaced awareness. By folding these activities into the traditional learning materials, this course will equip students with tools and ideas for embarking on their own innovative sense of place research projects – for doing place in new ways. Finally, the Seminar harnesses the integrated work of the trans-European VIVA PLAN project (www.viva-plan.eu) in order to situate “sense of place/place sensing” questions within a set of relevant ongoing research projects – including from Malmo, Copenhagen, and Helsinki. 

This Seminar has three interrelated objectives: 1) to explore how historical and critical approaches to sense of place/place sensing, and how these can engage insights of the ecological sciences, 2) to demonstrate how mixing particular disciplinary approaches can help to develop new forms of methodological reasoning and experimentation, 3) to move across scales, from situated observations to broader research objectives as the basis of normative research visons. A core question emerging from across these objectives is: how should the researcher approach with problem of “place” within this analytic (sense of place/place sensing) in order discern, support, and cultivate progressive social and ecological values? 

Besides looking for synergies in the methodological literatures and presentations, students will also be asked to practice place as a mode of engagement. In their respective locations, students will undertake self-guided aural investigations of place (“soundwalks”); app-based recording practices (audio-visual), and meditation to explore various strands of understanding, reasoning, and perceptional knowledge. In this way, the Seminar explicitly incorporates the development of academic debating skills and the autocritique of “placeless” learning formats (e.g., internet-based). Both the workshop and its debates are also meant to support a key objective of the summer school, namely, to contribute to a broader understanding of what research approaches are viable to the study of 21st century environments. 




By the end of this 5-credit course it is intended that students will be able to: 

1) Define and describe key concepts linked to the disciplines invoked by the course (environmental psychology, human geography, green space planning). 

2) Critically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of methods relevant to the assessment of social or ecological values relevant to particular social contexts. 

3) Apply and report on a method for addressing an in-between space management challenge faced by managers of residential housing areas in Sweden or Denmark. 

The Seminar is intended for PhD students across the social and environmental sciences, especially environmental studies, geography, anthropology, green space planning and environmental psychology, with an interest in politics. Approximately 16 students, 60% from SLU-Alnarp and the University of Copenhagen, and 40% from remaining institutions in Sweden, Denmark and beyond, will be invited to attend. 


MSc in social sciences: anthropology, geography, sociology or development studies. L.Arch or related design degree. 


Introduction to theories and concepts related to: – Sense of place (human geography, environmental studies, anthropology), and related concepts (e.g., place attachment, green space planning, social and ecological values). 

– Dominant Theories of environmental perception and knowing. 

– Basic engagement with visualization and audification technologies, ecological inventorying and site-mapping tools. Sound-walking and recording tools. 

– A critical analysis of how disciplinary knowledges function and can be combined in writing and argument. 



Gabrys, J., L. Houston and H. Pritchard (2019) “Breakdown in the Smart City: Exploring Workarounds with Urban Sensing Practices and Technologies,” Science, Technology & Human Values.

Gallagher, M. and Prior, J. (2017) “Listening walks: a method of multiplicity.” In: Bates, C. and Rhys-Taylor, A. eds.Walking Through Social Research.  Routledge Advances in Research Methods London: Routledge

Hurley, P. (2012) ” Whose Sense of Place? A Political Ecology of Amenity Development” in Place-Based Conservation(Stewart et al. eds). London: Springer.

Fitzpatrick, P. and Diduck, A. (2016) “Place-Based Inquiry’s Potential for Encouraging Public Participation: Stories From the Common Ground Land in Kenora, Ontario” Society and Natural Resources 

Lachmund, J. (2016) “Traditions of Urban Greening” and “Places in the Making: From Wastelands to Urban Nature Parks” in Greening Berlin. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press. 

Raymond, C. (2021) “Introduction” in Senses of Place (Ed. C. Raymond). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rowe, J. (2016) “Micropolitics and Collective Liberation: Mind/Body Practice and Left Social Movements” New Political Science

Safransky, S. (2016) “Rethinking Land Struggle in the Postindustrial City” Antipode.


Personal statement prior to course (submitted by Monday 15 August 2021). 

Reflection paper. Students participating in this course are expected to write a short statement (2 – 2.5 pages, on A4) to: i) introduce who they are in terms of disciplinary background and education ii); outline how they (intend to) engage with the identified themes in the Seminar for this year (place attachment, machine sensing, etc); iii) outline questions or issues on these themes with which they would like to engage; and iv) offer expectations from the course. 

There is an expected breakdown of the following: 20 hrs reading before; 40 hrs in class time; and 40 hrs writing to make up the distribution of tasks. 

2. Annotated bibliography. Students participating must read the required course-material and be prepared to discuss the materials during the three allotted times. The agenda of papers for discussion will be emailed to students closer to the commencement of the workshop. 

3.Soundwalk Plan. Students must submit a pre-planning walking route which will provide them with an opportunity to explore local socio-ecological diversity and report back on it. 

4. Revised reflection paper. Following class sessions (submission encouraged before mid 

September but feedback will likely be later due to the commencement of classes), student must write a ‘revised’ piece incorporating insights from the Seminar as well as the Sense of Place workshop (final day). This 8 to 10 page second reflection paper will be due 2-3 weeks after the completion of the course (e.g. Sept 15, 2021). This paper will be evaluated using a pre-established and approved grading rubric. Guiding points for the evaluation of this paper include: 1. Has the student linked lecture content to a developed theoretical understanding of sense of place dynamics? Can they chart their own development of senses of place within their own situated location? Can they discuss the politics of senses of place? 

Marking Breakdown 

– course participation – 15% 

– soundwalk diary – 20% 

– reflection initial (due Aug 15) – 20% 

– revised reflection (due Sept 15) – 45% 

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