Pre-presentation preparation. How do modes of movement modify our perception of London? Uncertainty, Topophilia and the city

This morning we met at our usual allotted time slot, 10-11am. We went over the presentation, putting the finishing touches to our Power Point presentation and making sure our timings were correct. We practised a timed presentation and realised we were three minutes over the 20 minute limit so we made some of our statements more concise, making sure to keep only what is indispensable.

We have printed out a handout of our bibliography and finalised the zine we are presenting as a visual representation of the project.

Our presentation will take place at 5.40pm today.

Best of luck to everyone!

A part of each focus group’s short transcription

After we decided who will do what in our presentation, I was in charge of transcribing the answers given by the 9 participants to the section ‘space, place and topophilia’ of the questionary. This is a short version of my notes.

Focus group 1: 


=> people from the first focus group lived in London for 2 to 4 years, not born and raised in London

=> 2 people (bus and tube) out of 6 did not feel a positive emotional attachment to London (not sure)

=> cyclist felt like his mode of transport played a role in his emotional attachment to London because he loves cycling throughout London and loves the feeling of flowing and riding through traffic in London and loves knowing where he goes when cycling in London so this pleasures that he feels makes him having a positive emotional attachment to London because it is where he does something that he likes

=> bus: more emotional attachment to the people in London than to London => no ling with geography for him, still link with emotional attachment is negative because for him the public transports are frustrating, bus creates a negative feeling towards London because it is a city where you have to take public transport and that it is not something that he likes, rather live in a city where you do not have to use public transport

=> one tube said that sometimes if she is in a carriage listening to her music (emotional) and that she realizes that she is in London and that it is her city that she is happy to be in it, her  mode of movement plays a role because it is where she realizes that she is in London and happy about it => maybe it does not impact the emotional attachment or creates it but maybe it makes the person realize

=> tube: idea that it is such a big international city where many people are here for business that it does not really belong to anyone

=> tube and bus: combination => you know some parts so more connexion, some others are just completely ‘alien’ => you go there one time for a reason and never go back

=> place when you have an emotional attachment => cycling brings a different perspective because you discover, better knowledge it is not just popping out at a station, you experience the journey so more connexion with it

=> cycle:  idea of the borders of London popped up, interesting thing because even London as a space is quite contested, living in London does not mean anything in a way because of how big it is

=> for one cyclist => think of London as his home but at the same time he does not think of every part of London as his home, does not include West London for example

Focus group 2: 


=> 1 person living in London for 2 1/2, 1 for 3 years and one for 21years

=> one bus person does not have an emotional attachment to London, very ready to leave, never saw it as a home even if it is an enjoyable city full of opportunities, it is very overwhelming => negative emotional attachment because it is hard to live there, hard not to be isolated

=> one tube => very ready to go home => negative emotional attachment, affected by the fact there is no sun

=> one cyclist => feels a positive emotional attachment to London when he bikes around the city at night especially => make him feel better when he felt down

=> one bus and tube => feel trapped in bus or tube so creates a negative perception and negative emotional attachment BUT at the same time when need to feel better goes to Trafalgar Square or museum that she feels good in (find the place peaceful) so they are spaces (which become places) that she feels good in so thatch feels a positive emotional attachment to BUT she also avoids a mode of transport when she wants to feel good so transports in London creates an emotional attachment that is negative

=> bus => finds that London is a combination of spaces and places, where she has memories of her shows, where she shared things with her friends

=> cycling => places in areas that he knows => feeling of place is attached to knowledge and experience

=> tube => place are areas where she goes a lot, where she has a lot of good memories => feeling of place linked with frequency and experience, feelings

=> bus => says that a route feels like a place, not the bus that is a place BUT the bus routes because she has memories and emotional attachment to this route that she takes or took for months


  1. Our motivations for the project
      • All
  2. Setting out our argument with key readings and theorists
      • All
  3. Explaining the focus on various modes of movement
      • Gina
      • NOTE: Explain 3 key modes and why we decided on these. Explain hypothesis with all 3. Why we didn’t do walking. Remember readings.
  4. Topophilia theory, an explanation of space/ place distinction
      • Constance
      • NOTE: Remember quotes and readings.
  5. Explanation of hypothesis. How do we test it?
      • Katie
      • NOTE: Breaking down what results we think we will get, according to our argument.
  6. Introduce focus groups and reasoning for the chosen method to test hypothesis. Focus on maps
      • Stephanie
  7. Discussion of 4 areas of enquiry that relate to each step in our argument
      • On London and mode of movement + zine / scanning images
          • Gina
      • On people and communities
          • Katie
      • On space/place and topophilia
          • Constance
      • On uncertainty
          • Steph
      • NOTE: Make sure to note opposing views on both sides, contrast is interesting and fruitful. Contrast with our hypothesis and readings is important. Note different definitions of uncertainty.
  8. Findings from the focus groups – Topophilia links to an uncertain conception of the city
      • All
      • Katie – make charts out of responses (let’s make sure our reactions to them are qualitative and go into detail!)
  9. Concluding our findings. What have we discovered? How would we further the project next? What is left undiscovered?
      • All


Plan, to be perfected



  1. Our motivations for the project
  2. Setting out our argument with key readings and theorists
  3. Explaining the focus on various modes of movement
  4. Topophilia theory, an explanation of space/ place distinction
  5. Explanation of hypothesis. How do we test it?
  6. Introduce focus groups and reasoning for the chosen method to test hypothesis. Focus on maps
  7. Discussion of 4 areas of enquiry that relate to each step in our argument
  8. Findings from the focus groups – Topophilia links to an uncertain conception of the city
  9. Concluding our findings. What have we discovered? How would we further the project next? What is left undiscovered?


Readings following the two focus groups (on the space /place dichotomy)

Following the two focus groups, I decided to continue my readings on the space/place dichotomy to have an even more precise knowledge on the subject. This will be even more useful as I think that it will constitute my part of the presentation (as most of my readings were on this subject this is the area within our topic that I feel l the most comfortable with). I will here summarize the two texts that I read.

Michael Goodchild, Linna Li. ‘Formalizing space and place’, Fonder les sciences du territoire, Nov 2011, pp.177-183. 

=>  Space, or the spatial perspective, is generally held to refer to the surface and near-surface of the Earth, as organized by coordinate systems such as latitude and longitude, and to concepts such as distance and direction that are measurable or computable within that space.

=> Defined in this way, space has strong connotations of science and its aims of rigor and replicability.

=> Place, on the other hand, is normally defined as a social construction.

=> A place is a named domain that can occur in human discourse (by contrast, references to latitude and longitude in human discourse are of course extremely rare).

=> Places may be persistent through time, or transient and related to specific events. They may be poorly defined, with indeterminate boundaries that make it difficult to determine whether a given spatial location is or is not within a named place.

=> While it lacks an exact English equivalent, the French term ‘territoire’ has elements of both space and place, as well as more abstract concepts such as landscape.

=> Recently => emergence of space as a common, integrating theme in the social sciences and humanities.

John Agnew, Chapter 23 ‘Space and Place’ in J. Agnew and D. Livingstone (University of California, Los Angeles) London: Sage. 2011

=> Space is regarded largely as a dimension within which matter is located or a grid within which substantive items are contained.

=> Place = geographic meaning as “a portion of space in which people dwell together” and “locality”

=> ALSO = place is a “rank” in a list (as “in the first place”), a temporal ordering (as in something “took place”), and a “position” in a social order (as in “knowing your place”)

=> In the simplest sense, place refers to either a location somewhere or to the occupation of that location => first sense is of having an address and the second is about living at that address

=> Particularly powerful has been the idea derived from late-nineteenth century social thought that, in social terms at least, place equates to a collectivist traditional community and that as modern national (and global) society has inevitably eclipsed community so has place lost its significance


On Friday 1st March and Tuesday 5th March, we organised and held two focus group sessions. Due to people’s schedules and availability, the number of participants was slightly different from our initial plan. Combined, we had nine participants, three of which used cycling as their main mode of transport, three of which used the tube and three of which used the bus which still enabled us to have an equal representation of perspectives from the three modes of movement we were interested in exploring. The two sessions were audio recorded for the purpose of being able to listen back to the responses for analysis. All participants provided verbal consent to being a part of this project.

During the focus group sessions we were able to build a rapport between the participants themselves as well as with our group members. We appointed Gina the role of leading the session by asking the questions throughout the session while Constance, Stephanie and I clarified questions and concepts, giving prompts when needed. The sessions had a relaxed, conversational-style manner atmosphere which I feel put the participants at ease and made them feel comfortable to discuss topics in-length with us. Throughout the sessions the participants answered our questions with thoughtful, in-depth responses of their experiences, thoughts and personal anecdotes which was all very interesting.

The drawing activity (we asked the participants to draw their perception of London, with no parameters – we wanted them to use their imagination and knowledge) which we conducted fairly early on in the sessions did a good job of breaking the ice between the groups, but also provided us with a range of visual responses to interpret later on.

Here is an example of one of the drawings from a participant who used the tube as her main mode of transport.

We are feeling motivated by the success of our focus group sessions to continue developing our project towards our final presentation! Our next step is to analyse the responses that we received from the focus group sessions to see how they expand, differ from and contribute to our project’s line of argument.

Interview questions for Focus Groups

We have arranged two Focus Groups of 6 people. Each Focus Group will be comprised of two people who cycle daily, two people who take the bus daily and two people who take the tube daily.

Focus Group #1 will take place on Friday 1st March from 2.30 to 4pm. Focus Group #2 will take place on Tuesday 5th March from 9.30 to 11am.

The following questions will serve to guide the conversation of our Focus Groups. We have incorporated a drawing activity at the beginning of the session which we hope will dynamise the sessions and get the conversation flowing. For part of our final project, we will curate the participants’ drawings into a zine.


  1. What is your usual mode of moving in London?
  2. Do you feel like you know London? What do you know about London?
  3. Could you get from place X to place Y without consulting a map of any kind?
  4. Do you use apps such as CityMapper or Google Maps? When? Where?
  5. Please draw London on your plastic sheet.
  6. Has your answer to question number 2 changed? How?
  7. What are your usual fluxes of movement in London?
  8. Would you describe your speed through London as fast/slow/other? Why?
  9. Which one of your five senses is most stimulated when using your mode of movement. Why?
  10. When you’re moving through London, what are three things you notice about the urban space surrounding you?
  11. Consider your mode of movement as your sole point of interaction with London. How does it shape your interaction with the city?


  1. Does your mode of movement afford good/bad/other access to the urban space of London? Why?
  2. Agree/Disagree/Expand the following statement. My mode of movement is a privileged one.
  3. For yourself, what disadvantages are there to your mode of movement?
  4. For others, what disadvantages are there to your mode of movement?
  5. What is your interaction with people who use the same mode of movement as you?
  6. What feelings do your fellow movers evoke?
  7. Does these feelings change when your fellow movers are tourists or people who don’t live in London?
  8. Do you feel that London is a hospitable city to non-Londoners? How do you think this contributes to the concept of us/them?
  9. Does this influence your feeling of belonging to London? If so, how?


  1. How long have you lived in London?
  2. Do you have an emotional attachment with London? Why?
  3. Do certain places hold stronger emotional attachments than others? Why?
  4. What role do you think your preferred mode of movement has in the establishment of emotional attachments?
  5. [We explain Space/Place dichotomy] Do you think of London as a space/place? Perhaps as a combination of the two? Are certain parts space and certain parts place?
  6. Does your mode of movement have a role in the space/place transformation?
  7. Please tick the statements which you feel are true based on your experiences of London and main mode of movement. Expanding your answer is encouraged.
  • Experiences in London:
    • I feel attached to this place
    • I feel proud of this place
    • This place is important to me
    • This place holds personal meaning to me
    • From my experiences I have an overall positive impression of this place
    • From my experiences I have an overall negative impression of this place
  • Main mode of movement:
    • When I am using mode of movement I feel comfortable and happy
    • There is a good atmosphere within this space
    • I have had good experiences in this mode of movement
    • I have had bad experiences in this mode of movement
    • When I am in this space I have felt and secure
    • When I am in this space I have felt threatened/in danger
    • I feel dependent on this form of movement


  1. Define “uncertainty”.
  2. Define “uncertainty in urban space”.
  3. What about London do you find uncertain? Why?
  4. Is uncertainty in London a positive/negative/other thing?
  5. Does uncertainty have a role in the space/place transformation? For example, does a space feel more uncertain than a space?
  6. Does London feel like a manageable urban space to you? Does moving in London feel like a manageable task to you? Why?
  7. How free is your movement in London? Do you follow pre-established routes? Does this hinder your knowledge of other parts of the city?
  8. Do you think your mode of movement makes it easy for you to explore undiscovered parts of London?

Group meeting with Conor 12/02

During this group meeting with Conor, we discussed the ethics form that Katie submitted a few days earlier. We asked ourselves if we will do questionaries, interviews/focus groups or both but also how many people will be interrogated as these precisions were asked for the form to be validated (it has been approved since!). Conor suggested the idea of elite interviews (people who are considered experts in their field). He also suggested the idea of doing two or three focus groups with around 10 people in each group to discuss the different transports that each of them uses and how they experience them. Focus groups will create discussions and maybe debates which could be very useful and interesting for the study case. The idea of online questionaries also came up, it appeared useful mostly to have a larger number of people interrogated (around 100). As we will be interrogating only students, we realized that we will have to include this in the title/question of our presentation for it to be more accurate. Conor also gave us tips from a presentation that he made as an undergraduate. He told us not to forget to ask every person interrogated if they filled the consent form and remind them that they will be recorded. He also indicated that it was useful to contextualize the project to the people who are part of the study before asking the first question, without influencing them, to have more precise and interesting answers. Then, we discussed the temporal dimension of transports. Indeed, time is, like space, experienced differently according to the mode of transport used. Finally, we decided that each of us will do a couple of readings to establish a precise question for the study case by the end of the week. It seems necessary to establish it before the beginning of the interviews to be sure that people give answers that will be useful to the project. To start writing the questionaries/interviews questions and to create the research question (and its subsections), we decided to meet with the girls tomorrow (15/02). We will use the notes from the different readings that each of us did to establish this question on theoretical and serious grounds.


(Written on Friday but had trouble posting on the blog)

This afternoon, Constance and I visited Dr Sophie Blackburn during her office hours to discuss our project and our new topic, hoping we could brainstorm some ideas and possible slants and perspectives we could take towards the project. As a geography major, I found the meeting very helpful in developing thoughts centred around a geographical perspective or slant and some interesting geographical methods and tools we could use as part of our research process.

Suggested literature and works surrounding topics of:
– Social justice and equity in terms of who has access to what spaces
– The politics of public space
– Relationship between space and the city

Some questions we might want to ask when developing our project:
– Exactly who are we going to interview? How will this affect the representation of the results?
o Think about justifying why we think our pool of participants would be a good representation
– What is the significance of our research – narrowing down the importance of our research project and what the findings would be interesting. For example, we could decide that this is saying something about the character of London, and is what makes it such a unique city. Or, we could look at it in the sense of how we form community and communities.
– Where does our research project sit in terms of equity, and what does this mean for different people that use different modes of transports?
– Would focus groups perhaps be a better method of research over interviews? With multiple participants present, we would be able to get a debate going between participants and see differing views
– Methods – to constantly critically evaluate our choice of methods, and how each of us can individually best apply our knowledge to the project.

Other ideas to consider:
– Mapping. The way that we experience a city on an everyday basis is laterally, which differs from the perspective of a map which provides an aerial view of the space. This could relate to perceptions of space and the varying representations of space
o We could look at different kinds of maps, and how they are better or worse at portraying the city
– Cycling as a potential mode of resistance, in terms of the ways in which we experience the city, relating to power – cyclists can be seen as having more freedom over the city as they are able to go and move wherever and however they want. They are not constrained
o Would be worth looking into Sustrans, an NGO advocating for sustainable transport, especially sustainable cycling

Potential approaches to our project:
– Social inequalities – how movement around London shaping perceptions and knowledge of the city highlights social inequalities such as issues of disability, or categorisation of different demographics and how they are spatially distributed
– Inclusion or exclusion – the feeling of not being able to feel part of a city because you don’t really know it, and the idea of social inclusion or exclusion through space.


During week 4, we completely changed our subject and decided to study London and how the transports that you use shape the understanding that you have of the city. After meetings with Conor and Sophie, who made some very interesting comments and suggestions on our project, I made some readings. One is on the London underground and the other is on the feeling of belonging in a ‘place’.

Underground, Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube

Andrew Martin

  • London Underground is the oldest Metro in the world
  • it has 250 miles of track and 287 stations
  • 1.1 billion passenger journeys are made on the Underground every year
  • London Underground was never properly planned but just sort of sprawled, and because it was built over the course of 140 years, it is far more revealing of the history and character of the city it serves than any of the above systems
  • Frank Pick: one of the two most important men in the twentieth century Underground
  • he used the Underground to rationalize a city he’d found confusing on boyhood visits from the north
  • Frank Pick introduced the diagrammatic Underground map => defined as a comfort blanket for Londoners
  • reassures them that their city makes sense
  • even though in fact it doesn’t, precisely because of the expansion caused by the system that the map depicts
  • Frank Pick failed in his mission to rationalize London
  • because he promoted the expansion of the Underground which caused the expansion of the city

Place A Short Introduction. Tim Cresswell


  • they are all spaces people are attached to in one way or another => this is the most straightforward and common definition of place = a meaningful location
  • political geographer John Agnew (1987) has outlined three fundamental aspects of place as a ‘meaningful location’: Location. Locale. Sense of place
  • commonplace in Western societies in the Twenty-first Century that people feel a loss of a sense of place as they argue that the forces of globalization have eroded local cultures and produced homogenized global spaces
  • advertisement for a large furniture shop => ‘Transforming space into place.’
  • the ad suggests that we might want to take the rooms we have recently bought or rented and make them mean something to us by arranging furniture in them = making them comfortable literally and experientially
  • humanistic geographers are unlikely to agree that the mere purchase of furniture is going to enact such a transformation but they will recognize the intent = making a space yours to make it become a place
  • asks the question of how to make a space yours? How can the city of London go from ‘a space’ to ‘a place’?
  • what begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value
  • space, then, has been seen in distinction to place as a realm without meaning
  • when humans invest meaning in a portion of space and then become attached to it in some way it becomes a place
  • this basic dualism of space and place runs through much of human geography since the 1970s