LEARNING SPACES / DIGITAL EDUCATION / MULTIMODALITY / SOUND
After fourteen enjoyable years working in widening access at Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools, I'm about to follow a different path as I embark on a PhD in the School of Education at Edinburgh University. In place of a conventional 'leaving do' I convinced my colleagues instead to finish early on my last day and to take a leisurely stroll around the city, pausing for food, drink and conversation along the way.
The problem with this plan was that an amble around central Edinburgh during the Festival season would involve negotiating crowds of visitors and performers. Instead, I put together a route that would take in some of the city's quieter closes and streets, while at the same time visiting some of the locations that have featured in my working life over the last decade-and-a-half. Fittingly, we began in George Square where I was first interviewed for the job that I'm now leaving. Some hours later our journey drew to a close outside Moray House School of Education where I will take my first classes as a PhD student later this month.
To add wider interest to our walk, I proposed that as we passed different sites of interest we should consider how they had changed over time. To help us do this, the night before our excursion I searched through the digital archives of the National Library of Scotland and SCRAN and bookmarked a series of buildings, streets and squares that we would likely pass on our route between George Square and Moray House. The different sites are foregrounded on my iPad in the images below. There's a juxtaposition here not just of new and old buildings, but of traditional and digital approaches to capturing images.
Something I like about the images is the trace of my work colleagues: their hands, cagouls and partial on-screen reflections. Bearing in mind how closely we have worked it was fitting that my colleagues should have a presence within the images. Another thing that strikes me about the images is the occasional lop-sided positioning of the iPad, reflecting the architectural imperfections and character that make up this part the city.
I also captured a short ambient audio recording at each site we visited. In a second representation of the collected data, the video below combines the sight and sounds of each of our stopping points.
I think the video-montage offers alternative insights into the same locations captured in the earlier slideshow. An obvious example would be how our journey was accompanied by the almost constant hum of traffic, even when there were few or no cars in view. Elsewhere, the sound of music, a child crying and a passing conversation about a visit to the zoo reveal a warmth, humour and emotion that isn't always present when we consider the photos in isolation.
The way that the introduction of sound contests the impression of contemporary Edinburgh presented in the slideshow prompts me in turn to consider whether the same rules might apply to the archived images. Or to put it another way, if we somehow had access to sound recordings taken at the time of the photographs of old Edinburgh, would we draw different conclusions about the stories that appear to be unfolding in some of the images? I wonder whether our understanding of how we used to live that we take from the apparent calm and tidy order of the archived images, would change if we were to hear the sounds pouring from the sepia-tinged breweries, printworks and classrooms that characterised Edinburgh's Southside a hundred years ago?
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I am a Lecturer in Digital Education (Education Futures), within the Centre for Research in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh.