Kath Murdoch on noticing

Reflecting on my year as a failed flânerie, I take on space as a new word and a new approach to my one word.


I am not exactly sure what I thought 2019 would be, but I certainly did not not expect what I got. My one word was flânerie. So many aspects of my life are structured, I therefore felt I need some serendipity. As I stated:

What I liked about [flânerie] was that it was not about merely observing, but also actively producing.

I tried walking. Failed.

I tried reading random books, but that seemed to dry up as well. Although I read them, I would never get around to doing anything with it all.

I think a part of me thought that a focus on being a flânerie was some sort of licence to let go. However as the year meandered on I realised that being a flânerie was probably as much about being structured and deliberate.

It all reminded me of those who claim to be agile or distributed. So often people have the right intent in trying to change, but they do not allow the appropriate resources for such ideas and initiatives to flourish.

A useful heuristic that comes up again and again in my job is the Project Management Triangle. This is where the quality of the finished product is a combination of time, scope and cost. Sacrifice any of these elements and you reduce the quality of the outcome.

Thinking then about my focus on flânerie, one such resource that was a problem was time. With my limited time wedged between family and work, I was often left trying to achieve more than was possible.

As the year ended, a part of me wondered if my year as a failed flâner came back to the expectations that I set for myself at the beginning. I was therefore left considering where to next. I often have my one word sorted out as the new year passes by. As January unfurled, I wondered if the practice had its day?

Inspired by a few reflections, I wondered if maybe I was approaching it all the wrong way? Rather than having something with explicit or implied outcomes, maybe I needed a new approach, one focused on an open-ended concept? Although Kath Murdoch talks about nudging you along a path, maybe the nudge that matters most is an inquiring mind?

Therefore, my one word for 2020 is ‘space’. Unlike past years, this year will be a wondering about everything associated with the idea of ‘space’. Here is my start:

  • Space as a Non-Human Actor: In Ian Guest’s research into Twitter, he talks about non-human actors.
  • Learning Spaces: What is impact of space on learning?
  • Space within the Mind: What would … do? Who are the defaults we fall back on? Theatre of the mind?
  • Space and Place in the World: What is my place within the world? What space do I take up? How do we perceive it? How does this fit with other people? What are the possible spaces?
  • Coalescent Spaces: Where does the physical stop and the virtual start?

So that is me that year. It is fascinating to reflect upon the journey from capacity to communication to intent to flânerie to space. Really appreciate any thoughts or recommendations about resources on the topic.


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My One Word for 2020 is Space by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

14 thoughts on “My One Word for 2020 is Space

  1. I love the categories and questions you surround your One Word with. My one thought to add is the relationship between time and space. For example, how does time create the space for thinking and learning?

  2. Hello Aaron,
    Your choice of “space” for your “one word” for 2020 appeals to my geographic leanings. During those times when I need to make logical sense with something on the fringe of my understanding I typically go into mapping activities. Where does this fit within a defined space? How do we define relevant spaces?
    You’ve got me thinking, my friend – thank you.
    Bob

    • Thank you Bob for your thoughts. I too find myself falling back on ‘mapping’. I think that my commonplace book is something of a testament to this as I have mapped many ideas/concepts through the use of webmentions and hyperlinks.

  3. That’s a good choice that has so many connotations and I like how you’re framing it.

    I definitely agree that 2019 feels like a failure because the expectations weren’t properly defined, I think it was a bit too open with too much licence. You’re never really sure what you should be doing and whether you actually achieved what you wanted. You probably got closer that you imagine but are seeing it as failure because of a lack of a frame of reference.

    It will be interesting to see how this year progresses.

    • Thank you Colin for the thoughts. I agree that failure maybe a dirty word. The more I think back, I am grateful for the experience, I just think I probably fail(ed) to appreciate everything that it afforded.

  4. After all, space is the final frontier.

    But seriously, this got me thinking about something I talked about on the radio here in New Zealand a few years ago. I’d be interested to see how this connects with your idea of space.

    When I first encountered computers, the metaphor for digital technology was all about the human brain. There were books and films with names like “The million dollar brain”. The idea was we were creating electronic things that like us could ‘think’.

    Then computers started to link up and the metaphor moved on to travel. We had the ‘information super highway’ and similar ideas.

    When the internet first moved into the public area the metaphor changed to space. We talked of ‘cyberspace’. It’s a far more intangible idea that a brain or a road.

    Each of these metaphors changed how we viewed technology.

    We saw brains as competitors. We viewed roads as taking us on a journey. We see cyberspace as a place to go.

    We haven’t quite moved on from the idea of cyberspace yet. I think the IndieWeb is very much rooted in the concept.

    With the giant corporations now controlling fenced off parts of cyberspace, there is a danger the space metaphor is, IndieWeb aside, on the way out.

  5. Perhaps it may not be as transparent to you as I may have found it, but just yesterday I was reading a thread by Venkatesh Rao about the idea of “solving for life”. While it focuses on how we treat and deal with others, I think it could also apply to how we treat ourselves, and as such it may be useful framing for you while reflecting about your flânerie experiment. I thought of it specifically where you said, “With my limited time wedged between family and work, I was often left trying to achieve more than was possible.
    I’m still thinking about the broader implications of the essay and want to revisit it a few more times, but it had an interesting concept which seems worth considering further.

    • Thank you as always Chris for your thoughts. I read the thread, however like you I think I need to revisit it again. I must admit I think it maybe something of a misnomer to consider my year of flânerie as a failure. I think the failure was my expectations. Although there was an element of time, I also think there was an element of willpower.

      Venkatesh Rao’s discussion of contraints left me thinking again about Annabelle Crabb’s discussion of the Wife drought.

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