So why 'topograph'? Meaning literally 'writing' (from the Greek grapho) 'place' (the Greek topos), the term topograph appealed to our geographical sensibilities. Writing suggests a continual process of becoming or making of places performatively through practices and discourse. The dynamism of these processes of co-construction and creation of place (bringing together multiple actors), affords the illusion or appearance of stability - performing different roles for different groups of actors and responding to changing context. In our own work (and in this blog) we seek to explore these processes of making and becoming, but also recognise our own role as academics as a part of this 'writing' (of) 'place'. Another interpretation of the origin of the phrase 'topograph' might evoke the Greek topazo, meaning to think or contemplate. This alternative configuration also emphasises place as a site of flows - converging, diverging, contradicting - rather than a static space.

For most people 'topograph' will evoke images of maps and stunning landscapes. Maps themselves are a way of 'writing place', both an agent of seeing and not seeing by structuring our experience of a pre-defined space. Maps evoke images of travel and exploration, of knowing and taming particular places - indeed as a way to colonise minds and spaces. A primary aim of topograph is for us to explore, to travel through different (conceptual) spaces or landscapes, though we hope to maintain a level of humility about what we can truly claim to know or even tame. Cultural geographers would also view landscapes themselves as 'writing' or text, where landscape features are evidence of a particular place's history, character and interactions. Contour lines on a map symbolise the topography of a landscape, realised in awesome relief and experienced through aesthetic appreciation and sheer physical effort. The idea of relief seems to express difference and diversity as well - a common theme of our work - evoking not only the contrast between a colossal mountain, a deep crevasse, and gentle rolling hills, but also diversity of views, backgrounds and political persuasions, the contrasts between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless. We commonly talk of topographies of the mind or of society, recognising these contour lines of commonality which set certain ideas, memories, groups of people, even, apart from others. Topography is a powerful metaphor for talking about how a particular object, whether it be the mind, or the idea of 'sustainability', is configured - expressing its characteristics, finding points of diversity and dispute, and creating a new conceptual landscape.

For more info about us, please see our research homepages here and here.