Author Archives: openspaceeditor

Mobility Mood and Place Film shortlisted for Prestigious National Award

Edinburgh filmmaker shortlisted for prestigious national Award

A film made by Catharine Ward Thompson and her team has been shortlisted for the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s prestigious 2018 Research in Film Awards.

The film, called ‘Mobility, Mood and Place – key findings’, has made the shortlist for the Social Media Short Award. 

Nearly 150 films were submitted for the Awards this year and the overall winner for each category, who will receive £2,000 towards their filmmaking, will be announced at a special ceremony at 195 Piccadilly in London, home of BAFTA, on 8 November.

Launched in 2015, the Research in Film Awards celebrate short films, up to 30 minutes long, that have been made about the arts and humanities and their influence on our lives.

There are five categories in total with four of them aimed at the research community and one open to the public.

Filmmaker Catharine Ward Thompson, said: “The film illustrates key findings from our Mobility, Mood and Place project. It shows how the planning and design of everyday environments can support healthy and active ageing, and is aimed at everyone, from politicians to the general public. It was produced by animator Kevin Morris, with the support of our Mobility, Mood and Place communicator Máire Cox, and reflects findings from across our expert multidisciplinary team of researchers.  We are delighted that it has been so well received, by policy-makers, planning officers and third sector groups, and that the Arts and Humanities Research Council have recognised its merits by shortlisting it for this award.”

Mike Collins, Head of Communications at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “The standard of filmmaking in this year’s Research in Film Awards has been exceptionally high and the range of themes covered span the whole breadth of arts and humanities subjects.

“While watching the films I was so impressed by the careful attention to detail and rich storytelling that the filmmakers had used to engage their audiences. The quality of the shortlisted films further demonstrates the fantastic potential of using film as a way to communicate and engage people with academic research. Above all, the shortlist showcases the art of filmmaking as a way of helping us to understand the world that we live in today.”

A team of judges watched the longlisted films in each of the categories to select the shortlist and ultimately the winner. Key criteria included looking at how the filmmakers came up with creative ways of telling stories – either factual or fictional – on camera that capture the importance of arts and humanities research to all of our lives.

Judges for the 2018 Research in Film Awards include Joanna Norman, Director of the V&A Research Institute, Steve Harding-Hill, Creative Director in Commercials and Short Form at Aardman Animation and Dorothy Byrne, Head of News & Current Affairs, Channel 4 News. [3]

The winning films will be shared on the Arts and Humanities Research Council website and YouTube channel. On 8 November you’ll be able to follow the fortunes of the shortlisted films on Twitter via the hashtag #RIFA2018.

 

 

 

 

 

OPENspace research makes the French press

Our research study, ‘Mobility, Mood and Place’ (MMP), was featured in several French newspapers on Sunday 9th September including: Liberation, l’Express, and Sciences et Avenir.

In an article about landscape and wellbeing, the findings from the MMP study were reported as follows:

In Scotland, researchers have asked people in their 70s about the environment they live in and the landscapes they have visited since their childhood in the 1930s.

These testimonies were analysed alongside maps displaying health and socio-economic data from the archives of Edinburgh and its region. “We concluded that visiting public parks during childhood and adulthood can slow cognitive decline in older people, and this finding was even more pronounced for women and people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” summarizes landscape architect Catharine Ward Thompson.

The same thing was found for depression and anxiety. “Access to green spaces can reduce social inequalities in terms of health,” says the director of OPENspace Research Centre.

Access the full article here…

 

What is Nature anyway? A guest blog by teaching and research assistant, Agnès Patuano.

Since joining us as a PhD student in 2009, Agnès Patuano has become a valued member of the OPENspace team. She has worked on a number of research projects and, as a teaching assistant, has helped develop and deliver our MSc in Landscape and Wellbeing. Having recently successfully defended her PhD thesis, Agnès has been reflecting on the positioning of her research within the field of landscape preference. In this guest blog, she shares what she’s learned and the questions left unanswered…

When I finished my Masters in Landscape Design and Engineering, the one question I had started with and hoped to solve was still left unanswered: Why do people like Nature? Why do they need it and what is it that they find in it? It seems to me like that question should have been the starting point for all landscape architects. After all, if we are to provide Nature where there’s none, shouldn’t we care what type of it will be best for us and most able to meet our needs? Yet very few of my peers were as concerned as I was over it.

Over the years, my question found a home within the field of landscape preference, somewhere in the overlap of landscape architecture and environmental psychology. Studies in the field offer some elements of answers to questions such as mine, but also to others such as: why do people go where they go, or live where they live? Within the discipline, perceptual issues are tackled by assessing how to maximise the positive responses attached to an object, as it is easier to measure which object is preferred and why, than to precisely measure how cognitive perception operates. By focussing on the direct application of preference decision processes, the findings often have many far-reaching implications, for planners and developers but also health professionals and economists.

Community Woodlands

A community woodland in Scotland

Throughout my PhD studies on the topic, and my work as a research assistant at OPENspace, I discovered a lot of evidence for the salutogenic properties of Nature. Therefore, my initial question found some answers but many more questions, big and small, arose as well to keep it company: Do all people like Nature equally? And what is Nature anyway? Can we measure it?

Looking at the definition of the word, it is clear Nature has been used over time to refer to many different aspects of human and non-human life. Currently, the Oxford English Dictionary lists 27 definitions of Nature, which speaks volumes as to the multitude of meanings of the word. Often, it is reduced to a dichotomy, which mirrors the “nature versus culture” debate. In this dichotomy, Nature is defined as anything that has not been created by humans. However, if “natural” describes “everything that is born or grows”, then surely it must include humans as well?

The lack of precise definition applies to other words derived from Nature as well. For example, naturalness, an element often cited in landscape preference studies as being critical for positive perceptions, is instinctively understood as “the quality of being natural”. The Oxford English Dictionary still offers seven definitions for the term, the most relevant being “The quality of possessing the distinctive features of a naturally occurring object, landscape, etc.: the appearance of being unchanged or unspoilt by human intervention.” However, as virtually every landscape in the modern world has been shaped by humans, that standard is near impossible to reach. Other definitions have included references to “a perceived natural state”, which might be more accurate but implies that naturalness can only ever be perceived and is therefore subjective and context-dependent. More importantly, the ability for us to perceive Nature is unclear if what is meant by Nature is unclear. In this case, our perception might as well be imagination and the best definition of naturalness becomes: “how likely a landscape is to be perceived as natural”.

In an effort to clarify and quantify these concepts, my PhD centred around the application of a mathematical approach to describing natural forms: Fractal Geometry. Its basic principle rests on the use of iterative equations to create shapes that repeat infinitely. That process is a good analogy for natural phenomena such as growth or erosion, which turn small shapes into larger copies of themselves and vice-versa.

In my research, I have tried to measure the fractal properties of landscape photographs and found that under certain circumstances they correlated with human preference. Some of these properties were also able to numerically discriminate between different types of vegetation, which shows similitudes to the way we perceive Nature and naturalness. However, the application of the method has its limitations, as fractals are only models and do not exactly represent natural shapes. Once again, many more questions were raised than answered through that inquiry: Can we really see Nature? And how accurate are our measurements if there is no way to define accuracy? Is it linked with ecological soundness? Are there several Natures?

Now I know it is the sign of a successful researcher to have more questions at the end than what they started with. As Socrates thought, all I know for sure is that I know nothing. Despite my utter lack of absolute certainty, I am very proud to have been able to help develop and deliver a MSc programme on Landscape & Wellbeing for Masters students who carry the same burning question I had when I started: Why is Nature good for us? I am still hoping that if we put all our heads together, we might one day figure it out.

If you want to hear more about my research, I am presenting the next OPENspace seminar series on 22nd January, with a talk titled “Quantifying the Naturalness and Complexity of Landscape Photographs using their Fractal Dimensions.”

> Find out more about the OPENspace seminar series

 

Congratulations to our first MSc graduates!

We are delighted that the first group of students from our MSc in Landscape and Wellbeing programme at Edinburgh College of Art have graduated.

Huge congratulations to Neil (pictured with Catharine after the graduation ceremony), Ali and Becca who successfully completed the one-year masters programme earlier this year.

Neil Cameron, one of the first students to graduate from the programme, with Catharine at graduation.

Neil Cameron (r), one of the first students to graduate from the programme (with Distinction), with Catharine (l) at graduation. Image courtesy of Colin Cameron.

Now in its second year, the Landscape and Wellbeing MSc takes an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the importance of the environment for human health and wellbeing.

Drawing on the most advanced theoretical and methodological research in the field, it is aimed at academics and practitioners working in landscape architecture, planning, design, geography, public health, psychology, epidemiology, horticulture and ecology.

> Find out more about the programme on the Edinburgh College of Art website

‘Hard facts’ conference rounds off fantastic year of collaboration with Swedish university

On 30th November 2017, Catharine Ward Thompson will give a keynote lecture on greenspace, health and quality of life as part of the ‘Hard facts about soft values’ conference in Stockholm.

Organised by the Movium network at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), the conference is primarily aimed at policymakers and civil servants at a range of levels, from local to national and international.

> Access presentations from the conference, including Catharine’s

The event rounds off a great year for our relationship with SLU, where Catharine received an Honorary Doctorate in October, gave a public lecture which was streamed live online, and was interviewed by Arkitekten journal.

SLU have said “Catharine’s publications on green environments are used extensively in SLU’s landscape education and have also had a big impact in practice. Her research is an inspiration and knowledge base for our own research on the importance of green environments for health and wellbeing, and she is a long-term collaborator with SLU researchers, for example in co-authored publications and in postgraduate education.”

> Watch Catharine’s Honorary Doctorate public lecture online 

Catharine receiving her Honorary Doctorate.

Catharine receiving her bespoke Honorary Doctorate’s hat at SLU. The moment was marked by a ceremonial trumpet flourish! Image © Jenny Svennås-Gillner/SLU

This year is a particularly special one for SLU, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

It is fitting, then, that 2017 has also seen the announcement of the Stockholm Declaration on Sustaining Resilient and Healthy Communities at the 10th European Public Health Conference which took place in the Swedish capital earlier this month.

Speaking at the conference alongside Kevin Lafferty of Forestry Commission Scotland and George Morris, formerly of NHS Health Scotland, Catharine again outlined the links between greenspace, health, wellbeing and resilience in a workshop on Public Landscapes for Public Health.

This was an excellent opportunity to share emerging findings from our research on Woods In and Around Towns, as well as to showcase the development of Scotland’s Natural Health Service – an example of innovative collaboration between the environment and health sectors in Scotland.

Find out more about Scotland’s Natural Health Service

It’s not just one way traffic! This month, OPENspace is delighted to have hosted a group of urban planners from Sweden awarded a grant from the Swedish Association of Transportation Planners to study the walkability of Edinburgh.

The group were particularly keen to know more about the Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP) project, which looked at older people’s mobility outdoors and its impact on health and wellbeing.

In findings we’ve shared through a short animation, MMP has found that older people walking between different types of urban environments show changes in their emotional response to place based on brain activity patterns. Green spaces seem to be restorative, offering a respite from the tiring demands that busy urban places make on our directed attention.

Reinforcing what we have found in earlier work, such as Inclusive Design for Going Outdoors (I’DGO), we have found that, when it comes to walkability, the mundane matters and the commonplace counts! Everyday things, such as pavement quality, benches and street lighting, can make all the difference as we get older.

> Watch our short animation on Mobility, Mood and Place

 

 

OPENspace research featured in new WHO Europe Action Brief on Urban Green Spaces

The European Regional Office of the World Health Organizaton (WHO) has launched a new Action Brief on Urban Green Spaces, building on extensive research in the field, including a number of studies by OPENspace.

The Action Brief is a beautifully-illustrated suite of practical guidance on how to maximise the health benefits of urban green spaces.

Designed for urban practitioners, it is based on, and summarises, two recent technical reports by WHO Europe:

‘Urban Green Spaces and Health: A review of evidence’ (2016), which cites a number of OPENspace research papers, and has a chapter co-authored by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson and Dr Eva Silveirinha de Oliveira.

‘Urban Green Space Interventions and Health: A review of impacts and effectiveness’ (2017), which includes our I’DGO and Woods In and Around Town (WIAT) projects as examples of how to assess the health benefits of environmental interventions.

Front cover of WHO publication

Having been cited by the WHO in its 2007 guidance on Global Age-friendly Cities, OPENspace has become a respected source of evidence for the organisation.

As well as citing our research in publications, WHO has invited Catharine to participate in a number of pan-European meetings and conferences, the most recent of which was the fourth European Conference on Biodiversity and Health in the face of Climate Change (Bonn, June 2017) at which she gave a plenary presentation and was interviewed by MDR, together with Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN) President, Beate Jessel.

 

Check out some of the visuals from the publication below, or access the document in full…

> Download the WHO Europe Action Brief on Urban Green Spaces

Download Urban Green Spaces and Health: A review of evidence

> Download Urban Green Space Interventions and Health: A review of impacts and effectiveness

 

Photo of a jogger in a park

Photo of an urban parkPhoto of an urban streetPhoto of two women gardening

Photo of a tram

Photo of a coastal path

Making websites dementia-friendly. Join the discussion!

The second phase of our work on Memory-Friendly Neighbourhoods wraps up in January 2017 with an event at the Scottish Universities Insight Institute.

In this phase of Memory-Friendly Neighbourhoods (MFN), we’ve been focusing on the ‘virtual neighbourhood’, looking at how people living with dementia use and navigate online environments.

The programme is based on our own experiences of setting up the MFN website and the lack of guidance we have found on internet accessibility for people living with dementia.

We’ve been using a survey, together with a ‘town hall meeting’ approach, to engaging participants; from people who commission, design, build and maintain websites, to people whose lives are affected by dementia.

Please join us at our final meeting where we’ll be discussing what we’ve found out and co-designing outputs from the project, including ideas for next steps and recommendations for policy and practice.

The event takes place at the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, a short walk from Queen Street Station in central Glasgow, on Tuesday 17th January 2017.

The meeting will last from 10am until noon and you are welcome to stay for lunch afterwards.

Places are FREE but limited, so please book through Eventbrite.

Memory-Friendly Neighbourhoods is a knowledge exchange programme with the University of Stirling exploring how local communities can support people with dementia. It is funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute and partnered by Age Scotland, East Dunbartonshire Council, and Life Changes Trust.

Looking back at our fourth international conference

Earlier this month, over 100 delegates joined us in Edinburgh to discuss research on Habitats for Happy and Healthy Ageing at our fourth international conference.

We were delighted to welcome a wonderful mix of established and early career researchers from ten European countries, Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, Colombia, and the USA.

Over the course of 50 presentations, including three keynotes and four plenaries, we also heard from research collaborators and co-designers who work outside of academia, including in national and local government, industry and the not-for-profit sector, leading to rich dialogue about the use of research findings in policy and practice.

The final day took us out of the conference centre to a range of sites and resources around Edinburgh, with our delegates joining students and local older people in workshops on ‘designing for dementia’, ‘urban brainwear’ and ‘places, then and now’.

An enormously important contribution to thinking and approaches

The scene was set for our conference by Professor Dorothy Miell, Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, who gave a warm welcome to delegates at our opening reception.

Each full day was opened by a guest speaker, beginning with Sarah Davidson, Director General (Communities), Scottish Government, who spoke of older age as a “dynamic and productive phase of life for us all” and described the conference as “an enormously important contribution to the thinking and approaches we can employ in response to [this] ageing society”.

We heard from Dr Heidrun Mollenkopf, Vice President of AGE Platform Europe and Member of the AGE Universal Accessibility and Independent Living Expert Group, and from Dr Anne Jepson, a Senior Researcher at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre.

Our keynote speakers were Professor Billie Giles-Corti (Australia), Professor Sarah Wigglesworth (Sheffield) and Professor Gloria Gutman (Canada).

OPENspace (and friends) at #RGSIBG16

It’s time for the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society, which is held in collaboration with the Institute of British Geographers.

The theme for 2016 is ‘nexus thinking’, a way of addressing the interdependencies, tensions and trade-offs between different environmental and social domains.

OPENspace is involved in five papers at this year’s conference, which you can follow on social media using the hashtag #RGSIBG16.

Here’s where you can find out more about two of our current research projects: Mobility, Mood and Place (which looks at older people’s mobility outdoors); and Woods In and Around Towns (which explores urban woodlands and quality of life in deprived communities).

RGS-IBG conference papers on Mobility, Mood and Place

Wednesday 31st August 2016

Measuring Wellbeing (11:10-12:50)      
Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 207 

Mapping brain imaging as a measure of emotional wellbeing in older people walking in different urban spaces.

Dr Steve Cinderby* of The University of York will be presenting this paper, which has been co-authored by Dr Sara Tilley of OPENspace and colleagues at the Universities of Edinburgh, York, Heriot-Watt and University College London.

Thursday 1st September 2016

Everyday geographies of ageing (1): (im)mobility, independence and ageing ‘well’ (09:00-10:40) 
Sherfield Building, Room 10  

Living in the moment or experiences of a lifetime? Considering environmental influences past, present and future on mobility in older age

Professor Jamie Pearce of the The Human Geography Research Group at the University of Edinburgh will be presenting this paper, which has been co-authored by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson, Professor Jenny Roe, Dr Katherine Brookfield and Dr Sara Tilley at OPENspace, and colleagues at the Universities of Edinburgh, York, Heriot-Watt and King’s College London.

RGS-IBG conference papers on Woods In and Around Towns

Thursday 1st September 2016

Greenspace Justice for Health and Wellbeing (16:50-18:30) 
Royal School of Mines, Room G.06

Exploring parents’ perceptions and visits to local urban woodlands in deprived communities

Dr Sara Tilley of OPENspace will be presenting this paper, which has been co-authored by Dr Eva Silveirinha de Oliveira and Professor Catharine Ward Thompson.

On Friday 2nd September, Sara will also be chairing the first session on ‘Time at the nexus: mobility and modal choice’which she co-convenes with Dr Julie Clark of the University of Glasgow, and presenting her PhD research in the second session (again co-convened with Julie) in a paper entitled Understanding the Multi-Level Forces Affecting Mobility Trends.

* Steve will also be talking about MMP at the annual ‘research into policy’ event co-hosted by the Transport Geography Research Group and UK Department for Transport (DfT). This pre-conference event takes place at the DFT on Tuesday 30th August 2016. Steve’s presentation is entitled Interactions between urban infrastructure design and use on older people’s mobility and well-being: evidence from three UK case studies.


> Browse other conference papers given by OPENspace team members

Immersing myself in data – an MSc student’s perspective on analysing walking interviews

Earlier this year, we were delighted to welcome Neil Abercrombie to the OPENspace team for a three-month placement on current project, Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP). Since then, Neil has completed an MSc in Social Research at the University of Edinburgh with a dissertation based on the work he did for us. Neil’s role was to analyse the qualitative data collected from 19 older adults during walking interviews in environments of their own choosing. In this guest blog, he reflects on his time on the project and what he’s learned from the experience…

Photo of a cyclist on a canal towpath

The towpath along the Union Canal in Edinburgh – one of the routes chosen by an older walker

I came to this placement with an interest in understanding different social behaviours and the reasons behind them. The prospect of researching the activities of older adults was intriguing, especially considering that encouraging older adults to walk is an increasingly important issue for maintaining good health within ageing populations.

I was excited to work with data being used in a genuine research project with potential implications for others in the future. I have performed my own personal research projects in the past, but felt that I could learn a lot more from working within a research group.

Immersing myself in data

My main role involved analysing the content produced during 19 qualitative walking interviews with older people. I read through interview transcripts for each walk, while also looking through the photos taken and listening to the audio recordings. My plan was to immerse myself in the data created. This proved particularly useful in a few instances, as I could hear or see things mentioned during interviews which I might not have understood quite so well just by reading the transcripts.

Working with several different forms of data addressing the same content was a new experience for me. While it was challenging at first, being faced with a large database, I slowly worked through it. As a result, I came upon a wealth of findings for my dissertation.

What I uncovered about older adults and walking

I found some key points about the way that older adults plan and enjoy their walks. When picking walks to go on, older adults appreciated familiarity in their findings, and selected areas where they are familiar with the history of the area, or the people living in it, or had personal connections through their memories. However, they also appreciated seeing variety in the same areas they walk though, such as changes in the weather, meeting different people on walks, or just to walk a slightly different route to reach the same places over time.

In terms of opinions, older adults enjoyed walking through more natural environments, as this helped them to relax and get the most enjoyment from the walk. Even when near an urban environment, being able to sense nature – for example, seeing plants, hearing birds or feeling comfortable ground under one’s feet – was enough to enjoy a walking route. The biggest disruptions were damage to the land, cars, and inconsiderate behaviours of other users, such as cyclists who rode too fast and too close to walkers that they stressed them with the possibility of being hit.

In analysing these results, findings can be placed on a hierarchy of what influences walking decisions more strongly. Issues such as accessibility and safety were clearly more important in findings than other factors such as comfort. This is because individuals would avoid specific areas if they could not get to them, or did not feel safe in them, but would still walk through some areas even if they complained about them being uncomfortable.

This is an updated version of Affonso Zuin’s (2005) hierarchy*, which has been given support through the results of the study. Findings such as these show that some issues of walking should be addressed over others, to encourage as many adults to take up walking as possible.

Working as part of a team

I am grateful for the experience gained from my time at OPENspace where, in addition to analysing data, I was given the opportunity to sit in on, and present my work at, an MMP Advisory Group Meeting. Additionally, I designed a poster on my work for a conference within the University’s School of Social and Political Science (SSPS).

On a more personal note, working fixed hours has given me a sense of structure. Having previously been used to the student lifestyle of working alone, and whenever I can, I have had to coordinate myself to complete work alongside others, such as by being prepared to show correspondents what I have done. I believe that these challenges, although not directly connected to the finished dissertation, have given me plenty of new experiences to draw upon in later life.

I would like to extend thanks to the members of OPENspace for welcoming me into their workspace for the last few months, giving me this opportunity to grow as an individual and help them with their research in return. Working around established researchers has been an insightful experience, and has pushed me to continually work harder than I have done before. This has challenged me in many unexpected ways, through data analysis, project writing, and planning, but I feel more prepared for the next stage of my life, whatever that may be.

* Zuin, Affonzo M. 2005. ‘To Walk or Not to Walk?: The Hierarchy of Walking Needs.’ Environment and Behavior. 37(6). pp. 808-836.

OPENspace would like to thank Neil for his excellent work during his time with us and congratulate him on winning first place for the poster he presented on his contribution to MMP at the SSPS conference. We wish him well for the future.

If you would like to find out more about Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP), please join us for our fourth international conference in October 2016 when we will be sharing emerging findings from the research alongside a range of keynotes and papers.

> Find out more about our fourth international conference on the MMP website