Place-Based Knowledge

Place and Pedagogy

In “Place and Pedagogy,” David Orr contemplates education and community experience and posits that education has been reduced to an activity that occurs in “a collection of buildings” (183), that learning has been siloed into disciplines, and that we are alienated from the place we live in. “Place is nebulous to educators because to a great extent, we are a deplaced people for whom our immediate places are no longer sources of food, water, livelihood, energy, materials, friends, recreation, or sacred inspiration” (184). He describes our environment—the shopping mall, apartment, neon strip, glass office tower, freeway—as consisting of architectural expressions of deplacement, “none of which encourage much sense of rootedness, responsibility, and belonging” (184). Nomadism has been around for a long time but today it exists at a much larger scale, which leads Orr to question how long it takes to cultivate a sense of place. He proposes we work against social and ecological “degeneracy” by exploring the place where we live and work.

Orr, David. 2013. “Place and Pedagogy.” NAMTA Journal 38 (1): 183–88.

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The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times

Through The Transition Companion book Rob Hopkins seeks to answer the question, “What would it look like if the best responses to peak oil and climate change came not from committees and Acts of Parliament, but from you and me and the people around us” (13)? Hopkins proposes that waiting for government takes too long and is not enough, and acting as individuals does not make enough of a difference, “but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time” (12). Community engagement is at the heart of the book’s message. Hopkins focuses on five years of practical experience based on the transition movement (also transition theory) with projects that occurred primarily in the UK. Transition theory focuses on localized and resilient communities. It makes its point by featuring a diversity of projects that used transition as a grassroots organizing methodology but also offers a handbook approach with practical ‘how tos’ of transitioning with guidance on starting out, deepening and connecting one’s organizing, building, and dream casting for looking ahead.

Hopkins, Rob. 2011. The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times. Green Books.

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Transition Design: Design-led societal transition toward a more sustainable future

Transition design theorists Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff and Cameron Tonkinwise present an exploration of their new theory of transition design at the 2013 AIGA Design Conference. Their talk covers the basic principles of the theory, a discussion of “cosmopolitan localism” as a desirable model for a sustainable culture, and the role of designers in leading society through a transition to this “sustainable everyday life” through planning processes that consist of a series of “situated actions” rather that rigid plans. They discuss the need for teams of interdisciplinary experts to collaborate with grassroots, “place-based” communities and argue for nonhierarchical relationships between communities, regions, governments, and global networks. They envision a future where respect for ecosystems is built into society and where exploitative labour is a thing of the past. They propose models of design thinking that they suggest can help achieve these goals.

AIGAdesign. 2013. Terry Irwin, Gideon Kossoff & Cameron Tonkinwise. Video. Head, Heart, Hand: AIGA Design Conference.

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