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friday :: april 15, 2005
walking as knowing as making: a peripatetic investigation of place

"Walking is an activity that can reconnect us with nature and with ourselves. We can use walking as a way to reanimate our senses and to see the natural world. Philosophical naturalists recognized this--as did Taoist and Zen Buddhist monks--and understood the elemental relationship of our bodies to the earth. Being aware of this relationship can help us as we look for solutions to current environmental crises."Trumpeter (1993). A Few Foot Notes on Walking by David Macauley .

In early spring of 2004 the New York Times reported on a recent study of aging adults. An inconspicuous three sentence news brief, noticeable only upon the closest of readings, stated in no uncertain terms: WALK MORE, THINK BETTER, “…In a study done by researchers at the University of Illinois, 41 adults ages 58 to 78 began an exercise program that gradually increased to 45-minute walks three times a week. After three months the participants increased brain activity and had an 11 percent improvement on decision-making tests.” That the conclusion seems rather self-evident suggests both a general recognition of the diminished role of walking in our contemporary lives and an intuitive understanding that walking is somehow good for us.

Despite its ubiquity in the everyday walking is an activity obscured by its own practical functionality. It is employed literally and understood metaphorically as a slow, inefficient, and increasingly anachronistic means to a predetermined end. Rarely is walking considered as a distinct mode of acting, knowing, and making. As its necessity diminishes and its applications rarefy, the potential of walking as critical, creative, and subversive tool appears only to grow. Conceived of as a conversation between the body and the world, walking becomes a reciprocal and simultaneous act of both interpretation and manipulation; an embodied and active way of shaping and being shaped that operates on a scale and at a pace embedded in something seemingly more authentic and real.

Based in Urbana-Champaign at the University of Illinois, Walking as Knowing as Making is a multifaceted effort that seeks to nurture both a theoretical and applied approach to knowing and interpreting place as we experience and construct it through walking. Using the walk as a guiding metaphor the format of this symposium has been designed to encourage a sustained, rigorous, and layered yet experimental, diffuse, and meandering consideration of walking and its associated activities, systems, and values. Between February and May 2005 we will bring to campus a diverse group of scholars, activists, and pedestrians to present ideas, engage in conversation, generate questions, tell stories, and, of course, walk. Supplementing and also weaving together this series of convergences will be a new interdisciplinary course about walking, an informal film series about place, a reading group, a series of informational and experimental walks and tours, production of a monthly sound collage for broadcast on local community radio stations, a museum exhibition, and a digital and print archive of all the events and activities. >from *walking as knowing as making: a peripatetic investigation of place*

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