The context of environment/place and its social ecology

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Payne, PG & Cutter-Mackenzie, A 2009, 'The context of environment/place and its social ecology', AARE 2009 Conference Proceedings: International education research conference, Canberra, 29 November - 3 Decembe, AARE.


The paper addresses the most salient contextual issues that underpin and extend the concepts of environment and place previously considered by Movement, Environment and Community (MEC) researchers. More specifically, the environmental context of their focus is on place- based imperatives as they occur in and through diverse environments, including natural/physical, wild/more-than-human, built/human-made, social/community and personal/individual environments. To contextualise place as a locus and focus of inquiry for pedagogical and research development this paper addresses two main contextualising concerns. The first is clarification of some central underpinning themes such as the moving body in space-time and, therefore, the ecocentric meaning-making qualities of experience that have been touched on previously by MEC researchers as they occur in various geographies and communities of physical activity at a larger macro level of social coordination and arrangement. The authors' second concern in this paper is to extend or apply the underpinning notions by providing some illustrative examples, or case study snapshots. At the deepest level of human experience, with powerful implications for education, such deep experience is constituted by time-space and the social contexts in which time and space are constructed, often in isolation from each other thus rendering any conception of place as problematic. Various social constructions of time—as cyclical, linear or digital will significantly shape the embodied nature of experiences of place and our perceptions and responsiveness to it. That is, time as a context in which various social constructions occur is, indeed, enigmatic. The enigmatic nature of various times sometimes makes its experience dissonant, even contradictory. In a 'fast' postmodern culture the embodied time-space experience is too often intensified and individualised. Such fast, accelerating and slow contexts of time remain a risk and challenge for how we might critically examine and experience place, sensing it, or even attaching to it, in education. Through drawing upon everyday issues in a built school environment the authors consider the intersections of environment-place and time-space within a broader social ecological framework. In presenting this case in 'context' they gesture towards a transdisciplinary understanding of environment-place signified by time-space.