Monday, July 30, 2012

sensory research

Often my posts on this blog refer to the sensory aspects of pneumatic tubes. My PhD research paid attention to the sensory nature of doctors' adjustments in new hospitals, and my future research concerns the sensory practices of doctors-in-training. While I have, and will be, deliberately paying attention to the sensory dimensions of experience in hospital settings, often this can be overlooked in health care research. My PhD supervisor and I wrote an article that was published recently in Qualitative Health Research which attempts to heighten awareness of the sensory in qualitative health research, particularly in interviews, and I share it here in case some of you are interested.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

tube post

A marvellous postcard from Amsterdam arrived in the letterbox the other day - Thanks Andy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

conference in a box

Knowledge in a Box - How Mundane Things Shape Knowledge Production

Venue; Kavala, Greece
Municipal Tobacco Warehouse-Tobacco Worker Square (Dimotiki Kapnapothiki-Plateia Kapnergati)
Some highlights from a conference for lovers of boxes, tubes, packages and other everyday objects ....

Thursday 26 July 2012 
9:30-10:00 Cheng, Yi-Ping. Lancaster University 
The Flow and Storage of Things in Taiwanese’s Households: Things and Their Containers 

12:30-13:00 Goff, Alice. University of California, Berkeley 
Containing the Trees: The Schildbach Wood Library and the Eighteenth Century Box 

Friday, 27 July 2012 

13:00-13:30 Hammel, Tanja. University of Basel 
Botanical Knowledge in a Parcel 

13:30-14:00 Pettersson, Ylwa and Kandastar, Razia Asad. Museum Gustavianum, Uppsala 
The Travels of Folke Linder: As Traced by his Microscope Box 

Saturday, 28 July 2012 

11:00-11:30 Mechler, Ulrich. Medizin und Pharmaziehistorische Sammlung Uni Kiel 
Lymph Nodes in Folders – an Experimental System in Pathological Borderlands 

12:30-13:00 Rentetzi, Maria. National Technical University of Athens 
Calibrating Radiotherapy Equipment: Sending TLD’s in Postal Boxes 
Sunday, 29 July 2012 

11:30-12:00 Ma, Li. Nesna University College, Norway 
From Tokens in Envelopes to Clay Tablets: On The Early development of Writing, Counting and Mathematics 
For more information see:
Local contact: Maria Rentetzi,

Image from askpang's Flikr page.

Monday, July 16, 2012

irish pneumatics

I attended a medical sociology conference in Belfast recently, at the beautiful Queen's University. I wasn't expecting to talk about pneumatic tubes here (although Belfast is famous for a pneumatic invention of another kind), but rather about the healthcare professions.

One morning as I was preparing for the conference, I was listening to the BBC news and pneumatic tubes appeared on the hotel TV screen. A new hospital was opening its doors in Wolf Lough, near Enniskillen. The first new hospital to be built in Northern Ireland in over a decade, a sign of further rejuvenation of this previously troubled area.

Amongst the other "state to the art technology" being showcased was a "vacuum transfer system" to "allow for drugs, products and lab reports to be transferred around the hospital without being totally reliant on porters. It will also help speed up the discharge of patients who are often delayed awaiting prescriptions".

The hospital is said to epitomise "everything that is modern in a 21st century health service". There are no wards, just single rooms, each complete with flatscreen TVs and floor to ceiling windows said to promote therapeutic healing. The Royal College of Nursing is worried that there aren't enough nurses for this new layout.

Not enough nurses, too many porters. Although more nurses and porters are being hired for the hospital, these new hospital designs are shifting divisions of labour on the wards. What does it mean that the vacuum transfer system will make the hospital less reliant on porters? How will the work load of nurses change with these single bed rooms? Are architects now becoming a new healing profession, with their therapeutic window designs?

Pneumatic tube technologies and other aspects of contemporary hospital design raise these kinds of questions about how healthcare professions are continually evolving, and I had plenty to think about while joining the discussions at Queen's.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

going underground

Travel underground to a conference that examines the subterranean nervous system of London: the tube.
Deadline in two days! 13th July 2012. See CfP below: 

Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
A Conference to Mark the 150th Anniversary of the London Underground

10 January 2013 will mark the 150th Anniversary of the public opening of the Metropolitan Railway in London. It was the world’s first urban rapid transport system to run partly in subterranean sections. As the precursor of today’s London Underground, it was not only a pioneer of technological and engineering advances, but also instigated new spatial, political, cultural and social realms that are now considered to be synonymous with London and modern urban experiences across the globe.

The Centre for Metropolitan History, Institute of Historical Research, is marking the anniversary by organising a two-day conference dedicated to the history and use of the London Underground.

Taking the construction and opening of the Metropolitan Railway as a departure point, this conference seeks to explore the past, present and future of the London Underground from a variety of perspectives that investigate its histories, geographies, cultures, politics and social characteristics.  

The conference organisers invite proposals for papers of 15-20 minutes in length. Please visit the conference website for further details:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

tubes: behind the scenes

Referencing the infamous Ted Stevens comment about the internet, Andrew Blum has written a book simply titled Tubes. 

The book may be of interest to some readers of this blog, not only for the title, but also because, according to the New York Times book review, it examines the materiality of technology. Here is a section from the book:
I have confirmed with my own eyes that the Internet is many things, in many places. But one thing it most certainly is, nearly everywhere, is, in fact, a series of tubes. There are tubes beneath the ocean that connect London and New York. Tubes that connect Google and Facebook. There are buildings filled with tubes, and hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and railroad tracks, beside which lie buried tubes. Everything you do online travels through a tube.

I haven't read the book but am intrigued, not only by Blum's pursuit of fibre cables, but also by another section of the book quoted in the book review, where Blum learns that the Internet in has a smell, "one he describes as 'an odd but distinctive mix of industrial strength air-conditioners and the ozone released by capacitors'". This reminds me of the smell of engine rooms I have visited to see the hub of pneumatic tube activity. So often the sensory dimensions of the internet are forgotten in the focus on the ephemeral and virtual, but this technology too, so this book promises to tell us, also has multisensory, material dimensions.

Thanks Andy for the link.