28 Months Later – an on-line community responds to bunkerology
September 10, 2012 7 Comments
A fascinating thread has erupted today on the www.28dayslater.co.uk urbex webforum. It seems my 2010 Masters dissertation on one aspect of that site’s urbex culture-forming has suddenly inflamed debate. My study looked at how accounts of exploration of former Royal Observer Corps (ROC) mini-bunkers (small underground Cold War stations for monitoring fall out clouds) circulated within that forum and helped to shape at least that aspect of urbex practice. For convenience I adopted the term ‘bunkerology’ (it was a shorter description than ‘the bit of urban exploration that involves seeking out ROC Posts’).
In summer 2010 I’d sent them a copy of my dissertation out of courtesy, but didn’t hear anything until today. Anyway, the forum’s thread makes fascinating reading. I will resist the urge to analyse how most of the contributors seem to be echoing one particular line of attack. That might seems condescending (and I never intended my study to be that, and don’t intend to start that now).
The thread is at:
What struck me reading through (3 pages so far on the thread) was that my critics don’t actually say what I’ve missed in my attempt to understand their account-writing practice through studying the accounts posted there. Instead the consensus seems to be that my dissertation is unreadable, not written by a “doer” and fundamentally misses the point (although what the missed-point is, is left unsaid).
The posters sound rather bruised by academic infiltration – whether shallow (as is my charge) or deep (of the Bradley Garrett variety). This isn’t a great surprise. Who wants to be put under the microscope and intellectualised? (well, some people probably…).
Suffice it to say that I will follow the thread with interest. And if someone could actually spell out what’s wrong with my interpretation of their account-making practices, and what I failed to spot or understand then that would be even better.
The one exception so far is a poster who goes by the name ‘The Littlest Jellyfish’ who flags that s/he’s got a paper in peer review that will take issue with my analysis. More than happy to hear that – and I look forward to reading that paper. The more the merrier.
Reflecting on the unspecified criticism of his peers on the forum The Littlest Jellyfish states helpfully:
“But I don’t see too much wrong with Luke’s paper (here) or indeed his whole Masters thesis (elsewhere). It’s one thing to criticise it constructively, but it’s another to write it off with the whole pride-in-ignorance ‘I didn’t understand it, therefore it’s shit’.”
This debate isn’t new, and if anyone wants to see me and Bradley Garrett locked horns over my 2011 article in Environment & Planning D: Society and Space – his attack and my rebuttal, then here’s the link:
And if anyone wants to read short articles here that try to explain where I’m coming from try (in particular) the following:
In my response last year to Garrett’s attack, in my dissertation itself and in my subsequent articles I’ve acknowledged the ‘onlooker’ aspect of my study – and have explained my background. As a middle aged academic with connections both to recreational and landowner stakeholders it would not have been possible or appropriate for me to ‘do’ hardcore urbex.
If anyone wants to debate whether ‘armchair’ studies have any validity then I’m happy to take up that challenge.