I co-organised an unusual conference last week. Thinking on the Move hosted 11 sociological walks over two days, leading from a room at Goldsmiths College where we began and ended each day. I went on an infrastructural walk around Bermondsey, a digital mapping walk in Nunhead cemetery, a blindfolded sensory walk around New Cross and a sound walk along Norwood Ridge. These were a remarkable experience but one which was distinct from everyone else at the conference, with each participant choosing their own distinct path through the event.
It was exhausting. I walk a lot and I’m never this tired from 5 hours of walking. In the closing session someone observed that they hadn’t switched off once during the conference. It was an event which provided no space or inclination for the usual process of catching up on your e-mail. In this sense it was marked by an attentiveness and synchronisation of precisely the form we see advocated by those concerned with slow scholarship. However the event wasn’t slow. It was full of activity, with one leading immediately to the next. It was full of movement. But it was incomparably attentive. It’s a useful reminder that slowness and attentiveness aren’t the same thing.