Reading Reflection: Tim Ingold’s Ways of Walking

Our principal contention is that walking is a profoundly social activity: that in their timings, rhythms and inflections, the feet respond as much as does the voice to the presence and activity of others.

Ingold & Vergunst, Ways of Walking

Tim Ingold and his colleagues assembled a collection of essays titled Ways of Walking, an anthropological study of cultural and historical reasons that people walk. Ingold, now a retired Professor Emeritus, was Chair of the Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen at the time, with a history of exploring pedestrian movement. (An earlier post reviewed a previous Ingold book, Lines: A Brief History, delving into his views of the evolution of trails.)

The Ways of Walking book resulted from a 3-day retreat at the University of Aberdeen called “the walking seminar” that brought together researchers from across the UK and beyond. Many of the chapters explore the role of walking in different cultures, including Lye’s examination of the Batek hunter-gatherers, Legat’s juxtaposition of storytelling and walking by the Dene, and Widlok’s comparison of the ancient San’s way of walking and modern GPS-driven approaches. There’s also a nod to the examination of walking in urban landscapes, including in chapters by Lavadinho, Curtis, and Lucas.

I must admit that my favorite part of the book is the walking seminar that birthed it. The seminar reminded me of our original Tech on the Trail workshop, which brought together a diverse group of external experts with a large collection of Virginia Tech scholars. It was awesome to be part of the idea exchange, and the collaborations that were established and have continued are invaluable–culminating in our HCI Outdoors book. Ingold’s Aberdeen retreat seems to have had a similar effect.

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