Ward, M. (2016), 'Swimming in a contained space: understanding the experience of indoor lap swimmers', Health & Place (in press)

Abstract: Drawing on ethnographic work, this paper explores the convergence of bodies, materialities and practices found at the indoor swimming pool – a space that has not often been the subject of geographical study, in spite of the fact that swimming is one of the most popular forms of exercise in countries such as the UK. The paper focuses on the “contained” nature of the indoor pool environment, examining the distinct experience this can create for lap swimmers. This focus is placed in the context of a broader politics of exercise, with an emphasis on the popularity and potential benefits of swimming, as well as less encouraging facts about participation and facility provision, suggesting that in order to encourage further uptake of swimming and preservation of swimming facilities the voices and experiences of regular swimmers should be considered.

Ward, M. (2014), 'The Art of Writing Place', Geography Compass, 8, pp. 755-766

Abstract: This paper provides an overview of recent work by academic geographers who use creative approaches to writing, both structurally and linguistically, to explore and advance themes relating to space and place. It places this work in the context of other contemporary engagements with creative practices in cultural geography and sets out some of the possibilities for, as well as the challenges associated with, a “creative-critical” approach to writing geography. It outlines several ways in which this approach can help cultural geographers engage with certain ideas about place through a focus on three particular themes: (1) the idea of place as something fluid and always-becoming; (2) the relationship between the body and place; and (3) the spatiality of text.

'Self-portraits of a Surgeon: Geographer-self', Landscape Surgery Blog, 3rd December 2013


'Towards geographies of everyday sports', RGS-IBG International Conference, Exeter, 3rd September 2015

This talk, delivered with colleague Simon Cook, introduced two sessions that we convened on everyday sport, themselves part of a series of linked sessions on the geographies of sport, at this year's RGS-IBG annual conference. We set out a very brief history of sports geography, and suggested some ideas about what a new geography of everyday sport might involve, using an overview of my own research as one example. 

'Bodies of water: discomfort, unpleasantness, and the complex materialities of the indoor swimming pool', Landscape Surgery, London, 5th May 2015

This was an expanded talk based on a paper that was read out on my behalf at this year’s AAG annual meeting. My PhD research explores the geographies of lap swimming and the convergence of bodies, materialities, and practices of the indoor swimming pool. In this talk I focused on the materialities of everyday lap swimming practice, with a particular emphasis on elements which may provoke anxiety or discomfort in swimmers: water, chlorine, hair, plasters, snot, sweat, mould, etc. Thematic points of discussion after the talk included:

- The pool as landscape/what happens when your landscape is effectively reduced to 25 metres of tiled floor?
- Ideas of comfort/discomfort in the context of exercise and the body (and the sites/environments where this takes place)
- The role that individual experience, memory, mood, association play on perception of material components / vice versa
- Ideas around enclosure and intrusion

Read more on the Landscape Surgery website.

'"An embodied act and process”: place, text, and the body in geographical writing', Landscape Surgery, London, 17th March 2015

This was delivered as part of a special HARC-sponsored seminar called 'Texts in Place/Place in Texts', co-organised by Geography and English at RHUL. My paper examined the role of writing in geographical scholarship about place, focusing particularly on the potential to use “creative-critical” forms of writing to explore relationships between body and place through engagement with both the physicality of the act of writing as well as the spatiality of the text. By looking at a certain kind of geographical writing, one which is perhaps a bit more fluid and freeform than traditional scholarly writing but which nevertheless has some underlying geographical agenda, I attempted to conceptualise texts as: records of bodily engagements with place; bodily engagements with place themselves; and sites for further engagement with place (and its layers) via the space opened up between reader and author. You can read a write-up of the event at the Landscape Surgery website.

'How to do things with words: writing and geography', Landscape Surgery, London, 15th October 2013

Gave a 20-minute talk called “Word/play” about the role of language in describing and creating place, ways of practicing/playing with writing in (and beyond) geography, and embodiment and writing. This was juxtaposed with talks by colleagues Katie Boxall and Liz Haines, and concluded with 15 minutes of Q&A. A podcast discussion of the seminar is available from the Landscape Surgery website

'Writing Augmented Place', RGS-IBG International Conference, London, 29th August 2013

Gave a 15-minute paper based on research and reading conducted during the first year of my PhD. I outlined an approach to doing geography "creatively", honing in on the use of writing as a form of engagement with geographical concepts, and argued that in particular, this approach offers a way into the multiplicity and fluidity of place, as it is both representing and representative of a place's various layers and multiple personalities. I then drew a connection between how this layered quality of place is revealed and enacted by certain online interactions with place, and suggested possibilities for creatively writing not just place but "augmented place" - that is, place in the relatively new context of the internet age, whereby what happens online and what happens offline are increasingly and inextricably entwined.