All posts tagged Cork

  • Christmas Lights

    Christmas lights are one of the most prominent ways in which the festive season makes a (visual) impact on the landscape. This part of the world has, over the past 10-15 years, witnessed increased participation in the practice of illuminating the exterior of houses and gardens with Christmas lights. This has been seen as one of the many Christmas practices which the Irish and the British have adopted from the North Americans. In the Republic of Ireland, the adoption of Christmas lights can be linked to the display-of-wealth and neighbourly-competitiveness that accompanied the Celtic Tiger in the 2000s.

    Based on a desire to explore the light displays in Cork and to compose a blog-post, I, along with my girlfriend (research associate), drove around the city in search of illuminations. The meandering route had vague destinations that were intermixed with random detours and wanderings. Upon the discovery of a noteworthy house – based entirely on our opinions on the richness and quantity of the displays – we slowed down, stopped momentarily and took a photo with a standard digital camera. The nature of the photos were influenced by the quality of the device, the inclement weather and the desire not to linger excessively outside private residences.

    In journeying, we speculated on the topic of Christmas lights as the focus of a PhD study, and found that with little effort a considerable range of social and cultural factors could be linked to the displays, including variation based on socio-economic areas, the meaning behind decorating a house, the influence of US American culture, any possible cluster of displays, the opinions of the owners, neighbours and passers-by, and so on. As with all good academic musing, the subject at hand was successfully related to all major social, cultural, political and economic issues, both historical and contemporary.

    A number of brief observations were made throughout the evening’s engagement with the Christmas illuminated landscape. Firstly, there did seem to be a general correlation between the displays and socio-economic areas, with working-class and lower-middle class areas having a greater number of very elaborate displays, compared to the more sombre illuminations of middle-class areas. In fact, many middle-class areas were devoid of exterior lights, although there was usually some effort an internal illumination, such as Christmas trees or candle arches in the windows. Next, there were several instances of clustering effects, with a number of houses in a row having similar types and scales of decorations – this may lead to observations of competitiveness, social norms and other factors.

    Thirdly, this is a night-time spectacle. Christmas lights and such decorations are enjoyed, consumed and noticed in the dark, while in daylight the wires are visible, the shapes obscure and the overall impression is absent. The illumination of the landscape in the dark hours of the winter symbolises the role of the festivities in Northern Europe, as the dreary night-time is transformed by the injection of complex and coloured arrangements of lights.

    Christmas Lights 12 1

    A series of rows and strings of light on a house near Ballintemple, although being an plentiful display it is still largely within the character of the house and surrounding area, as the lights are attached to the architecture features and shrubbery, thus, highlighting what is already present.

    CL 12 2

    This display near Ballinlough has additional lighted features, such as the reindeer and Santa climbing, which make it a distinct spectacle, especially as the surrounding residences mainly lack exterior illuminations.

    Cl 12 3

    The presence of candle arches in each of the windows creates a subtle Christmas display in this house near Ballyphehane. These arches, which originated in Northern European tradition, became very popular about 20 years ago, and can be found in the windows of many houses.

    CL 12 4

    A very elaborate illuminated collection covers this town house near Churchfield. The intensity of the display is emphasised by the fact that the entirety of the front of the house seems to be adorned with some feature or other. The photo captures a fraction of the sheer glow of the scene.

    CL 12 5

    The giant blow up Santa and snowman in front of this house near Ballyvolane make this a relatively unique display.

    Suggested reading: 

    Edensor and Millington (2009) ‘Illuminations, Class Identities and the Contested‘, Sociology, 43 (1), pp. 103 -121.

  • Railings at St Olan’s

    The photo is focused on one of the railings by St Olan’s Well, Aghbullogue, Cork. The well is located next to a bend on the road, on the outside, where a railing, made up of a number of metal posts and two chains running parallel, separates the well-space from the road. The railings, which are each topped by a cross, and the chains are painted black, and the crosses white – which creates a nice feature. Although, the wearing of the chains as left many of the links with rusty patches. Blurred in the backround is the well’s beehive-structure and the Whitethorn tree that is growing out of it, and, to the right, a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart.

    The railings and similar features may not initially seem to be that significant; however, these components all contribute to the place and its character. Places can be considered to be assemblages of different elements, including natural features, representations, practices and objects. In this context, the St Olan’s well-space is the combined result of the well, the structure, the location, the performances of devotions, the railings and much more. As well as being an aesthetically pleasant focus, this photo literally foregrounds the role of elements such as the railings, which may otherwise be considered incidental.

  • Rag Tree St Gobnait’s Cork

    A collection of photos concerning the rag tree at St Gobnait’s monastic site in Ballyvourney, Co Cork. Clockwise from bottom left: a selection of larger objects at the base of the tree, including a motorbike helmet, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, candle holders and flowers; a profile view of the rag tree located next to St Gobnait’s Well (obscured behind the tree) and the strips of material – from which these trees gain their name – hanging off different branches; a close perspective of very personal votive offerings, such as a keyring, a pen and lengths of wool, whose true meaning is only known to those who left them here; a number of rosary beads hanging together; a significant number of memorial cards and photos are pinned to tree, reinforcing its role as a place for personal reflection and communal expressions of grief.

  • Sharing Cork

    Sharing Cork was a project I ran as an experiment for Geography Awareness Week 2012. I was interested in  developing an online project and engaging with social media.

    This year was the first time there was a Geography Awareness Week national programme being run in Ireland, with the Geographical Society of Ireland (GSI) in conjunction with the Association of Geography Teachers in Ireland (AGTI) coordinating the events. Sharing Cork was run as part of this, which assisted in its promotion.

    Sharing Cork was an online project which centred on my home city of Cork. It aimed to use social media to crowd-source contributions. I asked people to record (photo, video, audio recording, drawing etc) a part of their daily life and share it. Emphasis was put on the everyday angle behind the project.

    Participation in the project was explained as being as simple as ‘Record, Share, Enjoy’. Someone was to take a photo (or make a video, record audio, drawing or painting) of a place, activity or encounter from our daily life. Then, they shared it using  email, Twitter, Facebook, or by sharing a link from a site/page where they hosted their materials (eg. youtube, flicker, wordpress, audioboo).  Contributions were gathered, collated and shared in one place (via this site) for everyone to enjoy and hopefully learn from it.

    As well as being an interesting project for Geography Week, I intended to use it as a means of engaging with social media as a tool and to practice developing a site and online project. I consider it a success in terms of the latter motivation. I was able to use WordPress to generate a site and then link it in with social media. That link proved essential as both the Twitter and Facebook incarnations of the project generated specific interactions and contributions. The experiment with social media was limited in its impact, but nonetheless it showed the potential for the use of these platforms in research.

    Overall, I was reasonably pleased with the endeavour. The technical aspects worked, I got some contributions and I am more convinced than ever  about the growing role that social media and the web will play in research.

    The stats

    Website: It received 187 views (a unknown, but sizeable portion were from me). Monday 12th Nov was the day it received the most views, with 72 hits.

    Facebook page: 37 Likes (15 of whom are friends of mine on Facebook); the ‘Reach’, the number of individual people who have seen a post, of individual posts ranged from 0 to 43; there were 33 posts on the page, 26 of which were by me.

    Twitter: The twitter account had 43 followers, with it following 125 accounts – most followers seem to respond to being followed (especially since most were Cork-based organisations or businesses who have an interest in generating and connecting with followers). The account received 15 mentions and 19 retweets, 10 of which were by me via other accounts.

    Improvements for next year

    If I am going to do this, or something like it, next year (or in the use of websites and social media for my research), there are several lessons learnt:

    • Start early and promote in the lead up: I developed the project late, within a few days of the actual Week, and had little time to get the word out.
    • Engage with people and organisations that have strong social media presence: A retweet or a posting form the right person or organisation can have a significant impact. Also, contributions can be solicited from people or representatives directly.
    • Be persistent  In the ‘shallow’ online world, which has little memory, you need to ensure you have a continuing presence and relevance.

    Some Contributions

     

    Outside the Geography Building, UCC: 8am 2/11/12

    The WWI Memorial monument, South Mall, on 11th November, shortly before the commemoration event.

    St Finbarre’s Cathedral at night. While it looks beautifully lit here, one person I know who lives close finds the constant yellow glow in the sky a disturbance… (Courtesy of S. O’Connor).

    Foggy Cork, Glucksman Gallery, UCC (7.56am 15/11/12). It’s one of those foggy mornings that completely transforms the landscape, even in the city. While UCC is, in places, a green oasis within the city, this part of its character is emphasised in the fog, when visibility is limited. In the closeness of the fog everything seems quiet and isolated.

    Afternoon tea in the The Montenotte Hotel #gaw #sharingCork (Courtesy of M. Murphy).