iEnvironment

Where environment meets psychology.

Conference Season: Interdisciplinarity at its Best

My experience at EDRA 43.

It’s conference season! For many academics, the summer months are a time for travel, learning, and networking. We meet our colleagues face to face. Graduate students get to know other students and form important relationships with faculty members from other institutions. The results of months of research are brought to the scientific community. Feedback is gathered. Inspiration is rampant. It’s an all around good time.

In case some of you are learning about environmental psychology and wondering where its scholarly findings are disseminated, I thought I’d blog about what a conference focused on environment and behavior research is like. There are several annual meetings that catch the attention of environmental psychologists and practitioners in the design field. For architects, planners, designers, researchers, and social scientists, the annual Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference, and biennial congress of the International Association for People-Environment Studies (IAPS) are popular. EDRA advances and disseminates environmental design research to improve relationships between people and built and natural surroundings. Similarly, IAPS promotes dialogue, research, and collaboration in environment and behavior studies.

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This year, I attended the 43rd annual EDRA conference in Seattle, Washington. I spoke at EDRA 41 in 2010, so it was a pleasure to be invited again. If you’re interested in behavior, evidence-based design, facility evaluation, sustainability, community planning, universal design, or environmental psychology in general, an EDRA conference is an exciting place to be. I eagerly await the conference program every year. It can be exhilarating to choose which sessions to attend. I usually pick talks that appear similar to the projects I’m working on, or those that fit my interests in general. Sometimes I go to a session simply because I know the presenter (or because I want to know them!). It’s a nice break for graduate students like me—I can go to a session on a topic I know almost nothing about and just learn. No exam, no paper, no pressure. It’s a little like shopping—one can ‘try on’ new research themes, methodologies, or statistical procedures with no obligation to ‘buy.’ Simply listening to the findings of others is helpful and time saving for graduate students in particular. Seeing new (and often intimidating) methods used in the context of one’s own field builds confidence to research it further and perhaps use it in future work.

This year, I presented a synopsis of my Master’s thesis: “Organizational Commitment, Sense of Place, and ‘Green’ Urban Neighborhoods.” Thanks to those who attended at 8 o’clock on a Friday morning! I also attended talks on the architecture of public libraries, efficient intensive care unit designs, and urban sprawl prediction. One speaker gave an overview of how communication is affected by furniture set at different eye-levels. Another explained how different dining arrangements affected special care unit residents suffering from dementia. I also attended an intensive session on the possibility of performing post-occupancy evaluations on Olympic sites around the world (intensives are longer talks that encourage discussion among attendees about the topic).

So, if you’re interested in environmental psychology or architecture, conferences like EDRA and IAPS are excellent avenues to develop relationships, enhance knowledge, and collect resources about a variety of topics. Listening to the viewpoints of attendees working in various fields is always engaging. For me, conferences provide a much-needed infusion of fresh perspectives on my work and new ideas about how to work better. I inevitably come home with a host of projects to look into, and a list of names and email addresses to follow up with. Thank you to the organizers of these events, and to everyone who supports them by attending. Looking forward to next year!

Lindsay J. McCunn, MSc is a Ph.D. candidate in environmental psychology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

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