About Me, Myself and I

Hi, a warm welcome and big thank you for taking the time to visit my blog site. I generally post thoughts, views, opinions, articles, photos etc and related content from other blogs, media etc, that I follow. I hope you will comment and if you feel like it, pass my site on to anyone you feel might enjoy reading it. I try to think outside the box and my learning in life so far seems to have worked for me. I respect independent thought, open to ideas old and new.

No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking (Voltaire) hence why I try to know when it’s right to   ‘Never Follow the Crowd’!

So, this is my blog for discussing all manner of things related to urban society, spatial and urban forms. I am a practicing urbanist and Dr of Urban Studies specialising in urban form and the social dimensions to sustainability at both individual and community levels. My particular focus of PhD study was on equity in access to local services: exploring the impacts of urban forms and the role of preferences. This was a multi-disciplinary PhD involving mixed-methods. It was funded by the EPSRC under the SUEI project, CityForm;  and undertaken within Heriot-Watt University’s newly created Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Environment and Real Estate at School of the Built Environment. This is based within the School of the Built Environment. My lead supervisor was the respected housing economist and urban studies expert, Professor Glen Bramley, and healthy planning advocate, Dr Caroline Brown. My thesis was externally  examined by Dr Karen Lucas, Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford.

I am an experienced social science researcher with a strong slant towards empiricism but if I were to describe what I am, it would probably be a cross between an urban social scientist-urban analyst. Thought: is calling one self an ‘Urbanist’ relevant, appropriate, give we all, the majority, tend to live in urban areas?! I am interested in public policy at a variety of scales and I care about social policy and welfare, spatial dynamics, resources, infrastructure, cities, towns, neighbourhoods, design, form, children, women and all underpinned by a natural, main antagonism and passion about the spatial world in time, in space, in place, in context. Urbanism and the city in its broadest sense. i.e. everything that creates chaos and is chaos in the urban context is my locus of focus and attention! I have key interests at the moment in planning, urban design and placemaking and a strong advocate of promoting the importance of the ‘towns’ debates to the urbanist cause.

My research interests are varied but as a mixed methods researcher, I use theoretical positions and perspectives to inform my empirical approaches. Conceptually, I am interested in equity and equality and how they are conceived and applied in the context of the spatial distribution of urban resources, the urban design, urban form, and the management of urban places and spaces. Other themes of my work include spatial accessibility planning, perceptual and cognitive responses to environments as well as the role of public service delivery within urban communities. I am interested in how we can better understand the social and physical spaces in how these can be better integrated and promoted at the mirco level of neighbourhoods.

I hate when people say ‘we should be more equal’ and the selective confusion applied to these concepts in an arbitrary and unhelpful fashion across academia and beyond (when the reality of human nature and agency ultimately makes us unequal). My mantra is that equity is like perfection: you can strive for it but you’ll never attain it. The best we can do is acknowledge it and try to ameliorate the unwanted manifestations of our exploited, commercial capitalist economic system. Until humans change to a world of shared values and collectively challenge social inequities, we can’t change much.

Prior to undertaking my PhD work, I was a Research Assistant at the Department of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow (http://www.gla.ac.uk/departments/urbanstudies/) where I worked with many a respected colleagues. I have degrees from the University and Glasgow (Scottish History and Social Policy M.A. Hons; M.Phil Urban Policy) and Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh (PhD Urban Studies). I was employed as a Programme Officer in Urbanism by Architecture and Design Scotland between July 2011-August 2012, working closely with Diarmaid Lawlor who heads up this unit.

As at October 2014, I am employed by the University of Stirling at the Institute for Retail Studies working with Professor Leigh Sparks, a formidable character in the Scottish Towns Partnership, a movement which is generating much interest across Scotland and beyond. I work across retail, planning, business rates at the moment where we are currently working with Glasgow & Clyde Valley Strategic Development Planning Authority (G&CVSDPA) addressing retail trends, impact and implications for their 23 network of centres.

So, I am especially interested in theoretically but mostly applied urban research including public policy and analysis, retail, housing and welfare reform, regeneration and planning, architecture and design, sustainability and placemaking, transport and accessibility. I do have hobbies. For instance, I’d like to write 2 books, a semi-fictitious murder mystery and a woman’s guide to achieving the work-life balance conundrum! Watch this space. I’d like to write novels for a living really! I love food (super food is my diet) and would-be-Chef – if I were to retrain into a new profession.

Creatively, I also appreciate and dabble in a little in art, creating it for my new house and I enjoy DIY and interior design. I love Nature and mountain-biking, running, gym, saunas, seasides and mountains, gardening, (a petrol-head too), and I love food and anything culinary. I am teaching myself to sing, write songs and poetry, playing the piano (lessons erm still ongoing!) and curiously attend (secretly) karaoke nights in Glasgow where no-one knows my howl (or miaow!). I speak German quite well – apparently – having lived and studied there, but I would love to learn French and Spanish as France is my favourite country in the world but Spanish food is what I like to eat (along with Italian!). I’d like to live in France and Spain when I am much older.

I live with my seven year old son in Govan, Glasgow, where I support and work with local groups trying hard to improve Govan from a resident’s perspective. My motto is ‘Think big, Act Small’!!

Disclaimer: I know nothing, but I know nothing is also something and something can be everything :)


Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarolEllenMcken

One thought on “About Me, Myself and I

  1. Well done Carol, you work hard and dedicated in all you do, shows great strength of character and determination. It’s a joy to have you as a daughter and produce such a beautiful boy as Gabriel, shows how many things you can do with your time, it’s amazing!

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