Place Hacking: Tales of Urban Exploration

Bradley Garrett

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Urban exploration is a practice of researching, discovering and physically exploring temporary, obsolete, abandoned, derelict and infrastructural areas within built environments. Through charting the rise to prominence of a London urban exploration crew between 2008 and 2011, of which I became an active member, I posit that urban explorers are one of many groups reacting to increased surveillance and control over urban space by undertaking embodied urban interventions in the city that undermine clean spatio/temporal narratives.

The primary research questions stem from my attempts to interrogate the practice from the inside out: Who are urban explorers? What does it involve? Why do they do it? What do they think it will accomplish? While the thesis focuses primarily on 220 explorations undertaken with my primary ethnographic group in London between 2008 and 2011, it also speaks to the urban exploration “scene” that has developed over the past twenty years in cities all over the world.

The results that emerge from the research both compliment and complicate recent work within geography around issues of surveillance, resistance, hacking and urban community building and lays out a new account, never before outlined in such detail, of the tales of urban exploration taking place in contemporary cities across the globe.

This visual ethnography is comprised of text (75,000 words), photographs (200) and video (10 shorts). The ethnographic video components can be found on the Place Hacking video channel located at or on the DVD in the back of this document. I suggest watching all 10 short videos before reading the thesis.  
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cresswell, Timothy, Supervisor
  • Crang, Philip, Advisor
Award date1 Apr 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


  • Urban exploration
  • UE
  • Ethnography
  • Visual Methods
  • Media geography
  • Infiltration
  • Photography
  • Video
  • Infrastructure
  • London
  • Paris

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