Why is Geography boring?

I watched a BBC4 documentary on my TVDrive last night (Yes it is sort of working now – for everything but LOST !) a programme called “Journeys into the ring of Fire” which looked at how the physical environment of Japan had effected things like urban settlement patterns and even the Japanese national character… does this sound like Geography to you ? Well the presenter is a geologist and all of the above is actually according to the programme due to Geology.

OK maybe I am a little sensitive about this, but the programme coincided with an email i got from David Rayner who is running a campaign to improve the profile of Geography in the media called “Give Geography its
Place”
.

David does have a point I think, the GIS industry has worked hard to lose the Geography label coming up with terms like spatial and geospatial.. why ?

What is wrong with describing what we do as Geography ?

ESRI UC Logo

I’m on my way to the ESRI UC next week, and it good to see that they at least are still proud to be geographers, and what better call to action could a discipline want then the conference title “Geography Communicating Our World”

4 comments

  1. Thierry

    Completely agree, though geography being so broadly spread across many disciplines, we will always be competing against experts in the domains we interface with. As long as they are raising the right issues I think we need to be philosophical about geologists or others stealing the limelight (in the energy industry i am dealing with this every day…). As Truman once said, it is amazing what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.

    It’s when schools start dropping geography classes that alarm bells need to go off – so thanks for the pointer to the David Rayner campaign. Also the RGS is running a scheme where you can sponsor schools for GBP 70 p.a. to get access to their vast geography teaching resources, I have enlisted a number of schools around the world with this and initial feedback is very encouraging – for more details see the RGS website at

    http://www.rgs.org/OurWork/Schools/Resources/Geography+in+the+News/Geography+in+the+News.htm

  2. Marc

    I could not disagree more – Geographers don’t have any exclusive rights to a particular aspects of geographical knowledge in the same way that Historians don’t have a lock on studying history or that only Philosophers may know anything about philosophy. It would be a much poorer world if such silly boundaries of knowledge were enforced. The academic subject study of “geography” (versus ‘what is the Capitol of Botswana?’) has always been amorous, shifting over time as it has and often flirting with the latest academic fads. One might argue that each academic discipline has a core basis of accepted knowledge/learning but you’d be hard pressed to find many “Geographers” agreeing on what exactly this is or what their discipline of study actually covers (and conversely what it doesn’t include). This situation has the benefit of allowing its practitioners a great deal of latitude of studying what interests them but also means that Geography regularly suffers an identify crisis – particularly when times are tough in academia. Some Geographers may claim that they integrate and ‘synthesis’ knowledge from other disciplines into a ‘geographical’ context, but this alone is a ludicrous justification for any academic discipline.

    In your example you could have equally argued that Asian Historians, Urban Planners, and Cultural Anthropologists should have been among the presenters of this program rather than exclusively a Geologist. Why would a Geographer be required?

    So what to do? Firstly “Geographers” should stop whining how “others” are stepping into their territory – it comes across has petty and the other disciplines could equally argue that the opposite is true and they’d be right. Secondly, you gain credibility by doing. The public at large (including those taxpayers paying for academia) care more about the generation of insights than about the exact nickpicking what of academic discipline studies what. Geography being the small and relatively weak academic discipline that it is (especially outside of the U.K.) would probably benefit greatly by joining forces with other disciplines, such as Geology, and hopefully getting equal credit/publicity/exposure.

    The above applies equally well to the topics of spatial analysis, cartography, and “geographic information systems” – it would be a mistake for “Geographers” to think that they ‘own’ these particular knowledge domains.

  3. Ed

    Marc,

    I don’t accept that Geographers are trying to establish exclusive rights over areas of academic study, the Give Geography its place campaign is about recognising Geography as a discipline in the first place.. When was the last time you saw a Geographer on the National Geographic Channel?

    I don’t see why the integration and synthesis of information based on location is of any less academic value than looking down a microscope or use a gene-splicer ?

  4. Seb

    geography is just plain BORING! ok?

    get over it!
    i’m 13! i go to school and we have to do geography!

    gosh! we can learn to read a map from just looking at it! its not that hard!

    seriously! its geography! nobody really likess it!

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