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radical geography. part one: introduction. the geography is dead school of thought. Have globalization and modern technology have rendered distance and place irrelevant, or at least less relevant than before?

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radical geography

radical geography

part one: introduction

the geography is dead school of thought
the geography is dead school of thought

Have globalization and modern technology have rendered distance and place irrelevant, or at least less relevant than before?

Facebook * distance learning * telecommuting * global shopping mall culture = liberation from geography, borders, the physical world?

the geography matters school
the geography matters school
  • local culture, customs, and arrangements of space actually have a lot of power.
  • This story about the world being flat just doesn't hold up in reality.
  • Communities around the world are reengaging with activities that give them a “sense of place”, like buying local produce at farmer’s markets, and they’re also discovering the wonder in other places from around the world (cumbia music, Bollywood films, Japanese anime, Egyptian belly dance, Afghan kebobs...)
  • “Distance, as measured in an absolute sense, is indeed less important, but place, space, locality and relative distance between these things are not. ‘Global’ processes are really stretched ‘local to local processes, and they unfold in localities that have a unique history and character.” (Geographies of Globalization, Warwick Murray, 2006)
why radical geography
Why radical geography?
  • – we have an inner need for "sense of place," psychologically & spiritually. We’re getting bored of the blandscapes around us, and we want a connection to the land & to real living beings. Living without relation to place is hard on the soul.
  • – if we know something about the space around us, we're less likely to destroy the environment, or allow it to be destroyed.
why radical geography5
Why radical geography?
  • – we need to be more aware of geography in order to address the inequalities and imbalances of our time. Six out of ten young Americans can’t identify Iraq on a map (in a 2005 study); fewer than three in 10 think it is important to know the locations of countries in the news.
why radical geography6
Why radical geography?

To summarize: the ecocrises (ecological & economic) making themselves apparent in this century can be viewed through a spatial lens. They have been caused in part by poor relationships to space, and they can be solved by reorganizing how we use space and reconnecting to space.

Radical geography strives to perceive the problems with the way we use space and considers active ways to solve these problems.

global awareness
global awareness

this map was created by fivethirtyeight.com in response to the idea that global warming would only lessen global GDP by 5% * it shows a world with the countries which consume 5% of the GDP erased

changing space and place
changing space and place

In the U.S., we no longer experience the world on the scale of a pedestrian (relative to our ancestors, anyway). As Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust: A History of Walking:

“The body is nothing more than a parcel in transit, a chess piece dropped on another square; it does not move but is moved.”

changing space and place10
changing space and place

The way we experience space and place is changing, due to …

* technology

  • economic interests / economic coercion (streetcar conspiracy, strip malls, etc.)
  • social factors (gated communities, fear…)

What are the implications of this?

changing space and place11
changing space and place

"Transported every which way from childhood through adolescence, young people lose their independence. They fail to expand their horizons, to see new surroundings, or to acquire independence and liberty on their own. The outside world dominated by the road bores, and television or computer games beckon. A study comparing ten-year-olds in a small, walkable Vermont town and youngsters in a new Orange County suburb showed a marked difference. The Vermont children had three times the mobility, i.e., the distance and places they could get to on their own, while those in Orange County watched four times as much television." — Jane Holtz Kay, Asphalt Nation

changing space and place12
changing space and place

These changes aren’t always disastrous, though – the new technology of the bicycle helped women become more mobile

space and culture
space and culture
  • Our use of space shapes our culture, health, and psychology.
  • Therefore, all of us should think about space, not just geographers, architects, or planners— because we all are affected by the space around us and how we interact with it!
  • But it's interesting to think about how other cultures experience space. Consider: in Western culture, mountains are symbols of power to be climbed and conquered (think of all the English guys climbing the Himalayas back in the day, etc.) However,
  • “In Japan mountains have been imagined as the centers of vast mandalas spreading across the landscape like, in one scholar's words, 'overlapping flowers,' and approaching the center of the mandala means approaching the source of spiritual power—but the approach may be indirect.” (Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust)
space and culture14
space and culture
  • How we interpret a landscape depends on our culture.
  • So: our use of space changes our culture, and our culture shapes our use of space... it's beginning to seem like an endless cycle.
  • We might ask— where does this "culture" come from? Religious views inform our cosmology, to some extent, as in the Japanese pilgrims that used to walk around mountains, believing it was sacrilegious to ascend to the summits.
space and culture15
space and culture
  • How we interpret our environments is also informed by the existing economic (and political) system.
  • Ownership: "Imagine the countryside as a vast body. Ownership pictures it divided into economic units like internal organs, or like a cow divided into cuts of meat, and certainly such division is one way to organized a food-producing landscape, but it doesn't explain why moors, mountains, and forests should be similarly fenced and divided.." (Solnit, Wanderlust, 162)
  • We understand space to be used for certain tasks or activities, because of how the economic system is constructed: shopping space / office parks / residential neighborhoods / recreational space / etc…
space and culture16
space and culture
  • Can we consciously decide how we want to experience space?
  • What does that look and feel like?
  • Is it psychological – not feeling out of place or intimidated when in a “bad” neighborhood or in a corporate office park?
  • Is it active – does it demand re-engineering / revising the built environment, or re-purposing existing spaces, to suit human health & happiness?
  • How can we encourage others to re-imagine the space around them (us)? What cultural changes need to take place?