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Introductory Lecture GEOG 2200 2012.docx

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GEOG 2200
John Milton

Page | 1 Introductory Lecture. What in the World is Going on with the World? Introducing the Course GEOG 2200, Global Connections, Fall Semester 2012 John Milton, Instructor How are we connected? • In what ways are we connected? • How are these connections made possible? This course is about making connections: • between different aspects of human activities us next door to us and on the ‘other’ side of the world; • between the changes and challenges being felt at different places defined at different geographic scales; and • between conditions in the past, the present and the future. Introducing the Course Deliverables for this course include: • A series of weekly on-line quizzes based upon the lectures and assigned readings for that week; • Two assignments; and • A Final Examination. What is the most important issue today in your opinion? Jobs -- Energy -- Financial crisis -- Terrorism/security -- Climate change -- Health care: The list goes on and on. We live in a world of increasing interdependence in which the economic and social well-being of countries, regions and cities everywhere depend on increasingly complex interactions framed at the global scale. • How might we understand both the general economic forces and socioeconomic relationships that connect specific places, or the local, and its unique features? Oil as an Example Let’s take energy and more specifically oil, as an example here. What impacts on the price of oil and, as an extension of this, gas? • Hurricanes in the Gulf. Terrorism in the Middle East and its impact on the security of supply from that crucial region. A strike at a refinery in the US. The promise of the oil sands in Alberta. Higher demand in China and India. Issues associated with energy, and oil, impacts upon us in many ways. As events unfold it is becoming increasingly clear how fragile our society is, based upon oil. • To make a more general observation: behind every commodity, good or service, is a complex geography that links different people and places together. Page | 2 Looking for the Hidden Story Ultimately, this is the purpose of this course. I want you: • to think critically about the dynamics and sets of relations behind the things that we buy or consume in some other way; • to think critically about the complex histories that connect the present both to the past and the future; • to think critically about the idea of global connections from the perspective of your field of study, your discipline; and • when I say critically, I mean to question and challenge what you have been told is the status quo, or the way things are. Approaching Questions of global Connection – Research and Thought Geographers introduce three spatial concepts to the study of any question: • Space • Place • Scale In much of the research and thought of economic and development geographers focuses on three key forces: • Globalization; • Uneven development; and • The role of place. Theme 1: Globalization and connections across space What do we mean by globalization? [p.315*] • Globalization refers to “the growing connections and linkages between people and firms located in different places, manifested in increased flows of goods, services, money, information and people across national and continental borders” (MacKinnon and Cumbers 2007:2). • This has been facilitated by advances in information/communications technology and advances in transportation. • Some have argued that globalization is bringing about ‘the end of geography.’ Thomas Friedmann in 2005 argued that new technologies are creating an undifferentiated, or flat, world. Geographers beg to differ with Friedmann. • De Blij, as you will read for next week, rejects this idea. • Globalization is creating the opposite effect, resulting in different outcomes in different places. Today’s world is characterized by huge inequalities in wealth and other social and cultural variables that go into our ‘quality of life.’ • Processes of globalization have also triggered a counter-force of sorts, termed ‘glocalisation’ or the re-emergence of localities and their identities. • These processes operate not only politically but economically too, creating unique regions. Page | 3 The advances in ICT and transportation technologies have described as ‘space-shrinking’ technologies resulting in what David Harvey in 1989 described as a ‘time-space compression’ as it becomes easier and cheaper to move money and information across space. [p.833] • This is not an entirely novel process: “a previous ‘round of time-space compression occurred towards the end of the nineteenth-century through interventions such as the railways, steamships, the telegraph and the telephone which allowed goods, information and money to be moved far more rapidly than ever before” (MacKinnon and Cumbers 2007:5). There has also emerged ever more complex commodity chains that link together the production and supply of raw materials, the processing of these materials, the processing of components, the assembly of finished products, and the distribution, sales and consumption of these products. • These commodity chains involve a range of different organizations and actors including, as examples, farmers, miners, mining and plantation companies, component suppliers, manufacturers, sub-contractors, transport operators, distributors, retailers, consumers. Theme 2: Uneven development Uneven development is an inherent feature of capitalism. [p.867] • Growth and investment tend to become concentrated in particular locations. This might be due to its geographical position, resource base, the availability of capital, and the skills and capabilities of the local workforce and/or social traits such as security. • As such a location begins to grow, it tends to such in further capital, labour and resources from surrounding regions. The processes of uneven development occur at different geographical scales: • At the global level, there is a marked divergence between the ‘core’ of North America, Western Europe, Japan and the ‘periphery’ of the ‘global South’ of Asia, Latin America and Africa. • Within individual countries between regions. • Divides even exist at the local level, within cities (and between cities and the surrounding rural). Economic development is highly dynamic. • Circumstances and relationships are constantly shifting due to new technologies and new forms of consumer demands. (Consider, for example, the emergence and then re- defining of industrial districts.) • Patterns of uneven development periodically restructure as capital moves from one location to another. • As a result, new growth regions emerge while others stagnate and decline. And again this happens at all three scales. Theme 3: The importance of place Yet, while we might operate across space, we exist in place. We act in specific places. The philosopher, Edward Casey, wrote that we are ‘placelings.’ [pp.582-584] • Uneven development creates an uneven geography. • Similarly, we associate different regions with different resources. Page | 4 • While the manufacturing regions might have weakened, new regions have emerged reflecting new economies and industries. • As the world has increasingly become driven by the “Knowledge Society,” the world has also become increasingly characterized by regions of innovation. Page | 5 But it would be wrong to see places as homogeneous or clearly bounded areas. • This was the principle critique of the regional geography of pre-World War II that attempted to organize the world into unique, discrete regions. • To Doreen Massey, places should be seen as a meeting place, a point where wider social relations and connections come together. • She argues that it is the suite of social networks and relations that define a place as much as the spatiality of the place. Place can be seen as a process rather than as some static and unchanging essence. AND that place is defined both from within and from without. Two Theoretical Frameworks In looking at the nature and dynamics of global connections, I want you to draw upon two theoretical frameworks in this course: • Political economy; and. • Actor Network Theory (ANT). The Framing of Global Connections through Political Economy Political economy acknowledges that economic activity cannot be separated from political, social and cultural dimensions of a society. • Th
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