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Introductory Lecture. What in the World is Going on with the World? Introducing the
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
• 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:
In much of the research and thought of economic and development geographers focuses on
three key forces:
• 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
• 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,
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
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
• 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,
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
• Within individual countries between regions.
• Divides even exist at the local level, within cities (and between cities and the surrounding
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
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.