I’ve just completed Day 1 of a SPACIT meeting, the semi-annual gathering of partners working on this Comenius funded project. Very interesting ideas coupled with very ambitious plans! Combining GIS&T, geography, philosophy, politics, the act of “participating” – or engagement, pedagogy and teacher professional development, communication, and other technology, especially via geomedia. Here’s a recent paper, GI and Spatial Citizenship (pdf) authored by 3 of the lead partners, Inga Gryl, Thomas Jekel, and Karl Donert.
I’m contributing on behalf of NCGE, and I have much to learn from these discussions. And did I mention we’ve gathered in Salzburg, Austria, at the university where the GI Forum and AGIT is about to happen? Geo everywhere.
The first geography course I ever took was Political Geography, in 1987 (taught by Ron Leibowitz, who has since left the geography classroom in favor of administrative duties). The class changed the trajectory of my academic life and left a tremendous impression on me, introducing me to ideas and theories that I’d never considered before. I remember writing a paper on Finlandization and gaining great insights in the actions of the Soviet Union, a topic of particular relevance in the ’80s.
Then sometime in the last decade I read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, and was again struck my his arguments about the role of physical geography in affecting social dynamics and development, and political infrastructure. Plus it was great fodder for collegial discussion with our anthropology and political science friends, who respectfully disagreed with all of the premises.
Yesterday I caught up on blog reading and came across this recent Nature article about country shapes and languages. The study suggests that long and narrow countries that span across many latitudes (like Chile) have been able to maintain greater linguistic diversity than countries broader and which cross greater longitudes (like Turkey). Of course, there are a finite number of countries suitable to test, and by treating the countries as “independent” samples in this case, we raise other issues. Every country has its own internal geographies that affect cultural development, plus individual histories and situations (or not) amongst neighbors that cannot be ignored. Plus, I agree that language may be a weak proxy for culture, though it’s a place to start. Quantifiable measures of culture are, by definition, ambiguous and complicated, and capturing this for map use is an ongoing challenge.
Still, I appreciate the study and will keep track of it for our ongoing effort to provide evidence of geography’s import.
I continue to work on my Mapping People Visual Library Catalog, which one day may inspire new directions for social and cultural mapping.
H/t to Cultural Geography for the Nature article.
Most days, I’d rank the problems surrounding STEM teaching and learning as one of the most important, if not the most important, in the educational front. But my cynical side says that it’s folly to worry about such topics because before such implications are fully realized, we’ll be at the mercy of our global decision-makers. Under-appreciation of political geography is a problem on an entirely different scale. When “war teaches us geography” – it’s too late.
Topical cartoon from xkcd.
>I’m finally beginning to understand the story behind the strike that’s been going on across the country in the last few weeks. There is no shortage of opportunities to hear the news, but I guess I spend too much time sitting in my house working on a computer and connecting to the States and not enough time reading the Argentine newspapers or having conversations on the street. My step-father Fred even experienced the traffic associated with the strikers blocking a main highway but we still didn’t understand the whole story.
Now I’ve pieced together the threads with the helpful perspectives of the lady who owns the lavandería (laundromat) down the street and Mari, the woman who cleans our house. The government is imposing higher tariffs on grain exports, much of which go to China. Argentina competes with Brazil and the US for those Chinese dollars and it’s a cut-throat market. Argentina is the world’s 2nd largest corn exporter and 3rd for soybeans. President Kirchner has many ideas for how that tax revenue could be used, but many don’t think it will help those who need it most, including the (huge) agricultural sector. In protest, many farmers and transporters (truckers) went on a 16-day strike. With no truckers trucking, the shelves at stores grew emptier and emptier. Prices for meat (and milk, and other foods) are already very high here, and it’s hard to imagine an Argentine meal without meat. Last night I went to the carnecería to shop for tonight’s parilla and the butcher reminded me to get all I’d need for the weekend, as he expected to be sold out by noon today. At a market this morning, Chris said the sale of milk was limited to two boxes, sugar to two bags, and no meat could be had.
Last night the strike may have ended, good news for everyone except the cattle of the country. English accounts of the story from this Al Jazeera (!) source and the BBC report.