As stated in “Why Leaders Should Learn Geography”, it was not easy for geography, as a field of study, to go beyond its own limitations and find new ways to be at the beginning of the 20th century. Invented to “make war”, measure land, index landmarks, list and name ecosystems, describe landscapes, assess natural resource potentials at colonial times, geography was (not so long ago) a very hard science with no other goal than managing human settlements on earth, based on a various range of data collected on the field.
Once we “went around” our world and started to get a pretty accurate sense of its physical and human aspect, even before seeing earth from space, geography lost its purpose. The purely descriptive geography alone was not needed anymore, as we were also making progress on fields such as engineering, computer sciences, digital media and photography. Geography had to adapt and became something more analytical, interactive, capable of putting some spatial thinking on top of data to answer complex problematic.
From the second half of the 20th century up to the 2010′s, geography is undoubtably one of the science that has transformed the most, expanding its thematic, opening its approaches, shifting its focus, developing advanced technologies and tools, learning new technologies, opening to cross-disciplinary collaborations, while having to fight to prove its relevance and legitimacy to the academic world.
Huge work and energy have been given by talented geographers over those decades to reinvent the way we study and approach our planet. Constantly questioning itself, geography has to cope more recently with a technology that evolves at incredible speed, rising questions about the very utility of being a cartographer today when anyone can use web applications to make maps.
Yet, as Daniel Huffman says well in his article “Is Cartography Dead?“, storytelling skills, creativity, originality, innovative perspective and ideas will always matter more than pure technical ones. Today, the geographer community is incredibly dynamic, innovative, and ready to adapt, to keep thinking about how we “write” (“graphy” referring in greek to the act of writing) the earth and how we could do it better.
As an example of what great projects geographers were involved in recently, the European Association of Geographer will soon release its 2013 annual report at the occasion of its annual meeting happening in Malta. The 2014 theme chosen for the conference tells a lot about how geography still has to work hard on defending and defining its purpose: “The power of Geography and the Role of Spatial Information”.
Join us & stay tuned for more!