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applied geography

  The application of geographical knowledge and skills to the solution or resolution of problems within society. Geography has been applied for as long as it has been practised — early cartography was very utilitarian — but the specific usage of the term applied geography has been relatively narrow during the last fifty years, reflecting the influence of its main proponent in that form — Dudley Stamp.

Following Stamp \'s lead, most applied geography in capitalist economies until recently has been undertaken for the public sector, most specifically in the area of physical planning. (This was how Stamp (1951) defined it in his inaugural professorial lecture at the London School of Economics; see also House, 1973.) Geographers now obtain contracts and employment from private sector firms in a wide variety of business types, however, especially marketing. In socialist countries, especially those of eastern Europe and the former USSR, most work by academic geographers was directed by the state apparatus (of which they were a part) towards the solution of economic and environmental problems: applied geography was relatively more important there than in most of the capitalist world, where Taylor (1985) suggested that pressure for greater concentration on \'applied\' (as against \'pure\') geography increases during periods of major recession in the capitalist world-economy (see Kondratieff cycles).

Stamp \'s major statement, Applied geography (1960), presented the geographer\'s unique contribution as \'the holistic approach in which he sees the relationship between man and his environment, with its attendant problems, as a whole\'; Kenzer (1989, 1992) claims that this synthesizing ability is being lost in the current expansion of applied geography associated with narrow, technocratic specialisms. According to Stamp, the relationship is discerned \'by survey in the field, and the gathering of facts systematically and objectively\', with the twin goals of survey and analysis \'achieved fully only when studied cartographically\'. Such surveys and analyses were relevant to many of the world\'s pressing problems, like population pressure on land, economic development, and improvement of living conditions. Stamp\'s own focus on the use and misuse of land in Great Britain — notably through the first Land Utilization Survey (Stamp, 1946) — led to his involvement in the development of the country\'s town and country planning legislation after the Second World War, whereas others made major contributions to specific issues, such as Alfred Steers\' work on coastal protection.

Stamp presented geographers as information gatherers and synthesisers who stood outside the political processes within which planning goals were formulated and pursued (see also Chisholm, 1971; Gregory, 1978). Geographers were employed in central and local government planning offices, where their skills were relevant to the focus on land use survey and plan, and were also called upon by national government agencies, notably in wartime when information about environments was needed as part of military intelligence (many still are employed in the United States\' CIA): in the United Kingdom, they played a major role in the preparation of the Second World War Admiralty Handbooks, which summarized knowledge about many theatres of war, and in the interpretation of aerial photographs, out of which has grown the discipline\'s expertise in remote sensing.

Later work has gone well beyond information-gathering and synthesizing. Changes in geographical approaches and techniques, notably the quantitative revolution and then geographic information systems, enhanced the range of available contributions. Predictive models were developed, as in the study of traffic flows: the gravity model was used to predict likely flows between areas according to their land uses and distance apart (from which forecasts of, for example, the likely success of shopping centre developments were derived); more sophisticated procedures, such as the Lowry Model and entropy-maximizing models, were later adapted to provide more comprehensive information (though see Batty, 1989, on the extent of their use). Such analyses were closely associated with those in regional science: the initial goal was to produce efficient patterns of land use which minimized movement costs (see location-allocation models); more recently, they have been used to suggest optimal locations for a range of business operations, such as automobile dealerships (Clarke and Clarke, 1995).

A second strand of work focused on society-environment interactions. Geographers in the USA were employed in the public agencies seeking to revive agriculture in the 1930s, for example (Kollmorgen, 1979), and the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation combined the work of physical and human geographers in evaluations of land suitability for various uses. The developing field of hazard studies also led to geographers advising on a wide range of projects concerned with environmental use and rehabilitation (Burton et al., 1978): the journal Applied Geography, founded in 1981, carries reports of such studies. (The Journal of Applied Geographic Studies — launched in 1997 — concentrates on the work in the first strand.)

A third strand of work, largely developed in the 1990s, has mobilized geography\'s recent technical advances. Geographers have been presented as not only collectors and collators of material but also able to \'add value\' to information (e.g. Openshaw, 1989, 1991; Rhind, 1989). geodemographics involves integrating spatially-referenced data about areas and the individuals living there to assist marketing campaigns devised to focus on particular types of consumer; they build on work in factorial ecology and are widely used by market research companies as efficient ways of targeting market segments (as illustrated in Longley and Clarke, 1995).

Despite this categorization of work into three strands, the practice of applied geography lacks a coherent structure and is characterized by pragmatism — as in Berry\'s (1973) classification of approaches to planning problems. There is no theoretical core or corpus of techniques but rather ad hoc approaches to the problems posed, drawing on perceived relevant skills and information. (Kenzer, 1989, for example, wrote that \'regrettably the current spate of applied geography research (at least in North America) does not seem to have any philosophical or theoretical basis in being, other than its understood application to social needs\' and, in 1992, that \'the connection between applied and “pure research” was blurred by hazy, nebulous definitions and haughty, unrealistic expectations of what an autonomous, self-reliant applied geography could and could not achieve\'.) Pacione (1990) suggested nine \'principles or guidelines\' for the conduct of applied work, however, and Clark (1982) — stressing that academic applied geographers cannot be value-free in their work — offered four propositions to guide those who wished to be involved in policy analysis: (1) academics should recognize their own values when tackling problems and formulating solutions; (2) policy advocates should promote particular cases rather than seeking to be independent and objective adjudicators of competing formulations (see also Clark, 1991); (3) policy scientists should be critical of the status quo; and (4) sponsors of applied work should make the reports that they receive publicly available. (Kenzer, 1992, also called for applied geographers to be more \'openly self-critical\'.)

Despite the range of applied work in which geographers were involved, some senior academics were concerned in the 1970s that the discipline\'s expertise was insufficiently called-upon, especially relative to that of other social and environmental scientists. The theme of \'geography and public policy\' was taken up in both the Association of American Geographers (Ginsburg, 1972; White, 1972) and the Institute of British Geographers (Coppock, 1974), although some were concerned about its implications, not least because they felt that geographers were insufficiently prepared to perform the role being promoted for them (see Hare, 1974; Zelinsky, 1975).

Pressures on geographers to become more involved in applied work increased during the 1980s (Briggs, 1981, claimed that many already were). This reflected growing political requirements on higher education institutions to make greater contributions to tackling perceived problems and to earn larger proportions of their incomes from such research and consultancy activity, linked to a recognition among some geographers of their responsibility to contribute to the resolution of an increasing range of perceived problems and of students\' requirements for a relevant training rather than a general education. Taylor (1985) suggested that this concentration on applied work, which continues in the 1990s, has been enhanced because of the emphasis — in the agenda of both the \'New Right\' who dominated politics in the 1980s and the \'New Social Democrats\' who have succeeded them — on reducing the role of the state and increasing the importance of market mechanisms in economic, and hence social, revival (Johnston, 1992a). The \'business of geography\' has been very significantly changed as a consequence (Johnston, 1995).

Applied geography as practised by geographers working outside academia is less apparent in the United Kingdom than in North America, where there is much greater recognition of a graduate profession of geography and willingness among practitioners to join and participate in the meetings of the main professional society, the Association of American Geographers, which has a large and active Applied Geography Specialty Group. (It was the ninth largest of the Association\'s 48 groups in 1998; see Sherwood, 1995, however, on the difficulties American geographers have faced.) Some leading American geographers have argued that promotion of the applied value of a geography degree is a necessary route to disciplinary survival, in which technical skills (such as those associated with spatial analysis and GIS) play a major role (NRC, 1997): British geographers have presented similar clarion calls, arguing that the discipline\'s future lies in developing such approaches, as in (Longley, 1995):

Social science that does not show interest in real world issues of popular concern is doomed to remain on the sidelines of academic respectability and perceived social relevance, and reinvigorated spatial analysis is central to the measurement and modelling of economic and social aspects of human behaviour .Not all geographers have accepted this call for a particular form of applied geography, perceiving it as either or both of a narrow presentation of their discipline\'s expertise (especially the emphasis on technical skills; what Kenzer (1992) refers to as students \'being trained mainly to push buttons and learn software programs\') and a value-laden approach to tackling societal problems. Some recognize three types of geography, each of which has its own applied goal, if not programme (Johnston, 1992b; see also Gregory, 1978, pp. 147-52): (1) those areas of study, such as spatial analysis, which adopt the tenets of positivism and seek technical solutions to problems within an accepted political economy — sometimes termed socio-spatial engineering; (2) that activity — initially termed humanistic geography but now much wider (cf. human geography) — which seeks to broaden individuals\' understanding of themselves and others, thereby promoting greater tolerance; and (3) the branch of geography — often termed radical — whose goal is to emancipate people by helping them to clarify the nature of the society in which they live, thereby enabling them to participate in its restructuring. Buttimer (1993), for example, identified four \'vocational meanings\' in geographers\' career trajectories:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } poesis, which involves \'the evoking of geographic awareness\', eliciting \'curiosity and insight\' and addressing \'critical and emancipatory interests\'; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } paiedia, or the circulation of information through teaching and learning strategies; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } logos, which seeks explanation, developing generalizations through \'analytical rigor, objectivity, and science making\'; and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } ergon, efforts to \'render geography relevant to the education and solution of social and environmental problems\' with issues assuming central importance and practitioners \'less concerned about disciplinary orthodoxy than about problem solving\'.All four are equally valid and valuable as applied roles within society, but most applied geographers argue for ergon — perhaps underpinned by generalizations from logos — with Buttimer noting that in Sweden (\'as indeed in most major schools in other countries\') \'the increasing demand for scientific research or practical applications of geography since The Second World War has certainly diminished the perceived status of teaching and critical reflection\'.

Debates over applied geography have involved conflicts between protagonists of the \'radical cause\' and those promoting \'socio-spatial engineering\'. Harvey (1974), for example, posed the question \'what kind of geography for what kind of public policy?\', and exposed the value judgements underpinning much applied geography, against which he set his emancipatory \'people\'s geography\' (Harvey, 1984). Stoddart (1987), on the other hand, criticized much work for concentrating on relatively transient and trivial issues and contended that members of the discipline should instead \'do some real Geography\' and focus on the large issue of people-environment relationships.

Harvey \'s critique and Buttimer \'s classification draw attention to a much wider issue regarding the use, and abuse, of information and knowledge. All knowledge is power and once created can potentially be used in a variety of ways, which may be less acceptable to some people than others — as exemplified by the use of GIS technology in the 1991 Gulf War. Furthermore, knowledge can be \'produced\' to promote particular political projects, a task in which geographers have been far from innocent, as with Jovan Cvijic\'s cartographic attempts to justify Serbia\'s claims to Macedonia in the first decades of this century (Wilkinson, 1951) and Isaiah Bowman\'s involvement in the redrawing of the world political map at the end of the First World War. Indeed, in some places the subject was itself created and promoted because of such perceived \'utility\': Jackson (1997) reports that the study of geography was promoted in Sheffield at the start of the twentieth century because of the geographical ignorance which hampered British efforts in the Boer War (\'Geography should be taught on thoroughly Imperialist grounds\'), for example, and in the Netherlands the first academic appointments were in \'colonial geography\'.

The activities designated as applied geography are but a part of a pervasive triangle of power, knowledge, and academic life, therefore. Geographers have always been involved in the production of \'useful knowledge\' that has been both applicable and applied — the distinction between \'applied\' and, often by implication, \'pure\' geography is false. What has been promoted as applied geography from Stamp onwards is a particular form of knowledge-production and application closely linked to the interests of the capitalist state and a wide range of interests therein: within that context, applied work has often been presented as \'neutral\' and \'value-free\' (on which see Sayer, 1981), allowing those who call themselves applied geographers to claim detachment from the conflicts which underpin all knowledge production and use — a claim now being challenged in great depth in the context of widespread adoption of GIS (Pickles, 1995). (RJJ)

{img src=show_image.php?name=bkhumgeofig3.gif }

applied geography The practice of applied urban geography (Pacione, 1990)

References and Suggested Reading Abler, R.F. 1993: Desiderata for geography: an institutional view from the United States. In R.J. Johnston, ed., The challenge for geography: a changing world; a changing discipline. Oxford and Cambridge, MA, Basil Blackwell. Batty, M. 1989: Urban modelling and planning: reflections, retro dictions and predictions. In B. Macmillan, ed., Remodelling geography. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 147-69. Berry, B.J.L. 1973: The human consequences of urbanization. New York: St. Martin\'s Press; London: Macmillan. Briggs, D.J. 1981: The principles and practice of applied geography. Applied Geography 1: 1-8. Burton, I., Kates, R.W. and White, G.F. 1978: The environment as hazard. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Buttimer, A. 1993: Geography and the human spirit. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Chisholm, M. 1971: Geography and the question of relevance. Area 3: 65-8. Clark, G.L. 1982: Instrumental reason and policy analysis. In D.T. Herbert and R.J. Johnston, eds, Geography and the urban environment: progress in research and applications, volume 5. Chichester and New York: John Wiley, 41-62. Clark, W.A.V. 1991: Geography in court: expertise in adversarial settings. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 16: 5-20. Clarke, G. and Clarke, M. 1995: The development and benefits of customized spatial decision supp ort systems. In P. Longley and G. Clarke, eds, GIS for business and service planning. Cambridge: GeoInformation International, 227-46. Coppock, J.T. 1974: Geography and public policy: challenges and opportunities. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 63: 1-16. Ginsburg, N.S. 1972: The mission of a scholarly society. Professional Geographer 24: 1-6. Gregory, D. 1978: Ideology, science and human geography. London: Hutchinson. Hare, F.K. 1974: Geography and public policy : a Canadian view. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 63: 25-28. Harvey, D. 1974: What kind of geography for what kind of public policy? Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 63: 18-24. Harvey, D. 1984: On the history and present condition of geography: an historical materialist manifesto. Professional Geographer 36: 1-11. House, J.W. 1973: Geographers, decision takers and policy makers. In M. Chisholm and B. Rodgers, eds, Studies in human geography. London: Heinemann. Jackson, P. 1997: Geography and the cultural turn. Scottish Geographical Magazine 113: 186-8. Johns ton, R.J. 1992a: The internal operations of the state. In P.J. Taylor, ed., The political geography of the twentieth century. London: Belhaven Press. Johnston, R.J. 1992b: Face the challenge: make the change. In R.J. Johnston, ed., The challenge for geography: a changing world; a changing discipline. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell. Johns ton, R.J. 1995: The business of British geography. In A.D. Cliff, P.R. Gould, A.G. Hoare and N.J. Thrift, eds, Diffusing geography: essays for Peter Haggett. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 317-41. Kenzer, M.S. 1989: Applied geography: overview and introduction. In M.S. Kenzer, ed., Applied geography: issues, questions, and concerns. Dordrecht, Boston and London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1-14. Kenzer, M.S. 1992: Applied and academic geography and the remainder of the twentieth century. Applied Geography 12: 207-10. Kollmorgen, W. 1979: Kollmorgen as bureaucrat. Annal of the Association of American Geographers 69: 77-89. Longley, P. 1995: GIS planning for businesses and services. Environment and Planning B 22: 127-9. Longley, P. and Clarke, G., eds, 1995: GIS for business and service planning. Cambridge: Geo Information International; NRC 1997: Rethinking geography: new relevance for science and society. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council. Openshaw, S. 1989: Computer modelling in human geography. In B. Macmillan, ed., Remodelling geography. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 70-88. Openshaw, S. 1991: A view on the GIS crisis in geography, or, using GIS to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Environment and Planning A 23: 621-8. Pacione, M. 1990: Conceptual issues in applied urban geography. Tijdschift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie 81: 1-13. Pickles, J., ed., 1995: Ground truth: the social implications of geographical information systems. New York: The Guilford Press. Rhind, D.W. 1989: Computing, academic geography, and the world outside. In B. Macmillan, ed., Remodelling geography. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell : 177-9 0. Rundstrom, R.A. and Kenzer, M.S. 1989: The decline of fieldwork in human geography. Professional Geographer 41: 294-3 03. Sayer, A. 1981: Defensible values in geography: can values be science-free? In D.T. Herbert and R.J. Johnston, eds, Geography and the urban environment: progress in research and applications, volume 4. Chichester : John Wiley, 29-56. Sherwood, N. 1995: \'Business geographers: a US perspective\'. In P. Longley and G. Clarke, eds, GIS for business and service planning. Cambridge: Geo Information International, 250-70. Stamp, L.D. 1946: The land of Britain and how it is used. London: Longman. Stamp, L.D. 1951: App lied geography. In L.D. Stamp and S.W. Wooldridge, London essays in geography: Rodwell Jones memorial volume. London: Longman Green. Stamp, L.D. 1960: Applied geography. London: Penguin Books. Stoddart, D.R. 1987: To claim the high ground: geography for the end of the century. Transactions Institute of British Geographers NS 12: 327-36. Taylor, P.J. 1985: The value of a geographical perspective. In R.J. Johnston, ed., The future of geography. London and New York: Methuen, 92-11 0. Taylor, P.J. and Johnston, R.J. 1995: GIS and geography. In J. Pickles, ed., Ground truth: the social implications of geographical information systems. New York: The Guilford Press, 51-67. White, G.F. 1972: Geography and public policy. Professional Geographer 24: 101-4. Wilkinson, H.R. 1951: Maps and politics. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Zelinsky, W. 1975: The demigod\'s dilemma. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 65: 123-4 3.



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