New in Transactions: Editor’s issue spotlights

Issue three of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is now available on line.

Editor’s issue spotlights include:

Forced migration in the United Kingdom: women’s journeys to escape domestic violence Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 307–320. doi: 10.1111/tran.12085, by Janet Christine Bowstead, London Metropolitan University (UK)

In search of ‘lost’ knowledge and outsourced expertise in flood risk management Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 375–386. doi: 10.1111/tran.12082, by Graham HaughtonUniversity of Manchester (UK), Greg Bankoff and Tom J Coulthard,  University of Hull (UK)

The distinctive capacities of plants: re-thinking difference via invasive species Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 399–413. doi: 10.1111/tran.12077, by Lesley Head and Jennifer Atchison, University of Wollongong (Australia), and Catherine Phillips, University of Queensland (Australia)

‘This restless enemy of all fertility’: exploring paradigms of coastal dune management in Western Europe over the last 700 years Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 414–429. doi: 10.1111/tran.12067, by Michèle L Clarke, University of Nottingham (UK), and Helen M Rendell, Loughborough University (UK)

Crowd-Sourced Maps: A Way Forward?

by Benjamin Sacks, Princeton University

OpenStreetMap is catalysing an open-sourced mapping revolution.

OpenStreetMap is catalysing an open-sourced mapping revolution.

In the mobile Internet age, nearly every individual has the capacity to create. Despite the rapid transformation of cartography from analogue to digital, elite to everyman, maps remain biased, nuanced, meaning-laden documents, much as J B Harley and David Woodward first argued in their respective late twentieth century scholarship. Joe Gerlach (University of Oxford) has sought to both connect existing studies of maps with open-sourced cartography, as well as investigate digital, crowd-sourced mapping on its own terms and merits. In ‘Editing worlds: participatory mapping and a minor geopolitics’ (Transactions April 2015) he examined what OpenStreetMap means for cartography as a geopolitical tool in international affairs.

According to Gerlach, the Cold War dominated twentieth century geopolitical cartography; he recalled Gearóid Ó’Tuathail’s weaved narrative imagining ‘Halford Mackinder and Henry Kissinger acting out manifold “belligerent dramas” over the spectre of a world map’ (273). This intimate association with realpolitik and its manifestations (war, trauma, Mutually Assured Destruction, colonisation, proxy conflict) might have provided geopolitics with a measure of ‘institutional rigour’ (borrowing from Edoardo Boria) but at the expense of cartography’s legitimacy. Grassroots, open source mapping moves to restore cartography’s geopolitical credentials by distancing itself from the Cold War’s more onerous legacies. Gerlach suggested that a ‘minor’ revolution in cartography is underway. Not minor in size or scale, but rather in its sociological and literary sense: ‘an examination of the non-representational aspects of this representational practice as a way of spotlighting the often unspoken, anticipatory politics of mapping’ (274). Or, in other words, the culture(s) and movement(s) of open-source, grassroots mapping.

This is a brave new world, at least from a scholarly standpoint. What does cartographic inclusiveness mean? How does mass-participatory, often non-moderated cartography influence geopolitics at the local, regional, or international levels? By its very nature, such mapping is ‘uncertain and experimental’, outside the bounds of traditional scholarly or political cartographic analysis. At its core, the maps are moved, influenced, and popularised by the crowd; subject to its rational and irrational drifts, pulls, and tendencies.

Programmes like OpenStreetMap seek to free the user from restrictions imposed by such official, controlled maps as Ordnance Survey and United States Geological Survey charts. In so doing, users become active authors in cartography and, by extension, the multi-dimensional geographical landscape. In Peru, for instance, a digitally-aware audience has effectively and efficiently subverted the military’s de facto monopoly on maps, identifying, creating, manipulating, and distributing their own cartographies via OpenStreetMap. Through social gatherings, group GPS expeditions, and checking each others’ work, contributors established themselves – however deliberately or accidentally – as a national cartographic force, competition to the military’s own carefully controlled maps.

Of greatest importance is the sheer excitement open source mapping brings to cartography. Like Wikipedia of the 2000s, OpenStreetMap is still in its childhood, subject to referee issues, inaccuracies, and end-user problems. Regardless, by providing free-to-use, easily manipulated cartographic tools to the public on desktop and mobile devices, geographic knowledge can reach an audience few twentieth century geographers – and especially those of a Cold War persuasion – could have foreseen.

books_iconBoria E (2008) Geopolitical maps: a sketch history of a neglected trend in cartography Geopolitics 13 278-308.

books_iconGerlach, J. (2015), Editing worlds: participatory mapping and a minor geopolitics. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers,                         40: 273–286. doi: 10.1111/tran.12075

books_iconÓ’Tuathail G, Dalby S and Routledge P eds (2006) The geopolitics reader 2nd edn Routledge, London 237-54.

You are what you eat: fresh food provisioning and food markets

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The traditional fresh food market; how modest it seems, spreading into high streets and town squares, drawing in consumers with its array of colours and smells. This familiar scene, however, is at the centre of ongoing debates about fresh food provisioning in England, highlighting a complex relationship between economics and culture.

In the wake of last month’s BBC Food and Farming awards, Smith et al’s (2014) Area paper on fresh food provisioning and markets gives an insight into the socio-spatial dynamics of fresh food markets in England. The paper investigates the connective spaces that link markets and consumers, and the ways in which fresh food moves through the marketplace. Food provisioning by traditional food markets, it argues, is affected by political, economic, cultural, and material concerns.

In England, traditional food markets were long considered places where low-income shoppers could buy affordable fresh food. How things have changed! Some markets have been, what Smith et al (2014:122) call, “(re)gentrified”, becoming places where more wealthy shoppers can buy high-quality, fashionable food. Food markets are therefore placed in a precarious position between the traditional and the modern. Furthermore, due to the external influence of powerful multi-national supermarket chains, some fresh food markets are under threat, whilst others are being forced to adapt to changing demands.

Some people do, of course, resist the increasingly dominant supermarket. Last month’s BBC Food and Farming awards marked its 15th culinary celebration and provided, perhaps, a bit more optimism about the state of fresh food provisioning in this country. Amongst the awards were ‘best food market’ (for the best regular market that brings together the local community and provides “fresh, quality, affordable food”), ‘best food producer’ and ‘best drinks producer’ (for producers using quality ingredients to create a quality, fairly-priced products). There was a clear emphasis on quality, sustainability, and affordability of local products.

Smith et al stress that traditional markets illustrate how place and culture are entwined with food sourcing. Demand for food depends on locals’ tastes for organic, local, seasonal, or ‘exotic’ produce. Thus, the type of food provided by food markets varies according to the changing socio-demographics of the market’s consumers; markets must adapt to changing shopping habits. Smith et al argue that food markets as socio-economic spaces all behave differently, adapting to change based on their geography and history. Every town or city reacts differently to effects of retail restructuring, market systems, and consumption practices. Equally, for some places, local food markets are vital to maintaining their distinct identity and local pride. Thus, the popular idiom ‘you are what you eat’ could be extended to link food consumption with local identity. Fresh food, therefore, takes on a very cultural form; cultural meaning and economic value become complexly linked.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The importance of the cultural meaning imbued in food was evident amongst the winners at the BBC Food and Farming awards.  Doncaster market was crowned ‘best food market’. It is the largest market in the North with over 400 stalls providing quality, good-value local and imported goods. Likewise, the winners of ‘best food producer’ and ‘best drinks producer’ were commended for their skill in hand-making locally-sourced products. Here the importance of hand-made produce further shows the conscious decision of some to boycott mass-produced supermarket goods. A particularly interesting award from a geographical point of view was the ‘best food initiative’; an award for the initiative that is making a positive difference to our relationships with food. Stressing the importance of producer-consumer relationships, the ‘best food initiative’ went to a scheme that brings together producers and consumers at a pop-up market, where consumers collect pre-ordered local produce from their neighbouring producers. This fits perfectly with Smith et al’s argument that fresh food moves through connective spaces – such as food markets – between producers and consumers.

It is clear that the fresh food market is an important feature of the economic, social, and cultural landscape of many English towns. It is also a vital actor in both local and national concerns about food consumption, identity, health, politics, and economics. With so much hidden complexity in such humble spaces, it is certainly some interesting food for thought.

books_iconSmith, J., Maye, D., and Ilbery , B. (2014). “The traditional food market and place: new insights into fresh food provisioning in England”, Area, 46(2):122-128.



Studying Abroad and the Neoliberal ‘Cult of Experience’ in the Youth Labour Market

By Ashley Crowson, King’s College London

Figures released this week have shown that more UK students than ever are travelling abroad as part of their degree programmes.

Last year, 15,566 UK students studied in another country as participants in the European Union’s Erasmus programme. This was a 115% increase in the number who took part in 2007, when the scheme was first extended to the UK. Large increases in students travelling to China, India and the USA have also been observed.

The figures were released ahead of the British Council’s annual ‘Going Global’ conference for leaders of international education. Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council Director of Education, said, “This latest evidence confirms that a growing number of the UK’s students are recognising the huge value to be gained from international experience… The UK needs graduates who have the skills and confidence to compete globally, and can compete against foreign talent that may speak more languages, and have wider international experience.”

An Erasmus promotional video highlighting the professional benefits of studying abroad.

Clare Holdsworth addresses the seemingly uncontroversial nature of such statements in a recent article for Area. Holdsworth argues:

Young people are called upon to make themselves employable through engaging in a range of experiences that may include: volunteering, work experience, paid work, internships, travel, leisure and membership of organisations. This fetishizing of experience is becoming so normalised that it is rarely contested. It appears self-evident that in order to protect themselves against an absent future, young people need to not only complete more education and/or training, but they have to acquire experiences to stand out from the crowd.

Holdsworth takes issue with the commodification of experience, suggesting that experiences gained in order to guarantee a better future are ‘conventional and passive’, and have little to do with experimentation, creativity, exploration or learning. Holdworth’s main focus, however, is with the popular notion that the acquisition of experience is a solution to the difficulties of the current youth labour market:

The prevailing popular discourse of youth is one of failure against the need to do better. Thus if academic grades increase, this is because of grade inflation; if more young people are out of work, this is because they do not have the correct skills; if graduates cannot get jobs, this is because they have not acquired the right ‘experiences’… This failure to see beyond the supply side of the labour market is having profound effects on young people’s lives… Not only are young people still faced with the difficulty of finding a job, they are having to do so in direct competition with their peers in a ever-growing globalised labour supply… Thus programmes for work experience, placements, volunteering, internships etc. are rolled out in order to compel young people to invest in their own futures…The cult of experience reinforces this charging of responsibility and passes over other solutions that target the demand side of the youth labour market.

The article highlights the arms race-like nature of the neoliberal youth employment market: as experience is seen as increasingly necessary in order to compete with one’s peers, young people are compelled to engage in more and more homogenised ‘experiences’, effectively ‘running faster in order to stand still’. Invariably, those who win this experience arms race are those with the greatest financial means.

This article also raises important questions for university geography departments; fieldwork has long been seen as a crucial part of a geography degree, but how, in a neoliberal educational establishment, can the experience of fieldwork be elevated above that of a CV-enhancing commodity and turned into a ‘genuine’ learning experience, encouraging students to explore, experiment and consider their own subjectivity?

 Clare Holdsworth, 2015, The cult of experience: standing out from the crowd in an era of austerityArea, DOI: 10.1111/area.12201.

Origination explains the enduring global appeal of ‘British’ brands

By Andy Pike, Newcastle University

Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong:  Source: Wikimedia Commons

Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong:
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Caribbean cuisine, Danish furniture, Hollywood films… Where branded goods and services commodities are from and are associated with is integral to their meaning and value. ‘British’ brands are no exception. But their enduring yet fragile global appeal raises questions in an era in which globalisation has complicated the picture. Actors – such as brand owners, managers, marketers, buyers, and trademark authorities – are grappling with questions of origin(s), provenance, and authenticity. Where things are from and, crucially, are perceived to be from is integral to the meaning and value of goods and services brands. In what some describe as a ‘flat’ and ‘slippery’ world, brands are seen as somehow placeless vehicles of globalisation that are free from any geographical connections and connotations.

Longstanding research offers few clues to understanding the persistent meaning and value of brands with geographical associations to particular places in the wake of globalisation. For decades, work has been fixated with the ‘country of origin’ effect on consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions. It has failed to develop ways of thinking about the geographies of brands and branding that encompass and extend beyond this national frame.

The idea of origination – developed in a new book, ‘Origination: The Geographies of Brands and Branding’ – refers to the ways in which geographical associations are constructed for brands and branding by the actors involved that connote, suggest and/or appeal to particular spatial references that communicate meaningful and valuable things. Origination explains how these geographical associations are constructed by producers such as brand owners, circulators such as advertisers, consumers such as shoppers and regulators such as trademark authorities in their attempts to fix meaning and value in goods and services brands and their branding in the times and spaces of particular market settings internationally. In this interpretation, the world is seen as ‘spiky’ and ‘sticky’ and brands are understood as carrying and communicating the attributes and characteristics of geographical associations and places.

Actors involved with ‘British’ brands have sought to construct a ‘national’ origination, evoking a particular version of the nationally framed and rooted geographical imaginary of ‘Britishness’ in efforts to create and hold together the meaning and value in particular global market contexts. Especially in the fashion business, Britishness retains its worth and distinctiveness as part of differentiation strategies. The socio-spatial histories of British brands typically afford their owners and managers with pliable sources of discursive, material and symbolic geographical associations. Such connections and connotations have enabled constructions of meaning and value based upon distinctive and differentiated attributes of authenticity, quality and tradition. Reinvention and revitalisation of British brands, often under new and international ownership, has occurred through the reworking of their heritage assets and geographical associations to modernise brand image and market positioning for the contemporary zeitgeist.

Yet such configurations of meaning and value in brands and branding are only ever ephemeral and temporary accomplishments. Accumulation, competition, differentiation and innovation propel internationalisation and on-going transitions and disruptions in spatial and temporal market contexts. British brands have to face the conundrum of whether and how to maintain the meaning and value of the origination of ‘Made in Britain’ for their consumers especially when only the design, development, styling, detailing and advertising may actually be undertaken in the national territory of Britain.

Connecting geographically political and cultural economy concerns, origination provides a means to address critical questions about how, why, where and by whom goods and services brands are associated with specific and particular geographical attributes and characteristics of spaces and places, and why it matters for people and places.

About the author: Andy Pike is Professor of Local and Regional Develop and Director of the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURDS), Department of Geography, Newcastle University, UK. Andy’s central research interest is the geographical political economy of local and regional development. His research is concerned with (i) concepts and theory of the meaning and governance of development regionally and locally in an international context, and (ii) with the intersections between local and regional development and Economic Geography.

books_icon Pike, A. (2015) Origination: The Geographies of Brands and Branding, RGS-IBG Book Series, Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford.

60-world2 Plimmer, G. (2015) Royal Mail ‘shop’ brings British brands to China The Financial Times

60-world2 Georgijevic, A. (2015) How three fabled British fashion brands have stayed relevant The Globe and Mail

60-world2 Rayment, S. (2015) 10 of The Best Made in Britain Shoe Brands Fashion Beans






Humanitarian mappers’ response to the Nepal earthquake

By Joseph J. Bailey (@josephjbailey), University of Nottingham, UK.

In the days since the earthquake in Nepal, thousands of humanitarian mappers have sprung into action to fill in gaps in the map in the affected area” (Mapbox article, dated 27th April 2015, two days after the Nepal earthquake).

The earthquake that occurred in Nepal on the 25th April 2015 is the largest quake to affect the region since 1934 and one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory, killing thousands of people. Aftershocks present an ongoing threat, including one on the 12th May killing over 100 people. Accessing the affected communities requires explicit and accurate knowledge of the area’s infrastructure.

The world’s population continues to grow, making natural disasters increasingly devastating. However, technology develops in parallel. Emerging technology can and is helping with disaster management. More people than ever across the world now carry in their pockets a very powerful tool; a smartphone connected to the internet and equipped with an inbuilt GPS unit. This can be used to quickly and accurately record spatial information not only on a day-to-day basis but also after a natural disaster where possible. Additionally, and often more realistically amidst the destruction where the event has occurred, people nowhere near the disaster itself can contribute towards mapping efforts using satellite information, providing an invaluable resource for those on the ground.

A recent paper in Geography Compass (Haworth and Bruce, 2015) reviewed volunteered geographic information (VGI) for disaster management (prevention, preparation, response, and recovery). VGI technologies allow for near-instant sharing of relevant geographic information for disaster management and the resource implications for generating these data are minimal. This article also assesses the associated challenges of these data, including: “lack of data quality assurance and issues surrounding data management, liability, security, and the digital divide” (p. 237), the latter referring to the lack of technology in some areas so that people can benefit from and contribute to VGI projects (this is improving every day, however). The authors stress the importance of VGI in disaster prevention as well as response, but response is the main subject of this post herein.

There are many examples of VGI, and one of the big projects where such data are used is OpenStreetMap, which I focus on here. Founded in 2004, driven by limits on access to spatial data and the dominance of proprietary software, and in response to the increase in affordable GPS and satellite navigation units, “OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world” (Wikipedia). It uses data contributions from volunteers all over the world (Wiki – OSM Map Production). Such an open, editable geographic information system (GIS) based on crowdsourced data is an incredible resource. It has huge potential from making lives easier day-to-day, to saving lives in extreme circumstances like during and after a natural disaster.

This image shows the burst of mapping by humanitarian mappers after the quake struck on April 25th 2015. Source: article by Eric Fischer on Mapbox, dated 27/04/2015, last accessed 17/05/2015, available at:

This image shows the burst of mapping by humanitarian mappers after the quake struck on April 25th 2015.
Source: article by Eric Fischer on Mapbox, dated 27/04/2015, last accessed 17/05/2015, available at:

In the context of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, OSM has been invaluable, providing accurate and up-to-date maps that are used by aid organisations and local disaster response teams. Indeed, according to an article on Mapbox (by Eric Fischer, 27th of April), just two days after the quake struck, “more than 2000 mappers … recorded 13,199 new miles of roads and 110,681 new buildings” (see the image below from the Mapbox article). Naturally, these figures will have increased substantially since this article as mapping efforts continue. The OSM volunteers rapidly digitised satellite images after the earthquake, providing much-needed maps and data to humanitarian organisations (OSM Nepal Earthquake Wiki). The process is coordinated by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), who communicate with relevant organisations to focus mapping efforts. Anyone can use the resultant maps and associated routing services for free.

The use of VGI will only grow alongside technological development and, importantly, so too will accessibility to this technology through projects such as OpenStreetMap. There are known issues of data quality and so on, as discussed by Haworth and Bruce (2015), but ultimately this technology can only be a good thing. Hopefully it will mean that populations at risk of large-scale natural disasters, like those in Nepal most recently, will be able to be helped more quickly and effectively, thus mitigating the impact.

books_icon Haworth, B. and Bruce, E. (2015). A Review of Volunteered Geographic Information for Disaster Management. Geography Compass, 9 (5), 237–250

60-world2 Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Wiki available at: (last accessed 17th May)

60-world2 Mapbox article and animation image available at: (dated 27th April 2015, last accessed 17th May)

Against tough opposition: the local impacts of sports stadia

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

The City of Manchester Stadium Source: Wikimedia Commons

The City of Manchester Stadium
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Our nation is one transfixed by sport; be it the climax of the Premier League season, or the impending Rugby World Cup, sport is on a lot of people’s lips at the present time. But have you ever stopped to think about the implications of our great (and not so great!) stadia on their surrounding areas? Sport is complexly entwined with contemporary society, both socially and economically, and the fortresses in which they are played are certainly no exception.

Two examples in the news recently – FC United of Manchester’s proposed new football ground and the Cornish Pirates’ proposal for a rugby stadium – have highlighted the complications of building new sports stadia, and the importance of considering their impacts on the local community. They also ring true with some of the issues raised in Davies’ (2005) article, which, although a decade old, is still relevant today.

Residents living in close proximity to proposed sports stadia often protest, highlighting potential negative impacts; team NIMBY can be tough opposition to beat! Davies (2005) considers the use of sports stadia as catalysts for socio-economic regeneration in declining areas. A sports stadium development brings with it pros and cons. Firstly, there may be positive economic outcomes; jobs may be generated and commercial activity increased, as well as potential for tourism and interest from businesses. There may also be improvements for the community in infrastructure, communications, and transport links. Stadium 1 – 0 NIMBYs. Whether these outweigh the cost of building stadia is, however, often debateable. Stadium 1 – 1 NIMBYs. Secondly, there is potential for positive social impacts; stadia may generate civic pride, increased community identity, and an improved image of the area. Thus, both the external and internal perception of place can be enhanced. Stadium 2 – 1 NIMBYs. On the other hand, there are potential negative social implications, such as traffic congestion, graffiti, vandalism, noise, and litter. Stadium 2 – 2 NIMBYs. Davies’ main focus, however, is on house prices. Contrary to much research previous to her study, Davies argues that sports stadia do not reduce real estate values. In fact, she observed quite the opposite in the cases of the City of Manchester Stadium and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Stadium 3 – 2 NIMBYS. The verdict? A close match, with little separating the two sides; by no means a convincing victory.

Now to turn to current stadium debates. FC United of Manchester’s proposal for a new football ground in Moston was approved by the local council after they received 5,635 letters in support of the application as opposed to 2,226 letters objecting to it. The development is predicted to bring in £4m of investment to the area. The benefits to locals appear to be extensive; the club – itself owned by local fans – has raised £2m from community shares to build the stadium, which will also provide community sports facilities.

On the other hand, the Cornish Pirates’ application for a new stadium is yet to be converted. Initial plans by Cornwall County Council were for a new community stadium on the outskirts of Truro, to be shared by the Cornish Pirates rugby union team, Truro City football team (who themselves have submitted plans for a new ground elsewhere in the city), and the local college. The stadium would provide facilities for concerts, conferences, businesses, and catering, as well as a community sports hub and leisure facilities. Whilst the new stadium would bring jobs and wealth to the county, the local council are not onside, and there are concerns that all the other residential and commercial development that it may bring would be too much for this small city to cope with.

This is clearly a difficult one to call. There are many positive impacts of sports stadium developments for their local communities, although it is not clear whether they outweigh the potential negative impacts and, indeed, the initial financial cost of building them. It seems extra time and penalties may be needed to decide this one!

books_icon Davies, L.E. (2005). “Not in my back yard! Sports stadia location and the property market”, Area, 37(3): 268-276.