Tag Archives: Geography Compass

Geography of Sport

By Catherine Waite

By Markbarnes (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Geography of Sport is a topic close to my heart as it is the theme of my PhD research. Despite sport being a central theme of research in sociology, economics and anthropology, it has subject to little geographical research. However today’s reports into the “State of the Game”, considering the composition of professional English football teams by nationality and the debates regarding how you define who can play for the England national football team, have clear geographical themes.

National identity has been widely discussed in the geographical literature in relation to migration (see, for example, Antonsich 2010 & Gilmartin 2008), and in this case the media and social media debates, have extended the discussion to migrant athletes.

The “State of the Game” report, can perhaps be more directly deemed to be geographical. The report maps the countries from which footballers, playing in England, come from. The most significant finding is that, whilst English players do still play the greatest percentage of minutes of Premier League football, their contribution only accounts for less than a third of the total minutes played. The maps demonstrate that the Premier League truly is a global league with players coming from across the world to play in England. Football is a widely recognised as “Global Game” both in general culture and in academia (see Giulianotti 1999). So does geography need to progress and carry out more research dedicated to sport?

books_iconAntonsich, M. (2010), Searching for Belonging – An Analytical Framework. Geography Compass, 4: 644–659

books_iconGilmartin, M. (2008), Migration, Identity and Belonging. Geography Compass, 2: 1837–1852

60-world2Arsene Wenger defends Jack Wilshere’s ‘English’ comments BBC Sport

60-world2Jack Wilshere says only English players should play for England BBC Sport

60-world2State of the Game: Premier League now less than one third English BBC Sport

60-world2 State of the Game: How UK’s world football map has changed BBC News


Regulating the internet: geographies of cyberspace

By Helen Pallett


Image credit: Gflores

From the threat of ‘cyber-bullying’ to misogynist abuse, to fears about the invasion of privacy and the accessibility of pornographic material, serious concerns have been expressed over recent weeks about the increasing incursion of the internet, and particularly social media, into our everyday lives. For many of us it is difficult to imagine conducting our social and professional lives without the daily use of sites like Twitter or Facebook, or other internet forums, but are they, as some commentators would have us believe, having negative impacts on our societies? And if so, what can be done with the humongous entity of ‘the internet’?

In response to high profile media coverage of several tragic suicides of teenagers who experienced bullying and abuse on social media and other sites, the British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a boycott of websites which failed to effectively deal with such abuse. Similarly, the social media platform Twitter has come under pressure to alter its reporting procedure for abuse after high profile female activists, writers and political figures were sent bomb and rape threats through the site. Following the discovery of child abuse images on the computers of individuals convicted of recent high profile child murders, David Cameron announced a plan to block pornographic content by default on all computers unless users asked to receive it and asked internet providers to make greater efforts to block images of child abuse.

So what can emerging geographical perspectives on ‘cyberspace’ and internet usage tell us about these challenges and the likely effectiveness of these initiatives? In a recent review article in Geography Compass, Sam Kinsley pointed out the tendency to slip into either naively utopian or bleakly dystopian meta-narratives when talking about the internet. Whilst the development of the internet undoubtedly has the potential to democratically connect and engage people just as much as it aid those seeking to terrorise and abuse, these narratives or imaginaries fall into a further trap: they tend to cast the internet as a monolithic entity. Often this singular entity is assigned moral characteristics and subject to demands for wholesale reforms. But what if the internet is not one entity at all? What if, as Kinsley suggests, there are actually multiple internets?

These internets both shape and are involved in shaping the actions of their users, and are mediated through multiple devices from spam filters to smart phones, to social media platforms and webcams. Mark Graham has also made a similar argument in a recent commentary in the Geographical Journal about the use of the metaphor of cyberspace as a monolithic imaginary of the multiple interactions which exist between people, codes, information and machineries. Thus there is not just one lived experience of the internet or even any given websites or platforms, but many, and there are multiple ways for internets to enable empowerment and abuse. This raises questions about any one government policy or attempt to promote reform of a particular website or platform can fully account for this diversity of experience or be sure to protect against potential ills.

A further development which Sam Kinsley draws attention to, is the increasing blurring between the states of ‘online’ and ‘offline’. Particularly following the sharp growth in smart phone usage in recent years it has become difficult to separate the times and spaces in which people are connected to the internet to when they are disconnected. Furthermore, activities such as socialising, entertainment, working and relaxing increasingly incorporate a complex of both online and offline elements which are hard to distentangle. This means that, for example, in the case of ‘cyberbullying’, whilst abuse may start online or be enabled by a particular website or internet platform, it may also impinge on the offline parts of an individual’s life through technologies like text messaging or through face to face contact. How then can such challenges be ameliorated through internet regulation alone?

As has been pointed out in some of the media coverage of the recent surge in favour for internet regulation (for example, see here), the problem is always more complex and multifaceted than we would like to believe and needs to be understood as situated within a broader set of societal developments and changes.

books_icon Samuel Kinsely, 2013, Beyond the Screen: Methods for Investigating Geographies of Life ‘Online’Geography Compass 540-555

books_icon Mark Graham, 2013, Geography/internet: ethereal alternate dimensions of cyberspace or grounded augmented realities?The Geographical Journal 179 177-182

60-world2 Boycott websites which don’t tackle abuse, says Cameron BBC News, 8 August 2013

60-world2 Twitter ‘report abuse’ button calls after rape threats BBC News, 27 July 2013

60-world2 David Cameron urges internet firms to block child abuse images BBC News, 21 July 2013

60-world2 Online pornography to be blocked by default, PM announces BBC News, 22 July 2013

60-world2 When politicians get the internet wrong, the internet can be ruthless The Guardian, 16 August 2013

South Sudan: A New Nation with Old Problems

By Paulette Cully

Flag of South Sudan by User:Achim1999 (http://www.fotw.us/flags/ss.html) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThe world’s newest nation, South Sudan, celebrated its first birthday this year. However, the country remains one of the poorest in the world having few tarred roads and a poor water and electricity infrastructure. Statistically, a South Sudanese woman has more chance of dying during childbirth than completing her secondary school education.

Separated from its old adversary Sudan on July 9th 2011, old feelings of distrust between the two countries still remain and fighting erupted along their border earlier this year, when South Sudan’s army briefly occupied the Heglig oilfield, which is vital to Sudan’s economy. When South Sudan, which is landlocked, separated from Sudan, it took three-quarters of the region’s oil production, although the pipelines to export the oil are mainly in Sudan. The two countries came to an agreement last month to establish a demilitarised zone along their border and restart oil exports from South Sudan after the pipeline was shut down in a dispute with Sudan over transit fees. The shutdown put the economy of South Sudan under pressure as it depends on oil production for around 98% of its income. To resolve further conflict, South Sudan is considering building two alternative pipelines, one to a Kenyan port and another through Ethiopia and Djibouti. But where will the finance for the project come from? The answer is, China.

China, which has major oil interests in both South Sudan and Sudan, has offered South Sudan $8 billion for development projects over the next two years with the projects being conducted by Chinese companies. China is already the biggest investor in oilfields in South Sudan, through the state-owned Chinese oil companies China National Petroleum Corp and Sinopec.

To gain a greater understanding of the complexity of interactions between China and Africa it is recommended to read Emma Maudsley’s (2007) article in Geography Compass. She reviews Sino–African relations from 1949-2007 describing how China has over the last few years (fuelled by its astonishing economic growth) tirelessly pursued stronger economic and diplomatic relations with many Asian, African and Latin American countries. Emma also describes how “China’s rise will lead to changes in the present structures and loci of power in an uneven world”.

China offers South Sudan $8 bn in development funds over next two years, Firstpost, 29th April 2012

South Sudan marks first anniversary of  independenceThe Telegraph, 9th July 2012

Emma Mawdsley, China and Africa: Emerging Challenges to the Geographies of Power, Geography Compass 405-421

Capturing the Soul of Seoul: ‘Gangnam Style’ and the Profits of Place-making

By Jen Turner

Gangnam Station by Marcopolis at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In recent years, Geographers have paid more and more attention to the ways in which wealth can be generated through the images of and associations people make with particular places.  Nebahat Tokatli’s (2012) Geography Compass paper discusses the relationship between place and image for profit-making strategies within the fashion industry.  The paper highlights the work of economic geographers in understanding how positive place-images can be exploited.  Think for example of how fashion firms such as Chanel or Versace have benefited from the premium customers place on Paris and Milan, respectively.

The commodification of the place-image nexus has been illustrated in many other ways; none more so than in the video of the chart-topping music track ‘Gangnam Style’.  The single, by South Korean rapper Psy, was released in July 2012 and debuted at number one in the national record chart of South Korea, reaching the top-spot in the UK chart at the end of September.  The track, which centralises its lyrics around a repetitive refrain has become famous for its associated dance moves, reportedly copied by almost everyone, from this year’s X Factor contestants to London Mayor Boris Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron.  However, ‘Gangham Style’ can be analysed for more than its dance moves.

“Gangnam Style” is a Korean neologism that refers to a lifestyle associated with the Gangnam distinct of Seoul.  Likened to Beverly Hills California, people living here are fashionable and cool.  The music video shows Psy performing a comical horse-riding dance and appearing in unexpected locations around the Gangnam District, such as an outdoor yoga session and a hot tub. However, everything about the song: it’s dance, looks, the tune, and lyrics are anything but ‘high class’.  Designed to be a parody, Psy himself suggests:

People who are actually from Gangnam never proclaim that they are—it’s only the posers and wannabes that put on these airs and say that they are “Gangnam Style” — so this song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying so hard to be something that they’re not —Psy (CNN, 17 August 2012)

Parody or not, the song is based around the concept that place-image is something that can be transferred between people, and across national boundaries.  In the same way that Tokatli claims major fashion designers build upon the brand image – borrowing the allure of certain places – this image of Seoul is now being used to make Psy into a mega-star.  Whatever the critique, it is clear that Gangnam Style has swept the world, being watched by over 400 million people – so much so, that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has even praised it as a “force for peace”.

Nebahat Tokatli, 2012, The Changing Role of Place-Image in the Profit Making Strategies of the Designer Fashion Industry, Geography Compass 6 35-43

Boris Johnson: London Mayor says he ‘danced Gangnam Style with Prime Minister David Cameron’The Mirror, 9 October 2012

Interview: PSY on ‘Gangnam Style,’ posers and that hysterical little boyCNN, 17 August 2012

Gangnam style gets UN stamp of approvalThe Sunday Morning Herald, 10 October 2012

Geography Matters: Space, Place and British Politics

By Catherine Waite

The arrival of autumn means that it is, once more, political party conference season in Britain. This week has seen the Conservative Party Conference take place in Birmingham, following those of the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats in Manchester and Brighton respectively during September. Consequently, in recent weeks, the British media has been dominated by reports of the activities, pledges and promises that have been made at these conferences. At the forefront of the discussions is the state of the economy and welfare provision, as well as continued debates about Britain’s position within the EU and, in the case of the Conservative Party Conference, the media frenzy surrounding ‘Borismania’. Alongside all of these issues an increasing number of references are being made to the forthcoming 2015 general election.

In many ways, politics is inherently geographical and just a brief perusal of the content of any geographical journal will demonstrate the numerous ways in which geography and politics are inextricably linked. Political geography is widely studied and this is reflected in its dedicated Royal Geographical Society research group, PolGRG. Within this subject more specific aspects of politics are given geographical consideration and this is evident in the recent work of Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie on electoral geography. Johnston and Pattie begin one such article by stating “Elections are a geographer’s delight” (2009:1), noting that elections produce vast quantities of mappable data which can be easily cartographically depicted using geographical information systems (GIS). Beyond this, it is clear from their more recent research, published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, that geography can play an important role in understanding voting patterns (Johnston and Pattie 2012). Understanding the dynamics of such processes and their outcomes demonstrates the significance of space, place and society in shaping the British political landscape.

So, over the next two years, in the lead up to the 2015 general election, consider the influence that geography has on politics, because in the words of Johnston and Pattie “Geography matters” (2012:12).

Johnston, R. and Pattie, C. 2009 Geography: The Key to Recent British Elections. Geography Compass 3:1865–1880

Johnston, R. and Pattie, C. 2011 The British general election of 2010: a three-party contest – or three two-party contests? The Geographical Journal 177:17–26

Johnston, R. and Pattie, C. 2012 Learning electoral geography? Party campaigning, constituency marginality and voting at the 2010 British general election Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers doi: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00527.x

Young, disillusioned, and ready for Ed? The Independent 5th October 2012

David Cameron: Conservatives will never vacate the centre ground The Telegraph 6th October 2012

Content Alert: Geography Compass, Volume 6, Issue 8 (August 2012) is Available Online Now

Geography CompassVolume 6, Issue 8 Pages 455-511, August 2012

The latest issue of Geography Compass is available on Wiley Online Library.

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Content Alert: Geography Compass, Volume 6, Issue 7 (July 2012) is Available Online Now

Volume 6, Issue 7 Pages i – 453, July 2012

The latest issue of Geography Compass is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

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