Tag Archives: value

Piped dreams? Understanding the need for and values of informal community based water supply

By Amita Bhakta, Loughborough University


Image credit: Rod Shaw, WEDC 2015

It’s a hot, sunny day. Feeling thirsty? More than likely, you can go to the kitchen, turn on the tap and, there we have it, a glass of clear water, safe for consumption. But what if there was no tap, no pipe, no clean water? And should we assume that a piped supply of water is always the answer?

With World Water Day taking place this week, we’re reminded of the immense challenges we still face in providing adequate drinking water for all. As the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals emphasise, this remains a critical concern across many developing countries. In their paper in The Geographical Journal, Liddle et al (2016) highlight the importance of multi-faceted approaches to ensure that community based water supplies can be effectively provided and maintained in the longer run. That is to say, a mix of both formal and informal water supplies are needed in a community context.

Liddle et al (2016) discuss in great depth the reasons why people in Zambia turn to informal sources, they cite: intermittent water supply as the pipes previously put in place by the colonial powers struggle to meet demand; finance as individuals in Ndola spend 45% of their income on water; and the ever present problem of poor water quality unfit for people to drink.

But it is about more than these issues, the less formal, more intangible values of water held by the local users is important. The clue is in the name, World Water Day should be about the various perceptions about water around the world, and incorporation of technical solutions for the supply of water that meets local social values.

Further to that, it’s also vital that we learn from each other. Indigenous knowledges are a vital part of the way in which we can combat our environmental challenges, and if we’re to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure that everybody can drink safe water easily, we still need to sit, listen and learn at the grassroots. After all, until the formal sector can listen to those in need, to these ‘informal’ users, water supply issues cannot be understood, nor can they be resolved without their support. The grassroots too need to listen and see which technological solutions are best for them, and an effort on both parts is needed. ‘Piped’ dreams may remain distant for many, but these knowledges can indeed pave the way for different, holistic solutions to become a reality.

books_icon Liddle E, Meger S and Nel E 2016 The importance of community-based informal water supply systems in the developing world and the need for formal sector support The Geographical Journal 181 85-96

60-world2 Shaw, R 2015 ‘Woman holding a bucket of water on her head’ Drawing Water:  A Resource Book of Illustrations on Water and Sanitation in Low-income Countries Loughborough: WEDC, Loughborough University

60-world2 Wheeler A 2016 World Water Day 2016: How access to clean water can change lives, jobs and entire societies International Business Times


Collecting the Archive: How eBay is Transforming Historical Geography

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Imagine a stereotypical historical geographer, waist deep in dusty old books and documents in the darkest depths of a library or museum. No food or drink is allowed within sniffing distance of the archive collection, no photography is permitted, and only pencils may be used. This common experience of archival research will be familiar to a lot of historical geographers, although DeLyser’s (2015) recent Transactions article suggests that a call for more creative approaches to archives is changing the ways in which geographers engage with historical research. DeLyser’s (2015) article considers the idea of collecting as a methodology, and identifies eBay as a tool for this. Such a modern approach to historical research transforms both the role of the researcher and the nature of the archive.

Collecting is a very popular pastime, and has long been the case. In the 16th Century, for instance, the wealthy aristocrats collected natural history, archaeological, and geological artefacts. These displays were called ‘Cabinets of Curiosities’, encyclopaedic collections designed to provide a microcosm of the world. Such collections expressed the status of their owners and reflected their wealth. Today, whether it’s Pokémon cards, football stickers, Star Wars memorabilia, stamps, or teddy bears, collecting is a practice to which most of us can relate. The process of collecting, and our passion for it, become part of our identity and can, at times, become almost an obsession. In short, the things we collect come to define us. In her article, DeLyser (2015) suggests that collecting can be a tool of nostalgia and a transformative practice. The idea, then, that geographers can use collecting as a tool for research, poses many interesting questions. This shift in methodology means archive collections are constantly growing, as researchers contribute more to them, but also creates some uncertainty about positionality.

DeLyser (2015) coins the term ‘autoethnography’ to refer to the process of geographers collecting and contributing to the archive themselves, creating an alternative archive. Any archive is already a ‘collection’, but the moment the researcher starts adding to it themselves, it is important that they critically reflect on their impact and positionality. Collecting involves passion and desire and, therefore, can never be separated from personal motivations. In DeLyser’s (2015) own research, for instance, she collected kitsch souvenirs of the novel Ramona. The items in her collection became embedded in her personal life; the collection lived in her house, she encountered it every day, and it reminded her of places, stories, people, and events.

Traditional archives are fixed, stored in an institution, and distinct from researchers’ personal lives. Access to them has to be requested, and there are often long lists of “dos” and “don’ts” policing researchers’ behaviour. The idea that researchers can collate their own archive through the process of collecting, and store it in their own home, starts to challenge and redefine the space of the archive. Oh how some archivists would shudder at the idea of researchers sat on their sofas reading items one hundred years old, coffee in hand! Heaven forbid that they should let their dog settle next to them! And don’t mention those chocolate biscuits…

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Internet has “transformed the spatialities of collecting” (DeLyser, 2015:212) and, indeed, researching, by providing us with new ways of accumulating items. Eradicating the need for human-to-human contact, the Internet proves a powerful tool for communication, and has the effect of compressing space. Previously unreachable people and unreachable items in unreachable places are all now accessible at the click of a button. Arguably the most influential website in this respect has been eBay, which recently celebrated its 20th birthday last month. Featured in a recent Telegraph article, eBay is now the best known online auction website in the world, and is available in more than 180 countries. As DeLyser (2015) states, eBay has become a useful tool for historical geographers in search of ‘one-of-a-kind’ items to add to their alternative archives.

The advent of online auction websites, such as eBay, has changed the ways in which people value items, and facilitated collecting. You can buy absolutely anything on eBay. Just last month, the Metro featured the story of a £5 note, chewed up by a 10-month old Labrador puppy, which was sold on the site for £3.70! Gaining 4,425 views, 111 watchers, and 10 bids, the item’s winning bidder claimed to have been interested in it because the accompanying photograph of the guilty dog had reminded him of his late dog. The new owner is hoping to submit the note for the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize in 2017, claiming that the story behind the item gave it added value. Thus, the biographies of items on eBay – their history of ownership and anecdotal stories associated with them – affect their value. For researchers, however, this can pose challenges, as competitive bidding by dealers, hobbyists, and other interested parties can place a lot of historical items out of their financial reach. ‘Value’, then, is very subjective and problematic for researchers using online auctions to accumulate ‘alternative’ archive collections.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The use of eBay creates a personal space of collecting, changing researchers’ interactions with research materials and broadening the definition of ‘archive’. Searching for, bidding on, and taking ownership of items redefines them and the ways in which they are used in research. Could it be that the traditional historical geographer in the archive is becoming as rare and fragile as the dusty documents they seek, soon to be replaced by an unlikely new character who spends their time on-line shopping?

books_iconDeLyser, D. (2015). “Collecting, kitsch and the intimate geographies of social memory: a story of archival autoethnography”, Transactions of the                Institute of British Geographers. 40:  209-222. DOI: 10.1111/tran.12070

60-world2Bhatia S 2015 The History of Ebay The Telegraph 

60-world2Willis A 2015 Half eaten £5 note sold on ebay ‘to be entered for Turner Prize’ by new owner The Metro


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






Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Content Alert: Volume 37, Issue 1 (January 2012)

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

Continue reading