Global environmental images: history, politics, culture

We are happy to announce the publication of a special issue on global environmental images in the Open Collections of Geo: Geography and Environment. Sebastian Grevsmühl directed the special issue with papers by Birgit Schneider, Sabine Höhler, Hervé Regnauld and Patricia Limido, Martin Mahony, and Sebastian Grevsmühl. As the editorial introduction states, this issue was put together in order to stimulate a “sustained interdisciplinary inquiry into global environmental images, paying close attention to the nature of this new type of global knowledge, the imaginaries mobilised, as well as the politics, power struggles, asymmetries and marginalisation processes which are inevitably involved when talking about the global environment.”

Framed as an interdisciplinary endeavour, it is probably no surprise that authors come from various disciplinary backgrounds, including physical and cultural geography, art history and media studies, history of science and environmental history. Thus, the subjects, periods and geographical regions covered vary greatly.

In several essays, the nineteenth century plays a pivotal role, mainly because Humboldtian science introduced to the Earth sciences a uniquely holistic approach, the analysis of which is central to many contributions. For instance, geographer Regnauld and art historian Limido identify Humboldt’s work as the first serious investigation into the concept of a global ocean. And in a similar vein, both Sebastian Grevsmühl and Birgit Schneider read Humboldt’s innovative cartographic contributions to the Earth sciences as an important founding moment of modern climatology. In all three case studies, the visual is identified as playing a significant role in emerging notions of “whole earth” thinking. This development intensified of course during the second half of the twentieth century, and most contributions therefore discuss the historically diverse paths taken by these movements towards global and holistic views of the environment. All of the essays insist in one way or another on the complex relationships that exist between the ‘local’ and the ‘global,’ and argue that global environmental views have become a dominant, almost hegemonic trait within the climate sciences and physical geography.

Unsurprisingly, climate change and its consequences feature as a major topic of this special issue, with one aspect in particular deserving more scholarly attention: the politics of the visual. Indeed, one main aim of the special issue was to invite contributions exploring various ways in which images can become political agents. Grevsmühl, for instance, suggests future work might identify and chart out the political spaces of global environmental images: the changing perceptions of the various physical sites from which they emanate, or through analysing the actual technologies involved in creating global environmental knowledge. This may eventually lead to important new questions about who has access to the infrastructures that produce global environmental knowledge, who may speak on behalf of the global environment, or who has the right to control the future – all questions that are picked up by several contributions to this special issue.

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As each global environmental image participates in its own way in a certain mode of storytelling, the framing, the cultural forms mobilised, as well as the mediating technologies involved all play a major role in shaping our ways of knowing, highlighting for instance certain themes and topics whilst obscuring others. This is particularly true for the El Niño case discussed by historian of science Sabine Höhler, who convincingly argues that the nowadays omnipresent satellite framing introduced ideas of controllability and predictability, to the detriment of an ancient oral tradition which insisted rather on the local violence produced by extreme weather events. Other important political effects of the visual can be observed in climate change photography as human geographer Martin Mahony shows, where typification processes can lead to a “simplistic, racialised politics of place,” calling thus for a re-politisation of global environmental images.

As an interdisciplinary inquiry, all contributions to the special issue celebrate a methodological openness which may prove crucial in order to engage in a dialogue cutting across disciplinary boundaries, conceptual frameworks and institutional borders. We invite the reader to explore with open-mindedness some new methodological tools which enable us to engage in a historically informed, critical analysis of global environmental issues.

By Sebastian Grevsmühl (special issue guest editor) and Martin Mahony (Geo blog editor).

All papers are available, open access via the Geo website, and the links below:

Grevsmühl, S. V. (2017) Visualising the global environmental: new research directions. Geo: Geography and Environment, 4:1, e00035, doi: 10.1002/geo2.35.

Schneider, B. (2016) Burning worlds of cartography: a critical approach to climate cosmograms of the Anthropocene. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00027, doi: 10.1002/geo2.27.

Höhler, S. (2017) Local disruption or global condition? El Niño as weather and as climate phenomenon. Geo: Geography and Environment, 4:1, e00034, doi: 10.1002/geo2.34.

Regnauld, H., and Limido, P. (2016) Coastal landscape as part of a global ocean: two shifts. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00029, doi: 10.1002/geo2.29.

Grevsmühl, S. V. (2016) Images, imagination and the global environment: towards an interdisciplinary research agenda on global environmental images. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00020, doi: 10.1002/geo2.20.

Mahony, M. (2016) Picturing the future-conditional: montage and the global geographies of climate change. Geo: Geography and Environment, 3:2, e00019, doi: 10.1002/geo2.19.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geographies of the microbiome: call for papers for a special edition of Geo

GEOGRAPHIES OF THE MICROBIOME

Call for papers for a special edition of Geo: Geography and the Environment

Microbial communities are fundamental components of every ecosystem and every species on the planet. Although recent advances have been made in understanding their interactions with human, animal and environmental well-being, many of the specific geographies and functional roles of microbial life remain uncertain. Answering these questions requires new forms of enquiry which reach across the domains of life, spaces, and disciplinary perspectives.

We are seeking high-quality contributions (original scientific papers, reviews, perspectives and data papers) about the geographies of the microbiome. Papers would bring the different sub-disciplines of geography into dialogue in seeking to make sense of these patterns and processes. We are interested in the range of interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches (e.g. human / physical / biological / citizen science practices) which are helping to further our understanding of the connections between microbial communities and spatial processes at different scales. We encourage submissions which discuss the methodological challenges of mapping microbiomes and managing microbial data, including engaging with the complexities of taxonomies and metagenomics. We also welcome studies which focus on managing microbes, as well as recent perspectives on both antimicrobial resistance (e.g. practices of spread, containment, evolution) and the recognition of microbes with respect to questions around more-than-human geographies. We are interested in contributions that explore the social dimensions and political ecologies of microbiome science and its translation.

Geo: Geography and the Environment has an international and interdisciplinary reach, making it ideally placed to facilitate exchange on emerging work on the microbiome across the spectrum of geographical and environmental research.

This RGS-IBG and Wiley journal publishes open-access articles, funded through Article Processing Charges (APCs). These are normally available through your Higher Education Institution; you can check your eligibility by submitting your institution and funder here. There are also a series of discounts and waivers available from Wiley. Further full-fee waivers will be considered for high-quality submissions for this special issue on a case-to-case basis, where authors are unable to access other institutional funds for APCs. Please contact journals@rgs.org for queries relating to APCs. To ensure that editorial decisions are never influenced by ability to pay, the editors are not involved in correspondence with authors regarding payment of APCs.

The submission deadline for manuscripts is February 2018. We welcome early enquiries to the special edition editors:

Arwyn Edwards: aye@aber.ac.uk
Jamie Lorimer: jamie.lorimer@ouce.ox.ac.uk

 

The place of data papers: Producing data for geography and the geography of data production

Binary Tempest LogoGeo: Geography and Environment recently published two papers on data practices in the geography. It is an accident they were published on the same day, but it presents an occasion for us, as editors, to reflect on two related issues in academic writing and publishing: the growing role of the data paper and the spatial (and often unequal) distribution of value between data production and theory generation.

It is also good opportunity to remind people we have been promoting debate on open science and data in Geo since our 2015 launch, with the opening commentary from Sabina Leonelli et al and blog responses from George Adamson and James Porter. These pieces are all worth returning to now. The issues that emerge as practices around data sharing meet academic incentives, interdisciplinary research and public outreach continue to gather pace, with data papers offering a new venue for exploring them.

The TEMPEST team have produced the first data paper published in Geo on Dealing with the deluge of historical weather data. This paper explores the practices of assembling a digital resource of historic weather data from documentary archives. It positions their work in relation to other online datasets and offers this resource as an opportunity for future research and public engagement. It also demonstrates an exciting alternative to the drive that Adamson suggests follows the “pressure to analyse, interpret and publish before any data is shared”.

We are keen to encourage more data papers in Geo, both before and after analysis. At its simplest, a data paper describes how a dataset is assembled; reflects on its context and value; and invites others to use it by linking to the data. As the TEMPEST paper indicates, these issues are always complex in practice. Data papers are thus increasingly important in enabling connections in data-rich parts of the discipline and filling gaps in data-poor areas. These topologies of data availability are often complex and increasingly political.

Academics, and others, are facing renewed questions over the value of data and access to it. Access to government data may be removed – as in the disappearance of climate change pages and animal welfare data from US websites. Access to data may be restricted by commercial interests – by excluding data points to shape narratives or introducing high costs for data use.

Conversely, for academics, providing access to data is increasingly mandated. We are being asked to invest our time and resources in curating and archiving data produced in projects by funders. We are also asked to justify why we can’t use existing datasets as we search for new funding. Currently these processes are not well linked, meaning time spent curating data and resources spent collecting new data may both be wasted.

The second paper published, by Margath Walker and Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah on Alternative visualisations of geographic knowledge production indicates the political issues in other aspects of data generation and use.  Their work maps the relation between data production and concept work in critical urban studies and critical GIS, prompting some critical geopolitical questions.

These include: who is involved in generating our data, who is included in generating theory, and where are they both located? How are credit and value distributed across these practices, how do these reproduce existing global inequalities in knowledge production, and how might we enact these relations differently?

We are used to thinking about the responsibilities we have to the stories our respondents contribute to research. But, we are perhaps less used to considering our responsibilities to data and related questions around the ownership, interpretation, openness, and access to this data. The value attributed to ‘progressing’ theory over advancing data reinforces the unequal geographies that Walker and Boamah map out.

Data papers can play a part in exploring and addressing both issues. The detailed explanation of data production in a data paper is a way of reflecting on challenges within a project and of facilitating the recontextualization of data required for reuse beyond it. They also provide a further avenue for redistributing the value from data, by acknowledging the multiple geographies and authors that underpin data production, transforming these into a published research output, and opening space for different interpretations.

We are grateful for the questions that Veale et al and Walker and Boamah have prompted about the aggregation of weather data and the geographical distribution of value through theory and data. We hope they will inspire others to explore the challenges of putting data together and the responsibilities we share in authoring data and facilitating access to it.

Gail Davies, co-editor in chief, Geo: Geography and Environment

Digital Data: Opening up the Weather Archive – Geo at #RGSIBG17

Join us on Wednesday 30 August at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference for our Geo sponsored session ‘Digital Data: Opening up the Weather Archive’ (Education Centre, session 3, 14.40-16.20), convened by Georgina Endfield (The University of Liverpool), Lucy Veale (The University of Liverpool), and Sarah Davies (Aberystwyth University).

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This session brings together researchers working on weather and climate history, existing or potential end users of research databases, and custodians of manuscript weather data, to critically evaluate the construction, management, application, and implications of digital weather data. Emphasis will be placed on thinking about the future of these tools and how we can improve connections between them, both technical and geographical.

The session will also include a live demonstration of the TEMPEST database (Tracking Extremes of Meteorological Phenomena in Extent across Space and Time). TEMPEST’s c.20,000 records are drawn from primary research into original documentary sources held in archives around the UK and offer personalised and geo-referenced insights into the relationship between society and extreme weather in the UK spanning a period of over 400 years.

Audience members are encouraged to send in live queries relating to historical extreme weather events via twitter (using the conference hashtag, #RGSIBG17); the discussion will also be of interest to researchers working on databases of other kinds.

Read the associated data paper: Dealing with the Deluge of Historical Weather Data: The example of the TEMPEST (Tracking Extremes of Meteorological Phenomena Experienced in Space and Time) Database.

Veale L., Endfield G., Davies S., Macdonald N., Naylor S., Royer M.-J., Bowen J., Tyler-Jones R., and Jones C. Dealing with the deluge of historical weather data: the example of the TEMPEST database. Geo: Geography and Environment. 2017, 4 (2), e00039

Visit the associated display in the Ambulatory: A Deluge of Documentary Weather Data, curated by Lucy Veale, Georgina Endfield and Sarah Davies.

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This display explores extreme weather events in the UK, drawing on primary archival materials used in the AHRC funded project ‘Spaces and Experience and Horizons of Expectation: The Implications of Extreme Weather, Past, Present and Future’. It also features primary archival materials from the RGS-IBG archives, including resources relating to the meteorological investigations of the Terra Nova expedition 1910-13, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

The database and project have an audience beyond academia. The project-team has worked with the RGS-IBG Schools team to produce a range of resources for teachers and students.

Watch the online lecture: Extreme Weather – The history of human-environmental interactions and our climatic past  Georgina Endfield explores the weather histories of unusual and extreme weather events, weather memories, and human responses linked to these events in an RGS-IBG School Member Lecture. (Free to access for a limited time).

Listen to Georgina Endfield on the RGS-IBG ‘Ask the Expert’ Podcast Series
In this podcast Laura Price (RGS-IBG) spoke to Georgina about the TEMPEST. The podcast explores how and why extreme weather events have been inscribed into our cultural fabric. (Free to access).

Primary teacher guide *coming soon*
The guide aims to promote the use of the Tempest weather archive in schools, and pupil’s understanding of historical weather and climate extremes more broadly.

Animation *coming soon*
The animation, for KS4 students, introduces the historical diversity of weather experiences in the UK. Using examples from the RGS-IBG archives, it explores the environmental and cultural implications of the events.

Interested in finding out more about extreme weather geographies? Take a look at Georgina Endfield and Lucy Veale’s Discovering Britain trail, the Great Dun Fell walk. It explores the Helm wind (Britain’s only named wind), the landscape of the North Pennines, and the work of Gordon Manley, a geographer who pioneered the collection of meteorological data.

Geo: Space for Review

One year from its launch at AC2014, we want to highlight an opportunity to publish reviews in Geo: Geography and Environment. Geo welcomes high quality review papers which provide theoretical, methodological and topical analysis for advanced researchers in the field, or offer critical perspectives that engage cross-disciplinary collaborations, explore policy implications and address issues of global concern (see guidelines for authors). We are especially interested in reviews exploring what it means to assemble communities of knowledge differently and making use of the opportunities for online, open access publication.

We produce reviews in our PhDs, our grant proposals and our publications. To review is to assess and appraise. Reviews have a temporal element: looking back to assess and forward to propose change. A review is also a spatial practice: the review synthesises by defining and appraising a field. Yet, margins can be reinscribed and peripheries created in this process of producing knowledge. Situated epistemological differences may get recast as conceptual or methodological ‘problems’ to be solved by further integration with the theoretical core. There can be good reasons for an emphasis on consensus or periods of normal science. However, postcolonial, feminist and geopolitical critiques attune us to the active processes through which knowledge practices are made marginal and the implications of overly dominant scientific cultures. New practices of review have the potential to make these geographies of knowledge production more visible and so create the conditions for a different circulation and assemblage of ideas.

Innovations across the social and natural sciences, arts and humanities are advancing alternative resources for constructing and disseminating reviews. From the sciences: systematic reviews demonstrate how criteria for inclusion and exclusion can be made more explicit and accountable; large-scale data sets offer opportunities for developing and tracking the back-and-forth of new modes of co-operation; network analysis software can map evolving patterns of inter-citations and the relational transformation of their content. These have not featured widely in geographical reviews, but used reflexively, they have potential across the social and natural sciences. From the digital arts and humanities there are promising experiments in developing online platforms to support collaborative working and review; innovative visualisations of data, concepts and relations; and alternative forms and frames for data mining that value difference in previously unseen data.

Geo: Geography and Environment has space for review and we want to encourage reflection on these spaces of review. We welcome your conversations and all submissions, especially those mapping the ways in which communities of knowledge emerge and creating innovative, interdisciplinary and inclusionary spaces through review.

Gail Davies and Anson Mackay (Co-Editors in Chief)

Geo at #RGSIBG15

The many faces of flooding: Wed 2 Sept, Alumni Auditorium

We are delighted to be sponsoring a public event, ‘The many faces of flooding: Policy, science, and art’, at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s Annual International Conference in Exeter this year. This panel debate will explore ways we can effectively, and fairly, build resilience to future flood events. It takes place on Wednesday 2 September (18.45) in the Alumni Auditorium, followed by a drinks reception from 20.00.

If you’re interested in flooding and climate change, you might want to take a look at some of the papers recently published in Geo on these themes:

  • Climate and its changes: a cultural appraisal. By Mike Hulme, doi:1002/geo2.5.
  • Understanding local community construction through flooding: the ‘conscious community’ and the possibilities for locally based communal action By Tracey Coates, doi:1002/geo2.6

The full list of papers published by Geo can be accessed via the journal’s website. We’re delighted that our first publications include papers by physical and human geographers, policy contributions, reviews, digital humanities papers and commentaries. There are some very exciting papers in production too, so watch this space!

Talk to us about publishing in Geo!

Both editors (Gail Davies and Anson Mackay) will be attending the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference next week, so please do come talk to us about publishing open access in Geo. Anson will be at the conference on Wednesday 3 Sept, and Gail will be at Wiley stand (in the Forum) on Wednesday 3 Sept, during session 3 (from 14.40), and on Friday from 9.30 to the end of coffee.

Mapping the “Tribes” of London

By Alex Singleton, University of Liverpool, UK

Our paper, The internal structure of Greater London: a comparison of national and regional geodemographic models, recently published in Geo, explores the geography of where we live to identify 19 distinctive “tribes” that characterise London neighbourhoods. This London Output Area Classification (LOAC) was created in collaboration with the Greater London Authority.

We employ an area classification technique referred to as geodemographics, which are a set of methods that were initially developed in the 1970s (with a model of Liverpool) by Richard Webber. Further details are given our paper, however, in brief, geodemographics are created using a computational technique that compares multiple attributes of areas (e.g demographics, employment, built structures etc.) and places them within clusters aiming to maximise similarity. These are then summarised with names and descriptions.

Within the UK, the Output Area Classification (OAC) is an example geodemographic classification, and was created on behalf of the Office for National Statistics from census data. A classification exists for both 2001 and 2011, and both were built with an entirely open methodology. However, one criticism of national classifications such as OAC is that they do not adequately accommodate local or regional structures that diverge from national patterns, which is an acute issue for London. This can be illustrated with maps of the 2011 OAC for London and the much smaller city of Liverpool.

A map of OAC SuperGroups in Liverpool. Source: http://oac.datashine.org.uk/#datalayer=oac11_s&layers=BTFT&zoom=11&lon=-2.8564&lat=53.4308

A map of OAC SuperGroups in Liverpool. Source: http://oac.datashine.org.uk

 

A map of OAC SuperGroups in London. Source: http://oac.datashine.org.uk

A map of OAC SuperGroups in London. Source: http://oac.datashine.org.uk

The problem with the national classification in context of London is evident from these images, with the majority of London classified into 3 clusters. However, the London classification presents a much more variegated picture of London.

 

A map of OAC SuperGroups in London. Source: http://oac.datashine.org.uk

A map of LOAC SuperGroups in London. Source: http://loac.datashine.org.uk

The best way to view the classification is on the website:  or you can search for your postcode – you can even let us know if you think we got your neighbourhood wrong!

About the author:

Alex Singleton is Professor of Geographic Information Science at the University of Liverpool. Alex’s Geo paper was co-authored with Paul Longley. Paul is Professor of Geographic Information Science at UCL)

References:

Singleton, A. D., and Longley, P. (2015) The internal structure of Greater London: a comparison of national and regional geodemographic models. Geo: Geography and Environment, doi: 10.1002/geo2.7.

Further reading:

  • More London-Liverpool Geodemographics Factoids:

In addition to the first UK geodemographics being created for Liverpool by Richard Webber (also a graduate of the University of Liverpool); and this paper a University of Liverpool / UCL collaboration; one of the earliest examples of area classification within the context of London includes the maps of Charles Booth created between 1889-1903 . Charles booth was a Liverpudlian philanthropist. His maps were created through direct observations, and partitioned London into a series of summarising groups which are available to view online.

  • For more on the history of geodmeographics in the US and the UK, see our other open access paper on the subject:

Singleton, A. and Spielman, S. (2013). The Past, Present and Future of Geodemographic Research in the United States and United Kingdom. Professional Geographer, 66(4), 558-567.