Addressing Real World Issues
Edited by Robert Stimson and Kingsley E. Haynes
Geography has a long-established standing as a discipline with relevance to the ‘real world’, with geographers having made a significant contribution to help address important issues in a public policy, business and community context. That relevance was recognized at the highest level with the United States (US) State Department having an Office of the Geographer for much of the twentieth century with briefings being provided to the President of the United States. Certainly geography is a somewhat different discipline in that it can be a ‘natural science, a social science, or a humanity’, and perhaps ideally ‘it can be all three’ (Bailly and Gibson, 2004, p. 1). Within in the discipline there is an embedded tension between taking a scientific or a non-scientific approach, and that tension seems to have grown in recent times. The scientific approach – associated with quantitative analysis and modelling which came to the fore during the quantitative revolution from the late 1950s and into the 1970s – is exemplified, for example, in geography having explicitly developed methods of measurement, spatial models, and spatial analytic methods and tools, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the recent emergence of GIScience. Those tools and the skills they represent for the geographer have been widely sought for applications, especially in many public policy, planning and business contexts. The non-scientific approach – associated with qualitative investigation – is exemplified in geographers undertaking, for example, case studies, ethnographic investigation, action research and participant observation that are widely used in the investigation of community-based issues.
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