51. Geospatial Friday - Is this the Industry's Biggest Challenge?

 
 

The most challenging task for your average geographer is often in terms of explaining what the subject is about to non-geo folk. The following quote from the American author and Jeopardy! game show contestant Ken Jennings perfectly sums up this difficulty and should be carefully considered by geospatial professionals who wish to market their services and powerful technology.

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The decline of geography in academia is easy to understand: we live in an age of ever-increasing specialization, and geography is a generalist's discipline. Imagine the poor geographer trying to explain to someone at a campus cocktail party (or even to an unsympathetic administrator) exactly what it is he or she studies. 

"Geography is Greek for 'writing about the earth.' We study the Earth."

"Right, like geologists."

"Well, yes, but we're interested in the whole world, not just the rocky bits. Geographers also study oceans, lakes, the water cycle..."

 
 

"So, it's like oceanography or hydrology."

"And the atmosphere."

"Meteorology, climatology..."

"It's broader than just physical geography. We're also interested in how humans relate to their planet."

"How is that different from ecology or environmental science?"

"Well, it encompasses them. Aspects of them. But we also study the social and economic and cultural and geopolitical sides of--"

"Sociology, economics, cultural studies, poli sci."

"Some geographers specialize in different world regions."

"Ah, right, we have Asian and African and Latin American studies programs here. But I didn't know they were part of the geography department."

"They're not."

(Long pause.)

"So, uh, what is it that you study then?”