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Module: GEOG1021

Student ID: 08002426


Synopsis on Peter Jacksons Journal article ‘Thinking
Geographically’
In his article, Jackson starts by pointing out that in general, the perception that people
have of geography is one that is primarily a collection facts and rather than a
conceptual based discipline. He then states that his article was written as an attempt
to challenge this idea of geography being based on collections of dry facts and figures
and suggests that the current methods may be past its time and somewhat boring and
seems to be turning away student interest.

Jacksons breaks his approach to thinking geography into four concepts: space and
place, scale and connection, proximity and distance and relational thinking.

With space and place Jackson is highlighting different views of how place and space
can be defined and moves away from the traditional fixed view of facts and figures. He
uses Harvey’s (1989) descriptions of time/space compression, (which many
sociologists have argued leads to placelessness), and Massey’s (1994) ’assertion of a
progressive or global sense of place’ which characterises places as interconnected
with porous boundaries.

His relation of scale and connection offers an alternative from viewing scales as a
hierarchy where the focus tends to be through intermediate scales from urban to local
or regional to national. He suggests that a better alternative would be to look at the
connections between scales. He details this using an example from Smith’s (1993)
essay on homelessness in New York which he shows to be consequence of decisions of
larger scale organisations but also points out that in retrospect, local activists were
resisting by reaching out and uniting vulnerable people in the city and beyond.

His third concept of proximity and distance focuses away from thinking in physical
distances and focuses on perceptions of social or imagined distance. Here he writes of
distant places feeling closer, and also shows how closer places or issues seem
conceptually further away and uses responses to the Asian tsunami crisis from the UK
as opposed to the fact that social inequalities exist in the UK highlighting a lack of care
to those closer to home which he terms a’ failure of our geographical imagination’.

When mentioning his fourth concept, Jackson uses a term not made of paired concepts
although pairs of concepts seem to be implied. He puts forward the concept of
relational thinking, referring to the way we can think of differences and similarities
through contrast of the geographies of self and others and highlights issues of
otherness between eastern and western geographies. He also mentions that although
Module: GEOG1021
Student ID: 08002426
understood, the power of relational thinking may not yet have been described in the
correct terms.

Jackson then introduces ethical dilemmas and centres on Oxfam’s buy a goat
campaign to show how this conceptual thinking may be used to help alternative views
of real world situations. He concludes his writing by highlighting his argument that
thinking geographically is a powerful way of seeing the world and that focus should be
on geography’s grammar as well as its endless vocabulary.