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Fieldwork And Modelling Notes

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Fieldwork and Modelling Notes to discuss the role of fieldwork in geography and arguments for and against its relevance to geography. The rise of modelling in geography and arguments for and against the use of models in geography are also discussed Contents:






History of geography and fieldwork How has the role of fieldwork changed?
For fieldwork in geography and its benefits Against fieldwork in geography and its criticisms Rise of modelling - Benefits and Issues

Key Debates

Is fieldwork necessary in geography?
Is the role of fieldwork in geography changing?
What substitutes to fieldwork are there?
What is the role of modelling in geography?


1. History of geography and fi eldwork What is 'the field'?

Field is a literal place and a key imaginary for geographers (Kearns, 2002) 'Outside the constraints of the classroom, the field aligns with a romantic conception of the field as an exotic location afar' (Lonergan and Andresens, 1998)

Geography as a historically fieldwork (FW) based discipline

Geog long been regarded as a field science (Inkpen and Wilson, 2013) FW hailed a key component of the 'New Geography' of the 1880s (MacKinder) The field as a site of data collection and hypothesis testing, and hypothesis development, so FW became crucial to furthering knowledge through experiment in the field rather than just observing the landscape (Stoddart and Adams, 2004) Field allows geographers to explore its key concepts of space, place and time (Herrick, 2009)

FW forms part of the 'complete' geographer- in the field where 'real geography' is thought to take place (Phillips and Johns, 2012) - Fieldwork is what distinguishes genuine geographers from mere interlopers (Phillips and Johns, 2012)

2. How has the role of fi eldwork changed?
Fieldwork has become:
 More measurement based
 Distant
 Conducted in smaller expeditions Discovery to measurement

Role of FW has developed from discovering land and describing landscapes (as in 'regional geography') to a focus on measurement and hypothesis testing with the quantitative revolution (Pidwirny, 2006) We are no longer discovering new places, so we need fieldwork for a different purpose - more concerned with learning about processes of environmental degradation FW no longer archaic descriptions and field sketches, now concerns itself with hypotheses generation

Fieldwork can be conducted without being 'in place'

Modelling and remote sensing mean that 'we can largely forget the idea of a struggle with the environment to collect geographical data' (Bracken and Mawdsley, 2004) Example: Remote sensing in heritage science- provides new ways of seeing the land e.g. ground penetrating radar so can see through forested areas (Garrison et al, 2008)

Smaller expeditions, but with more data gathered?

Fieldwork used to entail large expeditions with researchers from varied disciplines e.g. Hemming (1987) led 200 strong expedition to Maraca rain forest in Brazil Amazon, led to 15 scientific journals on forest regeneration, soils, hydrology, land development (Marozzi, 2009) In the past, without computers to conduct statistical tests, fieldwork was limited in the amount of data gathered... Now computation can be more efficient and means aren't limited by lack of desire to do multiple recordings due to laborious testings (links to data produced not found- example of a way data handling affects experimental design)

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