PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2013, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (8): 1266-1275.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2013.08.010

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Information and communication geography:Discipline nature, development process, and research topics

SUN Zhongwei1, WANG Yang2   

  1. 1. Department of Resource & Environment, Shijiazhuang College, Shijiazhuang 050035, China;
    2. Department of Tourism, Hebei Normal University, Shijiazhuang 050016, China
  • Received:2012-12-01 Revised:2013-03-01 Online:2013-08-25 Published:2013-08-25

Abstract: Information and communication geography is a new sub-discipline of human geography, which started in 1960s when geographers began to pay attention to telegraph and telephone, and a specialty group dedicated to "communication geography" emerged in the Association of American Geographers, overlapping the interests of the commission on geography of the global information society in the International Geographical Union. The new sub-discipline has been one of the frontiers in the areas of geographical research ever since. At present, controversies still exist among domestic and foreign scholars about the research objects and the name of the research area, which has become the biggest obstacle to the development of the new sub-discipline. Many names have been used at home and abroad, such as communication geography, information geography, geography of telecommunications, virtual geography, geography of cyberspace/cybergeography, geography of the information society, media geography and information and communication geography, etc. Studies indicated that referring this new sub-discipline as information and communication geography is not only an inevitable result of its development, but also consistent with the name of international information and communication technologies. As the progress of the new research field already showed, information and communication geography has been prompted and influenced by information and communication technologies for human geography. The new sub-discipline explores and examines the new meaning and applicability of traditional theories of human geography, as well as develops its own new theories. Furthermore, the study of information and communication geography abroad appears to be divided into the broad sense and the narrow sense approaches, however, it is not the time to conclude on which is better yet. Too much generalization might not be good for the scope definition and growth of this new discipline. Information and communication geography has interdisciplinary nature, especially in that it has varying degrees of crossing with geographical information science and all branches of human geography. The development of international information and communications geography has been divided into three stages: establishment of research interest (1960s-1970s), subject of communication networks (1980s-1990s) and multiple rapid developments (2000 to present). Based on current international research of information and communications geography, this sub-discipline provides seven main research topics, including spatial organization of communication network, geographical context of cyberspace, spatial organization of regional economic activities, organization of the internal and external urban space, cognition and representation of space and place, impact of information and communication technologies on politics and surveillance, and mapping cyberspace. The impact of information and communication technologies on the development of geography is likely only in the early stages, and it will continue to expand the scope and magnitude, but the ultimate extent of the impact in the end is unknown.

Key words: development process, discipline nature, information and communication geography, research topic