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Understanding Systematic Interaction of Spatially Distributed Phenomena

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Geographers, the spatial scientists, have to select, collect, represent and interpret information (data) in order to make a synthesis to correlate or fit the observation into the systematic inter-working of observed phenomena. Selective attitudes towards geographic information are guided by some intertwined theoretical and methodological believes and approaches commonly practiced by a majority of scholars and researchers. Presently the researches in geography show a trend of diversified approaches juxtaposed each other resembling a post-paradigm phase in the evolutionary history of philosophical growth as a scientific discourse. Although, the postmodern ideas of spatiality offer enormous potential for geography's growth as a spatial science with the use of GIS, the conflicting methodologies hinder the growth of the subject as a unified science and sometimes the social relevance of the researches are lacking. And, hence the importance of geographers as decision-makers is often denied. The job opportunity only in academic field often fails to attract and retain talents in research. The coherence and integration of conflicting ideas are therefore earnestly required to guide excellent research so that geographers can deserve more importance as planners and spatial managers. In the present discussion, the evolution of methodological philosophy and the present trend of the integration of theoretical approach and objective of research with the entire processes of data collection, information extraction and interpretation through temporal and spatial synthesis are exemplified with the author's experience of working in different fields. The potential of future research in postmodern domain and the possibility of coherence through cognitive approach too are assessed with some examples from empirical researches.

The selection of information and the method of analysis depend largely on the approach of study. What is observed depends not only on the context in which a particular phenomenon is set but in the manner is which one is prepared to view it. During the earlier stage of the growth as a discipline, without any distinct methodology, all the available information seemed to be equally important for inclusion in geographical study and research. The information about the countries, oceans, mountains, solar system and other landscapes etc. during the exploration by adventurers, navigators and explorers have equal probability of inclusion in geographical study and thus enriched the geographical encyclopaedia without any selective approach. Without any developed paradigm “all the available facts may seem equally likely candidates for inclusion” (Haggett and Chorley 1967). The professionalisation phase experienced some discrete method of data collection, recording and analysis, e.g. lake level information in relation to climate etc. in a way to subsequent emergence of well defined methodology of determinism for analysing man nature relation. It is the exceptionally marked paradigm phase, the American geography has experienced so far “with the possible exception of the period before 1920 when environmental determinism achieved a measure of intellectual hegemony. American geography has never been a normal, paradigmatic science of the kind postulated by Thomas Kuhn (Abler, Marcus and Olson 1992). The information or data substantiating the dominance of nature over man and interpreting and supporting the processes of determination of man's action and attributes are deliberately selected and the researches necessarily took a particular direction guided by this well defined methodology since 1920. The treatment of information starting from collection, collation analysis and representation etc. and finally drawing conclusion certainly experienced a shift in deductive methodology form earlier inductive methods propounded in pre-paradigm phase.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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