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Inhabiting the Digital Planet

Denise Pumain
Cet article est une traduction de :
Habiter la planète numérique

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1Climate change has been predicted; the probable consequences of the rise in the percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been established by models that simulate the interactions between the great physical features of the globe. The conclusions drawn from experiments undertaken on this ‘digital planet’ of the climatologists have led international institutions and states to mobilize in order to reduce emissions of carbonic gas in conformity with the norms decided on at the Copenhagen Summit Meeting.

2Let us salute the success of those of our colleagues who are climate specialists for their tenacity over more than thirty years of collective building of verifiable models, patiently enriched with multiple databases of observations, as well as for their capacity to alert public opinion, without too much alarmist exaggeration, and to elicit responses, as much from governing bodies as from the innovations side, to develop activities that cause less pollution.

3From now on, the ball is in the court of the Social Sciences and the Humanities, among them, Geography: are we in a position to predict, by measuring the ‘insecurity margin’, the consequences of this development? Much gloomy discourse draws attention to the risk of shortages, predicts probable conflicts over access to resources, expresses fears about the effects of rising sea levels on concentrations of coastal populations, and agitates about the threat of new waves of massive migrations of refugees.

4And yet, other aspects of the global dynamics of the population of the earth are well known, like the extraordinary capacity for adaptation and assimilation of novelty that for millenia has characterised the evolution of the systems of cities: already the multiple networks that coordinate these systems are moving rapidly in mutual emulation to bring about less expensive forms of consumption, to restore the etymological meaning of the word economy, and to insert it into a reflexive human ecology.

  • 1  Conference from 23 to 25 November 2009 organized by the networks S4, MAGIS, ISC-PIF (France), the (...)

5In order to evaluate tendencies among the possible futures, powerful instruments are necessary. But the modelling of interactions between these complex processes is still in its infancy, because the diversity and the complexity of the social world are perhaps even greater than those of the physical planet – in any case, the integration of useful knowledge requires long processes of confrontation and learning. Many initiatives are under way, like those that were presented at a recent international conference1 in Paris on the “emergence of geographical space”. It is now urgent to bring together and compare the efforts of the modellers so that at last the digital planet may be inhabited and become even more ‘liveable’ for all. This is a hope that the whole Cybergeo team wishes to share with you for the year 2010.

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1  Conference from 23 to 25 November 2009 organized by the networks S4, MAGIS, ISC-PIF (France), the Joint Research Center (European Commission), COSNET, CSIRO (Australia), CSIS (Japan). See also the debate on the geosystem between Henri Raymond and Yves Guermond in Cybergeo.

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Denise Pumain, « Inhabiting the Digital Planet », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 06 décembre 2009, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL :

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Denise Pumain

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