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With digitalization, geography’s getting more applications

Denise Pumain
Traduction de Alvin Harberts
Cet article est une traduction de :
Avec le numérique, la géographie s’applique
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Con lo digital, la geografía se aplica

Texte intégral

1All human and social sciences are now engaged in what is known as the "digital turning point". There is a great deal of debate as to how far it is a real revolution in the construction of knowledge, in the practices of scientists and in the use of their knowledge, in other words if this turning point is merely a simple adaptation to the technique or whether the creations that it provokes will result in a real epistemological bifurcation.

2Let us first note that geography is very active in this field. The example of Cybergeo with its twenty-one years of existence in the scientific edition domain is only the tip of an iceberg that is emerging in a more vivid manner! The key word today is application. In some labs, the term is recurrent in conversations, often abbreviated as "app", it isn’t even supplemented with it adjectives, digital applications, or computer applications, and it is no longer declined according to its classical meanings, connotating an empirical work in "applied" geography, or even diligence at work ... No, the application refers to a small computer program designed to accomplish a specific task and respond to a recurrent need.

3The applications which our contemporaries now make daily use of, often rely heavily on geolocation data. Our close links with the geographical coordinates introduced in programs have become so familiar that we forget that these programs are first and foremost applying the "first law" of geography as summarized by Waldo Tobler, summarizing the strengths and constraints of the proximity that builds our spatialities. In all companies and administrations, geographic information systems have become established and standardized as instruments of better-fitting governance in space and time. Applications developed in geography laboratories now translate a number of principles and theoretical assumptions of geography into interactive and reproducible experimental tools.

4Let us give only one example, very significant of the complexity implemented in a work of geovisualization: the Mobiliscope shows, for each hour of the day, the location of five social categories in the districts and municipalities of the Ile-de-France region ("segregation around the clock in Paris region"). The application uses individual data collected during a large survey, software, which is largely free, but also, besides the knowledge of socio-professional categories, measures developed in geography to deal with socio-spatial inequalities and auto-correlation, and the know-how of a team of autonomous geographers in the realization of an unprecedented tool that liberates the social geography of its classic assignment to the nocturnal residence, according to census data. Through these applications, geography is on the move!

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Denise Pumain, « With digitalization, geography’s getting more applications », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2017, consulté le 15 juillet 2018. URL :

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