Geography Media Geography
by
James Craine
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0101

Introduction

Media geography encompasses, at this writing, many different forms: film and television, music, newspapers, comic books, video games, animation, virtual constructions, radio, and illustration art are some of these media constructions. Importantly, media geographers understand that these are cultural representations produced and consumed in historically specific and carefully constructed ways, and many factors combine to frame how meaning and expression are generated. Media geography, then, explores broad questions of material production, cultural meaning, and bodily affects and percepts in relation to the practices and processes by which geographical information is gathered, geographical facts are ordered, and imaginative geographies are created. It is not so much a matter of different understandings of the media itself, but of what different forms and types of media do or can do. Media geographers argue that media hold powerful transformative potentials because people use cultural representations to create social relationships and to define space. These observations concerning media underscore differing insights into information meaning, the material importance of media, and how forces of technical expression may both positively and negatively influence or affect our lives. What each observation shares is its important implication for an understanding of media today, particularly within the context of geography. Media geography takes these different media forms and analyzes them to reveal how alternative geographic narratives may be visible and to understand that their places and spaces are never neutral. Further, new relationships within and between various forms of “mixed media” as interrelated sets of objects and texts highlight exciting new forms of geographical analysis and bodily engagements with media and its role both as a social network and agent. Through media geography it is possible to gain important insights into geographical phenomena such as the city and landscape, and into geographic technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) and even video games and comic books through the use of different geographical theories and concepts. Popular media can be placed into a theoretical context bounded by semiotics, theories of ideology and subjectivity, ideas of affective concept and thought creation, and theories of self and identity. One can, of course, view media as a text, and the use of the textual metaphor runs deep in media geography theory. An interpretation of texts, which can include landscapes, archival materials, maps, literature, or visual images—all forms of media—is one of many ways of qualitatively engaging with different media forms or types. This, in turn, results in what some geographers see as a larger and a more critical engagement between cartography and social theory that may bring about a better understanding of how media can be best utilized within the discipline of geography.

General Overviews

Research related to the relationship between geography and media includes foundational studies of media theory, the use of media as a research modality in the field of geography, and the study of how various forms of media can be applied to spatial relationships and spatial representations. While it is difficult to arrive at an absolute starting point, one could certainly begin with Benjamin 1968 (a theoretical work first published in German in 1955), Deleuze 1986 (cited under Film), and Bergson 1991. What we now consider the subfield of media geography was perhaps first addressed in Burgess and Gold 1985, an edited volume. This was followed by the study of the geographical aspects of film, such as Aitken and Zonn 1994. In later comprehensive works, media geography was expanded to take into account the spatialities of other forms of media, such as music, advertising, television, radio, and even the cartographic representations generated by geographic information system (GIS) mapping programs. Literature related to general media theory also explores the relationships among the city, the body, and space and attempts to determine the nature of the relationship between media landscapes and the actual landscapes. In addition, literature in the field of communications studies often leads the way in the study of the spatial representations of media, and the interdisciplinary nature of this field has proved to be rife with ideas for geographers. Jenkins 2006 is a good example of this dynamic, providing an interesting gateway into the intersection of media and space, especially in terms of how traditional forms of media are blending with newer, emerging media to create new, hybrid media representations. Hansen 2003 and Hansen 2006 go much further down this road with a much more in-depth discussion of the development of media theory and its application to new forms of media (although be advised, Hansen’s work is not for the faint of heart). More recently, Parikka 2013 is a comprehensive summation in a special volume of Theory, Culture & Society that brings together the application of cultural techniques to the field of media studies, in an attempt to further the research on the interaction of humans and media.

  • Aitken, Stuart C., and Leo E. Zonn. Place, Power, Situation, and Spectacle: A Geography of Film. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1994.

    E-mail Citation »

    Here, Aitken and Zonn first explore the idea of film as a “map.” This relationship between geography and film is most often discussed in the ways film is an integral part of the cultural landscape, especially how film can create a sense of place and contribute to the development of the city.

  • Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In Illuminations. By Walter Benjamin, 217–252. Edited by Hannah Arendt. Translated by Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken, 1968.

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    First published in German in 1955 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag); reprinted by Schocken as recently as 2012. Significant because Benjamin is one of the first to note the importance of the fragmentation and chaotic change that societies experienced in the post–World War II world, through his view of art as a cultural production that represented this new world and this new culture. Benjamin starts to make the connections between space and the production of media.

  • Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Translated by Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer. New York: Zone, 1991.

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    Introduces the connection between memory and affect, thereby providing the grounds for how media forms can produce affective qualities. First published in 1911 (New York: Humanities Press); reprinted by Zone as recently as 2005.

  • Burgess, Jacquelin, and John R. Gold, eds. Geography, the Media, and Popular Culture. New York: St. Martin’s, 1985.

    E-mail Citation »

    A foundational work that is one the first to address the connection between geography and various forms of media.

  • Hansen, Mark B. N. New Philosophy for New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    Coming more from communications theory and media studies, these works are of value to the further development of theory related to the engagement of geography and media and the role of the body in the affective properties of media.

  • Hansen, Mark B. N. Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media. London: Routledge, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    A continuation of his earlier work, geographers will find the theory very useful to more-theoretical discussions of GIS as media geography.

  • Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    Useful as a bridge between the study of older, more-traditional forms of media and newer, digital media, particular in the context of the production of culture and politics and new forms of media consumption.

  • Parikka, Jussi. “Afterword: Cultural Techniques and Media Studies.” In Special Issue: Cultural Techniques. Theory, Culture & Society 30.6 (2013): 147–159.

    DOI: 10.1177/0263276413501206E-mail Citation »

    From a special issue that provides an in-depth discussion of media and cultural techniques. This piece serves as a summation for the complete collection of articles, while arguing for the application of media techniques to post-Fordist and post-human theories.

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