In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Communication

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Interdisciplinary Essentials
  • Place in Communications
  • Space in Communications
  • Critical Geopolitics and Related Work

Geography Communication
Paul C. Adams, Khara Lukancic
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0044


Peter Gould once defined communication as “everything from a kiss to an international shipment of grain” (Gould 1991, p. 3, cited under General Overviews). The study of communication has been more narrowly bounded by most other geographers, focusing in particular on the ways in which information, ideas, impressions, attitudes, preferences, emotions, and beliefs circulate through space, and, in a complementary strand, how various texts represent places of all scales from the home to the cosmos. Generalizing from these two approaches, we could say that communication has primarily been viewed as geographically important because it circulates through spaces and because it represents places. In addition, communications subtly alter the places within which they occur, making places relatively more public or private and coloring people’s sense of place. Finally, it is of geographical interest that communications form topological connections with other communications, as texts reference other texts, link actively to other texts (for example, via html links), or otherwise collect and organize communicators to create various relational spaces. The study of communication is challenging because of this multiplicity, and the simultaneous ways in which communications capture places and spaces as content, while also occupying places and spaces as communication contexts. There are many challenges inherent in engaging with the literatures of media studies, journalism research, and communications theory, not least because non-geographers may blur or conflate these varied manifestations of space and place. For these reasons, the subject of communication poses a range of unique challenges from a geographical standpoint.

General Overviews

Efforts to bring together communication’s various geographical aspects are relatively rare. If communications can be understood as containing either place or space (as representations or social networks), and being contained either in place or space (as devices, infrastructure, and uneven levels of access), as suggested in Adams 2009 and Adams 2011, then overviews are distinguished by their attention to two or more of these four basic geographical aspects of communication. This entails, for example, considering place images in the media as well as the distribution of communication infrastructure, or combining awareness of the ways in which the fact of media use in a private place renders that place more public and at the same time facilitates a sense of closeness to members of one’s geographically extended social network. Overviews may take the form of a collection of specialized studies highlighting some of these various aspects of communication, such as the seminal Burgess and Gold 1985 or the interesting and diverse collection in Duncan and Ley 1993. Alternatively, such as in Gould 1991, Castells 2009, and Morley 2013, they may attempt to organize diverse phenomena within a single conceptual framework. While the former suffer from a degree of incoherence, the latter inevitably exclude from consideration a range of interesting communication issues.

  • Adams, Paul C. Geographies of Media and Communication. Critical Introductions to Geography. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

    The first attempt at an introductory volume covering topics relevant to the geography of media and communication. The book includes chapters tracing the evolution of media from the spoken word to the electromagnetic signal, chapters addressing communication in terms of flows and topologies, and chapters addressing the power relations of communication through frameworks such as inclusion/exclusion and internalization/externalization.

  • Adams, Paul C. “A Taxonomy for Communication Geography.” Progress in Human Geography 35.1 (2011): 37–57.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132510368451

    This article uses a four-part framework to categorize the various facets of communication that are of interest to geographers: place-in-media, media-in-place, space-in-media, and media-in-space. Also indicated are geographical approaches that elude categorization in this way—specifically, studies inspired by actor-network theory. The article cites over two hundred works and serves as a means for orienting oneself within the literature on communication geography.

  • Burgess, Jacquelin, and John R. Gold, eds. Geography, the Media and Popular Culture. London: Croom Helm, 1985.

    A clarion call for geographers to study the media, this very early edited volume is already indicative of key themes and topics that would preoccupy geographers studying media over the next two decades. The book’s treatment of journalism is particularly strong, while television documentaries, films, popular music, and magazines are addressed in passing.

  • Castells, Manuel. Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    A strong, well-reasoned defense of the argument that social power depends increasingly on media, including mass media, interpersonal media, and social media or “mass self-communication.” Castells reveals this situation as deeply ambivalent since the existing communication networks are profit driven and profit seeking, yet people may use them to challenge corporate and government authorities and to intervene in cultural processes.

  • Duncan, James, and David Ley, eds. Place/Culture/Representation. New York and London: Routledge, 1993.

    This volume marked the beginning of a shift throughout human geography, away from understanding representations of the world as more or less accurate mappings of what is there and toward an understanding of representations as strategic, partial, and contingent. Much subsequent work followed the example set by this volume, seeking to destabilize discourses and to reveal underlying struggles over space, place, and territory.

  • Gould, Peter. “Dynamic Structures of Geographic Space.” In Collapsing Space and Time: Geographic Aspects of Communications and Information. Edited by Stanley D. Brunn and Thomas R. Leinbach, 3–30. New York: Routledge, 1991.

    A wonderful essay exploring the idea that communication forms dynamic structures in and through space. Gould’s concept of what constitutes communication is quite expansive and suggests that communication geography may form a theme cutting across many of geography’s existing divides.

  • Kellerman, Aharon. The Internet on Earth: A Geography of Information. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2002.

    Recipient of the 2002 Meridian Book Award from the Association of American Geographers, this book addresses information from a variety of angles: what it is, how it is produced, its transmission, its economy, its technological aspects, and the spaces of information consumption.

  • Morley, David. Home Territories: Media, Mobility and Identity. Comedia. New York: Routledge, 2013.

    This thoroughly geographical perspective on media comes surprisingly from a non-geographer. Place images ranging from the house to the city to the nation all are associated with the overarching idea of home. The same ideas are simultaneously linked to varied forms of mediated communication. A fascinating book, first published in 2000.

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