Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interview about Geographical and the Royal Geographical Society's Support of Geography

Geographical is the magazine of the British Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). Lately Geographical and the RGS have been aggressively pushing geographical awareness in the United Kingdom. While many online geographers are familiar with National Geographic's My Wonderful World it seems Geographical/RGS's efforts have occurred with little fan fare. In an effort to change that Geographic Travels has been fortunate to conduct an interview with Geographical about their efforts online and offline.

Geographic Travels: Now that Geographical is on Twitter, are there any plans to extend your online presence to Facebook or any other social media?

Geographical: Twitter has been a fantastic experience for Geographical. It's connected us to explorers, cartographers, geographers, teachers, designers and scientists all over the world, and it has already turned out to be a good source for new stories. But we don't have any plans, currently, to extend our online presence. We're a really small team of just two and a half people (one member of staff only works part-time on Geographical) so we are currently focusing on the magazine Geographical and the website www.geographical.co.uk. However, I will definitely let you know if this changes...

Geographic Travels: National Geographic has been pushing their My Wonderful World campaign online to support geographic literacy. Does Geographical have or plan something similar?

Geographical: Every year Geographical runs a competition called the Young Geographer of the Year, a hugely popular competition aimed at students up to the age of 18 studying Geography. Last year's theme was 'Arctic Journey' and the task was as follows:

We want you to carry out a project that involves a journey to the Arctic. What would you take with you and why? What would ensure your journey's success? Your project should reflect a thorough investigation into the geography of the Arctic and a realistic portrayal of a journey to the North Pole. We would also like you to include one luxury time for your journey and an explanation of your item of choice.

Prizes included a month-long expedition to East Greenland with BSES Expeditions and a five-day Arctic Ice Adventure to Sweden courtesy of Explore, plus plenty of prizes for the schools involved.

The Young Geographer of the Year 2010 competition is due to be announced in the May issue of the magazine (and information will be put up on the website at the same time) But, sadly, it's only open to schools or colleges in the UK or Europe so not something students in the US would be able to enter.

Geographic Travels: How can geographers use social media to spread the message of geography?

Geographical: I have found that the geographers who are active on social media and blogs are often also innovative within their own fields, whether that's digital mapping or teaching or GIS development. And the people behind web presence's such as www.geographycollective.co.uk and http://digitalurban.blogspot.com/ are really changing how geography is perceived and, even, what geography actually is, so I think by connecting online (via social media or blogs) it reminds people that geography isn't just an irrelevant subject found it text books (a misconception that I know many geographers rally against) but a really relevant discipline that can help play a part in furthering our understanding of the world, and coming up with solutions to the environmental and social problems facing the world today.

Geographic Travels: How does Geographical and the Royal Geographic Society support geography in the United Kingdom?

Geographical: Geographical is the official magazine of the Royal Geographical Society. Although the magazine contains a mix of news and features on travel, the environment, culture and science, we also try and focus on the work of geographers around the world and recent articles have covered subjects ranging from the work International Boundary Unit in Durham to how digital geographers are helping to solve social problems in the UK's cities:

www.geographical.co.uk/Magazine/Boundaries_-_May_09.html
www.geographical.co.uk/Magazine/Sim_Cities_-_Aug_08.html
http://www.geographical.co.uk/Magazine/Emergency_mapping_Sep_09.html

Alongside our news and articles, we include information about the events being held at the society (which range from talks by Michael Palin, the ex-Monty Python star-turned-travel presenter who is now President of the Royal Geographical Society to technical training in GIS and plenty more you can see here: www.rgs.org/WhatsOn/Whats+on.htm) and the achievements of geographers who have been supported by the RGS.

The RGS provides a really large range of grants, that not that many people know about. And you don't have to be a geographer to apply for all of them. There are also grants for independent travellers and explorers, which include The Journey of a Lifetime Award, which gives travellers £4,000 and the chance to make a BBC Radio 4 documentary on subjects/destinations that have previously included the Zabbaleen community in Cairo, Egypt, who recycle a large percentage of the city's rubbish for free (www.geographical.co.uk/Magazine/Zabbaleen_-_May08.html), and The Cartaret Islands where the inhabitants were the first people to be evacuated from their homeland due to climate change. You can see the full list of grants available here: http://www.rgs.org/OurWork/Grants/Grants.htm

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