Downs, Roger M. 2010. The popularization of Geography: An Inseparable Relationship. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100 (2/April):444-467.


The main argument in Roger M Downs’s article “Popularization of Geography: An Inseparable Relationship” is that “Geography in America is inseparably entwined with popularization: historically from its inception, structurally in its composition, and functionally in its mission” (p. 444). Moreover, Downs explores two debates about popularization: “one structural, involving the rationale for the separation of the National Geographic Society and the Association of American Geographers, and the other functional, involving conflicts between the popular intellectual and academic geographic reviewers of a popular text” (p. 444).  There are yet many debates about popularization to shape the history and current structure of the geographic enterprise.

Downs writes, “Geography is complex, functionally and structurally”; functionally because there is a production component emphasizing the creation and preservation of knowledge … and, structurally because we should use the plural form, geographies, rather than Geography (p. 445).  In order to settle down the debates over popularization he proposes three views: The Normative view, where he states that the “elite group of scientists” should try to bridge the enormous gap between the public’s right to know and the public’s ability to understand; Reframing Views of Popularization –the ideas of boundary work and demarcation, where he argues that the scientist must be able to reason why they seek to demarcate science from non-science; and The Continuity view, where the communication is central which should fill up the gaps between science and the public and between experts and lay audiences (p. 446-447). There is however many scientists (geographers, e.g. Davis, Loon, etc.), and organizations (e.g. NGS, AAG, etc.), working to discover the inseparable relationship between popularization and geography. In order to popularize geography, Downs urges that the scientist must take the following things into consideration: audience, the definition of geography, focus, content, illustrations, writing style, and accuracy (p. 458).

As a conclusion, he focuses on the communication of knowledge in terms of production and reproduction of knowledge in order to create, preserve, transfer, and disseminate knowledge (p. 462). For Downs, the important things are the geographic enterprise is inseparably entwined with popularization that us to understand why geographic popularization is integral and essential and yet why it is often misunderstood.

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