Theoretical Geography

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Debate Proceedings
Theoretical Geography - Debate Proceedings
VVoIP_Physics_Debates - August 23rd - 24th 2019
1 Donald Janelle Geography and Theoretical Geography [[14]]
2 Denise Pumain Geographical Co-evolution Processes Shaping Theories of Urban and Territorial Systems. [[15]]
3 Michael Batty Entropy, Complexity, & Information in Spatial Analysis [[16]]
4 Krzysztof Janowicz Social Sensing in Urban Environments [[17]]
5 Shih-Lung Shaw Time Geography, Space-Time GIS, and a New GIScience Framework for Human Dynamics Research [[18]]
6 Alain L'Hostis Properties and Representations of Geographical Distance and Geographical Time-space:

the Paradox of Closer Places and Remote Space

7 Helen Couclelis Polyplexity: A Complexity Science for Human Geography [[20]]
8 David O'Sullivan Theoretical Geography: Definitely Harder than Physics! [[21]]
A Live Broadcast
(Streaming) At:

Dear Colleagues welcome to VVoIP_Physics_Debates website and the upcoming online colloquium titled:

Theoretical Geography
August 23rd - 24th, 2019

The VVoIP stands for Voice and Video over Internet Protocol and allows everyone to participate at low-budget directly from your office in a scientific panel discussion on the subjects related to your interests and research.

The VVoIP_Physics_Debates are effective, convenient, and inexpensive video-conferencing encouraging the free and effective exchange of ideas, concepts and research results. 

VVoIP_Physics_Debates provides an opportunity for a critical review of the intersection between theoretical geography and GIScience. It is intended that this review be of value to the broadly interdisciplinary community of scholars who increasingly make use of geographic information and spatial reasoning in research and teaching. Presentations and discussions will feature historical and intellectual perspectives, current status, and challenges for on-going investigations in such topics as computational cartography and modeling, landscape dynamics, space-time analysis, spatial thinking, time geography, and visualization of spatial patterns and processes.


Theoretical Geography (Bunge, 1962) and the series Harvard Papers in Theoretical Geography (1967-1972) harnessed terminology and a mode of thinking— “theoretical geography” that was in stark contrast to the dominant traditions of descriptive “regional geography” of the prior century. Modeling spatial patterns and processes, applying mathematical logic, and developing computational cartographic and spatial analysis methodologies are central to theoretical geography’s perspective for explanation and prediction in geography. This view gained traction following World War II as an outcome of geography’s quantitative revolution and it continues through bi-annual scientific meetings of the European Colloquium on Theoretical and Quantitative Geography, among other initiatives.

Today, the term theoretical geography is used rarely, especially in the Americas. In part, this is attributed to ambiguity and contestation in the meaning of “theory” among scholars in the social and humanistic disciplines, including human geography. Yet, early and contemporary pioneers of quantitative and theoretical geography provided important epistemological and methodological grounding for what, by the early 1990s, had developed as a robust inter-disciplinary geographic information science (GIScience).

Scientific Committee

Dr. Donald Janelle, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Topics of Theoretical Geography August 23rd - 24th, 2019

  • big data and geo-computation
  • complexity in spatial systems
  • computational cartography
  • distance concepts in geography
  • geospatial technology and society
  • human dynamics and mobility
  • innovations in mapping
  • landscape dynamics
  • settlement-system simulation
  • space and place
  • spatial statistics and spatial econometrics
  • space-time analysis
  • spatial thinking and geographic reasoning
  • theoretical geography and geographic information science
  • time geography
  • urban spatial modeling and smart cities
  • visualization of spatial patterns and processes


August 23, 2019

Local start times for Theoretical Geography

London: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 7pm

Paris: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 8pm

Knoxville: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 2pm

Santa Barbara: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 11am

Wellington: Saturday, August 24, 2019 at 6am

The above times will be repeated for day 2 Saturday, Sunday, August 25 in NZ

  1. Matteo Ferensby - Introduction to vvoip_Physics_Debates.
  2. Donald Janelle - Geography and Theoretical Geography.
  3. Denise Pumain - Geographical Co-evolution Processes Shaping Theories of Urban and Territorial Systems.

10-minute break

  1. Michael Batty - Entropy, Complexity, & Information in Spatial Analysis.
  2. Krzysztof Janowicz - Social Sensing in Urban Environments.

August 24, 2019

  1. Shih-Lung Shaw - Time Geography, Space-Time GIS, and a New GIScience Framework for Human Dynamics Research.
  2. Alain L'Hostis - Properties and Representations of Geographical Distance and Geographical Time-space: the Paradox of Closer Places and Remote Space.

10 minute break

  1. Helen Couclelis - Polyplexity: A Complexity Science for Human Geography.
  2. David O'Sullivan - Theoretical Geography: Definitely Harder Than Physics!
  3. Matteo Ferensby and Participants - General Wrap-up Discussion.

Dr D Janelle.png
Dr. Donald Janelle

University of California, Santa Barbara.[22]

Lecture Title: Theoretical Geography: Comments on Origins, Status, and Prospects

Abstract: This talk focuses on an overview of the discipline of Geography and its structural linkages with other disciplines. Specific attention is accorded to geography’s quantitative revolution in the 1950s and 1960sand to what William Bunge (1922–2013) defined as theoretical geography. The institutional and technological context for the emergence of quantitative and theoretical geography are briefly outlined, with primary emphasis to developments in North America. In addition to Bunge’s seminal role, the pioneering scholarship of William Warntz (1922–1988) is summarized. As Research Director for the American Geographical Society, founding editor of the Harvard Papers in Theoretical Geography (1967–1972), Professor of Theoretical Geography and Regional Planning at Harvard University, and Professor of Geography at the University of Western Ontario, Warntz had significant influence as an educator and researcher.

Warntz’s academic degrees were in economics; yet, early in his career, he was an associate of John Q. Stewart (1894–1972), a professor of astrophysics at Princeton University. Warntz’s writings reflect the inspiration he drew from Stewart and provide a basis for a review of his contributions to this online symposium on Theoretical Geography.

The presentation concludes with an empirical assessment about the standing of theoretical geography within an ever-changing contested territory in the search for knowledge. Where does theoretical geography fit amidst the ascendency of geographic information systems (GIS), geographic information science (GIScience), and geoscience?

Dr S-H Show.png
Dr. Shih-Lung Shaw

Department of Geography, University of Tennessee[23]

Lecture Title: Time Geography, Space-Time GIS, and a New GIScience Framework for Human Dynamics Research

Abstract: Modern technologies have made it feasible to track human activities at the individual level and to process large amounts of individual tracking data in an efficient way. These technological advancements have removed two major challenges (i.e., data collection and data analysis) of implementing Torsten Hägerstrand’s time geography framework, which provides a useful approach to studying individual activities under various constraints in a space-time context. Working with individual tracking data in a time geography framework in turn requires geographic information systems (GIS) move from a static map-layer approach to a space-time GIS approach that can better represent, analyze, and visualize human dynamics in a space-time context. In the meantime, modern technologies have induced important changes to human activities and interactions toward an increasingly hybrid physical-virtual world. Conventional GIS, on the other hand, adopt the traditional cartographic approach of mapping everything based on Euclidean geometry in absolute space that assumes an infinite and immovable space without considering anything contextual or subjective. This approach is conceptually constrained due to its confinement to absolute space and physical place, which is insufficient to support human dynamics research. This presentation first introduces some key concepts of time geography and the development of space-time GIS based on the basic concepts of time geography. This presentation then provides a critical review of the conventional GIS and the current space-time GIS supporting human dynamics research in today’s world. A new Space-Place Geographic Information Science (Splatial GIScience) framework, which integrates the concepts of absolute space, relative space, relational space, and mental space as well as the concepts of location, locale, place identity, and sense of place), is presented to better support multiple aspects of human dynamics.

Dr D Pumain.png
Dr. Denise Pumain

University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne[24]

Lecture Title: Geographical Co-evolution Processes shaping Theories of Urban and Territorial Systems

Abstract: The spatial organization and evolution of urban and territorial systems are mainly driven by cities that are both engines and products of their co-evolution. Backed by a long historiographic tradition, comparative research has enunciated a diversity of territorialized political, demographic, environmental, economic or cultural processes that sustain an evolutionary theory of urban systems. According to that theory, the geographical space of cities and territories (that is historically shrinking through intensifying interactions)is constructed from the observation of their societal co-evolutions. In such a dynamics geographical space may appear at the same time as a constraint (the "first law of geography" limiting exchanges by proximity or connectivity) and as a freedom (offered to the social processes of domination in imposing inequality of trade and territorialization). Urban evolution trajectories can be reconstructed by simulation in multi-agent models that are a lever to hierarchize and validate explanatory hypotheses from the theory in a spiral perspective of the cumulativity of knowledge.

Dr L Hostis.png
Dr. Alain L'Hostis

LVMT, UMR-T 9403, Ecole des Ponts, IFSTTAR, UPEM, Champs-sur-Marne, France[25]

Lecture Title: Properties and Representations of Geographical Distance and Geographical Time-space: the Paradox of Closer Places and Remote Space

Abstract: Bunge and Tobler in their foundation of Theoretical Geography in the 1960’s allowed to renew a very long term debate of the measurement of geographical distance, opposing the study of the discourse of travelers done by Strabon, to the measurement of the position of celestial objects that Ptolemy introduced. In Theoretical Geography, geographical distances, produced by transport means, generate a geographical time-space which is mainly shaped by a historical movement of acceleration, by the coexistence of transport means with different speed, by the shape of transport networks generating detours, and by the consequential phenomena of spatial inversion and tunnel effect. In this context, locating places like Ptolemy is not enough; a better description of itineraries, closer to Strabon’s view, is necessary.

This contribution aims at discussing and proposing representations of geographical time-space. The plastic space idea supported by Theoretical Geography proposed to move the location of places to describe the complexity of time-distances measurement. But these proposals fails to account for spatial inversion.

Relief geographical time-space representations where proposed in 1990 by Mathis and implemented a few years later by L’Hostis. Here, the location of transport nodes is preserved but the drawing of network edges respects time-distances. This representation allows to render all the characteristics of geographical time-spaces. Recent developments, using cones as a basic three-dimensional structure, allow to generate an unprecedented representation of the entire earth.

Dr M Batty.png
Dr. Michael Batty

Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) University College London,[26]

Lecture Title: Entropy, Complexity, & Information in Spatial Analysis

Abstract: In this talk, I will review the concept of entropy as it has been developed within theoretical and human geography. I will begin with two views of entropy, first the notion of models within statistical physics for deriving consistent models that maximise entropy or rather introduce as much uncertainty into our models as possible within given constraints. The second view of entropy is much more substantive with respect to spatial variance, spread, complexity and diversity, although this perspective has intimate links to the first. I will then define entropy with respect to probability (population) densities, and then interpret entropy in different ways as measures of spread. This will be followed by an explanation of entropy maximising based on deriving density models and I will then explore the idea of entropy and information conclude with ideas about making entropy explicitly spatial. This introduces the notion of spatial complexity which will dominate the discussion and links all this to theories of complexity in terms of the ways cities are formed, function and evolve. A recent paper is noted below.


Batty, M. (2010) Space, Scale, and Scaling in Entropy-Maximizing, Geographical Analysis, 42, 4, 395–421[27]

Batty, M., Morphet, R., Masucci, P. and Stanilov, K. (2014) Entropy, Complexity, and Spatial Information, Journal of Geographical Systems, 16, 4, 363 – 385.[28]

Dr H Couclelis.png
Dr. Helen Couclelis

University of California, Santa Barbara[29]

Lecture Title: Polyplexity: a Complexity Science for Human Geography

Abstract: As the saying goes, there are the hard sciences, and then there are the difficult sciences. Modern Geography is a mix of the two: the ‘hard’ science of Physical Geography, and the ‘difficult’ social science of Human Geography. Human Geographers, along with other social scientists, embraced the complexity paradigm fairly early on, making major contributions of their own along the way. However, despite increasingly sophisticated models of complex socio-spatial dynamics and agent-based systems, the complexity paradigm borrowed from the natural sciences falls short of meeting some of the most critical requirements of human geography. I propose the notion of polyplexity as a new way of approaching some of the most complex of systems, those studied in human geography and in social science and policy more generally. Polyplexity goes one step further than most conventional approaches to complex systems by taking into account the possibility that the space and time within which a phenomenon enfolds may themselves be complex. It proposes a “divide and conquer” modelling strategy based on apportioning the apparent complexity of a phenomenon among the three major constituent parts of any system representation: the system of interest itself, its environment, and its spatiotemporal context. Aspects of this approach were already present in the early days of the quantitative revolution in geography. My presentation outlines the special challenges of human geography as a social science, and then discusses a tentative framework for Polyplexity, emphasizing the heuristic potential of systematically representing space and time not as Cartesian axes but as complex entities.

Dr K Janowicz.png
Dr. Krzysztof Janowicz

University of California, Santa Barbara[30]

Lecture Title: Social Sensing in Urban Environments

Abstrct: This talk will explore the questions of whether, we can understand the semantics of place types by how people interact with places, when they visit them, how they talk about them, and where they located places of a certain type in relation to places of other types? Are such bottom-up, behavioral perspectives always local or can they be generalized? Can they be aggregated, e.g., to form the basis for the delineation of regions?

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Dr. David O'Sullivan

Victoria University of Wellington[31]

Lecture Title: Theoretical Geography: Definitely Harder Than Physics!

Abstract: In this presentation, I examine a little of the traffic in ideas between physics and geography and its impact on theoretical concepts in geography. The discussion emphasises conceptions of space, place, and contingency. I will also present some preliminary experiments in making computational platforms in geography better suited to dealing with real geographical spaces, by reviving the concept of empirical projections.

Dates to Observe

The colloquium will take place on August 23rd through 24th 2019.

Local start times for Theoretical Geography

London: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 7pm

Paris: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 8pm

Knoxville: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 2pm

Santa Barbara: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 11am

Wellington: Saturday, August 24, 2019 at 6am

The above times will be repeated for day 2 Saturday, Sunday, August 25 in NZ

Action Deadline
1 Conference announcement Conference date minus 2 months
2 Registration Conference date minus 2 weeks
3 Abstract, PowerPoint, Recent Papers Submission Conference date minus 1 week
4 Distribution of the above materials between participants Ongoing Process
5 Equipment quality and Skype related skills testing Conference date minus 1 week
6 Login to conference site and testing Conference date/hour minus 1h
7 Conference First Day Conference date/hour
8 Conference Second Day Conference date/hour
9 Chairperson Summary of Conference Conference date plus 1 day
10 Conference Voice and Video Proceedings Publication Conference date plus 1 week


Registration is required for all conference participants preferably until August 1st, 2019

It is recommended to make the registration online by forwarding to e-mail address the following customary information:

  • Your full name,
  • Institution address,
  • Phone number, Skype name,
  • Tentative title of your PowerPoint presentation,
  • Abstract.

We comply with the Europen Union law GDPR (The General Data Protection Regulation - 25 May 2018).[32]

Confirmation will be sent to all participants by the organizers upon receipt of registration and payment.

Registration Fee (VAT excluded)

Theoretical Geography: August 23rd - 24th 2019
Theoretical Geography - Debate

Colloquium Fees

Early Registration

(before August 1st, 2019)

Late Registration

(after August 1st, 2019)

Junior researchers, postdocs & Ph.D. students €190 €290
Senior Researchers €290 €390

Note that the fee is given in € (Euro). We cannot accept cash payments. Every transaction must go through the bank account. The payments via are also welcome. Registration date = date the organizer accounting registers conference fee payment.

Cancellation policy of registration

All the cancellations and changes must be sent to the organizer in written form (paper). All refunds will be processed after the conference. Please send your exact bank account details in the written cancellation.

Refund of the registration fee will be made as follows:

100% refund (minus an administrative fee of €67.23 (net)) – in case of cancellation received before August 1st, 2019.

No refund – in case of cancellation, received after August 10th, 2019.


All payments should be made in €. All charges due to bank transfers have to be paid by the sender. Let us know if you require a proforma invoice before payment. In all remaining cases, we will forward an invoice right after the payment will be received.

Bank (wire) transfer (in €) has to be made to:

  • Bank Name: Santander Bank
  • Street: Aleja Jana Pawła II 17
  • City: 00-854 Warszawa
  • Country: Poland, European Union
  • Account #: IBAN PL23799999950652418805040001
  • Account Holder Name: KS/Villa Europa

Let us know if you prefer to use[33] service.

Your lecture

Your lecture will be presented in an ordinary (usual) way using MS PowerPoint presentation. In order to allow the participants and the public to view your PowerPoint presentation please use the Skype feature titled Screen Sharing (just click on Skype icon


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Debate Proceedings

Published At:

All debate proceedings will be video-voice recorded and after required editing will be published on the internet at the debate website and various repositories.