Monday, July 27, 2009

Thinking about geography

In my first post I mentioned the idea this this blog will be in part aimed at teasing out definitions of geography.

My interest in this is driven by my primary interest in what is called 'innovation systems'. Essentially innovation systems are 'places' where it is apparent that there are greater levels of innovation (particularly technology creation) occurring. But how do we define geography?

Taking just one easy high profile example.

Is silicon valley a cluster that should be treated by itself.
Should silcon valley be considered a part of California, which by itself is one of the world's major economies? What about it being part of a national innovation system (the USA). Alternatively is the silicon valley bit part of a large region that stretches from California to Alaska - Ecotopia - to use a term also used by Garreau in his The Nine Nations of North America.

These questions are in part philosophical and in some part empirical. Yet it is hard to build a dataset that can answer the deepst questions. However, I have tried to capture some of them in my book Innovation System Frontiers.

Why is any of this important? We define areas of landscape and allocate them to various polictical jurisdictions and level of political action. So policy is effective for particular places but an innovation system may functionally extend across a political border. Then what?

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