Network analysis and geography I: Concepts and Methods

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Transportation Geography Specialty Group, Media and Communication Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Organizers: Justus Uitermark, Walter Nicholls, Michiel Van Meeteren
Chairs: Justus Uitermark


Geographers have conceived of networks as a foundational spatial concept (e.g. Jessop et al 2008; Leitner et al 2008). In spite of this recognition, the adoption of network analysis within contemporary geography has been varied across geographical subdisciplines. This session departs from the conviction that network analysis heralds considerable promise to develop theoretical notions as well as methods that allow us to better understand how spaces are constituted and contested. This session therefore explores the potentials and limitations of network analysis for human geography.

Demonstrating the relevance of networks as theoretical constructs, scholars like Michael Mann (1986) and Manuel Castells (1996, 2009) have shown how networks of various kinds are constitutive of social power. Networks of people, corporations, and government officials agglomerate in specific locations, with some agglomerations concentrating more resources and power than others.

Network analysis further provides a rich array of techniques and methods that can capture relations in places and across space. Despite the early adoption of network-analytical techniques by both physical and human geographers during the heyday of the spatial science era (e.g. Haggett and Chorley, 1969), contemporary geographers only make limited use of such technological affordances, with notable exceptions of research on city networks (e.g. Taylor and Derudder, 2016) and digital geographies (Crampton et al. 2013). The growing availability of digital data and the development of advanced techniques for network analysis provide many new opportunities for geography while also raising new issues with respect to research ethics and data validity.
Lastly, network analysis can facilitate conversation across disciplines and subdisciplines. Network analysis provides theoretical notions and techniques that can be used to capture phenomena ranging from social movements and corporate networks to the diffusion of innovation or road infrastructures. Because it provides a common vocabulary, network analysis has the potential to highlight patterns and mechanisms that operate across different fields. While the reduction of complex social relations to a standardized vocabulary offers exciting opportunities, the imposition of network categories can also result in theoretical and political blinders.

The session aims to encourage and inspire scholars to theoretically, methodologically, and empirically explore the potentials and limitations of network analysis for geography. We invite papers from various geographical specializations (e.g. economic, political, social, cultural, transportation, physical and environmental geography) to compare network approaches and build a more comprehensive and dynamic theory of networked geographies.

We particularly welcome contributions that focus on:
- networks as building blocks of place, territory, scale
- networks and power
- the geographical unevenness of network structures
- the sources of cooperation and conflict within networks
- the interconnection of networks across domains (e.g. economic, political, environmental and cultural)
- digital data
- qualitative and quantitative methods to measure networked geographies
Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words, names, affiliations and contact information to, and by October 14, 2017 at the latest.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Justus Uitermark UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM 15 8:00 AM
Presenter Ben Derudder*, Ghent University, Network analysis of ‘urban systems’: promises, challenges, and pitfalls 20 8:15 AM
Presenter Ate Poorthuis, Singpore Institute of Technology and Design, Michiel Van Meeteren*, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Analyzing multiscalar urbanization using network analysis: the challenges of nodalization 20 8:35 AM
Presenter Steven Radil*, University of Idaho, Olivier Walther*, University of Florida, More than a metaphor: reconsidering social networks in human geography 20 8:55 AM

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