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quantitative revolution


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In geography, the intellectual movement beginning in the 1950s that explicitly introduced to the discipline scientific forms of theorizing and techniques of empirical verification (Barnes (2004) PHG28, 5), transforming geography into an analysis-oriented scientific discipline. The quantitative revolution is generally considered to have emerged from a general dissatisfaction with regional geographic study, and a consequent shift in focus towards more systematic and specialized approaches (Keylock (2003) TIBG28, 2). Barnes (1998) Env. & Plan. A 30 argues that the success of this new geography was due to the manner in which it was able to collapse an initially disparate set of concerns into a single framework (the regression or multiple regression equation), to which Bracken and Wainwright (2006) TIBG31, 2 would add the use of concepts ‘the Western modernist psyche finds easy to accept’. See Johnston and Sidaway (2004) PHG28. Quantification began, flourished, and was, in turn, criticized: ‘the dominant paradigm at the time was that the western experience of urban-industrial development held the key to progress everywhere, and the challenge was to overcome any obstacles to the diffusion of ideas and innovations that would hinder this transformation…much that characterised the quantitative revolution was about theorising and employing statistical procedures in the office to generalise about change everywhere’ (Bedford (2005) Asia Pac. Viewpt 46, 2). Quantification was attacked for being unrealistic and bloodless, turning humans into automata, for being too deterministic, and for ignoring the importance of subjective experience. T. J. Barnes (1998) attributes the reduction in emphasis upon quantification in more recent human geography to the growing awareness that techniques built upon an assumption of statistical independence are not strictly applicable to situations where spatial interdependence is apparent. Was the quantitative revolution a conspiracy? No, says Johnston (2007) TIBG32, 3.

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography.


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