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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Response: What can you do with geography?

Google posted the video below titled "What can you do with geography?" on March 28. The goal was to honor and inspire this year's competitors in the National Geography Bee and to promote geography. It's a thoughtful gesture, with snazzy Google Earth zooming, references to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and images of treks up Mount Everest.

I'm sorry to have to say this but the video is not memorable, nor does not answer the question posed. The question was: What can you do with geography? The answer to that is a story. The answer is a specific situation, with real people, that highlights how geography matters. The video suggests geography is good and important, but in a very broad sense. Those are nice ideas and feelings, but they are not memorable nor impactful, at least not to me.

Do great news networks talk in broad, sweeping generalizations? No. They introduce you to real peopel, with real stories, to help drive home the larger issue. The recent TV production, Frozen Planet (which I have not seen) seems to hone in on specific animals, their specific stories, to drive home grander messages. NPR health stories often include a named individual who is facing a medical or insurance issue to "put a face" on a larger topic. It's both easier to follow the information and more memorable.

As I've noted before, the classic geography story is John Snow and cholera. It's both easy to follow and memorable. So, again, I beg those supporting geography to tell stories, rather than speak in broad, forgettable swaths. I'm still looking to collect more stories like that of John Snow.