Wrap-up: 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG)

From February 24th to 28th the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) was held in New York City, NY. Due to the large number of participants (~8,600) and sessions offered (~3,500) the conference was held in both the Hilton New York and the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers. The conference ended more than one month ago, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to write down my comments about it earlier.

I have been trying to attend as many sessions as possible, and after detailed preparation have been able to attend a session in every time slot offered, except during the two field trips I participated in. Furthermore, I presented my own research in one session.

This is a summary of the sessions I attended and the most interesting papers and topics covered there. (The numbers in brackets refer to the session IDs in the conference program.)

Friday, February 24th

  • The first session I attended was an introductory orientation called “Welcome to the AAG Meeting! Navigating and making the most of the conference” (1115). This gave me a good overview of how to best organize my stay so I could benefit the most from the conference.
  • The second session on that day was labeled “Risky endeavours: Emerging approaches to the creation of risk and responses to the uncertain (2)” (1257). Especially the presentation by Jonathan Everts (University of Bayreuth) about “Geographies of Anxiety and Risk” provided interesting insights.
  • After the lunch break I attended the opening plenary session of the Qualitative GIS Symposium (1446), which had presentations by famous qualitative geographers such as Mei-Po Kwan (Ohio State University) and Stephen Burgess (Cardiff University).
  • Some presentations in the following session called “Spatial Epidemiology (4): GIS Applications and Geocoding” (1517) provided interesting insights into problems related to spatial representations of epidemiological and health data. It also addressed possible privacy issues related to the publication of health-related data on maps in a presentation by Kathryn E. Lenzer (University of New Mexico) called “How easy is it to hack a map? A consideration of geospatial privacy and maps using confidential individual-level point data”. In my research I might also come across the issue of having to show confidential data on maps, so it was interesting to hear about Ms Lenzer’s approach.
  • In the penultimate time slot on the first day I attended a session called “BitCity: Data, Technology and Understanding the City (2)” (1648), where I heard an interesting talk by Tao Cheng (University College London) called “Space-Time Patterns of Crime Incidents in Central London”, which provided some interesting ideas which I might pursue in the course of my own research.
  • I concluded the first day of the conference at the “AAG Opening Session and Presidential Plenary” (1723), where several influential researchers from various disciplines (namely political science, sociology, environmental sciences, and geography), such as Frances Fox Piven, Grace Lee Boggs (who was not actually present in person but by means of a pre-recorded video message), Scott Kurashige, Don Mitchell, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore presented interesting insights into the social and socio-spatial backgrounds of contemporary social-justice movements such as the global “Occupy” movement. This is a video recording by the AAG of this session:

Saturday, February 25th

  • I started the second day of the conference by attending a double-session called “GIScience and Hazards” whose first part, labelled “Assessing Risk and Vulnerability” (2106), had several presentations related very closely to my current research. Especially the paper by Eric Tate (University of Iowa) called “Uncertainty Analysis for a Social Vulnerability Index” provided some interesting ideas about the differences between internal and external validation in vulnerability assessments.
  • The second part (2206) was labelled “Emergency Response” and dealt with processes after disasters have occurred. Tom Cova (University of Utah) introduced the very interesting idea of “Protective Action Triggers” in his presentation of the same title.
  • After the lunch break I attended a book review session called “Author Meets Critics: Marieke de Goede’s Speculative Security” (2421), which turned out to be interesting, yet unfortunately not very insightful.
  • I concluded the day by attending the last two (of six) sessions of a series called “Japanese Cities in Global Networks”. In the first session (2545) David W. Edgington (University of British Columbia) gave an overview of “Comprehensive Planning in Metropolitan Japan” in his presentation of the same name, introducing the 総合計画 planning methodology. Also A. J. Jacobs (East Carolina University) spoke about social inequalities in Japanese Cities in his presentation “Expanding Spatial Income Inequality, but still not Urban America: the case of the Tokyo Metropolitan Region, 1980-2007”.
  • In the second part (2645) the presentations by Leonard Schoppa (University of Virginia) about “Residential Mobility and Local Civic Engagement in Japan and the United States” and Evelyn Schulz (Ludwig Maximilians University Munich) about “Reappraising Tokyo’s back alleys and waterways: Aspects of the current discourse on the slow city in Japan” provided me some new insights in the functioning and structure of Japanese urban areas, which might prove very valuable for my continuing research.

Sunday, February 26th

  • I was one of 7 presenters in a session called “Highlights in Spatial Analysis and Modelling” (3123) on Sunday morning. A very interesting discussion emerged after my presentation, and continued until well after the session ended, which provided me some new ideas I might or should pursue or include in my research.
  • Due to the long and very interesting conversations regarding my presentation and research I missed my planned visit to a session called “CITY Sessions (2): The Uses and Abuses of 9/11” (3210).
  • During lunch break I attended a session by Saskia Sassen (Columbia University, @SaskiaSassen) called “Analytic Tactics: Geography as Obstacle” (3324). This is a video recording by the AAG of this session:
  • Following this interesting talk I attended a panel session called “Building Resilience to Environmental Hazards: Space, Time, and Scale” (3417) which had influential panelists and peer researchers of hazard science such as Susan Cutter (University of South Carolina), Thomas Wilbanks (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Rae Zimmerman (New York University), Craig Colten (Louisiana State University), and Michael Goodchild (University of California). The panel discussion provided me very interesting insights into the connection between resilience and vulnerability and pointed to some promising literature, which I am currently in the process of obtaining.
  • Next I attened a session called “Agent-based models and Geographical Systems: Urban Simulation” (3561), which presented some very interesting modeling approaches and applications by researchers such as Mike Batty (University College London, CASA, @jmichaelbatty), Denise Pumain (University of Paris I), and Ed Manley (University College London).
  • I concluded the third day of the conference by attending a session called “Tobler Lecture 2012: Are there fundamental concepts in GIScience” by Francis Harvey (University of Minnesota), which unfortunately did not live up to my expectations.

Monday, February 27th

  • On the fourth day I attended an early morning session called “New approaches in quantitative social geography: new data, new methods, new insights” (4125) which contained interesting presentations by James Cheshire (@spatialanalysis) and Paul Longley (University College London) about “The use of spatial analysis and surnames to chart migration trends” and Keiji Yano (Ritsumeikan University) about “Residential Concentrations of Global International Migrants in Tokyo”.
  • Before leaving for my first field trip I attended a session called “Public Spaces” (4268). It provided interesting case studies and research papers such as Noah Sager‘s (Chicago State University) study about public toilets in Chicago called “Private Places in Public Spaces: An Examination of Public Restroom Access in Downtown Chicago”, and Michail Galanakis‘ (University of Helsinki) “21st Century Agoras – Intercultural Public Spaces in Toronto”. The most interesting and insightful presentation of this session was Ronald Davidson‘s (California State University) talk about “Seeking Harmony in Self and Nation: Public Space in Tokyo, Japan”. Following a long and interesting discussion Mr Davidson and I agreed to meet again next time he will be in Japan to look into joint research opportunities, due to our shared interest in public space in Japan.
  • Thereafter I joined a field trip called “GIS in action! A Field Trip to the GIS Unit of the New York City Fire Department” (11), which turned out to be highly interesting and insightful. I was also able to make myself and my research topic known to some of the FDNY GIS analysis staff present there, which might be very useful in my future research. My thanks for an interesting field trip go to Capt. Steven Pollackov (@FDNYGIS) and Chung Chang!
  • After returning from the field trip I attended a talk by Michael Arad, architect of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, called “Building the National 9/11 Memorial: A Site of Memory and Remembrance” (4768), which provided very interesting insights in the process of conceptualizing, designing and building the memorial site, followed by an interesting and quite controversial round of discussion. A video recording by the AAG of this presentation will be available online soon.

Tuesday, February 28th

  • I started the last day of the conference by joining a field trip called “Tour of New York City’s Emergency Operations Center” (14), which was very interesting and impressive to see, yet unfortunately not likely to be very useful regarding my own research, as the NYC OEM deals mainly with natural hazards.
  • After returning from the field trip I ended the day and the conference by attending a two-part session called “The Geography of Disaster”. The first session (5418) contained an interesting presentation by Elena Shadrina (Meiji University) about “Japan’s Pre- and Post-3/11 Energy Policy: Distressing Lessons and Blurred Prospects”, and a paper by Charles Kelly (The CUNY Center) called “We Know Where You Are: Spatially Technologies and Tracking Disaster Survivors”.
  • The second session (5518) contained presentations by Matin Katirai (West Chester University) called “Spatial Distribution of Social Vulnerabilities pre- and post-earthquake in Chile”, and Rae Zimmerman (New York University) about “The Geography of Transport Resiliency in the Face of Natural and Human Induced Disasters”. Prof. Zimmerman also mentioned an upcoming book about the same topic, whose contents might prove very useful for my research.

In summary the visit to the 2012 AAG Annual Meeting was highly interesting, very productive and provided not only interesting insights and perspectives regarding my own research, but also beyond its horizon. Also, I have been able to meet with and talk to many interesting people, many of whom I expect to stay in contact with well after the meeting.

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