Time-Geography - a socio-technical ecological approach applicable in many research fields

The time-geographical approach was developed by Professor Torsten Hägerstrand, and it is used and developed by researchers in many research fields and in many parts of the world

Hägerstrand also referred to his theoretical creation as ‘socio-technical ecology’. The last book Hägerstrand wrote, Tillvaroväven [The Fabric of Existence], published in 2009, provides a composite picture of his efforts to facilitate understanding that Earth's resources are limited, and that this imposes particular demands on the organization of society. The concepts in the book inspire re-orientating analyses of how humankind (as a whole, individually and in smaller communities) manages Earth's resources in the short and long term. Political and economic processes impact the development of instruments and incentives that influence the use of renewable and non-renewable resources. The time-geographic concepts provide a basis for analyses of the ways in which the abstractions of the monetary system impact Earth. In doing such analyses, measures must be taken at many levels. The possibilities that exist in terms of sustainable development require international agreements and cooperation, just as people must have respect for ecological, social and economic sustainability in the use of resources in their daily lives. What is required most is a way of looking at things that transcends disciplinary boundaries, helping us understand how different types of individuals coexist in the landscape. The background against which the time-geographical approach has developed can be discerned in this endeavor to articulate integrations, interconnections and new configurations of systems.

A special notation system is created within time-geography to illustrate fundamental concepts and to elucidate, for instance, patterns of movement and other connections in time and space. This notation system constitutes a ‘language’ that illustrates the most fundamental relationships in our world.

Time-geography is more than a socio-technical ecological approach. It has also laid the foundation for the development of the activity-based approach in transport geography. Hence, the time-geographic notation system offers unique means of illustrating processes and connections between people, tangible objects, places and systems that would otherwise be difficult to clarify. 

International time-geographical research is dominated by research on transportation, communication and daily travel. This research focus builds on the notation system's mapping and representations, and makes extensive use of the ever-increasing capabilities of computers.

Another major focus of the research in time-geography concerns how people organize their daily lives. This research touches on new technological systems (such as energy systems or IT systems) and their importance in terms of how various daily activities can be carried out. For example, the research might examine work places’ organization of work tasks and issues of gender equality. Numerous occupational therapists have found that time-geography provides a means to analyze and describe how people are able – or unable – to carry out their daily activities amidst the uncertainties of life, with a focus on health.



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