Learning objectives:

  • Explain how a reduction in the friction of distance results in time–space convergence.
  • Examine the relative changes in the speed and capacity of two types of transport (air, ocean, road, rail, pipeline) responsible for the flow of goods, materials and people.
  • Examine the changes in a transport, internet or telecommunications network in terms of the extension of links and nodes and the intensity of use at a national or global scale.
  • Describe the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in civil society and the transmission and flow of images, ideas, information and finance.
  • Examine the contrasting rates, levels and patterns of adoption of an element of ICT in two countries.

Lesson 1: Time-space convergence

Read the following introductory overview of time-space convergence and summarise the main ideas using Q/E/C note-taking strategies, which allow you to conveniently study from your notes.

Time-space convergence is the change in the perception of time and distance and the virtual erosion of geographical barriers due to improvements in transport and communication technology in recent times. In other words, virtual shrinkage – the physical reduction of time taken to travel between two places as a result of improved transport and heightened connectivity have encourages faster movement of people, goods, capital and information.

The perceived shrinkage of time and space has been described as time-space convergence by Janelle in 1968 and as time-space compression by Harvey in 1990. Janelle calculated time-space convergence by plotting in travel time between Edinburgh and London. He collected data starting from the industrial revolution and found out how time-space convergence generates the perception of the feel close together effect. For example, the two-week stage-coach journey from Edinburgh to London was ultimately superseded by an air travel lasting barely two hours (in 1958). Therefore, Janelle concluded that the two cities had converged at an average rate of 30 minutes per year over a period of 200 years. Harvey developed the ideas presented by Janelle, and he suggested that time.space convergence would allow ‘ global economic empire builders’ (TNC’s) to search for new markets and profits.

How to Calculate Time Space Convergence

Further evidence to support the concept of time-space convergence can be obtained from analysing the time taken to circumnavigate the globe. In the 1700’s, a three-mast frigate ship need 2 years to circumnavigate the world, whereas in 2015 one needed only 24 hours.

Additionally, time and space have converged by the advancements of communication systems. For example, before the development of electricity in the 19th century, information could only move as fast as its transport medium. the development of the telegraph first broke this link, and in the current age communication is instantaneous – e.g. by e-mail, Whatsapp, Facebook and similar platforms.

However, time-space convergence can not be considered a linear process; because, not all the people experience it to the same extent (rural and urban differences) and some places have attempted to avoid globalisation – in North Korea, media access is restricted and Internet usage is prohibited.

The origin of the idea of time-space convergence can be traced back to the idea of a global village. The term ‘global village’ was popularised by Marshall McLuhan – a modern pioneer of globalisation –  in his book ‘The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of the Typographic Man (1962)’ Marshall McLuhan visualised the world as a global village, empowered by electric technology and the instantaneous flow of information. He also predicted the Internet as an “extension of consciousness” thirty years before its commercialisation.

In contrast, the distance decay model and the frictional effects of distance by Tobler may be viewed as the anti-theses to time-space convergence. The distance decay model suggests that the interaction between two places declines as the distance between them increases. Tobler proposed a similar idea: As near things are more related to each other than things that are far apart (first law of geography) , spatial interactions will be more frequent over shorter distances.

In conclusion, time-space convergence refers to the perceived change of time and space and virtual erosion of geographical barriers by major advances in transport and communication. This concept is supported by the reduced time taken to travel the world and the progression from the telegraph towards instant communication via smartphones.

Lesson 2: ICT and the History of the Internet

Based on the following video, construct a timeline of the internet. 

ICT stands for information and communication technology, an umbrella term for all communication devices and applications.

 Explain how and why each of the following events have contributed to the development of the Internet: 
  • Z3 Computer (1941) / first commercial computer (1951)
  • JCR Licklider – vision of a Galactic Network
  • Arpanet (1969)
  • Ethernet technology / TCP and IP protocols
  • First Macintosh
  • World Wide Web (Tim Berners Lee)
  • Founding of Google
  • Any well known online service founded after 1998 but before 2010 (e.g. Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Skype)
  • Mobile Internet (4G technology)

Lesson 3: Mobile communication

Using information from the sections below, explain how and why mobile communication has grown over time.

How has mobile communication evolved?

  • Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, founded the Bell Telephone Company in 1879, and the American Telephone& Telegraph Company (AT&T) in1885. AT&T acquired the Bell Telephone Company and became the primary phone company in the United States.
  • AT&T introduced Mobile Telephone Service (MTS) in 1947, one of the earliest mobile telephone standards, however the growth of MTS was hampered by the constraints of technology: there were only three radio channels, so only three simultaneous calls could be made at any time, and the service was very expensive.
  • MTS was replaced by Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS) in 1965. This allowed for more simultaneous calls and introduced customer dialing to eliminate manual calls by an operator.
  • The first mobile phone network in Germany was the A1-Netz (1958) which had coverage of 80% of the country in 1970 (but a maximum capacity of 11000 users).
  • By 1987, Global System for Mobile communication (GSM technology) was available with more channels and a high capacity slot.
  • General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) was introduced in the 1990s, which meant that a user was always connect.
  • Universal Mobile Telephone Service (UMTS) was a breakthrough technology introduced in 2010, that first allowed for mobile internet.

How is development in mobile communication is affecting the world’s poorest societies?

  • Mobiles are becoming increasingly affordable to societies across continents.
  • In countries where the lack of effective communication infrastructure had been one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth, cellular technology is changing lives.
    • Money can now be directly transferred between phone users in Africa – 5 million Kenyans use Vodaphones M-Pesa money transfer service
    • Fishermen and farmers in Africa use mobile internet to check market prices before selling produce.
  • Greater mobile uptake will support democracy through more widespread and rapid communications.

Describe the trends in the use of mobile phones.

  • Global mobile subscriptions surpassed 7 million in 2015 (97% of total population), but mobile subscriptions growth is slowing, as subscription in the developed world are reaching saturation point
    • 120.8% mobile penetration leaves little room for growth.
  • Market growth is being driven by deman in the developing world, led by rapid mobile adoption in China and India.
  • Mobile penetration in the developing world is 90.2%, but there is still potential for growth, particularly in Africa, where mobile penetration is approximately 70%.
    • Lowest smartphone ownership rates are found in some of the poorest countries (Tanzania – 11%; Uganda – 4%; Ethiopia – 4%)

Lesson 4: The digital divide

Read this article about smartphone ownership and internet usage trends and find at least 3 factors that may have caused the digital divide. Use a statistic from the article to back up your claim. Then read the following essay, which discusses the causes of the digital divide in more detail.

Digital divide refers to inequalities in access to ICT and the social, economic and politcal aspects of varying levels of information between those who have access to ICT and those who do not. Factors which affect digital divide include economic capability, spatial location, government policies, education and literacy, as well as demographic components such as disability and the percentage of elderly dependents.

One main cause of the digital divide is a lack of access due to affordability, which depends on an area’s economic capability. For example, the UK has a high average disposable income (GNI per capita), so the majority of the population has enough finanical resources to purchase mobile phone contracts and fibre optic cable internet access. IN contrast, only 8% of Ethiopians have access to the internet, which correlates with data on disposable income, that only 22% of the country’s populaton live on more than US$2 a day, and therefore are highly unlikely to invest in ICT before their basic needs are met.

Another factor that contributes to the digital divide is spatial location. Most notably, access to ICT may vary immensely between rural and urban areas.Usually urban areas will have better access to ICT, as rural areas may not meet the threshold population required to support the specialised infrastructure. This is particularly evident in India, where only one-third of internet users are from rural markets, in part due to undeveloped cable networks, but also the slow connectivity should a connection exist.

Global Internet penetration (Image Source)

Additionally, strict government policy and low levels of democracy may increase the digital divide. For instance, censorship in North Korea prevents the public from using the Internet, let alone dial in or out of the country using a mobile phone.

Another large group on the losing side of the digital divide are the elderly, with a small percentage of those who are handicapped not being able to use the tools at all. In the case of Japan this may be attributed to a cultural mindset that hampers digital development. In other words, the elderly may not think that the internet is relevant to them or they may believe that they lack the skills to start using ICT. Consequently, they often use books and newspapers as an alternative way of knowing and are thus unaware of the opportunities of ICT, resulting in inequality.

Furthermore, gender inequality may widen the gap between those who have access to ICT and those who do not. This socio-cultural construction – commonly found in Middle Eastern and African countries – has led to female discrimination in terms of employment and income, with the prevalent idea that women work in the house while men provide for the family income. Thereby, women may be denied of the opportunity to use technology at their workplace and may not be able to afford computers or mobile phones as they don’t earn the money to afford these products.

Also digital divide may be created by varying education and literacy rates . This is because it is challenging to promote technological literacy if basic literacy skills are lacking – the use of the Internet and of mobile phones relies heavily on being able to comprehend what is displayed on the screen.

In conclusion, digital divide refers to the inequalities in access to ICT as well as the social aspect of the differing amount of information between those who have access and those who do not. Factors influencing the digital divide include: economic capability, spatial location, government policy, disability and elderly population, gender inequality and education.

Based on the diagram of global internet penetration, these ICT Facts and Figures and your own research, compare and contrast the patterns of usage and adoption of ICT in two countries. (Aim for 3-4  A4 sides with labelled diagrams).

Lesson 5: The role of ICT in society

Networks and flows show how different places are interconnected by transport or communications and network maps can show perceived distances based on these factors of connectivity.

Find an example of a network map and write 3-5 lines to describe what it displays. 

Describe the role of ICT in transmission and flow of images, ideas, information and finance.

This question looks at the different uses of ICT in society to spread images, ideas, information and money. There are countless aspects which you could tackle to answer this question, some of which are listed below:

  • Instant messaging platforms such as Whatsapp allow people to stay in contact with friends and family
  • Social media can also be used to arrange demonstrations for political reasons [e.g. Arab Spring]
  • Mass media, such as news sites, can be used to spread information rapidly to millions of users.
  • Businesses can use ICT for multiple purposes: to promote their services or products (advertising), as a source of information (farmers may check market prices) and to order supplies.
  • ICT allows allows access to education, i.e. my website, or MIT online courses

Civil society: any organization or movement that works in the area between the household, the private sector and the state to negotiate matters of public concern. Civil societies include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community groups, trade unions, academic institutions and faith-based organizations.

Explain the role of ICT in the growth of international outsourcing.

[10 marks]

  • Outsourcing is the concept of taking internal company functions and paying an
    outside firm to handle them. In other words, one company employs another company to produce goods or services, rather than manufacturing them “in-house” at their branch plant or back-office. In international outsourcing, a domestic firm asks a foreign firm to produce a specified product, component or service, for which it can supply the inputs and transfer technology and technical assistance to the producer. Different sectors of industry (for agribusinneses to call centers) use ICT in different ways to support outsourcing.
  • For example, the quarternary sector may outsource their office via ICT, by transferring files and data through platforms such as Dropbox, and using Skype for meetings with researchers from abroad.
  • In the tertiary sector, back-office services such as call centers have been moved to India from the USA, because the expansive telephone network and the relatively low cost of calls allows for international operations.
  • Particularly in the secondary sector, ICT also helps with managing inventoriesl, transferring client payments and ordering from suppliers, thereby supporting outsourcing of other sectors of industry such as manufacturing and food provision.
  • ICT has encouraged the growth of international outsourcing due to the availability of global communications, which allow for the exchange of knowledge and ideas, of financial flows (banking), and of information that is required to manage other economic activities abroad.

“The growth of globalization owes more to politics than it does to technology.” Discuss this statement.

[15 marks]

  • The growth of transport and ICT networks have fuelled a range of flows that are related to the concept of globalisation, such as FDI, migration, outsourcing by TNCs, a culturally shrinking world, and economic changes brought on by the internet.
  • For example,  containerized shipping and no-frills air flights can be linked to the exponential growth of various flows such as manufactured goods and international tourism. No-frills flights have reduced the cost of plane tickets, as no extra services are provided by the airline, and thereby more people can afford to fly away for the holiday.
  • Another phenenomen that was, in part, facilitated by technology and media is the “Arab Spring”. For instance, demonstrations against human-rights violations and the corrupt local powers were coordinated via platforms such as Facebook.

WikiProject Globalization Logo.svg

  • In contrast, it may be argued that politics are more influential on globalisation, as some countries have adopted restrictive measures to reduce globalisation. Most notably, isolationism in North Korea owes to the decisions by political powers, which restrict air transport – only a dozen airlines fly from and to North Korea’s only international airport in Pjongjang. Furthermore, the government has also banned internet access for the majority of people, thus preventing communication and exchange of ideas with people from abroad.
  • Also, political powers are involved in regulating cross-border economic activity, for example by means of trade barriers and embargos, but also by establishing trade unions.
  • While it is evident from the aforementioned statements that the growth of globalisation owes to both technology and politics, it could be argued that technology has encouraged global political participation, as Facebooks has been used to orchestrate protests at G20 summits. However, it would also be possible to reason that technology has actually been driven by politics, as the Internet may owe its development to the Cold War – the USA wanted to create a network to ensure communication even in case of a nuclear bomb from the USSR, so the USA developed a decentralised communications network that used packet switching technology.
Finally, review your notes from the previous lessons by challenging yourself to answer the questions (for Q/E/C notes) and rehearsing out loud all the relevant information from your essays in a structured manner (until you can do it without looking at your notes).

Lesson 6: Introduction to Transportation

The numerous modes of transportation can be grouped in different categories based on their features:

  • Air transport, which involves commercial aviation, private planes, helicopters and hot air balloons.
  • Ocean transport involves the use of ships of various sizes, most notably container ships, but also cruise liners (passenger ships)
  • Road transport includes motorised and unmotorised vehicles that drive on wheels (busses, trucks, cars, bicycles), as well as pedestrians.
  • Rail transport, which consists mostly of trains, refers to all modes of transport that runs on tracks
  • Pipeline transport involves the distribution of goods through pipes, for instance petroleum/gas pipes, as well as water and sewage pipes.
Watch the video on the history of transportation and construct a timeline of the most significant transportational breakthroughs.
Read this amazing introduction to transport geography. It's a long article, but well worth it! Create a mindmap or diagram to capture the main points.

Lesson 7: The History of Air transport

Watch this video on the history of air transport and use the information below to evaluate (giving arguments) which contributions to aviation were most significant).

Pioneering stage

Leonardo Da Vinci designed sketches of flight machines that he envisioned, but these drawings were not found until the 18th century.

In 1783, the Montgolfier Borthers launched the first hot air balloon.

In 1804, George Cayley – “the father of the aeroplane” – constructed a model glider which was the first modern heavier-than-air flying machine.

Francis H. Wenham designed the first wind tunnel in 1871, which allowed scientists to test their flying machines’ aerodynamic features and improve upon them.

Otto Lilienthal, the “Glider King” was the first person to make controlled untethered glides regularly, and he rigorously documented his work (several photographs exist)

In 1903, the Wright Brothers conducted the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven airplane.

File:First flight2.jpg
The Wright Flyer, John T. Daniels

Military Use

As soon as air crafts had been developed they were use mostly by the military, while pioneers continued to advance the technology.

In WW1 machine guns were attached to fighter planes, and the Hugo Junkers pioneered the first all-metal air craft in late 1915.

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh achieved the first solo non-stop crossing of the Atlantic. Amelia Earhart was the first female pilot to complete a transatlantic flight in 1932.

In 1937, the zeppelin Hindenburg (the largest air craft ever to fly) caught fire just before landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey. 36 people died.

In WW2, air planes were used for strategic bombing, and radar allowed for the more coordinated and controlled deployment of air defense. 1941 was marked by the first flight of a jet plane.

Commercialisation and advanced research

The first commercial jet airliner to fly was the British de Havilland Comet (in 1949)

The USSR’s Aeroflot became the first airline in the world to operate regular jet services in 1956.

The age of mass commercial air travel (Jet Age) was ushered by new levels of comfort, safety and passenger expecations aboard the Boeing 707 and DC-8.

In 1957, Sputnik 1 – the first artificial Earth satellite was launched. This milestone also marked the beginning of the Space Race and has also allowed for expanded satellite use (eg. communications).

In 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to land on the moon with the Apollo 11 aircraft.

The A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner enterred commercial service in 2007, can carry up to 853 passengers.

Lesson 8: Aviation Trends

Watch the following videos to gain an understanding of global air traffic and note down any relevant statistics.

Lesson 9: Ocean transport

Read the two articles (the Guardian and the Wired article), and analyse how shipping routes have changed over time.
The complex network of global cargo ship movements
“Transportation networks play a crucial role in human mobility, the exchange of goods and the spread of invasive species. With 90 per cent of world trade carried by sea, the global network of merchant ships provides one of the most important modes of transportation. Here, we use information about the itineraries of 16 363 cargo ships during the year 2007 to construct a network of links between ports. We show that the network has several features that set it apart from other transportation networks. In particular, most ships can be classified into three categories: bulk dry carriers, container ships and oil tankers. These three categories do not only differ in the ships’ physical characteristics, but also in their mobility patterns and networks. Container ships follow regularly repeating paths whereas bulk dry carriers and oil tankers move less predictably between ports. The network of all ship movements possesses a heavy-tailed distribution for the connectivity of ports and for the loads transported on the links with systematic differences between ship types.”

From Royal Society Publishing

Lesson 11: A Comparison of Air travel and Ocean travel

Use the information from the table below, to write a discursive piece: Should you import bananas from Ecuador by plane or by ship? Include the benefits and disadvantages of each mode of transportation.  
Air travel Ocean travel
Velocity 870 km per hour in a Boeing 747 (commercial jet and cargo plane) Container ships and cruise ships: 46 km per hour (25 knots)
Maximum capacity (passengers) 853 passengers in A380 6,780 passengers (Harmony of the Seas)
Maximum capacity (cargo) Antonov An-225 can carry 250,000kg ≈196 million kg aboard the MSC Oscar
Advantages ·         Fast over long distances

·         Planes don’t get stuck in traffic, unlike cars and lorries

·         Good for high value perishable goods e.g. flowers, animals

·         Can reach landlocked countries

·         Cheaper over long distances: no cost in building transport routes (seas/oceans already exist) and costs spread over large area (container ships hold thousands of containers.

·         Good for bulky low cost non-perishable goods e.g. coal

·         Containerization allows for fast loading and unloading. Unlike planes containers can be directly transferred to lorries and trains.

·         Refrigerated containers now allow more products to be transported

Disadvantages ·         Planes cause a lot of pollution (noise, air and visual) – contribute greenhouse effect

·         Cost of flying is expensive, especially as price of oil increases

·         Airports are expensive to build and take up large areas

·         Can only carry small loads compared to ships

·         Air routes are fixed

·         Planes can be cancelled due to bad weather

·         Aircraft are expensive to build and maintain

·         Waiting lists for aircraft are long

·         Some countries are landlocked so can not receive shipments

·         Ships are expensive to build – steel is expensive

·         There are long waiting lists for large containers ships

·         Oil prices are expensive so fuel for ships is expensive

·         Some routes have to be built, maintained, dredged and enlarged e.g. Panama and Suez Canal

·         Ports are expensive to build and can damage delicate wetland areas

·         Risk piracy and smuggling and cost of protecting ships e.g. Horn of Africa

·         Ships can have accidents and cause environmental damage e.g. oil leaks and hitting reefs

·         Cargo can be lost overboard in bad weather

 Lesson 12: Review

Read the following question and sample answer on time-space convergence from an IB past paper. This allows you to understand how to structure essay-based questions in Paper 3 (HL). 

Good essays will start with an introduction that defines a geographical term (if required) and summarises the main points. In the body, you should lay out your argument (giving causes, advantages, disadvantages, and solutions, as well as related concepts, unless otherwise stated). For extra marks include a relevant and labelled diagram in the body of the essay.In the conclusion, sum up the main ideas and end on a positive tone.

Explain  how and why one network (transport, communication or internet) has grown over time.

[1o marks]

The Internet is a worldwide computer network whose broadcasting capability allows for information dissemination, collaboration and interaction between individuals through their computers without regard for geographical location. The number of internet users has climbed drastically from 334 users in 1969 to more than 3.42 billion users in 2016. This rapid growth, sometimes referred to as the internet explosion, may be attributed to various technological advancements and subsequently the rising demand for services provided by these new technologies.  The idea of the internet explosion is closely linked to time-space convergence, as it has accelerated communications and allowed for instaneous flow of information without regard for geographical location.

The first major steps in building the internet stemmed from a project by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). The research programme, lead by JCR Licklider, resulted in the development of the first wide area computer network that used packet switching technology. This network, known as the Arpanet, allowed scientists to harness the power of multiple computers in remote locations. In 1969, two years after the plan for the Arpanet had been published, there were 334 users on the network, which was mostly reserved for academics and the US military (so few people were granted access). The growth of the Arpanet was also initially limited by its communication protocol, the Network Control Protocol (NCP) which could not connect heterozygous networks.

This technical obstacle was overcome by the introduction of two major standards for Internet communication: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), thus allowing different networks (and thereby more users) to connect to each other. Nevertheless, the internet was still used mostly by researchers and developers, meaning that the total number of users remain low – by modern standards.

This changes when Tim Berners Lee introduced the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1990, as its graphical user interface attracted a new community of public users and made internet technology common and accessible to all.

The rising number of users has subsequenlty caused networks to grow to meet the demands of more individuals and businesses. For example, Googel Inc. was founded in 1998 to allow users to search for and find information or services they are looking for, and the platform soon attracted more than 50 million visitors each year (and has been growing ever since).

One of the most recent technological leaps is the development of mobile internet in 2010, which has fuelled the rise of online activities such as social networking, online video and online shopping.

Global Internet Penetration Map

While internet technology is reaching saturation point in many developed countries (as internet penetration is already above 80%  – e.g. in Germany – the growth of the internet has been sustained by the expansion of use in emerging and devloping countries. This may be attributed in particular to the development of mobile internet which reduced the dependency on fixed network infrastructure such as DSL or telephone cables and thereby loweredd the costs of this type of ICT. In other words, the economic barriers are being overcome, which can be seen from internet trends: in 2016, around 40% of the world had access to the internet, up from under 1% in 1995.

The growth of the internet is a prime example of time-space convergence, because it contributed to instaneous communication by means of messengers such as Skype and Whatsapp. In other words, the Internet allows us to exchange messages quickly without regard for geographical location, and the instaneous flow of information has reduced the perceived space and time to travel between two places.

In conclusion, the internet is the fastest growing network to date. This can be explained by the technological advances ment that allowed for the growth of global communication (among which: Arpanet, IP protocol, World Wide Web and mobile internet) as well as the versality of its services and the growth of these applications to meet the user’s demands. The availability of mobile internet in 2010 has helped reduce the digital divide and allowed millions of people in HIPC’s to access ICT.

Lesson 11: Past Paper Questions

Now attempt to answer the following IB past paper questions on your own. Email me (igcsegeography@web.de) so I can mark your work and give you feedback. I'll also advise you on how examiners will grade your paper.

Analyse recent growth trends in the use of ICT for one or more countries or
regions you have studied.

[10 marks]

Using examples, explain the relationship between transport innovation and
reduced friction of distance.

[10 marks]