Geoblogging, Walgreens, and Sprawl. Day 1 of AAG

Well it was an interesting first day at the AAG conference for me, starting with being part of a panel on Blogging organized by Jesse and Susan of Very Spatial and including seeing some good presentations on spatial analysis and Sprawl. As with any academic conference, much of the best stuff occurs in informal meetings with other attendees, in my case a discussion with a Walgreens Executive about how spatial analysis and modeling is used to determine store locations. Read more about each after the jump.

The day began with a panel on Blogging by geography types that was organized by Jesse and Susan of Very Spatial. The panel ended up being a great discussion not so much on geography blogs as much as it was a discussion of blogs, new media and the impact of these processes on society now and in the future. As Jesse and Susan recorded it all for the podcast I will not spoil the detail, but instead provide you with a link to the podcast for download. Click on the Day 3 AVSP link.

After roaming around the book exhibit for a while and picking up two great books by a Mark Monmonier (Spying with Maps and Cartographies of Danger) I attended a panel on medical geography. Overall the panel was pretty interesting, with presentations by the CDC and others in the epidemiology field. The next panel I attending of note was one on Sprawl. While, not an area that I have done any real research on, it is definitely an area of great personal interest of mine. Two presentations stuck out for different reasons. The first presentation, by James Vaughn of Texas State University-San Marcos, entitled "Size Matters: Super-sizing the American Dream" discussed the impact of marketing on increasing home sizes and the impact this has on sustainability, green space, exurbs, etc.. It was a fascinating look at how home sizes have grown exponentially over the past 40 years and how marketing has had a great deal to do with this. The second Sprawl presentation of note was by Kendrick Curtis of UT-Knoxville entitled "The force of conformity in the contemporary upscale suburb". This presentation focused on the impact that land developers and large scale home builders have on the creation and design of suburbs. In general, as a way to protect investments developers require large home builders to purchase large tracts of land. These home builders then control most aspects of the design and building as a way to protect their investment, resulting in homogeneous communities which look alike and lack any real sense of community. However, they do cost a lot and retain their value.

The final thing of note for Day 1, was a discussion with a Walgreens executive. In case you live under a rock or never get sick, Walgreens is the nations largest Pharmacy chain. The discussion we had dealt with why Walgreens would be attending the AAG conference, to which I was told that they were looking at research to help with the models they use for site selection. Apparently, Walgreens has several people whose sole job is to develop models and use spatial analysis for determining the best locations for putting Walgreens stores. Overall it was quite an interesting discussion, even if he could not tell me everything about the models they use.

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