What we are About: Mission Statements

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Centred in the Geography Department at Loughborough University, this research network focuses upon the external relations of world cities. Although the world/global city literature is premised upon the existence of world-wide transactions, most of the research effort has gone into studying the internal structures of individual cities and comparative analyses of the same. Relations between cities have been neglected by world cities researchers; the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Research Network has been formed to aid in rectifying this situation.

GaWC originated as a spin off from the Global Observatory, set up as a WWW site by Peter Taylor and David Walker, which was dedicated to promotion of the use of trans-state data for social science research. World Cities were one of the key divisions of the Observatory and this topic has been chosen as an area to develop by combining with Jon Beaverstock's established research interests. We begin here by repeating part of the original statement outlining the purpose of the observatory. This is followed by a specific GaWC statement of purpose which we call our Metageographical Mission.

Global Observatory


We start on the basis of three premises:

1. The globalisation premise is that contemporary social change is proceeding at an unprecedented rate and key processes behind it are operating at a global scale and are fundamentally trans-state in nature.

2. The data deficiency premise is that although there has never been as much data for describing the world as exists today, the vast majority are collected for states and are about states and as such facilitate international comparisons but not the study of trans-state processes.

3. The organisation lacuna premise is that while many social scientists have recognised the problem and have had to either make do with international data or have created their own project-specific data, there has been no centre acting as a clearing house for the critical research issues that arise from the mismatch between a trans-state world and state-based data. The Loughborough Global Observatory aspires to fill this lacuna and be that clearing house.

Our mission is to provide a service to the world wide social science community as the centre with information about access to trans-state data.

To summarise: our distinctive niche is trans-state data to provide a useful location for the study of globalisation.

GaWC World City Map


Metageography is about the basic spatial concepts and ideas which we use to think about the world. These are the often taken-for-granted premises we hold in order to make geographical sense of our lives. For instance, world material inequality has been commonly portrayed in terms of 'North-South' differences even though we are aware of the 'error' in placing Australia in the North category. Metageographical concepts are both valuable, indeed necessary, but also very dangerous: to the degree we use them unthinkingly, they act as blinkers on our spatial understandings. The first mission of GaWC is to make us think seriously about how we conceptualise the geography of our contemporary world.

Our primary images of the world come in two basic cartographic representations. The human image is one of countries: the most familiar map is that of state boundaries with each country coloured to show its areal extent. The physical image is one of continents and oceans: the most familiar map shows shadings of green and brown indicating coastal plains, valleys and mountains across the continents. These two images have been and continue to be important ways to understand the world but their metageographical dominance belies their relative importance. They both portray patterns rather than processes, space as a mosaic not as a network. In a world of satellite communications, both state boundaries and altitude contours are having less and less influence on our lives. Our mission is to promote a different metageographical image of the world, a space of flows held together by a network of cities.

There are a myriad of networks which make up our contemporary world, the Internet, for example, to which you are currently linked to, is an important example. We have chosen to focus upon the network of world cities because it is the most obvious concrete manifestation of a contemporary space of flows which can challenge traditional metageographies. It is sometimes said that the Great Wall of China is the only human-made artifact visible from outer space. WRONG, as the Earth turns away from the Sun what you see are the lights of human activity, the global pattern of cities. This metageographical image of cities with no sight of physical or political boundaries we call "The world according to GaWC". Our mission is to measure, analyse, interpret and understand the world according to GaWC.

This web-site describes the activities of the GaWC Research Network. Research is our first tool for pursuing our metageographical mission. But, research alone will not achieve our goals, the pedagogic and proselytising aspects require both teaching goals and co-operation with professionals and city managers.