In Argent et al.’s article “The Sponge City Hypothesis: does it hold water?” the concept of the ‘sponge city’ is explored – cities which act as command centers for the surrounding area, providing a haven for culture, infrastructure, and economy. The abstract offers a great refresher for the concept of a sponge city and what it means, as well as the purpose of the article – looking into migration trends within the cities of Tamsworth and Dubbo in order to find out whether or not these two cities could be considered sponge cities, as well as determining what that means for the subject.
The literature review is very comprehensive; sponge cities are defined and explored very thoroughly, as the “Sponge City Phenomenon” spread a considerable light on the concept, as well as who the biggest link to the origins of sponge cities is - Bernard Salt. The history of the idea is explored, as well as how it fits in with the geography of Australia. Sponge cities are firmly established as a hypothesis that this study sets out to prove – the aim of the paper in general is to figure out exactly how much the cities of Dubbo and Tamsworth can be considered sponge cities.
For the research, statistics from internal migration data is used to help determine where people move to, and from where, to figure out which cities are sponge cities, soaking up all of the remaining population. The researchers made sure to pick the most reliable and easily accessible source for this information, which was the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This provides a highly reputable set of data that is difficult to dispute, at least for want of a better option. The Statistics Bureau offers a substantially smaller margin for error and greater redundancy for its entries; this helps the information to be as accurate as possible.
A great deal of quantitative data is used for this research; population statistics and the like are used to determine what cities carry the most people who emigrate to Dubbo and Tamsworth in New South Wales – where they come from, how many people migrate between the two sponge cities, what neighborhoods and areas these people go to within the sponge cities and surrounding neighborhoods, and so on. These tables are clear and showcase real relationships between the movements of people between sponge cities, especially in regards to the periods of time which they were divided into, being 1986-1991 and 1996-2001. These two time periods are looked at as trends, and there are clear changes between people’s movements in 1986 and 1996.
Unlike some research papers, the information gathered from this paper is entirely research based – no internal studies or interviews were done to collect this information independently; rather, they relied on external sources and their own literature review. Fortunately, since the data was already collected for them, it was much more possible to perform the data analysis right away without having to bother with flawed data collection.
The concepts behind sponge cities and urban sprawl are explored very deeply in the literature review of the paper. Topics like the general popularity of metaphors being the reason that sponges are so widely used as a term for this phenomenon are addressed, and this type of semantics is normally found in the paper. However, while informative, that particular train of thought can distract from the body of the essay, as Argent et al. have a difficult time staying on task during this time, as more can be said about the makeup of a sponge city as opposed to merely defining what a metaphor is and why it is important.
In conclusion, sponge cities are thought to exist, but Dubbo and other cities just like it cannot attribute their success to their absorption of the population and zones of other cities. At the same time, these cities are still experiencing a great amount of urban sprawl and expansion. People are constantly moving in and out of these cities from everywhere throughout the country, and the commerce and jobs they bring with them help to stimulate the economy, thus making the concept of a sponge city very intriguing for those who end up wanting to do business in this area.
Critique – Cultural Capital and Place: Coles Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania
In “Cultural Capital and Place: Coles Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania,” Carol Patterson talks about the value of cultural capital, and how it fits into the Freycinet Peninsula and Coles Bay, a small coastal community in Tasmania. This paper is incredibly well-presented; the abstract is very succinct but informative, giving the reader a very concise view of the entirety of the paper. It takes us through what to expect with each section, as well as truncated versions of the conclusions that are made and the methods that are used to discover these things.
The paper begins by establishing the source of the data – empirical research that was performed at Coles Bay, all done through qualitative research of three distinct types of people who live in that area. This is an incredibly effective and efficient way of collecting the data, as it allows for the differences in taste and cultural capital that stem from different groups and their expectations of the area. After all, what a permanent resident is looking for is far different from what a single visit tourist would want out of Coles Bay. These various relationships are at the forefront of the study.
The research was performed over three years, picking a consistent number of people for permanent and repeat visitors, and picking all new single visit tourists every year to act as that sample. These people were interviewed at consistent stages throughout the three years, the questions and themes intentionally geared toward learning their opinions on the various cultural and economic capital that were being studied. Cultural capital is focused on several different themes, each of them representing a different set of priorities for a particular group of people. These interviews and questions were meant to determine which of these themes are more important for permanent residents, single visit tourists, and so on.
The theoretical framework provides an extremely clear picture of what to expect from the paper. Cultural capital is defined as a concept, and a literature review allows the information gleaned from external sources to be placed in a proper context. It also establishes what natural and economic capital concepts are, so that the reader can know about what will be included in the paper as the research continues. Once the reader knows the landscape of the study, they can much more easily follow along with it. This allows the reader to be very well informed about the language that will be used to present this paper and the findings contained within it.
The data is presented very clearly through the text and graphs, as well as tables. The first table organizes the various themes of cultural and economic capital, thus helping the reader discern what is being investigated through the interviews with these subjects in their sample. The second table then records the permanent residents’ thoughts on these themes, and the third table does the same with single visit tourists. These last two tables merely sum up the main points that were discovered among each group, dividing them into cultural, economic, and natural capital, thus placing these major opinions into their own distinct groups. The opinion-based nature of the hypothesis of the study makes the use of qualitative methods necessary. Therefore, there is not as much of a need for charts and statistical analysis. All the same, the qualitative data that they have is thoroughly examined.
In the end, the Discussion section sums up the findings of the interviews succinctly and with great clarity. Permanent residents found their cultural capital in different themes than did repeat visitors and single visit tourists. This helped to support their hypothesis that different people take different things from time spent in a particular place, in this case Coles Bay and the Freycincet Peninsula. It is eventually determined by the researchers that Permanent residents have the greatest chance of contributing to the future prosperity of Coles Bay, as they have the most emotionally invested in it, and therefore care more about its continued well being. This is highly contrasted with Single Visit Tourists, who were more interested in a commodified transaction than a real experience with the ecology and biodiversity of the place, as well as the people who inhabit Coles Bay.
This paper is amazingly well-constructed, each section clearly defining what will be taught and demonstrated for the reader. The reader knows exactly what to expect, and there is no need to muddle through vague concepts to get to the real meat of the study. The external sources provide a decent framework by which to hinge the new concepts being explored in the study, and it prepares the reader for the findings that are demonstrated in each section.
Argent, N., Rolley, F., & Walmsley, J. (2008). The Sponge City Hypothesis: does it hold water?. Australian Geographer, 39(2), 109-130.
Patterson, C. (2008). Cultural Capital and Place: Coles bay and the Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania. Geographical Research, 46(3), 350-360.