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Rabino, Giovanni A.
Spence, Angela
Year of Publication: 
Series/Report no.: 
38th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Europe Quo Vadis? - Regional Questions at the Turn of the Century", 28 August - 1 September 1998, Vienna, Austria
As a contribution to the current debate on the state-of-the art of regional science, this paper presents some reflections on the epistemological and methodological status of the discipline as we approach the turn of the century. First of all, and contrary to the widely held view that quantitative approach is seriously 'in crisis', it is argued that the discipline is going through a period of intensive, but constructive, theoretical development. To support this assertion, the authors suggest that it is important to abandon a hidden source of prejudice: the tendency to evaluate the present situation in terms of an outdated conception of the discipline. Modern quantitative geography and regional science is a vast and varied scientific field, which has radically evolved under the pressure of changing theoretical paradigms and technological advance. It has little to do with the old regional science of the 60s. The first part of the paper reviews this evolution: 1. from the original goal of applying to geography the tools of classical science, such as statistics, optimization and modelling (whose use was made possible in the 60s by the availability of the new "number crunching" computers) 2. to the present informatization (and hence quantification) of all branches of regional science, based on PCs and the Net, used as tools not just for computation, but for data handling, representation, visualization and communication). An attempt is made to fit all of these efforts, those with a long tradition (modelling, O.R., gaming simulation, statistics etc.), as well as the more recent approaches (expert systems, G.I.S., hypermedia, virtual reality, A.I.) into a single framework, stressing the specific aims of each and identifying existing - or potential - interconnections. In the second part of the paper we focus on the new frontiers of regional science and quantitative geography with particular reference to the processes of analysis and planning. It is suggested that: 1. the goal of analysis is shifting from simulation (the explicitation in terms of the "scientific method") of the mental processes involved in problem-solving, to the replication of the human ability to "formulate problems". This implies that creativity, and related aspects such as learning, and expertise, will come increasingly within the scope of research in regional science 2. progress in planning will be limited unless we will be able to go beyond the misleading counterposition between the formalised "rational" approach and the intuitive design approach. A fruitful way to cope with planning in a complex world is to integrate the two strategies and, in doing so, to tap into wider sources of knowledge. In other words, it is important to learn the 'art' of using the tools of geographical science.
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Conference Paper
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