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Changing space – the shrinking world (12 hours)

Global 3

Time–space convergence and the reduction in the friction of distance – 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.

Extension and density of networks – 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.

1 Time–space convergence and the reduction in the friction of distance.

Global 2

Time-space Convergence

Time-space convergence looks at the relationship between space and time. In particular it looks at the amount of space that can be crossed in a set period of time. With the advancement of faster forms of transportation, notably the jet plane it is now possible to travel much greater distances in a shorter space of time.

Global 7Global 8

Sea and air transport


Global 9


  • Cheaper over long distances
  • No cost in building transport routes (seas/oceans already exist)
  • Good for bulky low cost non-perishable goods e.g. coal
  • Costs are spread over a large area (modern container ships hold thousands of containers)
  • Containerisation has sped up the process of loading and unloading. Unlike planes containers can be directly transferred to lorries and trains.
  • Refrigerated containers now allow more products to be transported


  • Much slower than air travel
  • Some countries are landlocked so cannot 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 and maintained and enlarged e.g. Panama and Suez Canal
  • Some shipping routes have to be dredged
  • Ports are expensive to build and can damage delicate wetland areas
  • Risk of attack by pirates 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
  • Can encourage smuggling


Global 1


  • 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


  • 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

Air Travel in the UAE

Low-cost (budget) airline: An airline that offers cheap discounted fares by removing many of the luxuries of travel. For example tickets can only be bought online, you have to check in online, you have to pay extra for seat selections, you have to pay for your food, you have to pay for baggage, etc. Air Arabia and Fly Dubai are examples of budget airlines.
Stopover: When someone is flying between two destinations e.g. London and Sydney, but stop on the way e.g. Dubai for a number of days. Airlines like stopovers because it brings increased revenue to the country that they are stopping in. Emirates and Etihad encourage people to stop in the UAE.
Transit: When someone connects or changes planes in a country but does not stop and visit the country.
Scheduled flight: A timetabled airline flight between two destinations. It is possible for anyone to book a ticket on a scheduled flight. TACA’s flights between San Salvador and Miami are scheduled flights.

Case Study

Global 10

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) only has a population of about 8 million, but it has four international airports (Abu Dhabi, Dubia, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah) and at least five airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, Fly Dubai and RAK Airways). For its population size, this a lot of airports and airlines, but there are some reasons for this. These reasons include:

  • The UAE has a large migrant population, so many people need to fly in and out of the UAE
  • The UAE is warm all year around and has become a popular tourist destination.
  • The UAE is conveniently located between Europe and Asia
  • The UAE has a lot of money to invest in airlines and airports
  • The UAE is divided into seven Emirates – the four main airports are actually in different Emirates
  • The UAE has a cheap supply of oil
  • The UAE is flat country with plenty of open land. This makes building and planning airports easier

Despite already having an international airport, Dubai (one of the seven Emirates) is in the process of building a new international airport called Al Maktoum International Airport (it is named after its ruler). It is hoped that the new airport will become the largest freight airport in the world (12 million tonnes by 2013) and also the largest passenger airport – it is planned to have a passenger capacity of 160 million a year (the world’s current busiest airport is Atlanta with 90 million passengers a year). When finished in 2022, the airport is expected to have the following:

  • Five parallel runways – each 4.5km long (long enough for super jumbos)
  • Three passenger terminals
  • 16 cargo terminals
  • 100,000 car parking spaces
  • Hotels and shopping malls
  • Train and metro link

The total cost of building the airport is estimated to be $82 billion. There are many benefits to the UAE of having so many airports and airlines, including:

  • An increased amount of tourists
  • An increased amount transit passengers who will probably have to pay a tax and spend money in the airport.
  • The UAE will receive a greater percentage of the global freight market and probably increased duties
  • The UAE will have improve relations with other countries
  • The UAE will be able to attract major, business, sporting and cultural events e.g. tennis, golf, concerts, Grand Prix
  • Increased cultural diversity
  • Becoming a global centre of business. Dubai and Abu Dhabi will also become more important global cities.

However, there will be some costs. Costs include:

  • Increased air, noise and visual pollution
  • Loss of culture? (more migrants and tourists)
  • Cost of construction
  • Competition between airports and airlines may mean some go bankrupt (RAK Airways has already gone bankrupt once and restarted)
  • Saturation of market and costs of construction cannot be repaid
  • The UAE is in an area vulnerable to political unrest e.g. Arab Spring, Iran which could hurt demand

RAK Airways might find it the hardest to survive. RAK Airways is based at RAK airport which is over an hour from Dubai and nearly 3 hours from Abu Dhabi. It is probably the least known of all the Emirates and has the least well-known tourist attractions. RAK Airways also has the least destinations and is the only airline that operates out of RAK Airport. However, it does have a few things in its favour. It is close to Oman where passengers could also visit, Ras Al Khaimah itself has a growing tourist infrastructure e.g. Hilton Beach Hotel and its small size means that it can offer a quicker, cheaper and more personal service.

Shipping and Containerisation

Containerisation: The introduction and use of containers to transport products by lorry (truck), rail and sea. Containers come in a number of sizes all 2.4 metres wide and either 6.1, 12.2 13.7, 14.6 or 16.2 metres long.
Refrigeration: This is the process of keeping something cool. Refrigeration has also been beneficial because it has allowed more perishable products like meat and fruit and vegetables to be transported by ship.
TEU and FEU: Twenty foot equivalent unit and forty foot equivalent unit. These are the standard units used to measure shipping. TEU represents a container 20 foot 6.1 metres long and 2.4 metres wide with a maximum capacity of 24 tonnes. FEU is obviously a container twice as large.

Containerisation and Ocean Transport

Global 11 san-francisco-bay-cargo-ship-by-flickr-user-bernard-garon_100180289_m

 Although containers have been used to transport products since the 18th century, it was not until after World War II that they became widely used and not until the 1960’s that there sizes were standardised. The first ships to carry containers came into production in the early 1950’s. However, in the early days of containers, their dimensions varied and it was until 1968 when the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) defined the dimensions of containers did they become standardised. This standardisation made it much each for containers to be transferred between different ships as well as trains and lorries (trucks). Containerisation greatly increased the speed and reduced the cost of transporting products around the world. As well as increasing speed and reducing costs, they also reduced theft because cargo is hidden in containers and normally locked. In 2009, 90% on non-bulk cargo was transported by container and 26% of this came out of China. As world trade has increased so has the size of container ships. The largest container ships in the world are currently the Maersk Emma Class (seen right). The Maersk Emma Class are capable of transporting over 15,000 containers. Containers ships are expected to grow further, but will eventually be limited. Already they are too big for the current dimensions of the Panama Canal and many ports and if they grew much bigger will not be able to travel through major shipping routes like the Malacca Straits because of their depth.

Describe and explain the changes in speed and capacity of one type of transport. (10)


2 Extension and density of networks

Global 6

Global 4

Mobile phone use in 2000

Digital Access Index (DAI)

The DAI developed by the International Telecommunications Union was the first index to globally measure countries access to and usage of ICT. The index looks at four aspects of ICT and then categorises countries as either high, upper, medium or low. The four aspects the index looked at are:

  • Quality
  • Infrastructure
  • Knowledge
  • Affordability

Some of the categories are then subdivided into further sections. Below is a brief explanation of each:

Quality: Quality looks at two aspects of ICT, the bandwidth (connection speed) of the country and the number of broadband subscribers (per 1000 of population).
Infrastructure: Again looks at two aspects, the number of fixed telephone subscribers and the number of mobile cellular subscribers.
Knowledge: Again this looks at two aspects, but interestingly this one looks at individuals ability to access ICT be measuring literacy and school enrolment.
Affordability: This only looks at one aspect, the price of access the internet.

As with many indexes there are some criticisms, for example many countries have leapfrogged the technology of landlines and also the number of subscribers does not accurately reflect people’s access. This is because many people access the internet and mobile phones through internet cafes and phone shops or even at their workplace.

Extension 1

Developing countries are taking up next generation technologies such as mobile phones to leapfrog into the future, as BBC World David Jamieson reports. CLICK ON LINK – Mobile phones – Leapfrog technology


Internet Traffic or Mobile Usage

You may well be asked to describe and explain maps that show internet and mobile connectivity. When describing follow the general rules of looking for trends i.e. a high amount of traffic between the US and Europe, looking for anomalies i.e. hardly any internet traffic into Africa and always using figures and the correct units. To help explain why some areas are not connected look at the information below the next table. Below are some reasons to explain traffic between countries and regions.

extension 2

Migration: There is going to be greater flows of traffic between countries that have experienced migration flows e.g. El Salvador and US
Colonisation: There are likely to be flows between ex-colonies and colonial powers, especially if there has been migration between the two.
Economic and TNCs: There will be strong flows between countries that have economic links. This might be because of the location of TNCs or that they are in trading blocs.
Language: Countries with a shared language e.g. English between US and UK are likely to see bigger flows.
Offers: There may be a temporary or permanent increase in traffic if a phone company is offering a special rate between countries.
Population size: There is obviously going to be greater flows of traffic between countries with large populations.
Wealth: There will probably be stronger flows between wealthier countries because they can afford to establish networks and pay for the services.
Education: More educated countries will probably have stronger flows because they understand the technology and can pay for it.

Extension 3

Reasons for differences in internet and mobile connectivity include:

  • Population Density and Distribution: It is easier to build and develop internet/mobile networks in countries where the population is concentrated in small areas. Large countries with a sparsely distributed population will find it hard and costly to get full coverage.
  • Market size (population): In countries with a bigger population it may be more profitable for a country to install a mobile/broadband network. To put in geographical terms a minimum threshold population needs to exist for a network to be provided.
  • Technology: Some countries have access to mobile and broadband technology, while others don’t or at least can’t afford to buy it, or possibly have sanctions imposed upon them e.g. North Korea, Cuba.
  • Country Wealth: Richer countries are better able to invest in the latest technology to provide fastest internet and mobile networks e.g. 4G and broadband
  • Relief (topography): It is easier to build mobile and internet networks in countries where the land is flat and accessible (good transport links). It countries like Nepal that are mountainous and have poor roads building a network is much harder.
  • Coverage/Network/Providers/Competition: Where there is a good network and multiple providers offering varying plans e.g. pay as you go, then access is cheaper and open to more people.
  • Censorship: Some countries like China and many Middle Eastern countries heavily censor the internet and monitor mobile chatter making it hard to access everything people want to. It should be noted that censorship can be good when trying to eliminate things like child pornography.
  • Cost: In countries where materials are expensive e.g. landlocked countries it is more expensive to build a network and more expensive to for consumers to access


  • The old – technology that they do not understand
  • The illiterate – people who cannot read content
  • Rural dwellers – Internet coverage is generally worse in rural areas
  • Disabled – it is hard (although not impossible) for some people with disabilities to access the internet e.g. the blind
  • The poor – Buying a computer or even visiting an internet cafe can be expensive, especially those suffering from absolute poverty
  • People from LEDCs – networks tend to be less complete and slower in LEDCs
  • Women – for whatever reason (money, freedom, etc.) less women have access to the internet

Mobile phone ownership has exploded globally but do display core and periphery characteristics.” Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement with reference to two case study countries. (10)

Use the information above and your textbook – pages 331-337


Civil Society – The role of social networking in the Arab Spring

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