What you will study
This innovative geography-led module will give you an understanding of some of the challenges of globalised living. Everyday living in today’s globalised world can feel challenging, even confusing at times, with distance no longer a reliable indicator of our involvements in the world. Some of your closest relationships may be stretched across continents, and held together with letters, phone calls or email; yet you may pass people in the street every day without giving them a second glance. Global political concerns are becoming more extensive but also more controversial. On the one hand, charities and other organisations are as likely to be campaigning for the rights and welfare of people on another continent as they are for people from your local area. On the other hand, wars are waged to rid people of 'outsiders'.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we’re all involved in these complex, global situations, where the ‘right’ course of action isn't always clear. These debates are hotly contested in the media and in everyday life. How should we react to calls to build global relationships with people living far from us? Do we also have responsibilities to other living creatures that share the planet, and to the world itself, with all its potential resources and dangers?
Divided into four blocks, Block 1 begins by looking at a place where various kinds of global relations come together, but also where they are forcibly challenged: the border between Mexico and the United States. The module uses an online video to enable you to see and hear the everyday experiences that make up this globalised place, from would-be migrants to border guards, from factory workers to factory bosses, from environmental activists to humanitarian workers. You’ll also see and hear how the natural environment is intervening in these experiences, using, as examples, the conflict over access to scarce water resources, and the commercialisation of Mexico’s bio-diversity by US corporations.
Block 2 of the module uses print and audio materials to explore the growing demands living in a globalised world makes on us. The block argues that these demands, and how we respond, are reshaping the world and its geography. Some of these demands are overtly political, made by campaigning organisations. One example of this is the demand that affluent consumers take some responsibility for the exploitation of the workers who make the goods they buy, often living in poorer countries. But other demands are encouraged by certain kinds of technology: the internet's request for chat and intimacy, for example. Further kinds of demands are made by nation-states, or by migrants. What these demands have in common is that they are about getting us to define ‘closeness’ and ‘distance’. Physical distance can be overcome by telephone calls and emails; but what kinds of virtual closeness appear in its place? Many campaigning groups assume that the development of common causes will bring people from different parts of the world closer together. TV news offers us other kinds of global proximities, by bringing events from around the world into our living rooms. Most of your work in Block 2 will be topic-led; topics range from the impacts of the global media and international migration, to issues posed by international humanitarian disasters and factory ‘sweatshops’ in far-away places.
Through print and audio materials, Block 3 takes a closer look at some of the uncertainties of living in a globalised world. Just why are so many demands being made on us now? And why is responding to those demands so often difficult? One reason for these current uncertainties is that we are not acting alone in making the world we see around us today. As well as the complexities of politics and technologies, this block examines the unpredictable natural environment. Concerns about climate change and biodiversity are reminders that humans are not the only actors on the planet, and that our actions are entangled with processes found in nature. The block also argues that globalisation is not simply about the many flows that circulate the globe: goods, money, people and cultural influences, as well as non-human flows like ocean currents and winds. The block is also about the continuing importance of territories and borders to the world’s development. Indeed, our attempts to open up the world can also create the need to build protective boundaries to mark out areas of privacy. Again, your work in this block will be topic-led. Areas covered include climate change, tax havens, biodiversity and the search for new medicines, the growth of new social movements, and issues surrounding ethical food consumption.
The fourth and final block summarises the module by asking you to return to the case study explored in Block 1: the Mexico-United States border. Using an online video, you'll look with fresh eyes at this case study and see how the concepts of proximity, distance, territory and flow, help you to make sense of this place and its particular character. You'll also be asked to consider how these ideas can be used to shed light on the responsibilities associated with living in a globalised world.
This is an OU level 2 module and is an ideal step on from level 1 study with the OU. You will learn or consolidate a variety of study skills on this course. In particular, you’ll learn how to assess the evidence used to support different arguments, and how to apply the module's geographical concepts to a wide range of examples, including examples from outside the module.
The module gives a general introduction to geographical and environmental issues and will support training towards a range of vocational interests and careers. The appeal of geography stems from its broadly based and multidisciplinary flavour; it is highly regarded as part of a general preparation for more specifically vocational courses or job training. Traditionally, geography has been seen as useful to careers in planning, local government, architecture, surveying, environmental management and teaching, but you should also consider it if you are thinking about jobs in business, transport and communications, health care or politics. Geography teachers and those working in environment-related activities should find the module adds significant value to their work and careers, as will those working for a range of international organisations, either social, economic or political.